In Bloomberg's New York, The Poor Move Further Out, Lengthening Commutes

Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - 04:00 AM


Mayor Bloomberg has championed public transportation. From Select Bus Service to bike share, New Yorkers have more options for getting around than they did in 2002, when he took office. At the same time, the mayor has presided over a real estate boom that has pushed residents of lesser means further from Manhattan and left many with longer commutes.

During Mayor Bloomberg's three terms, it became especially expensive to rent or buy a home in Manhattan and neighborhoods close to it. Over the last 10 years, most of the growth in commuting to well-paying jobs in Manhattan has occurred in Manhattan itself - and in places like Williamsburg and Greenpoint, Downtown and Brownstone Brooklyn.

That development has pushed some New Yorkers of limited means to neighborhoods further from Manhattan, where most of the jobs are located. And increasing numbers of New Yorkers are traveling within or between the outer boroughs to get to work, often using a Manhattan-centric transportation system that is not well suited to getting them where they need to go.

By subway, travel times to Manhattan are easily more than an hour (medium blue and darker). Pick your own starting point below:

By subway, travel from places such as East Flatbush to much of Manhattan takes more than an hour, shown as medium-blue and darker. Pick your own starting point in the map below.

But Bloomberg supporter Mitchell Moss, an NYU professor of urban planning and a former adviser to the mayor, argues that the economic growth that is driving up real estate prices hasn't displaced that many people. "No one was living in parts of Hunters Point, no one was living in parts of Lower Manhattan, no one was living in DUMBO," Moss said. "Those areas have become, not gentrified, they've become populated."

Even so, it will be the next mayor's job to try and lower the number of New Yorkers who commute more than an hour each way to work - a problem Mayor Bloomberg, for all his success at adding transportation options to the city, couldn't solve.


Andrea Bernstein


Comments [23]

Joanne Theodoroyu from NYC

Mayor Bloomberg has made this city vertical, he has PACKED us in so tight, you can't walk the sidewalks. What happened to the small quality of life issues that Guiliani implemented? How can all these storefronts, esp. restaurants take so much space on a sidewalk so now we must walk the avenues single file?! It seems every block, especially in residential neighborhoods, has yet another high rise building going up and while this happens, we are not only inconvenienced by having to walk in the street (as the sidewalks are gone) but fear for our lives by huge cranes hanging in mid air! Every block has infrastructure problems, the streets are saturated with con ed crews, water main breaks,,,the list is we really need more residents? Just because we can go higher into the sky does not imply we can all fit on the ground!! And we are destroying out streets and quality of life in the process....this is progress? How so?

Oct. 04 2013 12:27 PM
Angela from Colorado

I call this the bulls eye effect. We saw it in the cities in California when I lived there and it happens everywhere. The people that work at the deli, the bank, the hair salon, etc cannot afford to live where they work, so they move out a ring. These days, it is more like 3 or 4 rings with an hour to hour and a half commute in. It was not uncommon to see folks living in Stockton that worked in the Bay Area in California.

Sep. 23 2013 10:14 AM

It's just not the poor who can't afford Manhattan rents. It's the middle class, too.

Sep. 05 2013 09:50 AM
David Chowes from Manhattan

Mayor Bloomberg has done much to improve the City; I believe that he acts in ways which are consistent with integrity.

But, I must also posit that as one of the most wealthy people in this nation -- he, unintentionally is out of touch with some of the implications of his "improvements."

Hard working middle class persons have been forced to move out of Manhattan as rents in many cases have risen out of their reach. The changes in the rent stabilization laws have allowed that when an apartment becomes vacant, the landlord can go from say, $2K to $5K.

To use a metaphor: the people who go to the Met Opera to be seen can live in the City as the persons who love opera -- but, sit in the family circle
cannot stay.

I must add that as the City is safe for the first time since about 1960; the murder rate is now about 20% of what is was under Mayor Dinkins; his innovations have been well-intentioned, gutsy and, in the main, beneficial...

His great wealth seems to have isolated him from the folks in his attempt to build his great "city on the hill."

