Is Manhattan the New Brooklyn (Again)?

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Photo: George Rose/Getty Images

"It's exploding with young people and tattoos," a woman tells the Wall Street Journal today about the Upper East Side."These hipsters were moving in — you could tell they were hipsters because I used to be one too, so they stand out — and they were moving a mounted moose head into their apartment." Manhattan, she says, "has the charm that you would want in Brooklyn that is quickly disappearing." Oh, Lord. The larger point she's speaking to, supposedly, is that rents in Brooklyn (by which the Journal mostly means Williamsburg) are now high enough to drive young people back to Manhattan. It's a renaissance or something! We've heard this one before.

There are a few stats to back up the assertion:

With the mean rent for a studio in Williamsburg topping $2,700, apartment hunters are likely to find cheaper places in Greenwich Village, where mean studio rents for non-doorman buildings are just more than $2,500 a month, according to June figures from MNS, a real-estate company. ...

Rents for studios in Manhattan were up almost 8% on a mean basis in June from the same month a year earlier, compared with a 10.4% jump in Brooklyn. One-bedrooms also rose by less than 5% in Manhattan in the same period, while rising nearly 10% in Brooklyn.

But Manhattan rents are actually at a two-year high. And there are other Brooklyn neighborhoods, believe it or not, which the Journal eventually gets around to acknowledging. Apparently there are even other boroughs (???):

To be sure, as Brooklyn rents rise, only a lucky handful can afford to move back to Manhattan. Others are more likely to push deeper into southern Brooklyn — where mean studio rents in Bay Ridge, for example, remain just $1,200 a month. Other people may start looking to Queens or the Bronx.

Then there's the fact that the New York Times covered the reverse migration in 2009. (It was referred to as "selling out.") The Brooklyn Paper, meanwhile, had a similar story way back in 2006. You know, before it was cool.