Thursday, May 03, 2007

Howard Golden's Warning

By Paul Moses
Former Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden offered some interesting observations about the development boom that is re-shaping Brooklyn when he visited the Brooklyn College Library on April 26 to offer some introductory comments in a conference called "The Roots of Modern Brooklyn."

He complained that Manhattan is being overbuilt with luxury housing, attracting too many people to the city. The problem he saw was not so much with Manhattan's prosperity as its impact on Brooklyn - that excessive building in Manhattan is having a spillover effect in Brooklyn. His borough is becoming Manhattanized with high-end housing developments that raise housing costs, pushing out Brooklynites who can no longer afford to live here.

"The people who are leaving here are not the people we want to see leave," Golden said.

Golden's remarks seemed off-agenda in a conference that generally celebrated the gains in real estate development in Brooklyn in the past three decades. But the Manhattanizing of Brooklyn clearly is something that has irked Golden in his retirement. I asked a follow-up question after he spoke and, when the conference's first session ended, he sought me out to amplify what he had said.

It was a flashback for me to the early 1990s when I was a reporter covering Brooklyn. At the time, I was writing a column in New York Newsday called "The City of Brooklyn," with the borough's logo attached. I occasionally wrote columns reporting on Golden's healthy skepticism for the city's Manhattan-centric policy establishment and news media.

That sort of skepticism is fading in the borough's public conversation, which tends to be more dominated these days by writers, pundits, researchers, academics and others who moved to Brooklyn from Manhattan.

The former borough president's concern that the widespread construction of luxury housing in Manhattan is having a negative affect on Brooklynites is especially worthy of consideration in the wake of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plaNYC blueprint for taking the city to the year 2030. It holds out the re-zonings of Park Slope and of Greenpoint-Williamsburg as models for future development of housing. But the Park Slope re-zoning has opened the way for construction of 10- to 12-story luxury buildings along Fourth Avenue, accelerating housing displacement in the area. And the city was slow to provide promised aid to businesses and residents displaced by the massive building the re-zoning of Greenpoint and Williamsburg permitted.

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