There is nothing inherently wrong with steampunk on its face, other than how ridiculously loud a crowd of steampunks can get outside the Way Station every single goddamn night of the week. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with magicians or whiskey tastings either, nor even anything inherently wrong with condos, to be honest (they’re just little houses stacked on top of each other, an efficient way to live, and efficient living is one of the reasons New York is great). But throw all these things together in a cauldron of real estate and they start to emit an odor that smells a lot like gentrification.
This is what happened in Crown Heights last week, at a party celebrating “condo conversion:” aka turning a pre-war apartment rental building into much less affordable condos starting at half a million dollars. The party “kicked off with a splash at a Steampunk/Vaudeville-themed launch party,” according to a press release. If a real estate agent is trying to get you to buy their property by throwing you a steampunk party, there’s a good chance you might be a gentrifier. [UPDATE: We talked to the pair in the photo above about why they took the gig; read that interview here].
This particular party was to “celebrate” 382e, the “hip” rebranded name for the apartment building at 382 Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, which once was a multi family apartment building constructed in 1925 that’s now being converted to condos. That conversion was done by a landlord that has a history of harassing tenants in the neighborhood via rent increases and aggressive eviction procedures. Neighborhood message board Brooklynian floated rumors (unsubstantiated) that longtime residents would somehow be forced out or offered money to get out, so the apartments could be quickly sold as condos.
Those apartments were, by the way, are the type that are hard to come across in Brooklyn: a three-bedroom rented for $3,650 last year; now a two-bedroom condo in the same building is on sale for $769,000. Magician parties and whiskey tastings aren’t exactly meant to attract a 70-year-old longtime Crown Heights resident looking for an affordable way to stay in the neighborhood either.
So have your steampunk and vaudeville parties (even though those are very much not the same thing), and stand in awe as the Brooklyn real estate machine continues to chew up apartments in favor of condos only top-hat magnates can afford. It’s truly hard to assign the agency of gentrification down the individual personal level, because the city is too big and too old for everyone to know exactly who or what they’re pricing out when they move in.
But if you are invited to tour a new condo in a 100-year-old building while you’re entertained by steampunk magicians and handed whiskey to taste, odds are you’re part of the problem.
Many thanks to Rebecca Baird-Remba of New York YIMBY for reporting help. Follow her!
(For a more in depth understanding of the [often nefarious] forces behind gentrification, don’t forget to check out WNYC’s excellent podcast There Goes the Neighborhood.)