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The Gentrification of Gotham

A new report from the New York City Comptroller’s office compares economic and demographic profiles at the neighborhood level in the Big Apple from 2000 and 2015.

A woman pushes a car in front of "The Spirit of East Harlem" mural in New York City. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

As America’s mightiest metropolis, New York City serves as both outlier and example. The Big Apple’s economy dwarfs nations, but slice the city into its five boroughs and stark class divisions appear. A new report from New York City

Comptroller Scott Stringer reveals just how profoundly the city has been transforming in the 21st century by comparing business and neighborhood details in 2000 and 2015. Dig around in the data and you’ll find detailed portraits of the city before and after gentrification, for better or worse.

The report leads with the good news: The number of businesses has increased and business establishment growth picked up more in the 22 lower-income communities of the city (an increase of 41 percent) than the 33 higher-income districts (an increase of 12 percent). The report touts the growth of high-income industries in these neighborhoods.

Data from United States Census Bureau. “Zip Code Business Patterns.” 2000-2015. (NYC Comptroller)

But business growth was even more pronounced in gentrifying neighborhoods. The 15 gentrifying neighborhoods as identified by the Furman Center saw a 45 percent jump in the number of businesses (a 45 percent increase from 28,132 to 42,261). As the report notes, all but one of the neighborhoods with the fastest business growth were gentrifying, with the biggest increases in Central Harlem and Crown Heights. Greenpoint and Williamsburg weren’t far behind.

The ten New York City neighborhoods with the largest business growth from 2000 to 2015 (NYC Comptroller)

Another thing to celebrate according the report: more grocery stores, banks, and restaurants.

The number of supermarkets—defined as grocery stores with 10+ employees—rose 68 percent (from 189 to 318), retail banks 47 percent (from 199 to 292), and retail and restaurants 62 percent (from 10,562 to 17,144). In East New York and Starrett City, the number of supermarkets jumped from 7 to 29; in Bedford Park, Fordham North, and Norwood from 17 to 31; and in Crown Heights North and Prospect Heights from 6 to 17.

The summary also points to business growth that create jobs with higher average wages outside of Manhattan. Businesses in professional and technical services more than doubled (from 992 to 1,987) in the four boroughs where those jobs pay an average yearly wage of $56,666. Information business increased from 278 to 547 in an industry that pays an average wage of $73,062 outside Manhattan. They point to increases in middle-class industries as well, with another 931 construction businesses growing, 380 transportation and warehousing businesses, and 222 wholesale trade businesses.

But there’s bad news in the report, too (even when it looks good). The largest business growth outside of Manhattan from 2000 to 2015 was a 128 percent increase in accommodation and food services. But this big job growth has been in a low-wage sector: The average yearly wage is $21,538 outside of Manhattan.

While businesses increased citywide, 82 percent of business establishments in lower-income neighborhoods had fewer than ten employees. Worse, New York City has gone in the wrong direction on black-owned businesses—a steep 31.4 percent decline from 2007 to 2012, compared to the national average of 2.4 percent increase, as indicated in the table below.

Black-owned businesses in America’s 25 largest cities with at least 500 businesses (NYC Comptroller)

The second part of the report, the Neighborhood Economic Profiles, is a data-rich snapshot of the city’s five boroughs and 55 sub-boroughs in 2000 and 2015. With top-lines on the number of businesses, median household income, and the unemployment rate, it’s a good way to take stock of how each individual neighborhood has changed in a decade and a half.

Borough Businesses in 2015 Percent Change Median Household Income Unemployment Rate in 2015 Unemployment Rate in 2000
Bronx 17,705 26% $35,000 10.3% 13.5%
Brooklyn 56,341 48% $50,200 7.7% 9.9%
Manhattan 105,553 -2% $74,600 5.9% 8.1%
Queens 48,477 33% $60,000 6.9% 7.3%
Staten Island 9,122 22% $71,000 5.2% 5.8%

The report rolls through neighborhood-level business creation stats (14 industries and eight sub-sectors), employment numbers, and the population of individual income brackets.

However, the report’s neighborhood-specific format does not lend itself easily to parsing out a comparison of this granular data on neighborhood demographics (age, education, birth place, race) and urban indicators (land use, work place, and commute method). So CityLab asked the NYC Comptrollers Office to compile the data they collected into a spreadsheet.

Ten neighborhoods with the largest percent decline in population of black residents from 2000 to 2015, compared with white population. (Andrew Small/CityLab)

With a few adjustments, such as highlighting the neighborhoods according to the Furman Center’s definitions of gentrifying (yellow), high income (green), and non-gentrifying (blue) neighborhoods and adding column filters to sort the data by each variable, we can dissect the neighborhood changes a lot more closely. The above table, for example, ranks the ten sub-boroughs where the population of black residents has had the largest percentage decrease. Or take a look at this next chart, which shows where the white population has increased the most since 2000. In Bed-Stuy, the share of white residents increased by 1,235 percent, while the black population decreased by 17 percent.

Ten neighborhoods with the largest percent increase in population of white residents from 2000 to 2015, compared to black residents. (Andrew Small/CityLab)

Though some scholars dispute gentrification’s impact on displacement, with regression analysis failing to see a one-to-one relationship between people moving in and people out, the raw demographic turnover suggests not everyone shares in a neighborhood’s economic success. The Comptroller’s report acknowledges these disparities and has recommendations to address the barriers to entry and advancement.

With a set of more sophisticated statistical tools, this data could reward further study, especially given its population profiles for different economic tiers: We’re working an a fuller map to show what these factors look like across the city. Until then, click away here or download our spreadsheet on Dropbox and let us know what you find in this data trove.

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