Brooklyn and Queens were once collections of independent towns whose homegrown economies were rooted in Long Island agriculture, not Manhattan mercantilism. Local elites built expensive town houses on tree-lined streets. These neighborhoods fell on hard times during the 1970s, but their expensive stock was perfectly positioned for revitalization as the Manhattan boom of the past few decades pushed young professionals across the river. The Bronx, however, never developed its own economic drivers. It became, by the late 19th century, a haven for immigrants attracted to (but unable to afford) Manhattan. The borough developed far fewer wealthy areas, and many neighborhoods became devoted to less-gentrifiable housing units.
A related stat that might have fit with Davidson’s thesis but goes unmentioned: The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission has designated 29 Historic Districts in Brooklyn and only 11 in the Bronx. Landmarking is largely responsible for preserving large swaths of attractive housing stock in Brooklyn during tougher times and for preventing the construction of “less-gentrifiable housing units.”
Photo by Mike Charal