The presence of unfamiliar cooking aromas, 'foreign' music in the hallways, multilingual chatter in the elevators, and increasing numbers of younger newcomers collecting their mail in the lobby alongside older longtime residents—these are some of the more common manifestations of the demographic shifts experienced by many New York City cooperative and condominium communities.
While New York has a long-standing reputation as a huge melting pot, the city is really a series of discrete enclaves, some of which have remained largely unchanged for decades while others have long been immersed in changing ethnic and socioeconomic currents. In some situations, waves of immigration have changed the face of a neighborhood, and the individual building communities within it. In others, older residents face challenges from younger, wealthier ones—as well as absentee investor-owners—who bought their apartments at current market rates and have different attitudes about reserves, renovations, and other economic and lifestyle issues.
Regardless of the nature of the shift, an individual building’s residents, board of directors, and management can either struggle against these currents, or go with the flow. How they handle it will determine the tone and tenor of the entire building community, and can impact both the morale of residents, and the value of their units.
A City of Immigrants
“New York is a city of immigrants. It’s constantly going through an evolution of neighborhoods being driven by countries of origin,” explains Jesse M. Keenan, research director of the Center for Urban Real Estate and an adjunct professor of real estate development at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.
Many areas are undergoing change and significant gentrification. According to the Center for Urban Research at The City University of New York's Graduate Center, for example, the percentage of the population of Elmhurst, Queens who identified as being of Asian origin grew from 37.3 percent in 2000 to 43.8 percent in 2010. In Flushing, the Asian population grew from 52 percent in 2000 to 69 percent in 2010.