Sunday, March 10, 2013

Upscale Gentrification

"Flatworlding is still small and emergent. It's also on HBO."  An end to a post from last summer, I could have used it yesterday. Economic convergence is eroding New York City's position on top of the urban hierarchy. The best place to watch this drama play out is in Brooklyn:

“What many clients have told me is that they like the old Brooklyn vibe of these up-and-coming areas,” said Kristen Larkin, an agent with TOWN Residential. “They like the sense of community, friendliness of the neighbors, and the mom-and-pop shops that come along with it.” ...

... Stretching along New York Harbor between Greenwood Heights to the north and Bay Ridge to the south, Sunset Park has long been a magnet for working-class immigrants. Once almost exclusively Scandinavian, the area is now home to large Chinese and Hispanic communities. ...

... Erika Storella, a literary agent, and her husband, Daniel Heidkamp, a painter, were living in Greenpoint when they began hanging out at a friend’s art studio on the industrial waterfront in Sunset Park a couple of years ago. “We were drawn in by the sense of fresh creative energy in this neighborhood, as well as the beautiful park, the city views, and the historical details of the Finnish Co-ops,” she said, referring to some of the first co-ops in the city, on 43rd Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues.

In January of last year, the couple, who now have a 6-month-old son, bought a two-bedroom co-op a half a block from Sunset Park for less than $300,000. The listing agent was Peter Bracichowicz, a Corcoran broker who specializes in the area. Mr. Heidkamp also moved his painting studio to Sunset Park from Greenpoint.

Ms. Storella’s commute to Midtown has doubled, to about an hour each way, and she pines for a good wine store. But there are benefits: “We appreciate the natural beauty of the neighborhood,” she said. “We walk through the park almost every day with our son. We eat a lot of dumplings and burritos, and there is a new organic/local restaurant that we frequent called Café Zona Sur.”

What urban pioneers are scrounging for in Brooklyn exists in ample supply all over the Rust Belt. But a Pittsburgh neighborhood can't claim close proximity to Manhattan. Or, perhaps it can.

Hispanics displaced by NYC gentrification are showing up in the Rust Belt cities, such as Schenectady, that form the Big Apple's near-abroad. The much celebrated Creative Class is spilling over into downtown Scranton. Along the lines of extreme commuting, Pittsburgh enjoys strong talent connectivity with both New York and Washington, DC. The Northeast is getting flatter.

The gentrification of Brooklyn's working class neighborhoods is also occurring at a much larger scale. I've seen the impact firsthand in Ohio City, a Cleveland neighborhood. Manhattan's sprawl has a radius of 500 miles.

The technological advancements of the last two decades make this possible. The economic spillovers from New York reach all the way to a part of Northeastern Ohio traditionally more in tune with Chicago. Chicagoland is shrinking. Greater greater NYC is growing. In terms of US economic geography, there is the NYC/DC metroplex and then there is the rest of the country.

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