On the connectivity of subway lines


Even as we’re debating shuttering some subway stations, it’s easy to overlook how subway line routing can impact neighborhood development. A recent piece in The Wall Street Journal brings that point home though. On Friday, Melanie Lefkowitz profiled Kensington, Brooklyn. Surrounding the Church Ave. subway stop, the area is undergoing gentrification, and many in the neighborhood attribute new development to not only the F train but the G as well.

The B and Q aren’t too far away, but real estate watchers think the IND Crosstown extension is playing a key role. “Having the G train going over to Church has made a huge difference,” Kyle Talbott of Corcoran Group. “It’s cross-pollinated different neighborhoods that before were a little more separate; it has given people who work in different parts of the city access to Kensington, where before it was a little harder to get to.”

Anecdotally at least, this piece underscores the importance of diverse and divergent routing. Kensington, due to its proximity to Prospect Park, may have been alluring because of the F train alone, but by offering two service options that connect to geographically diverse regions of the city, the neighborhood is even more desirable. That’s how transit should work.

Categories : Brooklyn

33 Responses to “On the connectivity of subway lines”

  1. Jerrold says:

    You seem to be glorifying gentrification as a basic good. What about the downside, like longtime residents who get priced out of their home neighborhoods by greedy landlords?

    • Steve S. says:

      More myth than reality, recent studies show.

      • Jerrold says:

        Are you sure that those “studies” were not funded by right-wing think tanks?
        When rich people pay (openly or under the table) for a study, they usually get the conclusions that they wanted.

        • Billy G says:

          WAAAAAAH. If the present tenants can’t afford it, they can move to a place that they can afford. Sorry, but I have no sympathy for that argument, it screams of an overblown sense of entitlement.

          • Roxie says:

            Yes, boy oh boy, this is the mindset we need to be promoting! Just can’t wait till every neighborhood in the city is filled with well-off white people and all the minorities and poor people previously living there have either moved far away or are homeless!

            Quit buying into Bloomberg’s rich-boy kool-aid, moron.

            • Bolwerk says:

              Aye. Williamsburg is already a playground for privileged whites who don’t need to work. For a long time I figured the point of the clear glass facade restaurants that appear in swanky parts of the UWS, UES, and even in Brooklyn was to allow potential customers to peer and make sure nobody was inside who didn’t look just like them.

              And, just in case a minority is carrying a gun in or outside of his own neighborhood, we have stop ‘n frisk.

              • Justin Samuels says:

                I think you guys are racists. Rich does not equal white, and poor does not equal so called minority. To imply such is racism and stereotyping and of itself. I’m not white, and I like hanging out in Williamsburg!

                Number 2, the city isn’t a zoo for endangered species . Ethnic demographics have always changed in NYC, and they always will.

                But back to the “poor” NYC is the nation’s financial and media capital. Of course its going to be expensive to live here. Want to live in a desirable location? Then get a career in something worthwhile. Don’t want to do that? There are 50 states in this nation, and over 130 countries in the world.

                • Alon Levy says:

                  Don’t forget the supply restrictions. It’s not just that New York is in very high demand. It’s also that even though you could build a 50-story building anywhere in the inner half of the city, at approximately the same per-unit cost as a 6-story building, and fill it, you can’t do anything of the sort without paying bribes.

                  • Bolwerk says:

                    IMHO, the major problem with scale in NYC is the lower limit, not the upper limit. The stigma that something like these are tenements makes it impossible to build more sane housing at any scale. And that’s probably the right scale for replacing decrepit housing stock in places like Bushwick or Bed-Stuy, which simply aren’t going to be attractive to high-rise seekers.

                    • Alon Levy says:

                      Pardon the nitpick, but these are tenements – in Britain the word tenement is a neutral term for apartment building.

                      Anyway, Bed-Stuy’s problem is projects rather than tenements; it leads to social stigma against tall buildings, on the theory that all of them are surrounded by ornamental lawns and parking lots, built on the cheap, built on the ruins of older neighborhoods destroyed in one go, and subsidized for poor people. Conversely, the new construction is so up-market it leads to a separate stereotype of luxury skyscrapers. The idea that you could have a neighborhood of high-rises built organically for any social class is weird – it requires you to wrap your head around Yorkville (or maybe Yorkville of 50 years ago), and that’s one of a kind.

