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Thoughts in Prose: The Billyburg Bust

August 2, 2009

billyburgbust copy

After taking two weeks to catch up on my New York magazines, I was moved to discuss the above article “The Billyburg Bust”.

The article is basically about gentrification and the economy – two very touchy subjects for many.

Feelings aside, the article made me think, just how much gentrification is too much? Those in NY are well aware of the massive gentrification efforts in Brooklyn’s trendy Williamsburg neighborhood. And while I’m not necessarily saying gentrification is a bad thing, there are certain negative factors to consider. There’s the exhorborant price tag that accompanies shoe box apartments, displaced persons (tenants, if you will) and a major shift in false perceptions of the quality of life being different… An entire cultural shift happens with gentrification and if brought on too soon, it can wreak havoc on many.

My issue with gentrification is not a new Trader Joe’s or shoe boutique in Brooklyn, it’s the mere fact that gentrification makes it virtually impossible to find affordable housing – even though the law states that a certain percentage of housing is to be set aside for affordable housing.

Last summer, a few friends and I witnessed some other locals’ disdain for the new Billyburg in two words: “fuck gentrification”. Yup, it was tagged nicely across a newly-renovated apartment building.

Yet and still, there’s an influx of luxury development plans, million dollar loans and unsuspecting tenants traveling to Williamsburg with their eyes set on calling it home or making/saving a dollar or two.  The irony of this situation is that as fast as those million dollar condos shot up, the Dow Jones came tumbling down and no one was safe. Not even behind the comfy confines of lofts and Maseratis (see article for this reference).

The current disaster we’re calling  a “recession” couldn’t have been anticipated and in my opinion, for anyone to walk away unscathed would be a miracle. In Williamsburg, there are over a dozen unfinished condo projects and foreclosed apartment buildings and brokers are so desperate to sell units that they are offering prospective tenants insane deals (like all expense paid trips and year’s free rent) to buy and rent units.

I know they say “desperate times call for desperate measures” but really, if you can afford to pay my closing costs on that swanky condo or offer me a year’s free rent, doesn’t that mean that the unit is overpriced to begin with? So what, Mr. Developer is your motive behind luring me to Williamsburg? Are you really trying to save me money or are you hoping that my naivety will help me look past your greed?

To read “The Billyburg Bust” in its entirety, click here.

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