April 20, 2015

Brooklyn – 1: Is Its Downtown Vancouverizing?

New York is in full recovery after the financial crisis of 2008.  Infill everywhere.  But the greatest change is underway in Brooklyn – in a downtown just across the East River from Lower Manhattan.  Amazing transit connections.  Its brownstone neighbourhoods were discovered decades ago. Williamsburg and DUMBO are news from the 90s.  Brooklyn Heights is post gentrification.  Now it’s about the Downtown and the corridor from the waterfront to Barclays arena.

Brooklyn 2


Last month in March, we stayed for a week in a condo/rental tower not a few years old and briefly the tallest in Brooklyn, built midblock between two subway entrances, right in the heart of ‘Downtown’..

388 Bridge


It’s not alone.   Here’s the map of everything expected from 2008 to 2018.



This is big development, New York real-estate style. The impact of the residential towers, current and coming, will be transformational.

Booklyn 2



It’s analogously Vancouver in style: tall residential towers fitted tight into the existing grid, with extraordinary amenities a few comfortable blocks away: a waterfront park at the west end, sports and culture on the east, connected by a transit mall.

Fulton Mall is still a reflection of the last decades (many not so great) of New York’s urban dynamics.



But the new scale is set: In Downtown Brooklyn alone, there are 12,500 residential units planned or under construction – about half our West End.  Of these, 3,400 are classed as affordable.

From Downtown Brooklyn School Solutions:

  • Downtown Brooklyn was home to 400 people in 2001.  In 2011, the number was 12,000 and the latest estimates put it at 15,000 (plus 10,000 students living in dorms). The number of housing units is set to more than triple in the next 3-5 years.
  • The cost of building in Downtown Brooklyn has skyrocket from $50 to $350 per buildable square foot in the last 3 years..
  • Downtown Brooklyn, Fort Greene and Vinegar Hill (next to DUMBO) are home to one of the largest concentrations of public housing in the city.   The New York City Housing Authority doesn’t have enough cash to cover the necessary maintenance of its aging stock of 178,895 units and is now proposing to build mixed income housing on empty parking lots, community centers,  and playgrounds within the complexes. Hundreds (or even thousands) of apartments could get built in the neighborhood as a result.


Impacts are evident, especially as the skyline changes and the streets fill with new people.

From The Real Deal:

A report cites a “hidden crisis” of shrinking office space in the neighborhood—less than two million square feet of office space has been added since the 2004 rezoning, it states, not nearly enough to keep up with rising demand and the growth of the technology sector. Residential and office growth in the neighborhood have followed very different paths than those the city envisioned at the time of the 2004 rezoning, as The Real Deal reported.

(That 2004 rezoning is described here.)

It’s also clear in retrospect that they didn’t really see the residential boom coming.  For instance, no plan for a new school – which, consequently, created a response in the community. 

In upcoming posts, a closer look at the oval areas on the map below – the elements of another Post-Motordom city.

Booklyn Van

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