Five Neighborhoods Living 'Life in the Middle'

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Jim O'Grady and Stephen Nessen, WNYC Reporters, and Jenny Ye, WNYC data news producer, discuss WNYC's series "Life in the Middle," which is exploring five NYC neighborhoods where the median income reflects the city's median income.



Stephen Nessen, Jim O'Grady and Jenny Ye

Comments [8]

Inquisigal from Brooklyn

fuva, in my opinion, it doesn't help to break this down into an issue of black people versus the gentrifiers every, single time it's talked about, because if you think about it, you're actually perpetuating a stereotype that all black people are poor and disenfranchised - which is not true. I dunno about in Harlem, but plenty of black people in Bed-Stuy are economically comfortable, and/or calling the shots, own businesses, and represent all residents in local and state government. Many are also selling their houses, and cashing out to the highest bidder - regardless of who that person is - and hightailing it back down South to be closer to their families. Having lived in predominantly black neighborhoods for most of the past 20 years of my life, it continues to strike me as bizarre how generalized the "black community" is portrayed as, when there are just as many differences between people within black neighborhoods, as there are similarities.

This is not to discount the continuing problem of racism and diminished opportunities for blacks versus whites, or the fact that many elderly black residents ended up here due to redlining, but many reporters are interviewing and giving a voice to struggling African-Americans in Bed-Stuy. Here's one recent example:

You can't just automatically blame all non-black people - the "newbie gentrifiers" - for what's happening to real estate prices in neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy and Harlem. It's so much more complex than that, and as a "newbie" of 8 years, I'm so sick of hearing this simplistic take on a much more nuanced problem. At the most base level, it's about how difficult it is in 2013 for many, many people to get or keep a foothold in NYC unless your housing costs are locked in due to home ownership or via rent stabilization. The answer to this problem lies someplace in the fact most of us are not seeing our wages grow, more people are moving to NY in general because it's one of the few places in the US where there is still employment opportunities, and economic policies exist that favor business and development, which perpetuates increased greed (and opportunity) in the local real estate industry. On top of that, dual-income households, who have children, are not automatically moving out to the suburbs anymore to raise a family, because both partners want to be closer to their jobs in the city.

Black people are not the only ones who get priced out of the neighborhood they live in, and people of varying income levels can feel the same sense of dread and anxiety. Doesn't it make any sense to stop pointing our fingers at each other, and look to the greater forces at work and be more aware of, and involved with, making change in whatever ways that we can?

Jan. 09 2014 12:47 PM
robyn w from Harlem

Gov. Christie's comment that "I am who I am. I am not a bully." will come to haunt him like Nixon's famous quote: "I am not a crook." If you read between the lines, Christie is only concerned that someone in his staff "lied" to him and not concerned with the underlying problem the a major US form of transportation was shut for political reasons. This is a huge public safety and productivity issue and a responsible Governor should be deeply concerned about this, and not just the personal affront that someone lied to him.

Jan. 09 2014 12:15 PM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

I live in Bed-Stuy, having moved here for the first time in 2000; I made about $38,000 as a waiter/artist. Back then, the North side of the neighborhood was still riddled with violence, and the effects of poverty were everywhere you went. I scrambled to make more money so that I could move to Clinton Hill in Brooklyn. When I did in 2003, my rent for a 1 bedroom near Pratt was $1200 a month. Clinton Hill was still a largely African-American neighborhood at that time, as well as a magnet for artists. I thought I would remain in Clinton Hill for the rest of my time in NYC, but when I looked for an apartment with my husband in 2007, suddenly Clinton Hill was much more expensive, so it made more sense to move to a cheaper neighborhood.

We moved into a rental in Stuyvesant Heights in 2007, paying $2200 for a 2-bedroom duplex with a yard. There were very few businesses nearby, and no restaurants save for fast food places, but the 'hood offered great architecture and green space. The street I lived on was a mix of African-American, multi-generation households; newcomer upper middle class African Americans; and other newer residents who were ethnically mixed, working professionals and artists. Most newcomers got attitude from the older, long-time residents - but when the newer residents joined the block association, and worked with and befriended the older residents, everyone got along, and people were just viewed as neighbors, period.

Since then, I have been lucky enough to buy a 3-story, fixer upper brownstone in East Stuy Heights, for $415,000. This was in 2010, right at the end of the recession; at that time, our combined household income was about $175,000. Since then, I have watched houses on nearby blocks be put on the market for close to $1 million. For me, the fact that my property value has likely doubled does not make me feel excited, it makes me depressed; I would already be priced out of my own neighborhood only 2 years after I bought a house, and it is concerning to watch prices rise so dramatically. Before I bought, I had constant anxiety that I would be priced out of yet another neighborhood - and I do not wish that feeling on anyone. Real estate developers who are buying houses for all-cash and doing cheap renovations then flipping, and who are also marketing regular, bare-bones apartments as "luxury rentals" in renovated apartment buildings, are partially to blame for the greatly increased prices in neighborhoods like mine.

Bed-Stuy has a wonderful, old-fashioned kind of vibe - thanks to the Southern roots of the African-American people living here - and I dread the day when the neighborhood switches over to a very wealthy, Manhattan-centric and/or transient population who won't or can't find common ground with their neighbors and continue to keep the vibe alive.

Jan. 09 2014 11:44 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

It’s really not that complicated. If you are employed by certain industries, and are well paid, 250 and above, you get to have home ownership and live modestly OK in NYC. If not you may have to leave the city and possibly the area.

Jan. 09 2014 10:50 AM
Hugh Sansom

If you look at how incomes are increasing for people at the median compared with inflation in New York, it's clear that NYC costs are growing at a far, far greater rate than incomes. Incomes are near-flat. Housing costs, a huge percentage of income for most New Yorkers, are growing at 4 or 5 times the national inflation rate. Other costs are also increasing at a faster rate in NYC.

Jan. 09 2014 10:47 AM
David from NYC

Please come out to Queens...come out to Flushing
I'll show you around

Jan. 09 2014 10:45 AM
antonio from baySide

Pretty simple Brian. Transit. It's the epoch of 'Richard Florida!'

Jan. 09 2014 10:41 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Between the newbie gentrifiers in black historic neighborhoods and the priced-out/just-getting-by traditional residents, there is a STRIKING CONTRAST...But not one of the "reporters" addresses it. Their post-racial pipe dreams prohibit comprehensive reporting.

Jan. 09 2014 10:39 AM

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