August 19, 2021 Street Poster: Buildings for “gentiles of the lowest sort”
This street poster, which I photographed a few months ago, is a very big part of the answer to the great question:
How do Hasidim afford to live in Williamsburg?
To put the question in perspective, Williamsburg is one of the most expensive neighborhoods in NYC. Hasidim live there in a bubble of sorts, cheek-by-jowl with the trendy “hipsters,” right on the waterfront, next to the subway, and within view of the Manhattan skyline.
And the Hasidic community has startling statistics that defy anything you’d expect from a community in such a sought-after section of town: The families are very large, usually there is only one breadwinner per family, and that breadwinner, the man, doesn’t even have a high school diploma. It’s really incredible. I’ve written a bit about the economy before, which is much more complicated than the scope of this post.
But a part of the answer to the affordability of this neighborhood is in the poster above. Here is what it says:
Crisis in Williamsburg!
We, the neighbors in the area of 263 Franklin Avenue, are sharing our pain with the community over the building that is now being built for gentiles of the lowest sort. Right next to us.
We live here — a group of tens of families for over ten years — in peace and calm. We came here with blood and sweat, paid enormous sums to be able to raise pious Jewish generations. Our neighborhood is thriving, thank god, nowadays with hundreds of children.
And now they want to bring in here immodest gentiles with their lowly lifestyle, right before our eyes. And this will expose us and our children to constant temptation and hindrances. And it will constrict our own little enclave.
We are begging from the depth of our hearts, from anyone who can have an influence on the owners, please call:
And his Son.
And ask him not to destroy our neighborhood.
This incredible notice is not only about piety, but also it has tremendous economic effects. Because it essentially demands that Hasidic developers restrict their customer base to the tiny Hasidic population. This keeps apartments in this neighborhood priced substantially under market — although of course, still always incredibly expensive.
When the hipsters first started to move in to the north side at the waterfront, this battle was a constant and was in the forefront of the community. I think it has by now largely been settled in that area, as the areas south of South 8th are Hasidic and north of that are not.