As the city continues to undergo its seemingly unstoppable transformation, bringing change to farther and farther neighborhoods, one question remains: Why are so many basic services near-non-existent in places where housing prices have already shot through the roof?
For instance, it's no secret that many of New York's so-called "emerging" neighborhoods are food deserts, where residents have limited to no access to quality groceries or fresh produce. And with markets shutting down all over the city, the problem's only getting worse. The same is also often true of other day-to-day necessities, such as drug stores, pharmacies, and banks, as well as city services like street-sweeping or snow-plowing. (As one friend in Bed-Stuy put it, "There are five new coffee shops near my apartment, but nowhere to pick up a prescription or buy fresh fruit.")
In many cases, the reason for the disparity depends on the particulars of a given neighborhood, from the zoning to the physical size of the buildings to outright political and institutional neglect. "There are two types of neighborhoods that gentrify," says Corcoran agent Karen Kemp. "There are areas that already have a residential population, and businesses that cater to that demographic, and neighborhoods like Williamsburg that were primarily industrial, so didn't have any existing services for a residential population."
"Every neighborhood is kind of different," concurs David Maundrell, executive vice president of new development for Brooklyn and Queens at Citi Habitats. "For instance, for a long time 4th Avenue in Brooklyn wasn't zoned for any retail, and neither was Long Island City when new developments first started coming in." All of which meant that neighborhoods seeing floods of new residents didn't have space for businesses that would serve them.