“I just couldn’t stand 646 anymore.” The woman boarded my elevator mid-conversation.
She appeared to be roughly 26 and was talking about her area code. That irritated me. Also, I was leaving my dentist.
“I had to have a 718,” she finished.
“What about 917?” the man with her appeared to be going out to have a “vape.” That’s a puff on an e-cigarette, which he was cradling. I wondered what branch of Google or tech incubator had been forced to take office space in my dentist’s building. “I have 917,” he informed her.
She gave him pitying look.
A bit of history:
- 212 is the area code for New York City since forever.
- In 1984, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx were split off from 212 (kicking and screaming) to adopt the 718 prefix.
- In the early nineties, the phone company summoned 917 into service to accommodate city cell phones.
- When the stock of 917s and 212s got low, the new 646 was drafted into service.
Thus, to anyone born post-Reagan Administration, 718 translates to “Brooklyn.” (Because everyone still ignores Queens and the Bronx.) Brooklyn, if you’ve been paying attention, is the hippest place to live, possibly in the history of mankind.
I validated this by searching “Hippest Cities in America.” The twelve lists I retrieved all ranked Brooklyn first, second or third, always in the top three, usually Williamsburg.
(A cool cat from Williamsburg.)
One of the rules of hip is you must take something out of the dustbin and revitalize it (skinny jeans, eating eggs, civil-war era beards) making it cool. This is can be a good thing. Someone needs to take Detroit out of the dustbin pretty soon.
These days, however, the speed of hip has accelerated. It’s as if a kind of Moore’s law is at work in hipness. (Moore’s law is the principle that says computer processing power will double every 18 months.) This isn’t good.
Take clothing retailer H&M, famous for providing cheap merchandise that changes constantly. To an H&M shopper, “latest fashion” means this week’s look, not this season’s. Unfortunately, it takes legions of children working in sweat shops to accomplish this merchandise turnover rate.
Brooklyn is in the grips of a Moore’s law for hip real estate. There’s a developer land grab going on reaching beyond Williamsburg into Red Hook, Bushwick and East New York. Brooklyn long since eclipsed Manhattan for the most expensive real estate. RealtyTrac recently identified Brooklyn as the least affordable housing market in America.
This kind of rapid neighborhood gentrification without affordable housing regulations to keep up with it pushes out long-time residents. Especially vulnerable people with few options like the elderly and disabled. It also affects old neighborhood shops, families and people who just want to live where they have always lived.
My great-grandfather, grandfather and father were all from Brooklyn.
To me, and many dyed-in-the-wool New Yorkers, our old neighborhoods are places of ethnicity and striving, permanence and solidity, generation after generation. Is this the intention of the hordes of new residents colonizing apartments and sopping up area codes? Will they call places like Brooklyn home? Or, rather, are they just looking for a kind of launch pad, a locale to rack up some hipster cred, pursuing first jobs in tech and design, before growing up and moving back to Overland Park?
It would be a shame to push out long-time residents for this.