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Gentrification Grows in Brooklyn

SARAH YOKUBAITIS, HOST: Gentrification has moved through many Brooklyn neighborhoods–raising rents and changing the character of communities. Now, new building developments are popping up in Bushwick, and many look just like projects in other transitioning neighborhoods. Uptown Radio’s David Marques took a look at these cookie-cutter apartments and the phenomenon of the “gentrification building”.

DAVID MARQUES, BYLINE: If you take a walk around Bushwick, you’ll see many buildings typical of older Brooklyn neighborhoods. I’m looking down south of the park on Knickerbocker Avenue. And there’s a row of houses… they look like they have vinyl siding. You know, normal looking storefronts. Some of them are in Spanish. They have air conditioners through the windows, very narrow windows. About three storeys high.

But now every few blocks you come upon a building that stands out as totally different from the rest: It’s probably about 10 stories tall, And it’s made of black brick, with tall glass windows. It’s very angular, and it has a balcony at the top with black metal grating. … It’s very complex compared to all the other buildings here.

MARQUES: That building is called Knickerbocker 260. It has a gym, bluetooth speakers in every room, and a “virtual doorman.” The rents are also much higher than typical in the neighborhood– around $4000 for a two bedroom. It's a style that has become known as a “gentrification building”. It's a look that is even being called out on social media posts.

TIKTOK: You know it when you see it… gentrification building! This is what gentrification looks like (music). They give me gentrification, they give me trust fund, they give me mommy and daddy pay my bills.

MARQUES: Until recently Bushwick has been home mainly to Puerto Rican, Dominican, and Mexican communities. The poverty rate here is above the average of the rest of New York. But now the area also features nightclubs like the House of Yes, where you can spend a Saturday night dodging acrobats and watching colorful burlesque shows. And alongside the changing nightlife comes the new residential architecture. Developers put up luxury buildings that clash dramatically with the existing housing stock.

NOLAN GRAY: It does strike me that there seems to be like a design repertoire that’s appealing to a certain type of person who’s moving back into the city.

MARQUES: Nolan Gray is a Phd fellow in Urban Planning at UCLA. He says that the “gentrification building” is designed to attract the children of people who left for the suburbs decades ago–wealthier, often whiter residents moving into a working-class neighborhood.

GRAY: I would assume people look at contemporary designs like this and say, “OK, this is a new modern building, reflecting sort of modern or contemporary design influences. To the extent that it’s a signal of the desirability of the neighborhood, I certainly think that’s possible, yeah.

MARQUES: This style of architecture also has another advantage — it cheap to put up, with flat panelling and windows over simple wood frames. And developers can build them quickly.

But New York City is all about change and Nolan Gray jokes that some day even these buildings will be appreciated as emblems of the past.

GRAY: 25 years from now, 30 years from now we’ll start trying

David Marques, Columbia Radio News


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