Manhattan is the thing that is on many real estate professionals’ minds, and what they want to talk about, and that’s understandable. But, what’s happening in Brooklyn is more interesting, and leads one to believe it will be a healthier recovery.
Here are five things I would point to:
First, Brooklyn’s office space is spacious and plentiful.
Brooklyn has office space options that allow for privacy, social distancing and outdoor space. A big portion of Brooklyn’s creative class are employed by TAMI [technology, advertising, media and information] companies that are thriving during the pandemic. These remote workers are now spending their days in Brooklyn, having lunch and dinner at local restaurants, and are using the open spaces and serene parks. Manhattan has more corporate headquarters that have aggressively opted for work from home. Brooklyn’s lifestyle fits the new world of social distancing, because Brooklyn simply has more space. Brooklyn has more car owners, is both walkable and drivable, and has a tremendous amount of green space and parks.
Second, Brooklyn is self-contained.
Brooklyn is less dependent on tourism and a daily inflow of workers and visitors from other boroughs and the suburbs to maintain its vitality. It is more “self-contained;” most people that work here usually live here, too. As a result, Brooklyn’s kept its energy and robust local economy during the summer.
Third, think Brooklyn retail.
Brooklyn’s retail consists of businesses that primarily serve as neighborhood amenities that are mostly essential businesses that are more likely to last. A large portion of Manhattan retail is servicing Manhattan office, which was basically empty for almost seven months. That is not the case in almost all of Brooklyn. Workers that would previously commute from Brooklyn to Manhattan, work there 9:00 to 5:00, eat lunch, and run to the drugstore are now working at home in Brooklyn. They’re eating lunch in Brooklyn. Ultimately, they’re giving their business to local Brooklyn businesses.
Fourth, Brooklyn housing is attractive for social distancing and work from home.
Brooklyn is being perceived as the first stop away from Manhattan. Since the pandemic, we have seen residents move to Brooklyn before considering a move to the suburbs. Brooklyn has a good stock of one- and two-family homes in a wide range of pricing points and neighborhoods. Brooklyn has a significant amount of affordable and inclusionary units built over the last decade. There is a significantly large portion of Brooklyn apartments that were built in the last decade that include outdoor space.
Finally, Brooklyn is not seasonal.
The demographic in Brooklyn was less likely to move to their summer homes indefinitely during the pandemic, because most of them do not own second homes. Manhattan has a higher percentage of second homeowners and pied-a-terre ownership. (During the height of the pandemic, the largest concentration of mail-forwarding requests came from Manhattan.) Many Brooklynites live, work, play, and stay in Brooklyn year-round.
In short, Brooklyn is poised to weather this crisis.
Ofer Cohen is the founder and CEO of TerraCRG and board chairman of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.