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09/26/13 11:37am
09/26/2013 11:37 AM

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  • EPA/Justin Lane

Anyone hoping that all the damage incurred in Red Hook during Sandy would somehow mean cheaper real estate in the area (not an unreasonable assumption) will be disappointed to learn that not only have prices in the area held steady in the year after the storm, they’re more expensive than ever. So expensive, actually, that one Corcoran broker tells the Post, “Anyone who comes here looking to buy a finished place at $1.1 million needs to know that it is non-existent.” Yeeeowch.

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Most finished buildings (as opposed to the $900,000 “fixer uppers” cited) in the high-risk “AE” classified flood zone are more around the $2 million mark, with a $25 million new condo space slated to come into a building once owned by a dock company. One couple who recently moved to the neighborhood from Soho gave the usual party line people with impossibly expensive brownstones tend to give about any neighborhood in Brooklyn at all: “SoHo is like a giant mall now. Red Hook, with its factories and low density, feels like what SoHo used to be.” Not for long, though; brokers interviewed for the article assured us that condos coming in “may pressure the development of more goods and services, which will enhance the neighborhood.”

But, yes, for now, it’s just like how Soho used to be. Full of up-and-coming artists who can afford multi-million dollar homes and clever renovations to protect themselves from likely annual flooding. That is what it was like, right?

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.

09/23/13 2:34pm
09/23/2013 2:34 PM

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  • Image via Brookland Capital

While the fight over Bushwick’s proposed Rheingold re-zoning continues to get uglier, there’s plenty of other development moving forward in the neighborhood, some of it excellent and groundbreaking, some of it strange and hideous.

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First off, there’s this planned expansion of an existing church on Bushwick Avenue, picked up by Brownstoner, the (vaguely insane) rendering for which essentially looks like a bunch of new apartment units stacked on top of the pre-existing church structure. It is… not the most tasteful or architecturally interesting thing we’ve ever seen. Not the end of the world even if it does turn out exactly like the initial, unappealing plans, but probably not something anyone’ll be trotting out as an A+ example of an organic addition to the neighborhood, either.

Then there are the two planned “passive houses” written up by Real Estate Weekly, one at 424 Melrose, the other at 803 Knickerbocker. These are actually a pretty huge deal. Once built, they’d be the first structures in the borough (other than one Park Slope brownstone) to qualify for “passive house” status, meaning they adhere to a “rigorous and strict standard of construction that integrates architectural design, and with the use of sunlight, an airtight exterior and insulation, creates energy-efficient buildings.”

The Melrose building, which is set to open next month, will reportedly use 10 percent as much energy as most comparable buildings in New York without incurring higher construction costs, and has been developed as an affordable housing project by the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council and the United Mennonite Church, which own the site.

All of which is actually pretty incredible on its own, but especially when you compare it to all the other dubious, short-sighted condo projects planned for the neighborhood. Now, if only someone could do something about that franken-church design, we’d be on a roll.

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.

09/20/13 11:20am
09/20/2013 11:20 AM

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  • Image via Townhouse Experts

When we complain about the financial ramifications of gentrification and over-development, and the visceral fear of being rapidly priced out of the place you have chosen to live—which is all the time!—it’s easy enough to see the problem as sort of an abstract bogeyman, some rich, faceless guy in a well-tailored suit, flipping brownstones for far too much money and whispering in the ears of business owners that yes, of course people will pay $15 for a cocktail, really, it’s a bargain. But, like everything else, this actually did come from somewhere specific, and somewhere surprisingly loving and well-intentioned.

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In large part, it came from Evelyn and Everett Ortner, two of Park Slope’s earliest and most enthusiastic adopters, whose longtime brownstone in the area just hit the market for $4.8 million. When the couple bought it in 1963, it cost $32,000 (or the equivalent of around $240,000 in 2013). Part of the price hike can be attributed to the fact that they painstakingly fixed the place up over the years, all as they very publicly extolled the virtues of moving into the neighborhood’s beautiful, often neglected homes. Per Evelyn’s 2006 Times obituary (Everett had continued living in the home and passed away last year), the couple were “among the first, the most vocal and the most effective champions of the brownstone revival that spread from Brooklyn to the rest of the country” and “did much of the historical research that persuaded the New York City Landmarks Preservation Committee to designate the Park Slope historic district in 1973.”

But of course, their renovations don’t account for most of the home’s massive new price tag. Most of that comes from the neighborhood’s meteoric, well-documented rise in both popularity and expense, a shift the Ortners actually saw coming. Everett, an editor at Popular Science (can you imagine a magazine editor buying or even renting an entire building in Park Slope now? Aaaaah!), once said, “Never again, never again, never again will houses of this quality be built for the middle class of the city.” And he was right. In a way, these houses were too good to be true, and people figured it out pretty fast. Supply and demand, essentially. Still, it’s hard not to get a little depressed and sentimental about a time when a pair of middle class history geeks could afford a beautiful home, and happily stay there for decades. A time that’s not coming back.

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.

09/12/13 1:10pm
09/12/2013 1:10 PM

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We’re living in the end of days. How do I know? Well, apparently we’re in the middle of what some news outlets are calling a “rent apocalypse.” Does that mean all the good apartments are getting raptured and ascending to heaven to chill out with God and whoever else is up there chilling with God? And does that mean that all the bad apartments, the sinful apartments, are forced to stay here in Brooklyn, writhing in agony, enduring punishments like having their pressed-tin ceilings torn asunder or their brownstone facades covered in vinyl siding? The horror! Or, oh. Wait. Does the latest rent apocalypse only mean that rents are higher again? It does? Got it. Does the word “apocalypse” mean nothing anymore? Is the idea of the wrath of God not held sacred by anyone? Is this what happens in a godless place like New York City? I guess so.

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Anyway, rents are higher in Brooklyn. The latest report from realty company Douglas Elliman offers this staggering bit of information: Brooklyn is having its “highest median rental price in over five years.” And what exactly is that median price? $2,850/month, which is a 4.6% increase over Brooklyn rents from the same month (August) last year. But is there any good news? Actually, not really. The median price of a studio rental in Brooklyn has remained stable from last month (but it’s still a ridiculous $2,001/month but, you know, it’ only increased by a buck), and the price of two-bedrooms has actually decreased by over 4% since last month. But both of those prices are much, much higher than they were last year and the cost of renting one-bedrooms or three- or more-bedrooms remain steadily rising. This sucks.

But does all this add up to an apocalypse? Hardly. Why not? Well, because these prices are only for apartments in the north and northwest parts of Brooklyn, according to Elliman. In other words, all the places that are already out of your price range? They’re still out of your price range, only a little bit more. Moral of the story? Move to Sunset Park or Kensington where prices are crazy high, but not, like, apocalyptically high. At least, not yet.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

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  • c/o Douglas Elliman