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As a result, the vast majority of Jews in Williamsburg – 77 percent, according to the UJA-Federation survey – are renters, the highest rate in the city. By contrast, only 51 percent of Jews living in the more affluent area known as Brownstone Brooklyn – an area that encompasses downtown Brooklyn and the much sought-after Park Slope and Carroll Gardens neighborhoods – are tenants.
The tough real estate market has enticed many haredim to quit the city for Jewish towns farther upstate, such as Kiryas Joel, community members say. Kiryas Joel now has more than 20,000 residents, according to the 2010 census, up from 13,000 in 2000.
For those who stay, real estate developers have been busy building in areas surrounding established haredi cores, pushing into adjacent neighborhoods like Bedford-Stuyvesant and Clinton Hill. The haredi migration can be tracked by the new construction, which often has specifically Orthodox amenities, such as staggered balconies that allow residents to build sukkahs during the fall harvest holiday with unobstructed views of the sky.
“This whole road and further down in deep Bed-Stuy and Clinton Hill is becoming hasidish,“ said Isroel Kogen, a tour guide with Hasidic Williamsburg Tour. “Look at the balconies and the bars on the windows. It’s typical haredi.”
The rapid expansion of the community has not always gone smoothly. The Broadway Triangle, a large parcel of land in north Brooklyn recently vacated by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, has become a bone of contention between local haredim, blacks and Latinos. In 2006, the city granted the United Jewish Communities of Williamsburg (UJO), a haredi housing and social services group, the right to build on the formerly industrial tract. The UJO plans several eight-story buildings with mostly large units that critics say cater specifically to the needs of religious families.
But the Broadway Triangle Coalition – a group that includes blacks, Latinos and UJCare – is suing to block the plan, claiming that large apartments deliberately favor Jews over other groups that have, on average, smaller families. They also argue that haredi developers deliberately limit construction to eight stories because some Chasidic Jews will not ride in an elevator on the Sabbath.
“Our position is that there was a strategic political decision made to help deliver this land and opportunity without regard to the needs of the overall community,” said Romy Ganschow, a lawyer representing the Broadway Triangle Coalition. “By devising the plan the way that they did they did not have to give preference to residents in neighboring adjoining black community.”
Niederman said the apartments would be offered to anyone, regardless of race or religion, based on an open lottery. “The African-American but especially the Latino community” – because they have larger families – “have the same right to compete and will compete for these apartments,” he said.
Whatever the courts decide on the Broadway Triangle development, it will not solve the haredi community’s housing problems. “Even if we build these houses,” Niederman said, “it would be just a drop in the sea.”