Sep. 03 2013 11:19 AM
Mary from Brooklyn

Moving in this city, even just up the street is expensive. So the woman in Bushwich, also if she is older, may be attached to her neighborhood as well. I thoroughly disagree with the comment that the rent stabilized and/or controlled housing is the reason the rents are high. A number of the controlled rents are elderly people who would not be able to afford to move anywhere and would become a taxpayer burden if kicked to the curb. No, NYC is having the problem that London is having, that rents particularly in Manhattan are catering to the "luxury market" and are being bought often as vanity properties by people who may visit their expensive apartment once or twice a year if that. The new high rise buildings that have ripped apart many neighborhoods all over the city but particularly in Brooklyn, are overly expensive,ridiculously small, and poorly built but with all the "amenities" gloss and sheen to sell, but I question their longevity. The city may get a lot of it's tax base from the 1% which is raking in 40% of all income made in NYC, but the working people in the restaurants, the shops, the arts, the transportation system, police and fire, etc are what keeps the city running...and they are being pushed so far out of the city that the city may lose it's working base.

Aug. 26 2013 10:06 AM
oinonio from NYC

This makes me mourn for the second system - first killed by the Great Depression, and now near impossible to build in a high cost, NIMBY-prone, society. And the killing of the 125 St SBS doesn't bode well for transit expansion.

Jul. 18 2013 09:26 AM

There's a bit of a logical disconnect in this article---how can a real estate boom of new places to live, actually increase prices in that area? That's arguing that increased supply, caused demand to increase by even more! Don't you suppose that it is a bit more likely that the population boom actually exceeded the real estate boom? In other words, the demand outstripped supply?

Jul. 12 2013 01:46 PM

"silence".... yup - but she wouldnt have to go so far... Parkchester is closer and on the #6 line.... yes -nicer than Bushwick... but yeah ppl are scared of the bronx when its no more dangerous than brooklyn.

Jul. 11 2013 05:38 PM
henry from NYC

Great idea and wish it was more accessible. W3C accessibility guidelines state "Ensure that text and graphics are understandable when viewed without color" and there are lots of ways it could be accessible like using non-color patterns or having an "alternate" view or layer with no color and only graphics or patters or numbered or lettered sections.

Jul. 11 2013 12:53 PM
Silence from Bronx - Norwood

Chris form the Bronx said it right

Why does that woman that works in the Bronx not move to the Bronx?

She could live in a nicer area then Bushwick and her commute would be nothing. Plus her rent would be way cheaper for more space. Morris Park or Woodlawn are great areas but these people that know nothing about the city are scared of the word Bronx.

It's her fault her commute is that long, she wants to live in some run down area that is trendy then she reaps what she sows.

Jul. 10 2013 04:57 PM
peterk from NYC

I find statements like this miss part of the point.

. "No one was living in parts of Hunters Point, no one was living in parts of Lower Manhattan, no one was living in DUMBO,"

I lived in Dumbo and remember most of the area was occupied - as in if you tried to find a loft/studio space they were all occupied. However they were occupied by fewer people that had more square feet each at a lower cost and that enabled all sorts of creative and entrepreneurial activity.

Today the "life" has been taken out of the area due to the high cost. To pay the current rent for just a bed, sofa, TV, kitchen and a little dinette table, one is required to work full time for a corporation and that circumstance leaves little resources left over in either time or money for experimentation.

Jul. 10 2013 04:46 PM

oh and btw - this is not just an nyc problem... all across the world.. and the country - in major cities - lower income persons have to move further from city centers.
It's just that - like everything - things seem more intense in NYC

Jul. 10 2013 02:40 PM

This also fails to note that job growth has been faster in the outer boroughs than it has in Manhattan during the past decade.... That's why it's important for projects like the proposed "Triboro RX" for transit riders to bypass Manhattan if they don't need to go there.

Jul. 10 2013 02:33 PM

These trends are global. Capitalism is the problem, not this or that politician.

Jul. 10 2013 12:36 PM

Sorry, I meant to include this link: which explains the difference.

