Creatives flee Manhattan for Brooklyn’s, uh, cheaper rents

Because it's so cheap, y'know?

November 4, 2019 Alex Williamson
“Williamsburg Mural” by artist Katie Merz. Photo courtesy of Industry City
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New York City has a longstanding reputation as a mecca for creative types, but runaway costs of living make it hard to live here on an artist’s salary. In a new report, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office has confirmed a trend you’ve probably already noticed — that rising rents have pushed creative professionals out of Manhattan and into Brooklyn over the past decade.

Brooklyn is home to four of the top six neighborhoods that saw the greatest influx of creative workers since 2008: Bushwick, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Greenpoint and Williamsburg, (which were grouped together in the Comptroller’s report), Brooklyn Heights and Fort Greene.

Brooklyn has the highest concentration of residents working in creative fields, and since 2008, the borough has gone from being home to 27 percent of the city’s creative workforce to being home to 38 percent.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

The city’s creative workforce has concentrated increasingly in Brooklyn over the past decade. Image courtesy of the NYC Comptroller's Office
The city’s creative workforce has concentrated increasingly in Brooklyn over the past decade. Image courtesy of the NYC Comptroller’s Office

The “creative sector” — defined in the report as any industry whose output is primarily creative or cultural — now comprises 13 percent of the city’s economic output. It employs 293,000 workers and pays more than $30 billion in wages. The creative economy accounted for $110 billion of the city’s economic activity in 2017, the report found.

The sector is made up not just of artists and musicians, but museum administrators, fashion designers, advertising execs and publishers.

The report found that 36 percent of the city’s creative workers were self-employed, compared to just 10 percent of the city’s overall workforce.

Bushwick has gained more than 6,000 creative workers since 2008, while Bedford-Stuyvesant has gained just short of 4,500. Around 2,800 creative professionals moved into Greenpoint and Williamsburg in that time period, and more than 2,100 moved into Brooklyn Heights and Fort Greene.

The increasing number of creative workers living in Brooklyn coincides with a declining number in Manhattan. In 2008, Manhattan housed 51 percent of the city’s creative workers. That number fell to just 40 percent by 2017.

Nearly 7,000 creative workers have moved out of the Upper West Side & West Side above 59th Street over the past decade. Other Manhattan neighborhoods hemorrhaging creative residents include Chelsea, Greenwich Village, Soho, Chinatown and the Lower East Side.

New York City is home to a whopping 12 percent of all creative industry jobs nationwide.


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