In (Part of) Brooklyn, New York’s Market Mania Grows

Photograph by Mark Lennihan/AP Photo

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There is nothing like a real estate frenzy to get the bourgeois blood going, and much of New York City is eagerly watching the latest numbers to see just how much money they have made on their home, or how depressingly expensive it will be to move when rents rise. Ground zero for market mania has been in Brooklyn (where, full disclosure, my wife and I are lucky enough to own an apartment).

The latest widely reported figures from appraisal firm Miller Samuel Inc.  median prices for both sales and rentals, in Brooklyn up more than 13 percent for the year. According to the survey the median rental price for a Brooklyn apartment now stands at $2,737 a month. While still below Manhattan’s $3,195, that’s an astonishingly high number for a region of the city with a population of 2.5 million that was once dismissed as an endless acres of grey asphalt.

That high number, and the quite small number of rentals in Miller Samuel’s survey made me seek some clarification. Indeed, as Miller Samuel president Jonathan Miller explained to me, the rental figures in his study cover just  northwest Brooklyn — the most expensive part of the borough. While sales data is a matter of public record, rentals are not, and Miller gathers them from a selection of brokerage sources. And, as he explained, his data for the rest of Brooklyn are too thin to make accurate judgements.

None of this is meant to knock the data that we do have; on the contrary for a lot of folks (yes, including me) prices in leafy northwest Brooklyn are a matter of great interest but they don’t tell anything like the full story. You might look at the excellent interactive maps from radio station WNYC to get a more global sense. Cross the river from Manhattan and you’ll see a sliver of deep purple representing Brooklyn’s wealthiest areas. It’s a lot smaller than the outer expanse of yellow. All of which should emphasize just how slow the process of urban transformation is. Whatever you may think of New York’s ongoing gentrification, remember that there’s still an awful lot of Brooklyn that has yet to be conquered by $3,000 a month rents.

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