Real Estate

The Rent Is Too Damn High: Jimmy McMillan Comes To Ditmas Park

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Jimmy McMillan, founder of the Rent Is Too Damn High party, came to our neighborhood on Saturday to collect petition signatures for his 2014 gubernatorial campaign – as well as to speak to residents about, well, the rent being too damn high.

Thanks to neighbor Emile for sending in these photos of McMillan, who ran for mayor last year (making this video to launch that campaign) and made a bid for governor in 2010 (and stole the limelight at a gubernatorial debate that year) – and even has his own talking action figure. A Vietnam War veteran, karate expert, and former private investigator, McMillan’s message no doubt resonates with many of our neighbors, many of whom recently spoke to a slate of candidates running for Assembly and state Senate about the affordable housing crisis.

Brooklyn’s rents have skyrocketed in recent years, with the average rent in our borough coming perilously close to the prices in Manhattan – a mecca of unaffordable housing. A number of recent reports continue to show that our rents remain at all-time highs (including this report from City Comptroller Scott Stringer that stated the average median rent in the city has risen 75 percent since 2000).

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There are so many stories of skyrocketing rents in our area – and, just last week, a neighbor who has lived in an apartment building near Newkirk Plaza for the past five years contacted us about the fact that the price of her studio is increasing by $430 each month come September 1. That means, for an 11-by-20 studio, she would have to pay $1,550 come September – which she can’t afford to do and now has to move.

And she’s not the only one. The neighbor (who wanted to remain anonymous because she doesn’t want retaliation from her landlord) said others in her building have spoken to her about the price of their units increasing by drastic, unaffordable amounts.

“I was in the laundry room telling a neighbor of mine my story, and this woman said one of her neighbors’ rent was going up $500 – she wrote him off and thought it was crazy, but then she said, ‘You’re telling me this too?'”

The neighbor who spoke to us stressed that she really wants people to pay attention to whether or not they have what is known as “preferential rent” – something she believed was a “snotty” way of her landlord saying stabilized rent, but, as it turns out, is a rent that is lower than the legal regulated rent registered with the State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (which a landlord has to do if they have a rent stabilized place).

Essentially, this means that a tenant, like the neighbor to whom we spoke, can see the word “rent stabilized” on their lease agreement – but then can be shocked by a massive increase (like the $430 spike) because the landlord is, upon renewal of the lease, legally permitted to increase the apartment’s rent to the amount that is registered with the state.

“The landlord was charging rent so low people couldn’t help but move in to keep the building full,” the neighbor who spoke with us last week said about her building. “My rent would go up $50 each year – but now it’s $430. It’s gonna be $1,550 for an 11-by-20 studio. That’s unbelievable to me.”

This scenario, is, the neighbor said, “part of the larger gentrification conversation.”

“This is the oldest story in New York,” she said. “It’s nice that this area has become noticed. They’re fixing the sewers – there was a horrible smell when I moved in, and that’s been attended to. The new Newkirk Plaza is gorgeous – but it comes with a cost, and this is it.

“When I looked at Ditmas Park seven years ago, the train station looked like war-torn Beirut,” she continued. “I ended up walking to Windsor Terrace because I thought, ‘I’m not getting on a train there.’ Now there’s this gorgeous train station. Now there’s this coffee shop that serves $4.50 cups of coffee. It all happened very quickly.”

Like our neighbor said, we’ve seen this story play out time and again – but how do we change this? What have you experienced as far as rent increases around here? And what do you think can be done to maintain affordable housing in our neighborhood?

Photos via Emile

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41 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve twice voted for Jimmy. I admire his spirit and his facial hair. This is the ideal neighborhood for him to campaign in. The rent is too high here, but that doesn’t seem to bother the hipsters and trust fund kids. Regular working people can’t afford to live here anyomre

  2. For the love of god, stop it with this one line over and over when you can’t substantiate that anyone has a trust fund.

