28 August 2007

Media Wakes Up, Re: Red Hook, Columbia Street

OK, let's see if we've got the cycle right. Real estate brokers and developers lie; fooled newspapers believe lies hook, line and sinker; rents rise, fortunes are made; five years later newspapers wake up.

That's about how it's gone for Red Hook and Columbia Street, two Brooklyn neighborhoods that, in today's overheating real estate market, were going to be the next hot areas. Since 2000 or so they were going to be the next hot areas. Until everyone realized it wasn't actually happening that way.

I've lived near the two districts for a decade and, from the get-go, I never understood why people swallowed the hype. Now, I love Columbia Street, and I love Red Hook. But let's face facts. They're cut off from subway service, and bus service is erratic at best (hang your head low, B61). Large swathes of each nabe are, shall we say, less than attractive. There are few banks down here, no major supermarkets (until Fairway arrived), parks are small or bedraggled. And both are home to a kind of urban blight that isn't shaken off in a year or two. Construction is constant on Columbia. Much of the center of Red Hook (which isn't just Van Brunt Street, folks) is as sad and dejected a place as any in NYC.

And so I could only gape at the insanity of rents on one-bedrooms rising to $1,000, $1,200, $1,500, $2,000, $2,200—all based on the idea that the neighborhood was going to turn around, sometime, for certain. All the while, I'd tell people "Never gonna happen," and they'd look at me bug-eyed. Was I crazy? Hadn't I heard the Good News?

But then a funny thing happened. Rising rents and mortgages didn't work their inverse magic; they didn't makes stores arrives in drove, they didn't make restaurants thrive, they didn't make Columbia Street and Red Hook boomtowns. Instead, restaurants and stores starting CLOSING. And the remaining ones struggled. Why, why, why? the prognosticators cried! Because, stupidheads: it's Columbia Street and Red Hook! There are certain basic things about these areas that are broken in a fundamental way, in a way that won't be fixed just because brokers and builders want to make more money.

This lesson was finally learned the New York Post and the New York Times, and other publications, who were stunned over the past month to find out that the articles they wrote five years ago about Columbia Street and Red Hook's sunny futures were a bunch of moonshine.

The scales have fallen from our eyes. It's said, but ultimately healthy. Now, any wanna lower the rents a bit, so I can continue to live here?

1 comment:

Patti said...

Just found this post and your blog...

Well said - I agree fully....