Sunday, April 29, 2007

Neighboring 'Hood Contemplates Gentrification

Across the Park and Planet PLG are blogs out of neighboring Prospect Lefferts Gardens. Both contemplated the neighborhood's hype and status yet still unrealized expectations...

Why does PLG fly below the radar? Is PLG destined to be the perpetual "next" hot neighborhood? PLG, arguably, has been slower to develop than other Brooklyn neighborhoods - but why?

Hmmm... sounds kind of familiar. I think Kensington's been the next neighborhood since about '03 when the word started getting out that real estate was afforable and a short distance from 'fashionable' eating & shopping areas. Things have changed a bit in the last couple of years as prices on real estate have increased, along with the rest of NYC. We also contine to see many new faces on the streets and even recently begun spotting the swankiest stroller being wheeled down Ocean Pkwy.

Still, despite the surfeit of homes on the market -- and despite the fact that PLG seems to be the only neighborhood within a mile of the park where gorgeous single families can be had for between $900,000 and $1.25 million -- there remain many people who've never even heard of PLG...and meanwhile, broken-down brownstones much further from the park (and from transportation) and in more dangerous neighborhoods regularly command prices that are 20 percent.

Obviuosly Kensington doesn't have a ton of brownstones but the homes here are certainly in the range quoted above and many areas have tons of charm. Certainly we've had our influx and many newer residents have come together with older residents to make improvements on playgrounds, form a CSA, and partake in neighborhood associations yet we're still without a sit down restuarant (except for the diners), a coffee shop, or a wine store.

The reasoning...
Slow rental turnover is probably another reason - most neighborhoods that have taken off, like Williamsburg (cited as an example by Mr/Ms. PPLG), are full of small buildings that are not subject to rent stabilization laws. We have a hunch it's new renters who generally bring new vitality to an area, as they're typically younger and less tied to their home by things like kids. Also, the first people to move into a transitional neighborhood (often leading the transition) are younger creative types. We hypothesize that without rental turnover, you don't get a whole lot of change.

Maybe we'll get those shops and cleaner streets with renters? Seems like lots of new developments are going rental and certainly the rents in Kensington along Ocean Pkwy and beyond are much more reasonable then all of North Brooklyn. Many of the people I know who do rent though are concerned if the neighborhood improves rents will go up and they'll be forced to move out even further. It seems you can never really win, right?

There's also the notion that PLGers like where they live, like they way they live, and don't particularly feel like cheerleading. The other evening, as five families (and their nine kids, all between two and ten) gathered on the sidewalk after work and before dinner, one of the fathers (a musician with two of the aforementioned kids), said that he often felt as if he didn't like New York...but that he loved PLG. It wasn't hard to understand what he meant. Many of the neighborhoods we've lived in -- from Williamsburg to Boerum Hill, from the Lower East Side to the West Village -- have gone from being vibrant and wonderful to being overrun and annoying...oftentimes within four or five years (less if said neighborhood is featured on the Sex and the City tour). Maybe the real reason PLG hasn't seen more wholesale change is as simple as the fact that the people who live there are happy with things the way they are...

Wow does this sound familiar!? Even with the garbage pile up on certain corners, Church Ave's cosmetic deficiences and lack of a coffee shop (which PLG has) lots of people love it here (me included) and don't see the need for things... I've heard lots and lots of rumblings about Kensington being just fine the way it is and if we want said coffee shop to hop on your bike (or the train etc) and go to one. Certainly the beauty is in the people and we have made many wonderful friends here. That being said I still would like a few things be a little different (as many of you would) while maintaining our roots but wonder... is it a real possiblity considering we're in a less popular district for our elected officials and the commericial rents (I've heard about) on our major commericial strips are as high as those popular districts.

Don't go changing to try and please me (Son of Planet PLG)
Born Again Blog Ponders PLG Popularity (across the park)