The fact that Central Brooklyn is gentrifying is hardly new news for those of us who live here.
But what is surprising are recent findings by Michael Petrilli of the Thomas Fordham Institute who examined the change in white population across the country by zip code over the last ten years.
What he found was (based on Census data), of the top-25 fastest-gentrifying neighborhoods, four of them were in Brooklyn – the highest number of any city -- with two of the four falling in the top-ten in the entire nation.
Of all of the Brooklyn zip codes, 11205 covering Bedford-Stuyvesant and Clinton Hill, had the fastest growth, coming in at 6th nationally, with a 29.6 percent increase (from a 19.7 percent white population in 2000, to 49.3 percent in 2010).
Right behind Bed-Stuy in the 7th position was 11206 in Williamsburg, with a 29 percent increase in ten years. In the 18th position was 11238, which covers Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights and parts of Bed-Stuy, with a 21.5 percent increase; and in the 25th spot was 11237, another section of Williamsburg, with a 19.7 percent increase.
“White People Are Taking Over Brooklyn,” Noah Plau wrote in the headline of a Business Insider article on Tuesday, based on these same findings.
A take-over? Is that description over the top, or is it the general sentiment shared by Bed-Stuy residents? After all, the fact that nearly 50 percent of the population in the 11205 area code of Bed-Stuy is now white is certainly significant, when only 15 years ago, most white people had little interest in visiting Bed-Stuy, much less choosing it as a place to live.
“Of course I see a changing landscape,” said Roselle Hayward, 67, a longtime Bed-Stuy resident and a manager at Denim Lounge. “I remember the day I was walking home, and I suddenly saw a bike lane down Bedford Avenue, and I knew that was it; we were changing.
“But when things change, you have to change with it. It’s good, because now, it’s bringing different ethnic groups in. As far as the rent and stuff, it’s blowing the black people out, because some of them can’t pay the rent. But I think that it’s better that kids grow up seeing other cultures and living with other cultures.”
Humberto Perez, who for the last 16 years has owned a deli on Bedford Avenue, also welcomes the changes: “I have no problem with the neighborhood changing, I’m perfectly comfortable with it,” he said shrugging his shoulders.
Gloria Harris, a long-time Bed-Stuy resident who was waiting at a bus stop said, “I feel very good about the changes in this area, because we’re coming together as a unit."
Duane Cobham is an African-American resident. He moved into the neighborhood three years ago, and he says he has mixed feelings about seeing the area gentrify: “Truthfully, I enjoy seeing the kind of diversity that is happening. But it’s a little nerve-wracking, because the rents are going up in this area, and a lot of people moving out are wondering where they are going.
“I still think overall, the gentrification has been good, but it’s a strange, because all of these new business are opening that the people who have been living here have no need for and cannot afford. So it’s like, ‘Who are they catering to?’ It definitely sends a message.”
Maria Delamotte, 24, who is white and moved to the neighborhood a year ago, says gentrification is something she thinks about every day, and she struggles with how she should feel about it:
“It’s something that I guess is hard for me to wrap my head around, because I’m a baker and I make $12 an hour,” she said. “So to be viewed as a gentrifyer is a role that I don’t necessarily want, because I know there are people who it hurts them, and there are people who are resentful of it. But what should I do? Should I just go live in a suburb?
“I mean, I don’t have parents who have money, and I’m not just living here to save my money; I’m just trying to live and survive like everybody else. Don’t get me wrong, I love Bed-Stuy. But if someone were to give me advice about what I should do, I’m open to listening.”
One other white resident, a 38-year-old Brooklyn native who grew up in East New York and has lived in Bed-Stuy for the past five years, said he is very aware of the changing demographic. He is a Bed-Stuy business owner who preferred to remain anonymous, but he says he is conscientious about preserving the culture that was here before:
“There’s so much history and culture in Bed-Stuy, African-American culture, and I think it would be really sad to have it turn into Williamsburg, to be quite honest with you.
“I think there has to be some things that are kept to preserve the history. But I’m a life-long Brooklynite, and I probably have a different perspective than a white person who has just moved here from out of the state. But I agree that some of the changes are good. But with all the changes, there has to be something that is kept so that we don’t lose the essence of the neighborhood.”