Last week, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York published a map illustrating regional trends in foreclose throughout New York City. The maps follows changes in neighborhood foreclosures from 2007 to 2012. The results are startling.
When viewers hit the “play” button, areas of central Bronx, central Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island immediately become “colored” in foreclosure. From 2007 to 2008, foreclosures began to multiply in these boroughs. For example, in the Bronx neighborhoods of Belmont, East Tremont, and Crotona Park, foreclosures increased from 4 to 9 percent. In the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Crown Heights and Ocean Hill, foreclosure increased from 6 to 12 percent. In the Queens neighborhood of Jamaica, foreclosures increased from 3 percent to 12 percent. And, in the Staten Island neighborhood of Far Rockaway (which was recently hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy), foreclosures increased from 2 to 10 percent. While northern Manhattan has a foreclosure rate of 4 to 8 percent, neighborhood South of 125th st. are noticeably pale.
According to a Citizens Housing and Planning Council (CHPC) report, entitled “The Impact of Multi-Family Foreclosures and Over-Mortgaging in Neighborhoods in New York City,” one reason this is meaningful is that buildings in foreclosure have a negative impact on the neighborhood around them. Most buildings that are located near foreclosed buildings already have a high number of code violations. CHPC’s data illustrates that two years after a building enters foreclosure, code violations in buildings within 250 feet increased by 32.8 percent. While authors of the report dismiss a direct causation of foreclosure on increased deterioration, they do assert that neighborhood instability increases the likelihood of dilapidation.
The same CHPC report also explores demographics of the neighborhoods with exceptionally high number of over-leveraged buildings. The data reveals that 8.5 percent of residents residing within 250 feet of a foreclosed building are living below the poverty line. 22 percent of residents are immigrants, and “minus 7 percent” are white. Such data illustrates the the way in which racial and class inequalities exist within foreclosure trends.
While the map is visibly shocking, we have some unanswered questions. For instance, which neighborhoods experience high single-family foreclosures and which neighborhoods experience high multi-family foreclosures? And, of the multi-family foreclosures, how many were caused by predatory equity schemes? Also, how can we map the demographic trends revealed in the report alongside foreclosure?
Finally, we want to point out the manner in which the map uses the color red to depict foreclosure. Red, as we learn in geography classes, means “watch out” and “be afraid” (think communism and blood). Foreclosure in New York can mean many things, some of them scary. However, when we go into buildings in foreclosure, one of the first things we tell tenants (who are protected from eviction under rent regulation laws) that foreclosure can be an opportunity. In rent-regulated multi-family buildings, we hope that foreclosure can create an opening for tenants to organize and fight for positive change!