Jul. 10 2013 10:57 AM

There is a difference between rent control and rent stabilization, as only about 38,000 rent controlled units exist vs. about one million stabilized units, and rent control has a different set of regulations than rent stabilization.

Jul. 10 2013 10:51 AM
Robert Livingston from Kew Gardens

Real estate prices went up because New York City became a more enticing place to live, driving up demand. However, due to rent control and rent stabilization, the supply didn't rise with the demand, causing price spikes. Nobody leaves their rent controlled apartments so they are basically off the market. There are about one million such apartments, destroying supply. If we eliminated rent control, general real estate prices would drop throughout the city. Get thee to an Econ 101 course.

Jul. 10 2013 10:37 AM
Sarah from Brooklyn

When I separated from my husband my commute went from 20 min to 45-60+ depending on how messed up the trains are on any particular day. The rent is killing me and while I'm lucky enough to be able to house myself and my kid on one salary it's half my monthly salary. Half.

Jul. 10 2013 09:50 AM
RJ from prospect hts. (lucky rent-stabilized tenant)

Good report. Two items not mentioned, however, are these: the number of intraborough bus lines stopped or eliminated (including newly built bus shelters--at least they could have been repurposed as rest stops for the elderly or in the rain!); and the dramatic increase in transit fares, further burdening those forced to move to the outer boroughs. Yes, we have the weekly, unlimited, etc., but those, counterintuitively, benefit only those with money. It takes a chunk of money--$112 a month now--to buy an unlimited transit pass, and when people are scratching by on minimum wage (when they're "lucky") or unemployment (if it hasn't run out), that is a sizable sum to fork out at once. So many of the poor and working class of the city end up paying the now-outrageous $2.50 a ride for "public" transit. Also, the mayor's "visionary" bike-share plan doesn't really include those same people--it's confined to the now-wealthy areas the poor have been pushed out of--and for working within Midtown, including the cost and time limit per ride. (Funny, that, for the mayor so concerned about obesity: one would think, since the well-off can afford their own bikes, that he might've started with unlimited, subsidized bikes in the outer boroughs where obesity is rampant.) Even the annual fee falls under the same problem as the monthly unlimited transit pass: one has to have money to buy one for unlimited rides, in addition to the unavoidable subway/bus costs, since obviously no one can rely solely on bikes.

So, as with nearly everything else the mayor has done in his (violation of citizens' votes) 3 terms, the wealthy are the priority.

Jul. 10 2013 09:07 AM
NY Appleseed

NY Appleseed just released a guide compiling strategies for preserving affordable housing in gentrifying neighborhoods:

Jul. 10 2013 08:56 AM
Mike Cherepko from Williamsburg, Brooklyn

It should be easy for the next mayor to bring down people's commutes. Just click the map. If your click makes a lot of red, orange, and yellow in Manhattan, make sure it's legal to build a LOT of housing there. Instead of expensive propositions like ferries, just legalize housing close to where people want to go.

Jul. 10 2013 08:48 AM
Stella from Downtown

Excellent coverage, revealing yet another egregious aspect of Bloomberg's legacy. In a market society, communities are commodities, neighborhoods are negligible and people are pawns. Please consider a segment on how the de-regulated housing market is destroying uniquely diverse and vibrant New York neighborhoods.

Jul. 10 2013 08:36 AM
Chris from Bronx-Grand Concourse (Yankee Stadium)

Good story in many ways, but the example of the woman who commutes from Bushwick to Hunts Point in the Bronx is an extreme one. If she had moved to the Bronx, instead of another outer borough even further from her work in the Bronx, she would have been better off, in terms of commute time. The south Bronx, especially the area along the Grand Concourse near Yankee Stadium, has turned out to be a great alternative for people like me who moved here from Manhattan, looking for more space for the money. For me, the proximity to various transit options into Manhattan make the commute to my job in midtown quick and convenient. Remember: The Yankee Stadium stop at 161st and Grand Concourse is further south than much of Manhattan. Far too often, I think, the area where I live is forgotten as a commuter-convenient neighborhood outside Manhattan.

Jul. 10 2013 06:40 AM

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