It’s news to no one that decades of gentrification have changed much of Brooklyn’s landscape, but according to Forbes, once the sheen of hip restaurants and glossy condos is peeled back, a darker story is revealed about how the rest of the borough lives.
A Fordham study found that Brooklyn is home to four of the nation’s 25 most rapidly gentrifying zip codes, and writer Kay Hymowitz recently said that Brooklyn has gotten “its groove back” as a “post-industrial hotspot."
Still, over one in five Brooklyn residents live under the official poverty line, and roughly 50 percent above the state average. The borough’s unemployment rate recently stood at 11 percent, and of the 50,000-some jobs that have been created since the recession, about 30,000 have been in the low-wage health care and social assistance sector, with another 9,000 in the hospitality industry.
Forbes also notes that Brooklyn’s median per capita income in 2009 was just under $23,000, almost $10,000 below the national average.
According to Fred Siegel, an Urban Historian and longtime Brooklyn resident, it’s a tale of two cities – “Brownstone and Victorian Brooklyn is booming,” as are the parts of Brooklyn closest to Manhattan. Siegel says that lower-class Brooklyn “is pockmarked with empty stores,” with an industrial- and port-based economy almost entirely gone.
Brooklyn alone has lost 23,000 manufacturing jobs in the past decade, says Forbes.
“So while artisanal cheese shops serve the hipsters and high-end shops thrive, one in four Brooklynites receives food stamps,” says the article.
Similar patterns have emerged across the country, as in the divide between San Francisco – where technology companies have bloomed, and where rents are sky-high – and Oakland, just across the bay, which suffers from severe employment and rising crime.
Demographer Wendell Cox says that in the nation’s largest cities, roughly 80 percent of the population growth over the past decade consisted of people living below the poverty line.
Last week, it was reported that the income gap in New York City is at its highest in more than a decade.