Theories About Real Estate, Money and Hipness

Cheap rents attract young people. Young people create demand for bars and restaurants. Bar and restaurants make neighborhoods safe and appealing. Safe and appealing neighborhoods are no longer cheap. Original gentrifiers complain the area isn’t what it was.

Williamsburg and Dumbo followed this cycle. But on closer inspection, cheap rents don’t always turn neighborhoods into epicenters of cool. Turns out poor people are more discriminating.

Take the Upper East Side: Close to the Met, Central Park and your general practitioner. My brother just rented a largish studio there for less than what a friend of mine was paying in the East Village. While the Upper East Side is one of the most expensive neighborhoods for families in the city, proximity to Dalton isn’t exactly a selling point for young people. The concentration of wealthy families is a turn off for young people renting small apartments. Until studios in Greenpoint start going for $2000 a month, I can’t see many people taking advantage of this real estate loophole. Who wants to live around people who wear real fur?

And why hasn’t Astoria, with its tasty ethnic food, easy access to Manhattan and low rents, become the new hot thing? Well, before parts of Brooklyn became social destinations themselves, their trains offered fast service to hip areas of Manhattan. The first Manhattan stop from Astoria is the basement of Bloomingdale’s, and if you’re living in Queens, you probably don’t have a preferred membership card there. Astoria’s distance from downtown Manhattan creates a Catch-22. A lot of people won’t live there because it’s far from hip areas of Manhattan. And without an abundance of young people, the neighborhood can’t grow into the kind of neighborhood that attracts young people. For the time being, Astoria is stuck.

That said, the Beer Garden is pretty sweet.