  3. Naturally, I agree with Josh’s comment, mainly because of the name robbery.

    The term ‘hipster’ is so 10 years ago and should really be tweaked to read as Brooklynite or similar. Living in this area for years, I have seen a total of three ‘hipsters’ as what the definition would have been in 1998. Even the word ‘yuppy’ might be more appropriate.

  4. I’m one of the thousand reasons this area’s rent has gone up. When moving to my new place, I passed over half a dozen apartments that weren’t up to code in favor of one that had been completely redone, and I’m paying far more than the older residents in the building they want to move out. So my choiceless choice was to live in a squalid flat or one that was the equivalent of the average apartment in any other city.

  5. Hipsters no doubt have sources of funds other than trusts. So I’ll go along with you there. However, if their funds come from other sources, so what? What is the significance of this?

  6. Personally I think $1550 is a bit on the high side for a studio. But….you have to pay more for the privilege of having your own place (and privacy) right? Otherwise you can get a 2 or 3 bedroom and split the cost with roommates.
    *
    That being said, I am so sick and tired of listening to people whine-whine-whine about “the rent is too high”. If you don’t like it – MOVE. People want all the conveniences of “living in the city” without having to pay for it. It doesn’t work like that.

  7. How does one afford to pay $2k or $3k a month in rent without a real occupation? The answer is trust fund, or monthly check from mom and dad which in essence is the same thing.
    Making smiley faces with latte foam and blogging about cupcakes and other inane non-jobs and ‘funemployment’ don’t pay for rent.

  8. And before anybody starts twisting my words, I’m in no way suggesting that making coffee (real actual coffee for real actual people) isn’t real, hard work. I’m clearly referring to the latte foam championship contenders, that guy with the fedora hat and the others, you know what I’m talking about, so please spare the snarky fake indignation.

  9. Uh, move where? What are the options. You may think of “the city” as a privileged place to live, but for some of us it’s just home–where we grew up.

  10. The cupcake bloggers and baristas are a very small number of people. The number of people wearing fedoras and other supposedly hipster wear is very large. Do the math – I bet a lot of them have what you call real occupations.

  11. There are also many of us, myself included, who would be only too happy to move away from NYC. I hate it here, to be honest, but I stick it out because my job is here and I don’t think I could find a comparable one elsewhere. If I got fired tomorrow, though, or when I eventually retire, I will be out of this city so fast it’ll make your head spin.

  12. 1550 for a studio off newkirk was too much three years ago. Today it’s the market rate and will likely only increase from here.

  13. WRONG. It’s not a 1BR, it’s a studio.

    And nothing is “market rate” unless we accept it as market rate. This bullshit needs to end before NYC is completely destroyed.

  14. Hipsters do indeed have real jobs that bring in money. And – gasp! – a lot of them live with roommates, so they’re not paying $2,000 in rent all on their own…unlike families where only some of the residents are able to contribute rent, while the others go to, you know, school.

  15. CORRECT. But unfortunately for you this is market rate today. Like it or not this is what the neighborhood is calling for right now. I don’t know details of the studio such as sq ft etc but prices are on the rise and ppl are paying those fees, like it or not. .. I don’t dictate the prices I just follow them. They’re only on the rise from here bud… still some of the best values in all of brooklyn, at least the safer parts….

  16. “I admire his spirit and his facial hair” is the most stereotypically hipster sentence I’ve ever heard

  17. And I am so sick and tired of listening to your classist bull on posts about housing. If you don’t like it – READ SOMETHING ELSE. You’re the type who wouldn’t spit on someone who was on fire. You’re disgusting.

  18. You can make a decent amount of money blogging about cupcakes (or anything for that matter) depending on the site.

  19. Thanks for the laugh Jamilya!
    Hm, I don’t think I’ve ever been called “disgusting” before. How very droll.
    *
    But guess what?
    *
    I’m going to keep reading about the topics that interest me and keep commenting here AS I PLEASE. Freedom of speech – a right that we Americans have. And if you don’t like what I have to say GO READ SOMETHING ELSE.
    *
    Also? I’ll take your “disgust” if it means the neighborhood keeps improving & gentrifying and turning into a pseudo-Slope. (*shrug* one can dream)

  20. It is NOT the current market rate for a studio in that area. At all. It’s what some landlord wants the market rate to be, and it’s pathetic that your an apologist for it.

