Is Zoning to Blame for Brooklyn's Affordability Crisis?

As waves of gentrification sweep through the poor and middle class neighborhoods of New York City's outer boroughs, Stephen Smith argues that conservative, and outdated, zoning codes are to blame for the unequal balance between supply and demand.
lazzarello / Flickr

Although some have taken issue with the extensive rezoning of New York that has taken place during the Bloomberg administration (since 2002, 40 percent of the city has been rezoned), for Smith those efforts have not gone far enough in replacing conservative zoning that keeps neighborhoods such as Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick "more or less frozen in 1961, when the city's zoning code restricted density and required parking in new construction."

According to Smith, the result of such controls is that as gentrification makes "significant inroads" in Brooklyn and Queens, "the housing that the poor are losing to the rich is not being replaced." And while such "conservative zoning" may be appropriate for "tree-lined blocks of Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope," for functional (misguided attempts to preserve manufacturing) and aesthetic (the houses are "some of the ugliest in the city") reasons northern Brooklyn should allow for more density.

"Zoned out of Williamsburg, Greenpoint and 'East Williamsburg,' gentrifiers have now reached the more densely populated black and Hispanic sections of Bushwick proper. Its poor and middle-class residents, who 20 years ago might have been able to afford apartments just a stop or two from Manhattan in Williamsburg, are now being displaced to neighborhoods like Canarsie, East New York and Jamaica, where they struggle with long commutes. It won't be too long until they're pushed so far from job centers in Manhattan that they leave the city entirely, contributing to the growing sense that New York is too expensive for ordinary people."

"If desirable neighborhoods don't start shouldering more of the burden of increased urban demand," concludes Smith, "American cities will soon end up like their counterparts in Europe, where everyone except the rich and the tourists are shunted off to the suburbs."

Full Story: Brooklyn's Affordability Crisis Is No Accident



The Writer's Bias

The credit for this writer reveals his bias, so I will quote from the bottom of the article: "Stephen Smith blogs about the politics, economics, and history of urbanism for He's also written for Reason and National Review."

Does the average writer for Reason and National Review really care about affordable housing for the poor?


Do you actually have a valid constructive argument or do you rest your case on a suposed bias? And actually, your ridiculous comment shows your own huge bias...

Bias vs. Prejudice

People often distinguish between prejudice and bias. Prejudice is an inclination to certain opinions with no basis. Bias is an inclination to certain opinions that does have a basis. Thus, we can say that Paul Krugman has a liberal bias, and David Brooks has a moderate conservative bias.

So, my point is that it is good to know an author's bias, so you know whether to think skeptically about his arguments. This author's bias was buried at the bottom of his article and was not mentioned in the planetizen summary of the article, so I thought it would be useful for planetizen readers to see what his bias is.

I certainly admit that I have a liberal, environmentalist bias. I am sure that everyone who reads my comments on planetizen knows that. Do you think you are somehow criticizing me by implying I have that bias?

It is reasonable to think about an author's bias as a first step toward thinking about the validity of his arguments.

It is not reasonable to enter a one-line comment filled with insults, as you do.

OK prejudice

Firstly, thank you for the semantic clarification (i am not a native speaker). Secondly i have never read anything you wrote on Planetizen so i have no idea what kind of bias you have (although i quickly found out). Thirdly, I believe it is much more unreasonable for you to say that the author, because he writes for some conservative mags, doesnt give a damm about the poor? What is your rationale behind that? That is, for what i understood from your own words, prejudice. Yet you somehow feel insulted from my comment? I can admit to that but do you really believe that you somehow have the high ground on morality towards the poor because you are leftist and environmentalist?

In summation you basically would prefer if people would be tagged on the front of the article.... so... you woudlnt have to read anything written by a "conservative" or "libertarian"?

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