                    • Bolwerk says:

                      I would guess most Bed Stuy residents would prefer a conventional apartment (“tenement,” but for the stigma).

                      I’m okay with organically built highrises that fit into the urban landscape – no seas of parking spaces around them and more aesthetic appeal than a Soviet superblock are fairly minimal criteria – but I don’t think it’s strictly necessary, and I can see where the concept has problems. You are right that taller buildings generally have the same cost/unit to construct, but I’m pretty sure there will usually be higher maintenance costs that can be troublesome.

                      Places like Bed-Stuy have 2-3 story buildings; the incentive should be on getting them up to 6 or 8, not building highrises. Hell, if anything, they should be tearing down the especially atrocious highrise projects there and bringing back more huamn-scaled buildings.

                      Encouraging more at a lower-scale has another advantage: it actually does open the door to more local construction firms willing to enjoy lower profit margins in exchange for less paperwork.

                • Bolwerk says:

                  Sheesh. You accuse others of racism and then compare ethnic minorities to endangered species?

                  And, no, I was not stereotyping. Williamsburg really is a playground for privileged whites (notice I did not say “rich” either – they mostly are probably not rich). The obvious implication of that is a socioeconomic chasm between the old residents and the privileged whites, exacerbated by the two generally not being able to interact as equals.

                  I don’t have a problem with changing neighborhoods, but don’t pretend that how a neighborhood changes isn’t important.

                  • Justin Samuels says:

                    Number one, not everyone who plays in Williamsburg is white. There is nothing to stop anyone from going to Williamsburg, or hanging out there.

                    And the only reason why I brought up the endangered species is because certain leftists act as if that’s what they think of “minorities”! If rent in your area goes up, get a better job, get an education, or consider moving to where its cheaper. There’s no reason to stop development just because a so called “minority” might not be able to pay the rent. A big chunk of white americans, for its worth, couldn’t afford Williamsburg either.

                    • Bolwerk says:

                      And how do we go from “playground for privileged whites” to a proscription against anyone from going there? The major implication is socioeconomic, though I suppose it does translate into more stops and frisks for ethnic minorities.

                      And the only reason why I brought up the endangered species is because certain leftists act as if that’s what they think of “minorities”!

                      That’s an attitude more common with conservativessuburban liberals than with leftists.

                      If rent in your area goes up, get a better job, get an education, or consider moving to where its cheaper. There’s no reason to stop development just because a so called “minority” might not be able to pay the rent.

                      You’re gonna need to better than that. It’s obviously not that simple when livable jobs are scarce, education is increasingly ineffective and inaccessible, and there are massive barriers to (and often little point in) moving to some other place where you’re liable to have the same problems.

                      A big chunk of white americans, for its worth, couldn’t afford Williamsburg either.

                      Because it’s a playground for privileged whites.

                  • Benjamin says:

                    I’m as happy shitting on Williamsburg as anyone, but prices go up in neighborhoods with or without transit access, it’s just a matter of whether or not people use cars or not to get around and whether or not developers build parking garages.

                    The real key is neutering the investment banks and raising taxes on the rich so folks can’t afford to plunk down $100m on three-story penthouse apartments in midtown. If there were less money, the apartments build would be smaller and there would be more floor area (as limited in the zoning code) for the rest of us.

                    • Bolwerk says:

                      I don’t necessarily dislike Williamsburg, but its problems are kind of symptomatic.

                      And, the key is mostly just more housing supply. I would guess the majority of housing vacancies are literally frictional. That is, people move around to some extent – migrate in/out, emigrate, change jobs, upgrade to a bigger space, change neighborhoods – so their apartments become available. What we need are more housing units, enough so people can actually find places to live more easily.

      • Alon Levy says:

        Are you sure you’re not overinterpreting U Street in DC?

