A New Report Shows How Gentrification Is Decimating NYC Minority Owned Businesses

As lower income communities grapple with change, long term businesses are being shut down or priced out.

By Jeff Vasishta May 4, 2017

Gentrification, as is well known, can be a double edged sword. Joy for homeowners and the local economy but despair for displaced communities and businesses. Now there is a report from comptroller Scott Stringer which reveals the extent of this disparity in stark numbers. Called The New Geography of Jobs: A Blueprint for Strengthening Our Neighborhoods, the report tracks NYC neighborhood change between 2000 and 2015.

Here’s are some of the main features of the report:

The number of businesses in the city’s 15 gentrifying neighborhoods grew from 29,132 in 2000 to 42,261 in 2015, a 45 percent jump.

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The neighborhoods with the highest growth were Central Harlem (90 percent), Crown Heights North and Prospect Heights (84 percent), Crown Heights South, Prospect Lefferts and Wingate (67 percent), and Greenpoint and Williamsburg (64 percent).

Business in 22 lower income neighborhoods boomed, outpacing the 12 percent jump in the city’s 33 higher-income neighborhoods.

In gentrifying neighborhoods 21 percent of Black and Hispanic youth (from age 18 to 24) are out of school and out of work, compared to just 12 percent of white youth. Ten percent of Black and nine percent of Hispanic adults (age 25 to 65) are unemployed, versus 3 percent of white people.

In 2007 African Americans owned 13 percent of all businesses in the Bronx and five percent in Queens. But by 2012, those figures were down to 6 percent and three percent, respectively.

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Also fueling gentrification are the kind of new businesses sprouting up in changing neighborhoods. Start-ups and tech and media companies in co-working spaces have a reputation for a lack of ethnic diversity.

“If a tech company sets up shop in a economically depressed part of a city, the interactions between the white employees and the black and Latino people in the neighborhood might be hostile,” Richard Ford, a civil rights and anti-discrimination lawyer at Stanford told “Those interactions could increase bias by ‘confirming’ stereotypes. And this problem is especially pronounced because employees do not leave the building.”

Comptroller Stringer said in a statement:

“We need an economy built on fairness. The increasing rents and economic distress that accompany gentrification are challenges that we as a city must confront … As business activity accelerates across the city, we have to do far more to connect local residents to career pathways and entrepreneurship opportunities.”

Central Harlem has experienced the highest business growth but minority owned businesses in the neighborhood have dipped.

“The retail rents are growing exponentially and the number of [women and minority-owned businesses] that are occupying there are facing pressure,” Brian A. Benjamin, the chair of Manhattan’s Community Board 10, which represents Central Harlem, told AM New York.

And despite activists’ efforts it’s unlikely minority businesses will return. More than 1 million people moved out of the New York area to other parts of the country since 2010, a rate of 4.4 percent — the highest negative net migration rate among the nation’s large population centers, US Census records show. The Central Harlem neighborhood in which business activity increased the most, also registered the largest loss of blacks in Manhattan, down almost 10,000 not including over 5000 which lave left Hamilton Heights. For whites in the same neighborhoods, the population increased from 16 percent from 3.5 percent.  

Jeff Vasishta



Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.
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