Ever-Shifting Downtown Neighborhoods

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A recent study has found that downtown Manhattan has the highest rates of transience in the city

By Adam Janos

Many people love living downtown; it's got some the city's most iconic buildings, it's at the heart of public transit, and night life and restaurants are popping up in a decade that has seen real estate values soar. Things sure are booming - just don't expect your neighbor to necessarily stick around with you for the long haul.

According to a study conducted by Social Explorer and the Queens College Department of Applied Research of the Census Bureau, between the years 2007 and 2011, downtown Manhattan had the highest rates of transience in the city. In ZIP code 10005, for example, 39.4 percent of those surveyed had been residents here for less than a year. In ZIP code 10006 (Battery Park), that number rose to 43.1 percent. From the financial district to Gramercy Park to Tribeca and SoHo, rookie residents are making up 20-40 percent of the total population. As a point of comparison, in 10162 (Upper East Side), only 5.8 percent of their inhabitants had been around for less than year.

Downtown is putting the "New" in "New York."

With such a small percentage of people who have been around for the time necessary to bring the neighborhood true consistency, business owners have to come up with different ways to draw steady clientele. At Delmonico's on Beaver Street, general manager Corrado Goglia says that, although the neighborhood has gotten more residential in the last five or six years, he still "sees lots of new faces. After 2007, a lot of people moved about. But between those who stay, the workers, and the tourists we continue to find business." Like many in the area, Goglia is optimistic that those transience numbers will be turning around soon and that ? regardless of what the Census Bureau's data indicates ? it's become much more of a neighborhood in the fourteen years since he's been general manager.

Others are not so sure. "It's terrible," says John Moran, owner of both the Mercantile Grill and Killarney Rose on Pearl Street. "You don't see the same people from one year to the next? and that's not good for places like this. It's only in the last two years that we've gotten a lot of residents down here."

Which raises an interesting point: is the neighborhood transient, or is it simply growing? According to the Census Bureau, between 2000 and 2010 the population of downtown Manhattan has increased by 40,000. So even though people are moving in at staggering numbers every year doesn't necessarily mean that they replacing others who have departed; it could also be a reflection of the general population growth of the neighborhood and the conversion of banking centers like 37 Wall Street into residential buildings flush with new tenants.

Mathematically speaking, though, even taking population growth into account doesn't fully explain the high rates of new tenancy; as surely as some New Yorkers pursue apartments downtown, others are deserting it.

"I think this proves how important it is to develop and protect affordable housing in lower Manhattan, and in our city as a whole," said Council Member Margaret Chin, who presides over three of the five most transient zip codes. "Rising rents is one of the primary causes of flight from neighborhoods, from Chinatown to the Financial District."

"Over the past ten years, the residential population in the Financial District and Tribeca has more than doubled," continued Chin. "Unfortunately, the development of essentials services, like supermarkets, public open spaces, and community faculties, has not kept up with this population growth."

"We know people want to move into Lower Manhattan," said State Senator Daniel Squadron. "Now it's critical that our government provides the services that allow more people across the economic spectrum to make their lives here for the long term."

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