Cheap/Dangerous places in NYC
May 27, 2007 1:51 PM   Subscribe

Where do the poor folk live in NYC?

Rent in the city seems prohibitively expensive. But where do the working class, poor folk live? Where are the dangerous slums? Did gentrification push poverty out of the city?
posted by iamck to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (25 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
inwood. the bronx. bushwick, crown heights, bed-sty, east new york, east flatbush......

there are many.
posted by Izzmeister at 2:24 PM on May 27, 2007

They also live in rent-controlled apartments scattered throughout the city, even in "expensive" neighborhoods.
posted by mds35 at 2:27 PM on May 27, 2007

Best answer: Map. (Data from 1990, but the geography hasn't changed a lot.)
posted by languagehat at 2:33 PM on May 27, 2007

Brownsville, East New York.
posted by mattbucher at 2:35 PM on May 27, 2007

I used to live in a middle class neighborhood in Queens. There were many, many poor people living in illegal (and dangerous) basement apartments on my street.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:39 PM on May 27, 2007

When I was living in Brooklyn, I once mistakenly got off the subway in East New York (I had missed the stop I was going to without realizing it). It was crazy--even in post-Giuliani late-90s New York, the area was absolutely completely bombed out, with something like 80% of the buildings boarded up and trash all over the place. Everything was dirty and gray, and everyone at the elevated subway station was staring at me.
posted by lackutrol at 2:58 PM on May 27, 2007

The Bronx, apparently. For one. A pretty good read, that book, if you're curious about it. Ditto with No Shame in My Game: The Working Poor in the Inner City (a lot of Bronx there too, if memory serves, but other NY areas as well).
posted by kmennie at 3:16 PM on May 27, 2007

Redhook, but that's apparently changing.
posted by piratebowling at 3:16 PM on May 27, 2007

Best answer: I work with poor people and even I don't completely know the answer to this question. If you're on pa (welfare) and your shelter allowance is $215/month, or if you're disabled and on SSI ($710 total/mo), where can you possibly live? The worst ghetto is too expensive.

From what I can tell, a lot of people live with their families forever, or crowded with a bunch of rooomates, or both. It's common for people to cobble together rent from one family member who works, one who is on pa, one who is on SSI, etc. If there are children in the household, the pa shelter allowance is higher.

Gentrification is pushing poor people further and further out. Harlem, Bed-Stuy, and other formerly poor neighborhoods are no longer affordable for new poor tenants (people who've lived there for a long time are often protected by rent stabilization laws from large rent increases).

And there's always the projects, which have a waiting list of up to 10 years. But if you grew up there, you can keep living with your family.
posted by Mavri at 3:22 PM on May 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Where do the poor folk live in NYC?

New Jersey
posted by frogan at 3:54 PM on May 27, 2007 [3 favorites]

"Where do the working class, poor folk live?" and "Where are the dangerous slums?" are two very different questions in nyc.

Every neighborhood in the five boroughs has poor inhabitants. Most of the neighborhoods people are mentioning above are radically different in their different areas, even in the cases of the smallest neighborhoods (Inwood is a prime example -- some streets very poor and in disrepair, some streets very expensive and nice, and all this within really a half mile square. Red Hook is the same way.)

I hope I don't have to tell you answers like "The Bronx" are useless.
posted by sparrows at 3:58 PM on May 27, 2007

Sparrows makes a good point. Sometimes you have a great disparity of wealth in a single block. Another story: one time in the mid-90s I was living on 90th St. on the Upper West Side in a pretty middle-class building. Across from us was a project, where salsa music was blaring every night (this was the summer), while down the street were hugely expensive townhouses and psychiatrists' offices.
posted by lackutrol at 4:32 PM on May 27, 2007

"Where do the working class, poor folk live?" and "Where are the dangerous slums?" are two very different questions in nyc.

I have a weird hobby interest in these sorts of things, and the impression I got from reading about it was that there's a not inconsiderable problem in that those are too often not different questions. Outdated books/articles, maybe?
posted by kmennie at 5:21 PM on May 27, 2007

The street.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 5:37 PM on May 27, 2007

Another anecdote - I recently lived in Boerum Hill, in Brooklyn, which gentrified at the speed of light. We were the only young-professional types in the small rowhouse - our downstairs neighbors were a low-income family and our upstairs neighbors were irregularly employed men in single rooms with shared bathrooms. Our building was a weird island surrounded on all sides by recently-arrived yuppie families in brownstones.

The landlord said that he maintained the house essentially as charity, since most of our neighbors were born and bred in the neighborhood and now there was no place else for them to live nearby. Sadly, when we (the only tenants who reliably paid rent) moved out, he decided that he'd had enough and sold the building.
posted by ilyanassa at 6:01 PM on May 27, 2007

kmennie- when you want to push poor people out of their homes, disproportionately reporting the violence that occurs in the areas they live helps achieve that goal. That doesn't neccessarily mean that there is more violence or that the areas are dangerous to anyone other than their inhabitants. Since Guiliani's reign, there seems to be an overt movement to segregate poor neighborhoods from affluent ones and label them dangerous, when in fact they are no more dangerous than any other area.

