How the Rise and Fall of the Luxury Condo Building Boom Transformed Brooklyn

Towers rising in Downtown Brooklyn. Photo by Craig Hubert


    In the last decade, more than 250 luxury condo buildings went up in Brooklyn, bringing thousands of units to the borough and dramatically altering its character.

    The rezoning of Williamsburg and Greenpoint at the beginning of the century changed a post-industrial wasteland into Brooklyn’s version of the Meatpacking District, as is widely understood. What has been less well documented is the transformation of the borough by construction in recent years, following the 2008 crash.

    affordable housing graffiti

    Graffiti in Williamsburg, 2017

    Proprietary data in a story in the Sunday New York Times shows how dramatic the luxury condo building boom has been in Brooklyn, affecting primarily Williamsburg, Bed Stuy and Downtown Brooklyn. In Williamsburg, more than 192 luxury condo buildings comprising 3,201 units went up. Even more surprising, the boom was nearly as big in Bedford Stuyvesant: 144 new luxury condo buildings with 1,654 units were created. In Downtown Brooklyn, 14 luxury condos resulted in 1,574 units.

    Not mentioned are Park Slope, Gowanus, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Prospect Heights, where new condo buildings have also sprouted. The article focuses on Manhattan where, it says, the luxury condo building boom has created a glut of housing for the wealthy — more than half of units are unsold — at the expense of everyone else, driving prices ever higher in every borough and failing to create sufficient affordable housing. While this is certainly true, in Brooklyn the luxury rental has been a bigger factor in transforming the physical landscape and driving up housing costs.

    dime savings bank

    Crane at future site of 9 Dekalb at Dime Savings Bank in Downtown Brooklyn, 2019

    As well, the co-op boom of the 1980s and the phasing out of rent regulation starting in the 1990s are even bigger and more direct causes of gentrification across all of New York City.

    Now the boom cycle is over even though rents are higher than ever, says the story, which notes anti-gentrification efforts have had some victories lately with rent reform and pushback against city-led rezonings.


    The Downtown Brooklyn skyline seen from Gowanus in 2019

    Looming in Brooklyn are rezonings in Bushwick and Gowanus, at a time when some Brooklyn developers who specialized in condos have had financial issues or changed their business model lately, such as Brooklyn Capital and Hello Living. Meanwhile, developers have tapped into city funding by converting new luxury housing and hotels into homeless shelters, in areas such as Park Slope, Sunset Park and Bushwick.

    In Brooklyn, though, whether the building boom continues — and here it’s mostly luxury rentals, not condos — will hinge at least in part on whether developers continue to get funding and tax breaks. What do you think will happen next?

    [Source: NYT]

    [Photos by Susan De Vries]

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