Photo: Jerry Ferguson/Flickr
The population of New York City has never been higher, but some regions still haven’t recovered from the urban crisis of the 1970s, which brought the city close to bankruptcy.
According to the latest State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods report, published annually by New York University’s Furman Center, New York City’s most popular neighborhoods — including Williamsburg, the Lower East Side and Upper Manhattan — have not yet regained the residents they lost during that time.
Instead, the population of those and other “gentrifying neighborhoods” — defined as areas that were low income in the 1990s, and then experienced higher-than-average rent growth from then until 2010 to 2014 — is about 16 percent lower now than it was in 1970. In contrast, the population of New York City as a whole rose by 3.6 percent during that time; the city’s population pushed past 8.5 million last year, and has increased by over 1.2 million people since 1990.
Those population trends are closely aligned with development trends in New York City. While the total number of housing units in the city has risen by over 15 percent since 1970, the number of housing units in its gentrifying neighborhoods has decreased.
It’s likely that combination of lower population and fewer housing units that has made New York City’s gentrifying neighborhoods what they are today. “In 1980, these neighborhoods had more vacant buildings and lots, which makes redevelopment easier,” Ingrid Gould Ellen, faculty director at the Furman Center and a co-author of the report, told Slate.
The Furman Center’s conclusions cast an interesting light on New York City. As Slate points out, they put complaints about overcrowding in the city’s gentrifying neighborhoods into perspective. That said, some issues with the report do exist — for instance, the organization’s definition of gentrifying neighborhoods causes it to “ignore some of the nabes with the highest recent rent growth.”