Working class and poor tend to be very different categories in New York City as well. Most of Brooklyn (with the exceptions of Park Slope, Cobble Hill, etc) could be described as working class, with pockets of poverty. The map linked above does a good job of showing areas of relative poverty. But the one area that seems to be the worst in terms of poverty and quality of life is the South Bronx.
posted by blueskiesinside at 6:27 PM on May 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

I live in the East Village in Manhattan and there are little projects sprinkled all over the place. They often have a slightly out of place look, but that would be because they're newer than the surrounding housing. The only way to notice these is the NYC Housing Authority signs. There's also a big projects about ten minutes east of me that actually looks and feels like a projects, but it's not dangerous.

It seems like half the people at my supermarket buy food using an EBT card - enough that I tried to see if I was eligible.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:38 PM on May 27, 2007's census site has a number of socioeconomic maps built from 2000 census data.

% below poverty, 2000

median family income
posted by arialblack at 7:09 PM on May 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

also of relevance: population change, 1990-2000
posted by arialblack at 7:17 PM on May 27, 2007

As thebrokenmuse points out, the poorest people live outside but that's yet another blurring factor for neighborhoods, because the street dwellers who survive by panhandling naturally want to do it in the richest neighborhoods. So their "location" is not a slum but the opposite of one. I live in a very poor neighborhood in terms of average household income, and I have never been asked for money on the street anywhere within walking distance of my apt.
posted by sparrows at 4:52 AM on May 28, 2007

This thread has a high percentage of non-useful answers. I am willing to bet that almost all of the people naming neighborhoods with no further comment have no current personal experience of those neighborhoods.

If you need to solve a problem, please be more specific about what you want to know, so we can help you. If you don't, this is chatfilter and the chat it's producing is -- with the exception of some isolated insights & useful map links -- not exactly metafilter's finest hour.
posted by lorimer at 5:14 AM on May 28, 2007

New York is different than most cities because of its rent control laws. Basically, if you sign a lease for an apartment that costs less than $2K a month, the landlords can only raise your rent a small amount (2-8%) that is determined each year by a city board, even if the market value of your apt quadruples. And that quadruple number isn't crazy. I remember reading an article around Christmas in the Times that said that A) the median price for a new lease on a one bedroom in Manhattan was $3.7K/month and B) since that represented only a 15% increase over the last 6 months, the rental market is cooling down. I used to live in DUMBO, BTW, so I've seen gentrification occur at light speed.

Basically, new people that move into the city are screwed, while people that have been there for 10 or more years generally have it made. So New York is going to hold on to the middle class people that already live there, but not get any new ones. 10-15 years from now there are going to be real problems with this in regards to teachers, policemen and firemen.

I see it where I work (at a fairly well-known university): My 30-something member department has only 3 professors under 50. People that get hired now cannot afford to live in the city, much less raise a family, so they work there for a few years, make a name for themselves, and leave. We even had one person that we hired from from a Major West Coast University show up, look for an apartment for a week or two, and resign, going back to their postdoctoral position. It's gotten that bad.

The best part is that the older professors (who, to give one example, pay ~$500/month for a 5 bedroom apt in the upper west side with a river view) think that the newly hired professors are just being spoiled gen-X-ers.

I'll quit ranting now.
posted by overhauser at 11:19 PM on May 28, 2007

The thing people forget about rent stabilization (stabilization is the small-yearly-increase setup described above) is that in most cases people paid for that low rent with may years of what could be called bad-experience equity.

Case in point: just a few months ago I signed a lease for a rent stabilized apt, in a poor neighborhood that is rapidly gentrifying. Rents here are going to rise massively over the next decade. If I stayed here for 6 or 8 years, I would have a dramatically below-market rent in what will at that point probably be a very peaceful quiet safe neighborhood. But now, I live with near-constant blasting music (both from the street and throughout my building), I can't walk to the subway without somebody or some group sexually harrassing me, 6+ of my neighbors have pit bulls (never on leashes & often in the halls), I hear gunfire outside at least twice each month... I could go on but you get the picture.

Those professors paying 500/mo for a 5BR on the UWS? They have a sweet deal now, but they lived through some bad shit in the past to have that rent. Just a few decades ago, most of the UWS was in ill repair and had regular street crime and gunplay (Remember the movie West Side Story? That's where it was set. The era of Lincoln Center and shiny apt. buildings is quite recent.) So many newcomers seem to think those people are the luckiest sumbitches in the city, but I know that what they paid for their apts is definitely not limited to money.
posted by sparrows at 12:49 AM on May 30, 2007

Good point, but a little off the mark. That was 'West Side Story', not 'Upper West Side Story'. She says it was a nice middle class neighborhood when she moved in. I have a number of colleagues that bought brownstones in Park Slope when it was middle class, safe and relatively cheap. I do have a coworker who bought 2 apt buildings near Lincoln Center a few years before it was built for $5K and now he's a bazillionaire, so your strategy does work. He tells a lot of interesting stories about how bad it was there.

The thing in, in the new New York, even your strategy puts you an hour subway ride away from work. Unless you live in the South Bronx. That is really the last crappy neighborhood within a 1/2 commute from midtown. And thus, if I were smart (and brave), I'd buy something there. It's going to be the next DUMBO.
posted by overhauser at 7:42 AM on May 30, 2007

West Side Story was set on the Upper West Side, near what is now Lincoln Center. The movie's exterior shots are from the high 60s. So it sounds like your first colleague lives in a different part of the UWS, but I'm talking about the Lincoln Center area (where your second colleague, who tells stories about how bad it was, bought the buildings).

Around Lincoln Center is now the most expensive part of the UWS -- my point was that a very ill-maintained and rough neighborhood a few decades ago is now one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Manhattan.
posted by sparrows at 1:01 AM on May 31, 2007

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