Another luxury residential development took a step closer toward approval when Community Board 5 threw its weight behind a plan to build a three-and-four-story, 88-unit apartment complex at 176 Woodward Ave.
If approved, the rezoning could allow for the third such development in the lower portion of the neighborhood within the last few years, signaling major changes for the area.
Ridgewood, a historical haven and a starting place for arriving immigrants, may be seeing a dramatic shift in its makeup and its look and feel in the near future.
The prospect of gentrification, which has played out countless times in other neighborhoods across New York City, has residents split over whether they should welcome the change or combat it.
“I’ve been waiting for 19 years for this development to happen,” said Joe Pergolese, of 18-73 Troutman St., in his testimony at the community board’s March meeting. “Times have changed. There are people who want to come in and do want to see this happen.”
Pergolese said that developments like the one planned on Woodward Avenue could make the neighborhood more pleasant for its residents.
The new building is to rise on a vacant lot that once housed industry. To build it, the developer needs a change in city land use rules, which currently permit only manufacturing on the site.
Daniel Russo, who has been living at 18-88 Starr St. for six years, said during the same meeting that the development, when completed, could serve as a deterrent to crime that takes place on his block, including drug dealing, loitering and prostitution.
Another long-time resident was cautious about embracing change so willingly, however.
“I’ve been in the neighborhood about 20 to 25 years, I’ve seen the neighborhood go through changes too,” said Manny Jalonschi at the meeting. “What I’m worried about is some of the community ties that are there might get a little ripped. I say we try to get some binding agreements about the price of this housing.”
Jalonschi expressed concerns about overcrowding in public schools and the significant difference in the incomes of the people who would eventually move into the neighborhood and the people who are already living there. The income disparity could ultimately lead to the displacement of current residents because they either would not be able to afford to stay, or they would look like they do not belong, he said.
Two new schools are currently being built to deal with overcrowding that already exists. PS 290, nearing completion at 55-20 Metropolitan Avenue, will serve 616 pupils in grades Pre-K through 5, according to the developer’s website. PS 320, to be built at 360 Seneca Avenue, will provide 472 additional seats according to the School Construction Authority.
The Woodward Avenue development is not the first of its kind in recent years.
Another project at 482-484 Seneca Avenue, not far from the Woodward Avenue site, is in the planning stages. Based on the Department of Buildings documents, the plan calls for a 16-apartment building at the site of an old factory. It too, would require the city to approve changes in the land use rules.
A high-end residential building is nearing completion, just across the street, at 508 Seneca Avenue. It comes outfitted with a gym and rooftop access.
The building at 508 is already being advertised on Craigslist, listing rent at $2,850 for three bedrooms. With a few exceptions, most three-bedroom rentals in Ridgewood currently cap off at $2,000 according to Zillow, an online real estate database.
In a community district where nearly 29 percent of the population received some form of income support in 2012, and where the median household income was estimated to be $53,913 in 2010 by the American Community Survey of the U.S. Census, a rent that high does not sit well with some residents.
Jalonschi, an activist, author and journalist, is the son of Romanian immigrants. He believes the kind of gentrification that comes with residential development can thwart economic opportunity for immigrant and low-income individuals and families.
“When housing costs are under a thousand for multi-room units–units you could maybe start a new family or continue an immigrant family in–the life faced by most working class folks is a precarious one, but one which, with a lot of sacrifices (sharing costs, multiple working adults) is a gritty sort of manageable,” he said in an e-mail.
Saying that when housing costs start to consume more than half of a family’s wages, disposable income is eliminated, diminishing the consumer base of local businesses, causing them to be priced out and destroying potential job opportunities, Jalonschi continued.
“Everyone’s sensing the rent-pressure and the disappearing local businesses around here,” he added. “They’re also noticing younger professionals moving in, paying market-jarring high rents for units that used to be at market or below-market prices.”