The New York Times has some interesting coverage today about what the latest census data tells us about recent patterns of racial change in New York City. Fort Greene, for instance, which was affected by the Downtown Brooklyn rezoning in 2004, saw “double-digit decreases” in black residents, while white residents in that neighborhood increased from 14 to 26 percent. The data suggest that the city is being reshaped along racial lines as blacks, Latinos, Asians, and immigrants are pushed outward by gentrification.
It’s not every day that the Wall Street Journal covers the Fulton Mall, so this recent article, re-posted thanks to Brownstoner, was a bit of a surprise, even if its racist undertones weren’t. The basic narrative replicated here is familiar enough: the once-great Fulton Street of the (white) department store heyday was “replaced” by an unfortunate “grungy” (read: black, lower-income) strip selling “cheap goods” and “knickknacks.” But there’s now hope of finally cleaning it all up, thanks to all the new (half-empty) luxury condos everywhere and the potential for attracting “Manhattan-type residents.” Notably, the piece fails to mention a major reason for much of the current blight: the displacement caused by the 2004 rezoning which, combined with the economic crisis, has kept many storefronts empty and construction sites stalled for years now.
At last count, New York City’s Department of City Planning under Mayor Michael Bloomberg had rezoned a total of 104 neighborhoods. Many of these rezonings did not go down without a fight. Sources offer a mixed assessment of this legacy. Some compare the city’s aggressive rezoning effort to Robert Moses’ historic urban renewal agenda decades ago, while others point out that that it has had surprisingly little impact. A Furman Center report from earlier this year suggests an explanation for these opposing perspectives: The city approached zoning differently depending on the neighborhood, a process that seems to have largely played out along lines of race and class.