Change Comes to Williamsburg, But Slowly

January 31, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle

WILLIAMSBURG – Figures from Brooklyn College’s “Brooklyn Neighborhood Report” on Community District 1, which includes Greenpoint and Williamsburg, show that these neighborhoods are becoming more upscale.  

However, this change is coming more slowly and less dramatically than in the borough’s brownstone neighborhoods, which we profiled in Monday’s Eagle.

More importantly, many problems associated with poverty — obesity, being stopped by police in stop-and-frisks, people paying more than 30 percent of their income for rent — still persist. And the new people who are coming in, while better off than the poor residents of yesteryear, have nowhere near the wealth of the residents of Brooklyn Heights or Park Slope.

The report is part of a series of Brooklyn Neighborhood Reports put out by the college’s Center for the Study of Brooklyn. In the future, the Eagle will also be looking at Bay Ridge/Sunset Park and Coney Island.

It was not too long ago that Williamsburg was dominated by several low-income groups — Latinos, Hasidic Jews with large families and Slavic immigrants — as well as some Italian-American homeowners in the Northside. Then came the young, arty “hipsters.” Finally, after the rezoning of the waterfront and the building of new condos, upper-middle-class singles, couples and families began to make Greenpoint and Williamsburg their home.

Many factors are very similar to the borough as a whole — for example, the ratio of one gender to another and the median age. Comparing figures from 2000 with those taken between 2007 and 2009, Greenpoint/Williamsburg’s African-American population is still very small, about 5 percent. However, the white population has risen more than 10 percent, while the Latino population has decreased about 10 percent.

The percentage of “disconnected youths,” meaning those between 16 and 25 who are neither working nor going to school, has decreased from 16 percent to about 11 percent. The number of residents with a B.A. degree or higher has doubled from 18 percent to 36 percent. And the area’s median household income has risen from $33,630 to $42,693. These are all signs of increasing wealth.

Still, the number of children who are living in poverty has decreased only slightly, from 50 percent in 2000 to 47 percent in 2007-09, perhaps proving the old saying that “the rich get rich and the poor get children.”

And the foreclosure rate has gone up from 4.4 per 1,000 residents to 9.4, possibly a sign of more real estate pressure on the remaining old-time homeowners. For those who rent rather than buy, median gross rent, as one might expect, has risen from $780 to $1,057 per month.

Some things were good in 2000, and remained good in 2007-09. The number of people who have one to four servings of fresh fruits and vegetables daily has been constant at about 75 percent. There are 11 community gardens in the area. The majority of people exercise daily, and the percentage of smokers remains below 20 percent of the population.

There’s one more interesting figure — the number of noise complaints per 10,000 people soared from 11.8 to 56.3 between 2000 and 2007-09. That’s most likely a sign that younger residents are moving in, and that more and more bars are opening to serve them.

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