    • Jeff says:

      Everything comes with a price, good or bad.

    • Ian says:

      While “gentrification” has come to be a dirty word in some circles, other people would use the positive connoting term “redevelopment.” Overall, the process of gentrification tends to benefit people from all socio-economic standpoints for a variety of reasons. First, the longtime residents who end up staying ultimately benefit from improvements made by gentrification — public safety, public parks, better public schools, access to shops, access to jobs, and the overall improvements of quality of life.

      Second, because of the above mentioned improvements, the long term prospects of poors in areas in need of gentrification improve. Access to jobs means better paychecks, better public schools means better education.

      Third, not every resident in an area in need of gentrification is a renter. Some of the poors own their own homes or other properties and will benefit from selling at a higher price or renting at a higher rate to the new residents.

      All of this is not to say that pushing poverty further and further from the urban core isn’t a real concern. But this is why its so important to require the inclusion of affordable housing units in new construction, on site rather than off site, and why comprehensive rent stabilization reform is necessary.

  2. John T says:

    I’m am sure the G extension was one of several reasons. Still, this line of thinking could lead to actual extensions of routes to parts of Brooklyn & Queens & even the Bronx that lack subway service, and who knows, to Staten Island someday.

    • Marc Shepherd says:

      I don’t think so. Extending the G to Church Avenue merely restores the service pattern that the line was originally meant to provide: Church Avenue was built as a terminus, and now it is again.

      Once you start talking about extending service where there are currently no tracks, you’re talking about multi-billion dollar, multi-decade projects. Just look at what is being spent for a four-station Second Avenue Subway or a one-station #7 train extension. You’re probably not going to see any more of those while the rest of Second Avenue remains unbuilt.

      For examples comparable to the G Train extension, look for other places where the infrastructure is already built, but we aren’t using it. The most compelling case would be the Culver express tracks. There are numerous other sets of unused express tracks, though I am not sure any of them are quite so obvious candidates for re-activation.

      • Bolwerk says:

        Once you start talking about extending service where there are currently no tracks, you’re talking about multi-billion dollar, multi-decade projects. Just look at what is being spent for a four-station Second Avenue Subway or a one-station #7 train extension. You’re probably not going to see any more of those while the rest of Second Avenue remains unbuilt.

        That’s what needs to change. Most of those costs are due to graft, incompetence, and stupid work rules.

        In the outer boroughs, you can’t even pretend the costs of real estate are to blame for projects that cost an order of magnitude more than they have to.

        • Henry says:

          Specifically, Queens has lots of wide roads that could host trains below (or above, but NIMBYism is a problem) streets.

          I’ve never really understood why subway preparation involves digging up the entire street, though – can’t you just dig up the parts the trains will actually run through, with a little more dug up near stations?

    • SEAN says:

      Transportation & real estate have a greater simbiotic relationship then one may realize. For example, part of what makes Forest Hills desireable is the ease of getting from place to place by subway or on foot. This accessability increases real estate values regardless if the real estate is commercial or residential.

      What do you think happened to real estate values when the new arena in brooklyn started construction? Citi Field? The new Yankee stadium? Despite what real estate sector you are talking about, the areas around these sites became more valuable based on the existance of these developments. There are many more examples, but it would take forever to describe them.

      • Henry says:

        I would like to contradict the claims of increased real estate values in Willets Point by Citi Field. Right now, Willets Point is probably the closest thing the city has to a slum – the roads aren’t paved, and I don’t believe the area is connected to the sewer system. The only project that has been finished around there – the Skyview Mall and apartments on College Point Blvd – is floundering. Aside from its big anchors, I would say the mall has a vacancy rate of 40, maybe even 50%. It’s also former industrial land, so it might need to have environmental cleanup work done.

        Willets Point will need some serious work done before I’d consider it safe to live in.

  3. Christopher says:

    Interesting point, and was my mental thought on the “list of 25 stations to shutter”. I read that as a list of 25 stations that have room to increase capacity at through targeted development. Of course the city and MTA don’t do this kind of comprehensive development planning, but wouldn’t it be nice if they did?

