Manhattan Rents Beckon Brooklynites

About a month ago, Philip Bjerknes, an advertising executive who has lived in Brooklyn for six years, made a surprising discovery: He could get an apartment in Alphabet City for less than he was paying in Williamsburg.

"I lived [in Williamsburg] for the postindustrial charm or the affordability and neither of those really exist anymore," said Mr. Bjerknes, 27 years old. "I love Brooklyn. It's adorable, with great places to eat, but they also have that in Manhattan."

Indeed, Mr. Bjerknes in 2006 joined the torrent of young professionals who have fled to Brooklyn in search of affordability and helped transform neighborhoods like Park Slope, Cobble Hill and much of Williamsburg into pleasant, restaurant-filled enclaves.

Now, prices in those neighborhoods often have risen so much that some in Brooklyn are making the reverse move to Manhattan. With the mean rent for a studio in Williamsburg topping $2,700, apartment hunters are likely to find cheaper places in Greenwich Village, where mean studio rents for non-doorman buildings are just more than $2,500 a month, according to June figures from MNS, a real-estate company. That's true even though Manhattan apartments tend to be more cramped than those in Brooklyn.

And rents in Brooklyn are rising faster than their Manhattan counterparts, meaning the pricing gap in many top neighborhoods is likely to become even more marked.

Rents for studios in Manhattan were up almost 8% on a mean basis in June from the same month a year earlier, compared with a 10.4% jump in Brooklyn. One-bedrooms also rose by less than 5% in Manhattan in the same period, while rising nearly 10% in Brooklyn.

Mr. Bjerknes recently landed a one-bedroom apartment near his work at Avenue B and 11th Street for less than $2,400 a month. His broker, John Brandon of Citi Habitats—who works primarily in the East Village but lives in the Williamsburg area—said he began noticing an increase in inquiries from Brooklynites wanting to move to Manhattan around the start of the year.

"Rents are going up so much in Williamsburg," he said "If you want to live in Manhattan, it's kind of six of one, half a dozen of another" compared with Brooklyn, Mr. Brandon said.

While many once-dedicated Manhattanites crossed the bridge to Brooklyn reluctantly, some people now say they make the reverse move with some trepidation.


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