Ladies and Gentlemen, Is The Bronx De-Gentrifying?

bronxie.jpgThe Bronx's BoogieDowner laughs at Brooklynites whom a landlord tried to chase out of his now-prime real estate with a bag of dead cats:

"I guess the landlords saw Yofiore was charging $11 for frozen yogurt over in Brooklyn Heights and they wanted to get their piece of the Brooklyn gentrification pie... but at least the media still loves them. New York Mag's 40th Anniversary Issue is smattered with praise for the hipster paradise. Not surprisingly, there's no real mention of the BoogieDown... One would think maybe they'd at least include a piece in their events calendar about the SBX Film Festival this weekend."

That reminded us: wasn't the Bronx supposed to be next in line for gentrification?

The New York Times used to think so. In 2005 they started referring to the South Bronx as "SoBro" -- talking about the "artists, hipsters, Web designers, photographers, doctors and journalists" who were moving there, and focusing on one Todd Fatjo, who oddly enough had previously been the subject of a 2004 Times deep-thinker on the cresting Williamsburg boom when Fatjo lived there.

In 2006 the Times again treated the "energetically gentrifying South Bronx communities of Mott Haven, Port Morris and Melrose," but from more of a liberal-guilt angle, acknowledging that there were still poor people of color there.

The Times talks less about it now, and this month The Real Deal declared "South Bronx buzz fizzles: Gentrification on Hold." While some units had indeed sold for prices "previously inconceivable in the neighborhood," Real Deal said the tightening of credit and shady house-flipping meant "these types of investments have stopped dead in their tracks, and local families who had bought the properties are stuck with mortgages they can't afford."

At a related City-Data board from last year, one poster speculated that full-on gentrification might not be easy in areas where homeowners are less motivated to sell off their buildings than holders of rent-stabilized properties, and pointed out that in Mott Haven this meant newbies would find themselves mostly confined to areas "surrounding the projects." Others cited the Bronx's distance from "the centers of 'hipness' in Manhattan."

Further up in the borough, Norwood News in July quoted a University Neighborhood Housing Program spokesman: "The prices being paid for Bronx apartment buildings are out of step with the buildings' actual profitability. Landlords' expenses are increasing faster than rent income, but these sales seem to assume that either the building can be flipped for a higher amount, or that rents can be driven way up, or both. But residents' incomes here are among the lowest in the city and I don't see any higher income folks moving to our area."

With still harder times looming, who knows? Maybe SoBro housing prices will plummet even faster than anywhere else. Maybe then, instead of real estate speculators, it will get more new people who are actually invested in its progress rather than its land value. Maybe BoogieDowner will like them and maybe he won't -- a lot of them may be "hipster" refugees from Brooklyn -- but once they get started, even the Times may begin directing its readers to film festivals up in there.

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