  21. Your position is baseless my friend. Yes you are correct that it’s what some landlord wants for it, however that will dictate the market because they will get that price for the unit.

    I’m not making this shit up, this is my life, unfortunately I study real estate values for a living and have done so for over a decade (no, I’m not a Realtor).

  22. I can see why you say that, but to be fair, the one-sidedness of this whole rent/gentrification debate is getting tiresome.

    No doubt if someone ends up struggling to pay rent for his apartment that’s a sad state of affairs, but TYOC and others like him have every right to feel sick and tired of being pointed to like they’re the scum of the earth only because they like the hood and want to move in and can afford to pay higher rent.

    I bet you a lot of people who “gentrify” this neighborhood wouldn’t mind living, say, in the West Village or Chelsea, and I’m sure they’d be happy to leave this hood to the old-timers but guess what, they can’t afford paying $4k a month in manhattan, but they feel like paying half that much to live around here is not a bad deal, so they move here, but that shouldn’t automatically classify them as pieces of ****.

  23. They won’t get that for a studio at Newkirk is the point you are missing, as well as the other point that even when you can get it, that doesn’t make it okay. You are talking about people’s homes here.

  24. I think they will get close to it. I think they are asking 1550 and looking to negotiate and will likely end up at 1300-1350, which is still 200+ more than they were getting for the same apartment before. I doubt they expect to get the full ask, rather they want to negotiate OR rid the tenant for information me and you are unaware of. I do think that rentals in Brooklyn are continuing to rise and improvements throughout the borough are yielding drastically higher rents. Let’s not forget that even at the ‘inflated’ pricing, our neighborhood is still substantially discounted compared to most of Brooklyn or at least the areas that are safe and somewhat desirable.

    I’m talking about people’s homes, I understand that. I’m not advocating for the increase pricing rather I think it’s an unfortunate reality we’re experiencing as the neighborhood improves. Really tough situation and I don’t know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel…

  25. Personally I would squat! F*ck them! Enough is enough! They want to reserve the entire city for the haves and crush the middle class into the poor then haul us all out! To hell with em…. I would not move.

  26. While they’re annoying, the hipsters can’t be entirely blamed. The more relevant issue is historically low interest rates. This has created a cheap US dollar and has allowed foreigners to use their higher price currencies to acquire property in NYC. While this started in in Manhattan, it’s grown to parts of Brooklyn, like Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens. As vacancy rates in Manhattan drop, the “middle class” is forced to look at other areas, like Brooklyn, for more affordable living. This in turn has drive up rents in other parts of the city, such as CH and CG. Now, folks in these hoods are driven deeper into Brooklyn, like DP. The wave of property value increases stops when two things occur: 1) interest rates rise high enough to incentivize investors to park their money in bonds, instead of real estate; 2) supply of new apartments climbs high enough to lower rental prices. I think we’re a long ways off from either of these scenarios.

  27. Yes, that sort of rent for a 220 sq foot studio seems a bit much. If it was legal I would rent out my thrid floor, which has 2 bedrooms and is a full apartment, for that much. I know it is tough to save money when you’re bleeding rent, but just 30 blocks east you can own a nice big house with potential rential income for $350K and a one bedroom apartment for under $150K.

  28. “Give it to me good

    Don’t be no dud

    Pound the mussy out

    Lick the rosebud” – Up-and-cumming Rapper

  29. I don’t think the coffee kids live alone or necessarily in the neighborhood. the people I wonder about are the moms with the million dollar strollers and clog boots clomping up the street for midday brunch at the Farm. They are dripping money. How else to pay for a $2.5 million house? I wonder what their husbands do for a living.

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