More Brooklyn “pioneers”

Following up on the pioneer watch, I just read one of the Times‘ pieces about the “new” Brooklyn, in which Jeff Vandam discusses the area not far from our place where hipsters have settled into loft apartments.

Vandam profiles Glen Bingham, who is (what else?) a singer in a rock band. Bingham tells Vandam: “I was like: ‘Right on! This is nothing! We can make it something!’ ” Then, later, Bingham says, “I guess we’re pioneers, but we’re not homesteaders, you know?…I didn’t move here to stay here and have it stay this way.”

At least Gideon Yago, talking to the appalling Toni Schlesinger, had the decency to say, “Oh, pioneers! Though I’m not sure I enjoy that term. There are people living here.” That’s what the other “pioneers” lack: a sense that there are people already here who might not want a Brooklyn Industries and a music scene.

But then here’s where I might be a hypocrite. When Vandam described the bar Kings County, I thought, “Maybe we should check that place out.” I’d love to see more hang-outs and restaurants in our area, but unlike Bingham and the other “pioneers,” I don’t want to completely change what’s here. We can have places here that we like without driving out all the places that are already here. Besides, does every street in Bushwick really need all the bars and galleries and boutiques that Williamsburg has?

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “More Brooklyn “pioneers”

  1. You know, I thought the same thing, when reading about Kings County.

    There are so darn many vacant storefronts in our nabe, I’d love to see them filled with something other than another nail shop or 99 cent store… a good produce market would be fantastic, and something that I think would appeal to both long-term residents and us newbies alike. I think there are ways to build up and improve the neighborhood without destroying the integrity of what’s already there.

  2. “I’d love to see more hang-outs and restaurants in our area, but unlike Bingham and the other “pioneers,” I don’t want to completely change what’s here. We can have places here that we like without driving out all the places that are already here.”

    Y’know, I’m fairly sure that you can’t actually have places you like without driving out the places that are already there. Having a hipster bar, or other hipster attractions… well, that draws hipsters. Hipsters who have more disposable income than the families that already live, work and own storefronts in the area. I don’t know how rent control works for businesses as opposed to residences, but if you were a building owner, would you continue to charge the owner of a “neighborhood” bar, which none of the hipsters go to, the same rent when there are hipster bars on the same block generating many times the rent you’re currently getting? An influx of people in a higher tax bracket WILL price out the people already there. Rent control will help a little, but ultimately, the introduction of the cool bar does mean the other bars, that you aren’t really interested in, but the rest of your “nabe” is, will be closing their doors. You may not want to change it, but dude… your presence does.

  3. At this point in time, the closest bar of any kind, “hipster” or not, is half a mile from our apartment. And of the half dozen or so storefronts on our side of Broadway between our street (Arion) and the street next to us (Melrose), maybe two are businesses which are actually open and functioning. Between Arion and Belvidere, there’s a TV repair shop, a Botanica, a new discount clothing store which already has a “For Rent” sign back up, and a bodega that seems to do a good business with everyone in the neighborhood. And lots of empty storefronts.

    I guess I still don’t quite see how having a bar or restaurant or something move into one of those empty storefronts would displace anyone…?

  4. I do understand the logic here: just picking numbers out of the air, say that the owner of a trendy bar is paying his landlord $25 per square foot. The landlord for the neighboring storefront, which houses, say, a botanica, gets wind of this and jacks the botanica’s rent from $20 to $25.

    But one thing I’ve never understood here is how the cycle starts. If the owner of a botanica is renting her space from the landlord at a cost of $20 per square foot, and that cost is in keeping with surrounding values for commercial real estate, why would the person who opens what they hope will be a trendy bar be willing to pay $25 per square foot, knowing that it’s so far over the prevailing prices?

    I guess what probably happens is, the bar owner will rent his space at $20 per, but when his bar becomes trendy and attracts a large customer base, the landlord will see the profits and want his cut, and THEN jack the price up to $25 per. This will cause the surrounding prices to start to move upwards.

    But this is already happening in our neighborhood. Ten years ago, the storefronts on Broadway were, from what I’ve heard around the neighborhood, still shuttered up after the arsons that accompanied the 1977 blackout. As business owners braved opening new places, you know the rents started to rise.

    Gentrification might speed that process up, but it can’t be blamed for having started it.

  5. “If the owner of a botanica is renting her space from the landlord at a cost of $20 per square foot, … why would the person who opens what they hope will be a trendy bar be willing to pay $25 per square foot, knowing that it’s so far over the prevailing prices?”

    They won’t, at first. The first hopefully trendy bar will be rented at $20/sqft. But once it gets trendy, people will want to open more “trendy” things there, bars or not. So the second bar might also go for $20/sqft. The landlord of the new green market sees that his neighbors are starting to get an influx of leases, and he charges $22. The next bar then comes in and pays $25, and the next pays $27, etc. When that botanica’s lease comes up, and MOST people around her are paying $35/sqft, guess what happens?

  6. Also:

    “and something that I think would appeal to both long-term residents and us newbies alike. I think there are ways to build up and improve the neighborhood without destroying the integrity of what’s already there”

    Mind you, it doesn’t matter who it appeals to. I was using “hipster” instead of “pioneer” because the term is really disgusting. The people who have businesses in that neighborhood are probably paying pretty low rent, specifically BECAUSE there are so many closed shops around. The landlords will take whatever they can get. But once you start filling those storefronts with other businesses, hipster or not, rents will start to increase. Landlords will start to become pickier about who they rent to. Fewer and fewer business people will get “preferential rent riders” on their leases allowing them to pay $900 a month for what can leagally be rented at $1400. And the people who are currently operating under those riders will quickly be forced to vacate, if when their lease is up their landlord thinks he can get the full price for his property. Supply and demand in action: nobody wants the storefronts, so they are inexpensive. Inexpensive enough for the people who live in the neighborhood to lease and operate. If more and more people WANT that space, it will push the rents up. Like Mike said, gentrification speeds this process up. Both because it tends to attain a sort of critical mass wherein a lot of people move into an area at once after the “pioneers” have “found” it, but also because the new residents, often having MUCH higher incomes are willing to keep up with a very rapid pace of price increases. Price increases that will close down the nail salons and 99cent stores. Price increases that will translate to similar price increases for residential rent, which in turn will price the actual families out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s