    • Marc Shepherd says:

      I don’t think it works that way. Many of the “proposed” closures are in areas that are already quite densely developed. For example, I don’t know how you’d cram more development into Chelsea around 18th Street & Seventh Avenue. In fact, the station there is quite popular. The only reason it’s on the list is because it’s close to other nearby stations.

      I’m not sure how serious the list really was. Ben called it a “thought experiment.” To some people, it was the list of stations you’d close if you must (but in most cases they’d rather not). Perhaps a few were actually trying to claim that the system would be better without those stations, but I think they were in the minority.

      By the way, the city and the MTA do a lot more planning than you give them credit for, but people don’t always settle where you want them to, and planned developments (like Battery Park City) aren’t always greeted with universal acclaim.

  4. John-2 says:

    Gentrification tends to grow out in areas based on their proximity to Manhattan, though at the moment Brooklyn has a little higher cache/hip factor, than, say, the same distance of travel from the Bronx. It’s also why you have to be careful about considering areas ‘low use’ because that status can change. Most station on the L outside of maybe Bedford and Lorimer up until a decade a ago would have fallen into the category of stations ripe for closure/consolidation, but not now. And the same applies to a stop like York on the F or the stops west of Myrtle on the J/M/Z (though consolidation of Hewes and Lorimer into a Union Avenue stop, with a transfer to the G, wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world).

    • Matthias says:

      “…you have to be careful about considering areas ‘low use’ because that status can change.”

      Bingo. The city once considered abandoning the entire Canarsie Line between Broadway Junction and Manhattan. Boy, would that have been a big mistake.

  5. Tower18 says:

    I’m not sure I’d call what’s happening in Kensington to be “gentrification.” It doesn’t appear to be very different kinds of people moving in vs. who used to live there. It’s always been a middle-class neighborhood, with some more wealthy folks in houses or in the doorman buildings along Ocean Parkway. But these older folks had different tastes than the younger folks moving in, even if they’re in the same or similar socioeconomic strata. So then, you see more things like cafes, bars, restaurants, etc…but it’s not the same as when it happens to “poor” neighborhoods. The previous residents of Kensington didn’t need/want lots of cafes and restaurants because they ate at home, had coffee at social clubs, etc…not because they couldn’t afford to.

    The change in the neighborhood is more likely one of eras, not economics, in my opinion.

    The rise in prices is probably related to the macro shift in attitudes toward city living. In the old days, who wanted to live in “outer” Brooklyn, except those who HAD TO? The wealthy were either moving up to tonier neighborhoods, or moving out of the city. These days, that’s not necessarily true.

    • Alon Levy says:

      It’s similar to the neighborhood I grew up in. It traditionally ranges from middle- to upper-class. My grandparents lived there for almost 50 years. However, it was not very culturally chic, and the decaying building exteriors (Tel Aviv buildings are high-maintenance) gave it an undeservedly gritty look. But beginning in the 1980s, the rising hipster class moved in from the traditional bohemian neighborhoods, and this changed the neighborhood and caused rents to boom. When we left, in 2000, we paid $1,700 in rent for a four-bedroom. Today, my parents tell me, this apartment probably rents for twice as much.

  6. Graham says:

    Rector Street is heavily used in the rush hours for people traveling to and from work. It is also very popular with tourists. It is the last stop before South Ferry so few people enter it to go south but many people use it to go north. It is in the heart of the lower Manhattan regeneration area. Why close it and so make the area less attractive to the workforce and to visitors? 1/3 mile is a short distance in May or October but a long distance in the heart of winter.

    • Tower18 says:

      New York winters are nowhere near harsh enough that 1/3 mile, or a ~6-7 minute walk at a city pace, approaches the threshold of intolerable. I much prefer a walk in the winter to a walk on a humid 90 degree day…and humid 90 degree days are more common than brutally-cold sub-20 degree days.

      Chicago has much harsher winters and stations are typically 1/2 mile apart! Though at least the elevated platforms have heaters–something the elevated stations here could adopt.

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