Can Ditmas Park Save The Middle Class?


Despite tremendous quality-of-life gains, more residents left New York City in 2006 than in 1993. (Brooklyn was the one borough that bucked that trend.) The main reason, says an article from the American Enterprise Institute, is the the rising cost of living for middle-class families. In fact, New York now has the lowest rate of middle-income families of any city; and, except for Los Angeles, it also has the smallest percentage of middle-income neighborhoods. One exception—and a model for the future—is Ditmas Park:

The ‘place’ Ellen and Joe looked for was not just a physical location but something less tangible: a sense of community and a neighborhood to raise their hoped-for children. Although they considered suburban locations, as most families do, ultimately they chose the Ditmas Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, where Joe had grown up. At first, this seemed a risky choice. While Joe was growing up in the 1980s, the neighborhood—a mixture of Victorian homes and modest apartments—had become crime-infested. The old families were moving out, and newer ones were not replacing them. Yet Joe’s Mom still lived there, and they liked the idea of having grandma around for their planned-for family.

Politicians genuflect to the idea of maintaining a middle class, yet their actions suggest otherwise. In a city that has been losing middle-class families for generations, the resurgence of places like Ditmas Park represents a welcome change. In recent years, child-friendly restaurants and shops have started up along once-decayed Cortelyou Road. More important, some local elementary schools have shown marked improvement, with an increase in parental involvement and new facilities. Even in hard economic times, the area has become a beacon to New York families, as well as singles seeking a community where they will put down long-term roots. “There’s an attempt in this neighborhood to break down the city feel and to see this more as a kind of a small town,” notes Ellen. “It may be in the city, but it’s a community unto itself, a place where you can stay and raise your children.”

If cities like New York want to nurture their middle-class populations, the article suggests, they will need to shift their priorities away from "subsidizing developers for luxury mega-developments, new museums, or performing arts centers" and instead focus on "those things critical to the middle class such as maintaining relatively low density work areas and shopping streets, new schools, and parks." In our opinion, at the end of the day, it's all about the schools.
The Luxury City vs. the Middle Class [The American]

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