Monday, November 06, 2006

The changing face of old Brooklyn

An interesting article in the Times today addresses the roaring (and for all intents and purposes completed) gentrification and development affecting the Greenpoint and Williamsburg section of Brooklyn where, in 1997, a friend and I split a one bedroom apartment for $600 per month, a sum that would be twice that now, and where I had probably the nicest apartment I've ever had in New York, a loft overlooking the East River in the neighborhood's (at the time) rundown Southside district, a few years later. When I first moved there, I recall the distinctly Latin flavor of the place, largely Puerto Rican and Dominican with a smattering of Mexican influence (and a large and still-remaining population of Yiddish-speaking Satmar Hassidim Jews in rather far-out traditional costumes), where a $5 plate of carne guisada with arroz and habichuelas was easy to come by, and where young folks who were actually struggling financially could afford to live.

About two years ago, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who I think has been largely a good mayor, lead the charge for a rezoning program in the neighborhood (coming in tandem with the general gentrification that really began to change the character in the neighborhood around 2000/2001), and developers began changing the once-industrial landscape with luxury apartments that continued to price-out longterm residents, falling far short of the promises of housing for low- and middle-income families. The Old Dutch Mustard factory on Metropolitan Avenue is now gone, torn down last month. The Domino Sugar refinery, which was part of Brooklyn's waterfront since the 19th century before largely ceasing business in 2003, and which I walked by on my way home for a year, will probably not be long to follow. The neighborhood that the 1937 W.P.A. Guide to N.Y.C. once described as "a virtually unrelieved slum" and which was carved in half by the building of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in the 1950s, now seems to be in danger of becoming little more than an extension of "millionaire island" Manhattan.

And my favorite Mexican grocery (Matamoros) has been replaced by a Subway. Oh well, at least Hasidic Rebel is still posting.

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