When the subway came to the Upper West Side, it turned the area into a rural frontier to a densely-populated neighborhood of residential high rises. When the Flushing Line began service, it changed Roosevelt Ave. from a concept to an urban area. These metamorphoses happened decades ago, during the years our grandparents or great-grandparents were alive, but now and then, circumstances change and transit’s impact rears its head.
Recently, when the MTA cut service in 2010, a subsequent rerouting led to a transit-related renaissance of sorts. With the elimination of the V train three years ago, the MTA reactivated the Chrystie St. Cut and brought the M train out of the shadows. Instead of operating from Middle Village to Lower Manhattan (with a rush-hour extension to Bay Parkway), the M became an integral part of a core subway line. It offered Queens and Northern Brooklyn residents a one-seat ride to the 6th Ave. corridor, and the riders have loved it.
Although Lower East Side residents occasionally bemoan the loss of the V train at 2nd Ave., the M train’s eastern segments in Brooklyn have seen shocking growth. The Brooklyn Eagle and City Limits recently explored how the subway drives gentrification. Here’s Orlando Lee’s reporting:
Gentrification that has spilled over from industrial East Williamsburg to residential northeast Bushwick is spreading inexorably southward—thanks to a little help from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The MTA’s decision to reroute the M train through the heart of midtown Manhattan in 2010 erased the invisible barrier that Myrtle Avenue—the area hit hardest by arson fires in the late 1970s—posed for years, real estate experts said .
“It’s all based on the transit system,” said Andrew Clemens, director of retail leasing for Massey Knakal, a real estate brokerage firm. “The proximity to Union Square on the L train made Williamsburg attractive. Now proximity to midtown on the M train is driving the south Bushwick market.”
…For renters, the upheaval is far less welcome. From January to March of this year, Bushwick rental prices have risen almost 23 percent, or $454 dollars, for a two-bedroom apartment, according to internal data from property sales brokerage MNS. Prices are up 17.2 percent compared to the same period in 2012…
The impact of the M-line route change is made evident in ridership figures. Between 2011 and 2012, the first full calendar year of the change, daily ridership at the Central Avenue train station in south Bushwick jumped 18.7 percent, from 2,903 to 3,445 passengers per day, the largest increase in Brooklyn, according to the MTA…
Since the route change in June of 2010, median home prices in Bushwick have more than doubled, from $300,000 in the third quarter of 2010 to $625,000 in the first quarter of 2013, according to MNS. Multifamily buildings are also trading hands at a rapid rate. In 2012, Bushwick captured 28 percent of all multifamily building sales in Brooklyn by Ariel Property Advisors, the highest rate in the borough, according to the investment sales firm.
The numbers portray the economic impact, and the stories Lee uncovered bear witness to it. Bushwick residents are thrilled with their direct connections to SoHo and Midtown. With a direct subway connection to key entertain, shopping and job centers, the areas served by the M train have become that much more desirable as people look for places to live. It’s a testament to the power of public transit.
That said, it’s tough to say if this gentrification is a good thing for the city as a whole. Bushwick and other M train neighborhoods have morphed into other areas where only those with a certain amount of money can afford to live there. Solidly middle and lower middle class residents were willing to suffer the indignities of the transfer at Essex/Delancey if it meant comfortable homes not too far away from Manhattan, but the one-seat ride changes everything.
A few miles north of the Williamsburg Bridge, another subway line is underway, and it too will radically transform an already wealthy neighborhood. When Phase 1 of the Second Ave. Subway opens in three and a half years (or so), areas of the Upper East Side that were far from the subway won’t be, and real estate prices will head ever upward. A new subway route wil again serve as a driver for economic growth, and another pocket of the city will become less affordable for some current residents. In the Big Apple, that appears to be progress.