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Where New York Is Gentrifying and Where It Isn't

A new report from NYU’s Furman Center charts changes in neighborhoods over decades.

Federico Rostagno / Shutterstock.com

Gentrification in New York City has surged over the past couple of decades as affluent residents, young empty-nesters, and the super-rich have flocked to the city. A report released on Monday by my colleagues at NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy tracks the pattern of gentrification across 55 New York City neighborhoods, following changes in the age, income, and education of residents moving into and out of these neighborhoods, as well as the changes in housing prices and rents.

The report divides the city’s neighborhoods into three categories: gentrifying (those that were low-income in 1990 and experienced rent growth above the median between 1990 and 2010-2014), non-gentrifying (those that started off as low-income in 1990 but experienced more modest growth than gentrifying areas), and higher-income (those that had higher incomes in 1990 and thus were already gentrified).

The map below shows the location of the three types of neighborhoods across the city. The gentrifying neighborhoods (shown in dark blue) are mainly located in upper Manhattan near Harlem and across parts of Brooklyn, especially in areas adjacent to Lower Manhattan. Note the non-gentrifying neighborhoods (shown in light blue) next to many of the gentrifying neighborhoods, which reflects the juxtaposition of concentrated advantage and disadvantage in New York City today.

Overall, the authors classify 15 neighborhoods (or 27 percent of the total) as gentrifying and seven others (or 13 percent) as non-gentrifying. But the largest share of neighborhoods—60 percent (or 33 neighborhoods)—are higher-income districts that gentrified long ago, suggesting that recent gentrification is even more concentrated in a select few neighborhoods.

The table below lists the 15 neighborhoods—more than a quarter of all 55—that the report classifies as gentrifying. These include seven in Brooklyn and six in Manhattan. Among gentrifying neighborhoods, Williamsburg/Greenpoint in Brooklyn saw the highest increase in average rent from 1990 to 2010-2014—a whopping 78 percent. Rents increased by more than 50 percent in Central Harlem and Lower East Side/Chinatown, more than 40 percent in East Harlem and Bushwick, and more than 30 percent in Bedford Stuyvesant and Morningside Heights/Hamilton Heights. But rents increased by just over 18 percent in the gentrifying neighborhood of South Crown Heights.

Neighborhood Percent Change in Average Rent, 1990 to 2010-2014 Average Household Income in 1990 ($2015)
Williamsburg/Greenpoint 78.7% $53,550
Central Harlem 53.2% $39,650
Lower East Side/Chinatown 50.3% $54,350
Bushwick 44.0% $42,500
East Harlem 40.3% $47,300
Morningside Heights/Hamilton Heights 36.7% $61,500
Bedford Stuyvesant 36.1% $46,150
North Crown Heights/Prospect Heights 29.9% $56,600
Washington Heights/Inwood 29.3% $55,650
Mott Haven/Hunts Point 28.0% $32,250
Astoria 27.6% $64,600
Sunset Park 23.9% $62,550
Morrisania/Belmont 23.5% $36,900
Brownsville/Ocean Hill 20.5% $43,100
South Crown Heights 18.1% $62,900

Rents also soared in a number of already higher-income neighborhoods across the city, such as Greenwich Village/Financial District, which saw the biggest increase (61.2 percent), followed by Brooklyn Heights/Fort Greene (53.2 percent), Chelsea/Clinton/Midtown (51.8 percent), Park Slope/Carroll Gardens (47.3 percent), and Stuyvesant Town/Turtle Bay (38.3 percent).

Gentrification in New York City is the outcome of a series of economic and demographic trends that have transformed the city more broadly—notably, the surge in more educated, affluent, younger, and single people headed back to the city. In recent decades, gentrifying neighborhoods have seen substantial gains in income. Average household incomes rose by 7.3 percent in the 1990s and 6.1 percent from 2000 to 2010-2014 in these neighborhoods. Across the city, average household incomes grew slightly in the 1990s, but declined after the year 2000.

