If you’re looking to move to an apartment on or near Park Avenue, be prepared to break open the piggy bank. Prices are higher than ever and developers are squabbling over construction rights.
That’s Park Avenue, Brooklyn – not its swankier Manhattan namesake.
For decades, this derelict corner of New York’s most populous borough was the domain of dangerous street gangs and dilapidated industrial buildings. The name of its neighborhood, Bedford-Stuyvesant, was synonomous with urban decay and crime. But driven by the explosive growth of the Jewish population in neighboring Williamsburg, a stronghold of the Satmar hasidic sect, untold numbers of haredi Orthodox Jews recently have moved into the area, and now many consider it part of Jewish Williamsburg.
“Ten years ago there were no Jews living here,” said Moishe, a construction site manager of a large residential building who declined to give his last name. “Then they changed the zoning. Now it is going heavy.”
The changes in the neighborhood are among the consequences of the explosive growth of the Orthodox Jewish population in America’s most Jewish city. That growth is altering not just the composition of America’s largest Jewish community, but city neighborhoods, too.
A study released last month by the UJA-Federation of New York identified Williamsburg as home to the second-fastest Jewish population growth in New York City. About 74,500 Jews – mostly haredi Orthodox – lived there in 2011, up from 52,700 a decade earlier. The fastest-growing Jewish neighborhood of the city was Borough Park, another haredi Orthodox stronghold in Brooklyn. More than 130,000 Jews lived there in 2011, up from 76,000 in 2001. Together, these two areas accounted for two-thirds of the 10 percent increase in the number of Jews living in New York City, Long Island and Westchester County between 2001 and 2011, according to the study.
With these neighborhoods’ rapid growth has come new challenges. Affordable housing is increasingly scarce. The median real estate price in the Park Avenue area is just under $500,000, higher than nearly 80 percent of New York neighborhoods, according to Neighborhood Scout, a real estate data website. Meanwhile, average income in the area is lower than 90 percent of U.S. neighborhoods, according to the site.
“The prices are going up and up, and it’s becoming harder and harder for young families to buy in this neighborhood,” said Gary Schlesinger, the executive director of United Jewish Community Advocacy, Relations and Enrichment (UJCare), a haredi organization based in Williamsburg. “I personally have two married children. They have no prospects of owning land.”