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If Brooklyn Were Its Own City, Here's Where It Would Stack Up Nationally


When you enter Brooklyn, on any major highway, you see a sign that says “Welcome to Brooklyn. Like no other place in the world!” Ain’t that the truth. But how would the borough stack up against other big cities if it were its own city? We took a look at five key measurements in search of the answer.

Multifamily Construction: #10


Cranes don’t lie. Brooklyn is indeed in the midst of a construction boom, and multifamily projects are at the heart of it. As of this past September, The Real Deal estimated Brooklyn’s multifamily pipeline at about 19,000 total units--overwhelmingly rentals.   

If we define the borough as a submarket, by Axiometrics’ count, it had the most new apartments built of any in the country last year.  

If we’re thinking of Brooklyn as a county (which is fair, since it is one), Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers tell us that it ranked 10th in the country this past June for number of people employed in residential construction, with 5,614. That’s right behind Suffolk County on Long Island, one spot ahead of Dallas County, TX, and two spots ahead of Manhattan.

Population: #4


The most recent population estimate from the US Census Bureau, from July 2014, puts Brooklyn at 2.6 million residents—only about 100,000 behind Chicago. At the time of the last official census, in 2010, that number was 2.4 million.

If the growth continues, Manhattan’s neighbor to the southeast could soon be the third largest city in the country, if it were an independent city.

What’s the real estate industry’s favorite word—after location, of course? You got it: money. The borough’s been in the midst of a demographic shift toward a more affluent population. According to, Brooklyn’s median household income in 2013 was $47k—up from $32k in 2000, about a 48% increase.

As we know, Brooklyn and Kings County are one and the same. Measured against other counties, Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers for Q2 last year put Brooklyn at No. 53 in terms of total wages paid out to employees working in the county, with $5.5B—one spot ahead of Davidson County, TN, home of Nashville, and one behind Wake County, NC, where Raleigh is.

Office Market: #14


Brooklyn’s 32.9M SF of office inventory puts it just behind Dallas and one spot above Minneapolis, according to numbers provided to us by JLL’s research department. In the past year, the borough’s office market’s seen the unveiling of its first ground-up spec office project in a generation, along with a slew of high-profile conversion projects.

And if Brooklyn’s total inventory number doesn’t seem that impressive, consider this: its vacancy rate was just 4% in Q4 last year. To give that context, since we’re picking on Chicago, that city’s downtown vacancy rate, per JLL’s research, was 10.4% for Class-A space and 12.5% for Class-B space over the same period.

JLL’s Howard Hersch has the assignment to lease space at Midtown Equities and Rockwood Capital’s Empire Stores project in Dumbo (shown in the foreground above). He calls it “an affirmation of your firm’s relevance” to take space in Brooklyn, which by his estimation is unrivaled as the favored borough of residence for the region’s young, creative workforce.

Public Transportation: #2


Measured against the four cities with the most rapid transit rail ridership in the country (Boston, Chicago, DC and the rest of NYC), Brooklyn’s No. 2 for weekday subway riders, according to the MTA’s most current data, from 2014. As for the number of stations in Brooklyn, at 157, it beats out Boston’s T system (145), Chicago’s “el” system (146) and DC’s Metro (91). A total of 1.2 million riders passed through the turnstiles in Brooklyn on the average weekday in 2014, according to the MTA.

If trends hold, that number will likely go up. Ridership system-wide has gone up every year since at least 2009.

The impending partial shutdown of the L train has been sending jitters across North Brooklyn, but the news isn’t all gloomy, as plans for a new streetcar line have been gaining traction and there’s even a residential developer offering to set up a shuttle bus if and when “L-pocalypse” befalls Brooklyn.

Retail: #5, #8 and #10


By at least one key metric, Brooklyn’s now an elite player in retail. According to CPEX’s 2016 retail report, three of its retail corridors crack the top ten nationally for average rents per SF: Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg (#5, at $350 per SF), Fulton Street Mall in Downtown Brooklyn (#8 at $250 per SF), and Court Street in Downtown Brooklyn (#10 at $200 per SF).

What kind of company does that put the borough in? Well, to give a sense: Rodeo Drive in Beverley Hills tops the list, Miami’s Lincoln Road is #7, and Union Square in San Francisco comes in at #4. CPEX's report doesn't include Manhattan because it's an outlier nationally, but nonetheless, you get the idea. 

"If things continue to evolve on all the other fronts like residential and office,” says CPEX’s Ryan Condren, “retail in Brooklyn will only continue to get stronger.”