Making ‘Census’ of Brooklyn

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Carroll Gardens is getting whiter! Williamsburg is getting smarter! And the Park Slope baby boom is real!

These are just some of the conclusions hidden in the cold hard data provided by the Census Bureau this week.

The Bureau’s bean-counters did more than just paint the first statistical portrait of our neighborhoods since 2000 — their latest data can help settle arguments left and right.

Here are four of the census-validated trends that are changing the face of Brooklyn (data from the “American Community Survey” is complete through 2007):

Richer and whiter

An explosion of cash from Park Slope to Red Hook has priced out many minority families, the data show.

Of all New York’s neighborhoods, the broad stretch west of Prospect Park had the biggest jump in median household income — 23 percent, to $77,784 — partly because nearly a fifth of black and Hispanic families, who earn half as much as their white counterparts, left during the seven-year period.

The area is now 62 percent white, up 13 percent from 2000, and the median income of white families has grown to nearly $92,000 — which perhaps explains why upscale restaurants, clothing stores and real-estate agents have sprung up.

The biggest changes can be felt along Park Slope’s Fifth Avenue and Smith Street in Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens, where higher-end restaurateurs and chi-chi cocktail bars are supplanting bodegas and old-time Mom and Pop stores.

Such a trend actually helps drive out poorer residents.

“The services in the neighborhood aren’t serving the longtime residents anymore,” said Theo Moore, of Families United for Racial and Economic Equality. “Even if you can afford the rent, if you can’t afford the supermarket, you have to go. With a pro-development administration, gentrification will continue.”

W’burg book club

The census didn’t count ironic beards or tight pants, but Williamsburg and Greenpoint’s hipsterization is symbolized by the neighborho­ods’ skyrocketing population of scholars.

There are about 80 percent more college graduates in the area than there were in 2000, and Masters degrees and doctorates are up by more than a third, to 10 percent of the residents.

Still, Williamsburg-Greenpoint has to do some studying to catch up with Park Slope, Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill, where fully 30 percent of residents have a Masters degree or higher.

Bedford Avenue’s Spoonbill and Sugartown has had to adapt to serve the new breed of bookworms.

The bookseller only stocked art and design tomes when it opened in 1999, but it’s been expanding its selection to satisfy the largely wealthier and more educated new residents, according to manager Quentin Rwan.

“We wouldn’t ever have thought to carry something like the new Malcolm Gladwell book [“Outliers”] in the past, but now people come in asking for it all the time, so we carry it,” Rwan said.

“Williamsburg is not just all people who went to art school anymore.”

It’s a baby boom

Those double-wide strollers blocking Fifth Avenue and Court Street are no mirage! The number of children under-5 shot up 35 percent in the area between Park Slope and Red Hook.

That’s a lot of mouths to feed.

This toddler typhoon comes as no surprise to Slopers, who have seen parenting group Park Slope Parents — founded in 2002 — grow to 6,000 members and baby stores sprout across the neighborhood.

Six of those stores are owned by Loretta Gendville, whose small business was turned into a veritable infant empire by the Slope’s ever-growing demand for children’s clothing and gifts.

“It was kind of a fluke,” explained Gendville, who owns the Area Kids chain.

“I opened the first when I had my daughter [in 2003]. It was an immediate success, so I kept opening more. I ended up opening all my stores within two years.”

But there’s a bright for spot for the Slope’s beleaguered childless residents.

Gendville thinks the economic downturn might send Brooklyn’s mating-minded residents elsewhere.

“I’m definitely thinking about opening another store. With the economy right now, maybe in Fort Greene, but it’s expensive there, too.”

Mixing it up

The white population of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst has dropped slightly, but Asian families have been flocking to the neighborhoods, and the school-age population is through the roof.

Roughly, 19,000 more Asians live in the area than in 2000, an increase of 34 percent.

And the number of kids between 5 and 18 in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights has climbed 14 percent.

It’s certainly showing up at a local school.

PS 69, at the corner of 63rd Street and Ninth Avenue, opened just a few years ago to serve a rapidly growing Asian neighborhood. It’s already considering building an annex.

“As soon as PS 69 opened, it was at capacity,” said Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10.

“When you have new families, you tend to have an increase in children and you have to figure out how to serve the new population.”

To help the new Chinese residents, the Brooklyn Chinese-American Association has expanded its services from Sunset Park into Bay Ridge, offering additional day-care programs and opening a senior center.

So it’s no surprise that the influx of Asians has turned Avenue U into the city’s fifth Chinatown.

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Reader Feedback

Susanna from Sheepshead Bay says:
Referring to your last two paragraphs, Avenue U has become a mini-Chinatown, but it is not in Bay Ridge. It is in a neighborhood called Homecrest, near Sheepshead Bay. And if you talk about immigrants in that area of Brooklyn (Kings Highway/Sheepshead Bay/Brighton Beach), you also have to talk about the Russian influx, which has become very dominant in many aspects, including the public schools. It's not just whites and "other folks."
Dec. 12, 2008, 1:18 pm

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