“Williamsburg, Toddlertown”—WTF?

2011 January 25
by Turk Studzel

“Families are discovering that Williamsburg is much more than a playground for the postcollege, skinny-jeans set.” —New York Times, January 21, 2011

The Sacred Breeding Rites of the Upper Classes

It’s long been obligatory for Times articles about this neighborhood to wink knowingly about the increasing number of baby strollers among the hipsters on Bedford Avenue—as though somehow this confirmed the inevitability of gentrification, the status quo, capitalism. But last week’s “Williamsburg, Toddlertown,”  on page 1 of the real estate section, reached new levels of bourgeois self-congratulation in a breathless rapture over the gosh-darn-cute specialness of young parents of substantial means, that is, those with trust funds, nice stock portfolios, and interesting careers, who can afford $600 to $1000 square foot for an apartment. One can almost hear the Mother Hens in the editorial offices clucking in approval, “Look, honey, the kids are buying luxury condos and hiring nannies and enrolling little Buffy and Biff in private pre-schools! Awwww!”

But what is always astonishing in such articles is the implication that Williamsburg was somehow childless before the white upper classes started moving here and making babies—as though the neighborhood was previously a barren wasteland, a zone of sterility… As though the Polish and Dominican and Puerto Rican and African-American families don’t really count… As though only white upper-middle-class people have what can be called families. This is a particularly distorted image considering that Williamsburg is well-known for its large settlement of Hasidic Jews, whose birthrate is legendary and whose regard for family is, well, religious…

Fortunately, behind all the cuddly goo of “Toddlertown” are many hints that despite falling prices, the glut in luxury condos remains large. Units in the hideous new waterfront towers of “The Edge,” which features large in the Times story, are apparently not selling well; according to the real estate blog Curbed NY, only 40 percent of this development’s condos  had been sold by early 2011. Indeed, much of the story focuses on the new amenities landlords are offering to attract families; it’s difficult not to smell a marketing campaign behind all the baby powder.

One thing “Toddlertown” notes without comment: “Many younger single people have been priced out of the neighborhood.”

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