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Brooklyn is No Longer the "Budget-Savvy" Alternative to Manhattan

A few months back, we here at the Voice reported that Manhattan's rent was at its highest rate ever, clocking in somewhere around $3,418 a month, on average. Awed by this, I delved into the conundrum that is the Manhattan real estate: if you have to pay an arm and a liver to live on this island, why would you? 


Naturally, the answer is in the name: it's Manhattan, stupid. With its metropolitan charm and the prestige that comes with the phrase, "I live in Manhattan," the conundrum becomes a race to acquire that conversational living title rather than the thought that, wow, the rent is definitely too damn high.

With that in mind, it's no surprise that Manhattan tops the list of the most expensive places to live in America. As an option, I mentioned that you could venture out into the outer boroughs: Queens still offers lower prices in up-and-coming hot spots, like Astoria and Long Island City, and there's always Brooklyn. Turns out I have to bite my tongue a bit.

Yesterday, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that Brooklyn is coming in at number two on that godforsaken list. The study was put together by the Council for Community and Economic Research in Washington; in it, Brooklyn received a score of 183.4 out of 300 and Manhattan scored 233.5. Sorry, but the idea that neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Bushwick, Fort Greene and a handful of others provide you with a lower hit on your wallet is as old as Madonna. 

In other words, Brooklyn has been Manhattan-ized.

To come up with that number, the study focused on things like transportation (that damn $105 montly MetroCard), food, prescription drugs, utilities and the other bills you have to upsettingly pay for. Together, all these total a hefty number that puts us somewhere just above Honolulu. That must mean that newlyweds in Hawaii are coming here for their honeymoons.

That being said, the question I raised to Manhattan now applies to the outer borough: why would anyone continue to live in Brooklyn with that knowledge in mind? Are the surpluses of room to breathe and the cultural attractions of Brooklyn well worth the cost? And, to really dig deep, have we all lost our damn minds, paying for this City still?

Although you can get more bang for your buck in terms of space, the cost of living in Brooklyn is nearing that of Manhattan. I figured this out the hard way when I decided to move into the area two months ago; when my real estate broker saw my budget, which was much lower than what I was paying for the East Village, he scoffed at me and told me it wasn't 2008 anymore. (Soon after, I went with a different broker.)

The high cost of Brooklyn is a recent phenomenon, of course; a testament to the hyper-gentrification of the past ten years or so and the fact that this broker mentioned a time that was only four years ago is a small tidbit of proof. For some background information on this urban movement, check out fellow Voice scribe Eric Sundermann's interview with Robert Anasi on his book "The Last Bohemia: Scenes from the Life of Williamsburg."

In it, we learn that the flocks of people on that L train are coming with plenty of money to spend. So it was no surprise when the Daily News reported a few weeks back that Brooklyn has one of the highest income gaps of any area in the country. The writers mentions that places like DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights offer higher rents than that of the Upper East Side, the legendary expensive-as-hell spot on Manhattan. A few bus/subway stops away, you're in Brownsville, where 69 people have already been shot this year.

It's like a modern-day version of Charles Dicken's 'A Tale of Two Cities,' except the statistic is ramping up at an alarming rate, due in part to the Internet's emphasis on 'trends,' the prolonged Great Recession and the forceful tendency of Manhattan residents to evacuate from the high rent mentioned before.

Needless to say, we're stuck in a sticky/shitty situation here: New York City is pushing the budget-savvy out of every hiding place he or she can find, no matter what the cost may be. It's something that, in the stagnant year of 2012, we have become all but accustomed to. And it doesn't look like we can escape the spread of this plague anytime soon.

FYI: Queens is number five on that list. So, yes, everything is going to hell.

[jsurico15@gmail.com/@JSuricz]

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