Though this story focuses upon New York, the same thing is happening in cities across the country.
In June the Brookings Institution released a study called “Where Did They Go? The Decline of Middle-Income Neighborhoods in Metropolitan America.” It found that middle-income neighborhoods constituted 58 percent of all urban neighborhoods in 1970, but that the figure has now dropped to 41 percent. Poor people are now more likely to live surrounded by poor people, and rich people by rich people. Maybe that doesn’t sound noteworthy, but the Brookings researchers argue that middle-income neighborhoods are vital because they foster upward mobility.
The report reinforced my gut reaction to the panel discussion, and it dovetails with abundant anecdotal evidence. The New York papers have been full of stories lately about how Metropolitan Life is trying to sell off Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, two massive developments built as housing for returning vets in the postwar era, long considered oases of middle-class life in Manhattan. The assumption is that a new owner will turn the 11,250 apartments into luxury condos, and it’s unlikely that anyone will build a middle-income enclave to replace it, at least not in Manhattan.