What developers really say about Brooklyn behind closed doors (hint: they’re as bad as you imagined)

A scene from the protest outside the Brooklyn Real Estate Conference in November. Photo by Maria Travis.

A scene from the protest outside the Brooklyn Real Estate Conference in November. Photo by Maria Travis.

We’ve been talking a lot about gentrification lately because – surprise! — it’s a major issue facing Brooklyn right now and for the foreseeable remaining life of the known universe. You might remember back in November, a real estate summit took over Brooklyn Museum, which drew a big protest outside, because when your body is dying in the desert, having a conference of vultures at your neighborhood museum just seems rude. So what did those developers at that real estate summit actually have to say behind closed doors? They kept their comments measured and their tone respectful in light of the protests outside, of course. LOL jk jk no, they were just as bad and profit-minded as you would imagine. Gothamist got their hands on a recording of some of the event and it shows just how developers look at the world. 

This is all of course in light of the mayor’s East New York rezoning proposal, which is integral to his plans to create/preserve 200,000 affordable housing units citywide by 2024. The City Council passed the measure today, but the hearing was filled with more protesters.

One developer, Andrew Miller of Novel Property Ventures, talked about East New York like this, according to Gothamist:

“There are definitely people that are very, very excited to pioneer these neighborhoods.”

Pioneer, in case you were unaware, is a dog whistle term of gentrification, right up there with “next frontier,” deviously insinuating that these new neighborhoods are barren undeveloped landscapes lacking current residents, blank slates eagerly awaiting to be filled with gleaming doorman buildings. To be fair, that kind of mentality has been America’s style from the beginning.

And then there’s this:

“There’s this new class of people that want to be first adopters, and I think there’s a demand for being the first group out there,” Jordan Sachs of Bold New York told attendees of the Brooklyn Real Estate Summit of potential of the Bronx.

First adopters, except for all the people who live there, of course. Those first adopters are the kinds of people who would think this party is a good idea.

Sachs also talked about what kind of client they’re catering to now:

“Our renter is no longer the down and dirty Brooklynite,” Sachs told the audience, according to Gothamist. “It’s Cindy from Long Island. Her mom says, ‘You have to live in a doorman building.’ Well hey Mom, here’s a website for the walk up. All of a sudden, a lot of barriers to entry are eliminated—virtual doorman, we can check off so many boxes now at very little cost to the owner.”

No one is worried about the “down and dirty Brooklynite,” aka the people who probably actually need affordable housing; instead they’re going for people who these ads are targeted to.

And then there’s this gem, which feels like it’s torn out of the Hack Brooklyn Jokes of the 2000s Omnibus:

Richard Mack of the Mack Real Estate Group, shared his trick for spotting “grittier” neighborhoods that are ripe for development.

“We’re looking for places where there are bike lanes, but more importantly where people are riding fixed-gear bikes,” Mack tells the laughing crowd.

“Now I know that sounds funny, but go to downtown Seattle, go to downtown Los Angeles, go to the grittier neighborhoods of San Francisco, and you’re going to see a disproportionate amount of fixed gear bikes.

For the record, almost all my friends own bicycles and I don’t think one of them owns a fixed-gear bike. I did see a 50-year-old man who’s lived in Crown Heights all his life riding one up and down Sterling Street last summer. Hopefully no one “pioneers” him out of the neighborhood.

Check out the rest of the Gothamist story here.