The number of jobs, businesses and people living in Washington Heights and Inwood have reached record levels, but low household incomes and a shortage of affordable housing are challenges, according to an economic snapshot released today by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The report is part of a series by DiNapoli examining economic issues across the five boroughs.
“It’s exciting to see the gains that the Washington Heights and Inwood neighborhoods have made so far,” said DiNapoli. “People are moving to these neighborhoods, new businesses are being created and there are more local jobs than ever before. However, a number of issues still need to be addressed, including the growing need for affordable housing.”
“I applaud State Comptroller DiNapoli for conducting research that is invaluable to promoting economic growth in Washington Heights and Inwood. This report will help us better address the challenges in our economy and tackle them strategically. I look forward to utilizing this resource while working with the local elected officials and community leaders to improve the lives of families in our beloved neighborhood,” said U.S. Rep. Charles B. Rangel.
“State Comptroller DiNapoli's report on the state of our economy is an important compass to help guide us in the creation of new jobs and opportunities. The Upper Manhattan economy is rooted in a long history of entrepreneurship, and our small business owners are its backbone. It is pivotal we make sure small businesses can survive and thrive in Washington Heights and Inwood, because without them our community cannot retain its soul," said New York State Senator Adriano Espaillat.
“I am very glad to see that, as State Comptroller DiNapoli’s report highlights, so many young people are making Northern Manhattan their home and raising their families here,” said New York State Assemblyman Herman D. Farrell, Jr. “I hope that, having made their homes here, local residents will continue to work to help improve the quality of life throughout the area.”
“In order move towards a stable financial future we must first evaluate our past. Our community has incredible potential, however we must come together to truly seize the opportunities available to us. Thanks to State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli our community can learn from our past to ensure that we work towards the best future for our small businesses and residents,” said New York City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez.
“State Comptroller DiNapoli’s report sheds light on the fabulous diversity fueling rapid small business growth in Washington Heights. The report also makes clear that we still have much more to do to reduce an unemployment rate that remains higher than the rest of the city, and to lessen the rent burden on tenants. I look forward to continuing to work with leaders like State Comptroller DiNapoli to foster local job opportunities and economic development that respects the character of our communities,” said New York City Councilman Mark Levine.
“Although there are economic indicators that demonstrate a thriving Northern Manhattan, there are still opportunities for local stakeholders to work together to further fuel the local economy. As a community, we need to increase the skill set of our workforce, decrease the unemployment rate, reduce the cost of doing business and make available the resources businesses need to compete in today's economy,” said Angelina Ramirez, executive director of the Washington Heights Business Improvement District.
"We can’t deny that Washington Heights has become the house of one of the largest mom-and-pop business hubs and some of the fastest growing neighborhoods in New York City," said Quenia Abreu, president of the New York Women's Chamber of Commerce. "If we want our small businesses and our neighborhoods to do well economically, we must develop new economic initiatives that make sense and will provide small business support, affordable housing and good paying jobs and contracts for our local people. We are thankful for State Comptroller DiNapoli's report, which can serve as a guide for the development of some of these economic initiatives."
“The sustainability and affordability of our community is extremely important. For without these measures families will be severely impacted creating a ripple effect of disruption and displacement,” said George Fernandez, Jr., chairman of Manhattan’s Community Board 12.
DiNapoli’s report found population levels in Washington Heights and Inwood have grown to a record high of 218,500 as of 2013, the most recent year of available data. The area has a large immigrant population, with nearly half (48 percent) of the residents born outside of the United States. While immigrants have come from more than 55 countries, two thirds of the immigrants in this area are from the Dominican Republic. The majority of the residents (72 percent) identify themselves as Latino or Hispanic.
As of 2013 there was a record number of private sector jobs (28,670), but the unemployment rate for area residents was 4 percentage points above the citywide rate. Since the end of the recession, the neighborhoods have added 1,950 private sector jobs.
The neighborhoods are home to 3,049 businesses, also a record number. While the majority of these businesses have fewer than five employees, there are several companies that employ more than 100 people, primarily those providing health care and business services.
Healthcare, the area’s largest employment sector, accounts for 43 percent of private sector jobs (twice the citywide share). One of the largest employers is the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System, which operates three hospitals in the area.
Another one third of the area’s private sector jobs are concentrated in retail stores, restaurants and private schools (such as colleges), which have grown rapidly since the recession. One out of every four businesses is a retail store, and the area is home to several schools operated by Columbia University, as well as Boricua College and Yeshiva University.
Private sector jobs in the area pay an average salary of $54,640. But local residents, many of whom commute outside of the area for work as childcare providers, housekeepers, restaurant workers and health aides, earn an average salary of $34,260. Overall, more than one quarter of the families living in the area have household incomes below the federal poverty level.
Since 2002, apartment rents have grown twice as fast as inflation and much faster than household income, making affordable housing a major concern for the area. Although the median monthly rent is one third less than the rest of Manhattan ($1,025 compared to $1,560), 40 percent of area renters devote more than 30 percent of their household income to rent.