As Jackson Heights Takes The Baton From Brooklyn, Gentrification Is Off At A Winning Pace

For a genuinely multi-cultural New York experience, it doesn’t get any more diverse than Jackson Heights.

By Jeff Vasishta August 9, 2016
Credit: Marcus Woollen

With Brooklyn’s rents and sales continuing to heat up like asphalt in August, it makes sense that other New York boroughs are joining the race led by Kings County for a decade or so. Distilling the attributes that made Brooklyn what it is—close proximity to Manhattan, cultural diversity, great architecture and affordability—one neighborhood appears to be following more closely than others. Jackson Heights in Queens.

Related: How Crown Heights Became Poster Child For Brooklyn Gentrification

For a genuinely multi-cultural New York experience, it doesn’t get any more diverse than Jackson Heights. A staggering 167 languages are estimated to be spoken here and the neighborhood is only a 30-minute subway ride to the city. For many years the area was split mainly between South Asians (Indians, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis) and Central and South Americans. For quite a while now, the smorgasbord of cuisines there had hordes of visitors trekking over bridges to wallow in the exotic fare. Now they are deciding to stay.

Rents are a few hundred dollars less than rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn areas such as Crown Heights and Bedstuy, with a 1-bedroom apartment renting for around $1500 a month and a 2 bedroom, just shy of $2000 a month. On the other hand, transplants could save money over trendier Brooklyn in the buyer’s market. You can get a renovated 4-bedroom apartment in a pre-war building from $500-$600K.

Daniel Karatzas of Beaudoin Realty has been a realtor in Jackson Heights for twelve years. Many of his recent clients reflect the changing demographics of the area.

“Most people buying studios and one bedrooms tend to come from outside the neighborhood,” he says. “Larger apartments (2BR+) and houses is more of a 50-50 percent mix of locals upgrading and people new to the area. For the last 15 years there has been a northward migration from Brooklyn (specifically Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Park Slope) for people looking for more room at a more reasonable price. Over 50 percent of those new to the neighborhood are coming from Brooklyn and Manhattan, especially in the 35 to 50 age bracket.”

Karatzas says that an historic district of thirty blocks has limited any new construction there and the outlying blocks are already densely built up—meaning that the risk of over-development there is also a non-issue.

“The most activity and attention has been paid to the co-op conversion of Washington Plaza with its 192 units,” he explains.

As a realtor who has many new out-of-town clients moving into the neighborhood, Karatzas tends to take a philosophical perspective on the dreaded “G’ word.

“A hundred years ago this was a planned community aimed at the middle to upper-class. The golf course and tennis club have been gone for over 60 years, so the legacy of the original developer, the Queensborough Corporation, are the residential and commercial buildings that remain. The landmark status has been an aesthetic benefit for the 20+ years it has been in effect. I don’t care who the people are, as long as they take care of their property—whether they own or rent it—and respect their neighbors.”

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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