Gentrifying neighborhoods have also seen a pronounced increase in college-educated households. Between 1990 and 2010-2014, the share of New Yorkers with a college degree grew citywide. But, again, this increase was most pronounced in gentrifying neighborhoods (15.6 percentage points). In fact, 42 percent of recent movers age 25 or older who lived in a gentrifying neighborhood from 2010 to 2014 had a college degree. By contrast, only 19 percent of recent movers who lived in a non-gentrifying neighborhood during this time had a college degree.

Gentrifying neighborhoods have also attracted a number of young residents. In 1990 and 2000, residents ages 20 to 34 comprised around a quarter of the New York City population, and remained fairly evenly dispersed across neighborhoods. But between 2000 and 2010-2014, higher-income neighborhoods started to lose their adult shares, while non-gentrifying neighborhoods saw their shares increase slightly. In gentrifying neighborhoods, the share of adults increased by more than in any other neighborhood (from 25.4 percent in 2000 to 28.8 percent in 2010-2014). Along these same lines, the share of single households has increased at a faster rate in gentrifying neighborhoods than in the rest of the city since 1990.

Unsurprisingly, gentrifying neighborhoods have seen a significant racial transformation, losing large numbers of black residents while gaining a substantial white population. In New York, the share of white residents in gentrifying neighborhoods increased from 18.8 percent in 1990 to 20.6 percent in 2010, while the share of black residents fell from 37.9 percent in 1990 to 30.9 percent in 2010. Meanwhile, the share of Asian and Hispanic residents in gentrifying neighborhoods grew slightly, compared to much faster growth citywide. Like many cities, New York’s overall shares of black and white residents have declined since 1990, while its shares of Asian and Hispanic residents have increased.

New York, of course, is a case study in the back-to-the-city movement. After losing over 800,000 residents between 1970 and 1980—more than currently reside in Detroit, Seattle, Washington, D.C., or Nashville—the city has been gaining residents ever since. Interestingly, while this population growth may have spurred gentrification, the population of gentrifying neighborhoods was still 15.8 percent lower in 2010 than it was four decades earlier in 1970, as the chart below shows. More population growth took place in both higher-income neighborhoods, which grew 13.6 percent since 1970, and non-gentrifying neighborhoods, which grew by 8 percent.

Still, gentrifying neighborhoods added housing units over this period, signaling the influx of smaller, more affluent households consuming larger and newer units. Although gentrifying neighborhoods lost over 128,000 units of housing in the ‘70s and ‘80s, housing in these neighborhoods grew by 7.5 percent in the 1990s. And from 2000 to 2010, housing in gentrifying neighborhoods increased by another 7.2 percent compared to 4.5 percent in higher-income neighborhoods and 5.5 percent in non-gentrifying neighborhoods. During this time, gentrifying neighborhoods in New York gained 57,550 additional units of housing.

Along with gentrification, the city has also seen skyrocketing rents and escalating rent burdens, which have fallen most heavily on the poor and disadvantaged. New York’s overall rent burden (which the report measures as the share of households spending 30 percent or more of their pre-tax income on rent) rose from 40.7 percent in 2000 to 51.7 percent in 2010-2014. Although all neighborhoods saw their rent burdens rise, gentrifying areas once again experienced the sharpest increase (from 42.3 percent in 2000 to 52.9 percent in 2010-2014). And yet, by 2010-2014, there was a greater share of rent-burdened households in non-gentrifying neighborhoods (58.5 percent), while higher-income neighborhoods saw slightly smaller shares than the rest (49.3 percent). Naturally, New York’s low-income households in gentrifying neighborhoods were the most rent-burdened of all, with an increase of 21 percentage points from 2000 to 2010-2014. But, surprisingly, moderate-income households in these neighborhoods saw a comparable increase of 18 percentage points during this same time period.

Overall, this suggests that the impact of gentrification occurs more through increased rent burdens than direct displacement (as earlier research has argued). As New York has gentrified, rent burdens have increased for many residents. Ultimately, New York City continues to be class-divided between the rich and poor as its older, middle-class neighborhoods give way to gentrification.

Top image: Federico Rostagno / Shutterstock.com

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