Brooklyn has always had a distinct culture, vibrancy and an independent spirit not seen in other places. Our neighborhoods — long magnets for immigrants from all over the world — have been safe havens for families that planted roots in one of Brooklyn’s many enclaves and began to design their new lives.
In this context, neighborhood identity is important whether one lives in Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Boerum Hill, Bedford-Stuyvesant or Brownsville. These neighborhoods and many others throughout the borough are all unique and are an important part of our history, culture and tradition.
Under state Law, real estate brokers are prohibited from advertising properties in a false or misleading fashion. But some brokers are renaming neighborhoods and redrawing boundaries at will, driven by a desire to make edgier communities seem more attractive in order to artificially inflate housing prices.
Parts of Sunset Park are now being advertised as Greenwood Heights (after the cemetery that bares that name). A portion of Crown Heights is being marketed by some as ProCro. And a carved out block of Fort Greene that sits between new luxury condominiums (but adjacent to public housing) is dubbed DoBro.
Why should any of this matter?
Every Brooklyn resident has a right to call his neighborhood anything he wants. But real estate brokers are obligated to give prospective homebuyers and tenants accurate information about the property being marketed. The consequences of realtors providing misleading information are broad. Working families are pushed out of rebranded neighborhoods as housing prices soar. Newer residents pay more to rent or buy, largely as a result of the deceptive marketing.
This is why I plan to introduce the Neighborhood Integrity Act. This bill will require the city to develop a community-oriented process before brokers can rebrand a neighborhood or redefine its boundaries simply for commercial purposes. These new names rarely result from community input and are often disconnected from a neighborhood’s history, culture or tradition.
The best way to change a neighborhood’s identity is not by inventing names out of thin air. Successful change requires hard work designed to improve a neighborhood’s quality of life. Brooklynites have been doing a great job in this area. We don’t need a few creative real-estate brokers to show us the way.
Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries’s district includes Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant.