Hipness on Horizon for Staten Island

After last week’s rousing debate on the pros and cons of Staten Island as a viable alternative for would-be Brownstoners priced out of Brooklyn’s red-hot market, we were interested to see this weekend’s The Hunt column. The article (and accompanying slide show–not to be missed) details how a Park Slope couple looked for, and ultimately found, their dream house. (According to the article, Brownstoner.com and Forgotten-ny.com were both key tools in the couple’s search.) After passing on two houses in Ditmas Park and one in Jersey City, the artist and musician couple ultimately fell in love with a 1929 Mediterranean-style spread at 22 Fort Hill Circle in the St. George section of Staten Island. Personally, we preferred the 3 other houses they looked at first, but we can certainly see the appeal of this rambling back yard. And it’s hard to argue with the price–$655,000 for 2,500 square feet. The couple is so gung-ho on SI that they are creating a web site called Prodicalborough.com:

Because of the real estate crunch, Staten Island is being welcomed back to the fold and being recognized as an underrated and extraordinary place to live. Everyplace else has a cool Web presence, but there is no hipster stuff for Staten Island – just Yellow Page listings.

It’s only a matter of time before Babs Corcoran is putting out a press release desribing her latest purchase within walking distance of the ferry, we’re sure.
Looking for a House and a Turret [NY Times]

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  • This is Staten Island? Loooks like the South of France!

  • That house is gorgeous! I live in Ditmas Park, and there are only a handful of Spanish/Italian style homes here – and I envy every one of them! The slide show was a real treat, but I have some questions. I follow the Ditmas Park real estate scene VERY closely, and I know exactly where both of the houses shown in the slide show are, yet I have never, ever seen them listed. Who were/are they with? Thanks.

  • This house is beautiful! There are only a handful of Spanish/Italian style villas here in Ditmas Park, and I envy the owners. That stucco exterior is period perfect (not like the stuff slathered on some of the Victorians areound here) and easy to maintain.

    The slide show was fun, but now I have a question. I follow the Ditmas Park real estate scene VERY closely, and I know both the Ditmas Park houses shown in the slide show – but I have never, ever seen them listed anywhere. Does anyone know who had/has them? Thanks.

  • My husband and I looked at this house months ago (and even brought my folks to see it). We seriously considered buying it. It is as gorgeous in real life as it is in the photos. The backyard is massive, and the former owners were gardeners so it has a dreamy English garden feeling to it (not to mention the koi pond, and a hot tub). The issue for us was the area. St. George does not have a downtown to speak of. The walk from the ferry is about 15 minutes (which isn’t too bad by itself), but it’s a pretty steep hill and I didn’t feel safe walking by myself at night. If the area was a bit safer and more interesting, we would have bought it. My friend has lived in St. George for over 10 years and said that she has seen dozens of hipsters come and go, but they always leave in the end when they get fed up with the commute (kind of drag unless you work at home or work downtown) and they figure out the area is not moving in the direction of becoming the “next big thing.”

  • Rita – thanks for your input. Very informative. Did you buy elsewhere in the end? Or still looking?

  • We are still looking. I found that Times article very interesting although it didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know about the market. We are focusing our search right now in Jersey City/Jersey City Heights. There are a few Victorians up in the Heights, and some nice brownstones in the downtown area. We gave up on affording something in Brooklyn a long time ago, but love reading this site.

  • For both Victorians and brownstones, you should also see the Lincoln Park area of Jersey City (a short walk from Journal Square.) There’s some beautiful stuff in the heights, but you’re often stuck with buses instead of the much more convenient PATH train.

  • Oh, I should note the walk can be up to 15 mins from JSQ, so maybe not short by some standards. I do it twice a day (more like 12 mins for me) with no problems.

  • Is that you, Russell? We did a tour of Staten Island this weekend, just to check out the architecture. There are some really gorgeous houses there! Passed by your place and tried to figure out where you went for groceries and the like. Was it near the Dunkin’ Donuts? (Sorry I don’t remember the street name). We couldn’t really find any “downtown” within walking distance…where is it? Maybe we missed it. The other thing we were wondering about in terms of SI becoming an “it” place to live….some of the houses are enormous. So big in fact, that I can’t imagine anyone returning them to single family homes. If that is the case, I imagine that a lot of investors/developers will buy up these places. What is your take on this (if you are indeed Russell!)

  • Hey, so glad to have come across this article, thanks for the kind words. To Rita, we did hear that there was one other couple who came with their family to see the house — I believe we were there just after you to see it. I agree with you about “hipsters waiting next big thing,” — a watched pot never boils, as they say. We had to decide that we were content with the neighborhood the way it is, and we are. Perhaps we just had low expectations, but the fact is that since this article has come out, we’ve learned that it’s already populated with a lot of interesting people, and they have written to let us know they are thrilled that St. George is even being mentioned.

    To sba, that’s great that you took a tour around the area. There isn’t necessarily a “downtown,” although there is an area more commercial than Stuyvesant Pl. where the Dunkin Donuts is. The commercial area where I go to do my shopping and stuff is really on Victory between St. Pauls and Forest Ave. Some stuff I use (the post office, diner, internet cafe, Allstate office, Cargo Cafe) is on Bay Street as well. There are larger supermarkets and commercial areas (the full length of Forest Avenue is one big one, Richmond Ave. another) to which you’d have to take a car or bus, but between the greenmarket every Saturday across Hyatt St. from the theater, and three or four markets (and a polish market that sells good sausages, etc), I can usually get whatever I need on foot. As for the size of the houses and the possibility of development, I’ve noticed this a little. There’s a house on Richmond Terrace we looked at to buy (but it was apparently already in contract for well over a million, probably because of the view) which had a very large green space next door with a Massey Knackal sign on it. Now, instead, there’s a sign saying luxury condos are coming. I think that, rather than knocking down houses, it’s more likely that developers will start building up the underdeveloped parcels near the waterfront first. Either way, yes, there appear to be a mix of very large single and multiple family houses around (we looked at one on St. Paul’s and Trossach Rd.) and from my thumbnail observations (talking to other prospective buyers at open houses, etc) it looks like some of them are indeed buying large houses to be kept as rental properties. Most advertising though, touts the ability of a multi-family house to be converted back into a single-family house, and not vice versa, so that may indicate a trend as well.

    By the way, one other correction — the article said 2,500 square feet because that’s what the MLS and tax documents say. But the truth is, the house has a completely finished basement floor (complete with a bar, bathroom, original stone-hearth fireplace, and billiard table, covering the entire footprint of the house (whih is about 900-1000 sq feet), so overall size it’s probably closer to 3,200-3,500 square feet of usable space.

  • Oh, forgot to add, to the anonymous poster who inquired about the Ditmas houses,

    > I know exactly where both of the houses shown
    > in the slide show are, yet I have never, ever
    > seen them listed. Who were/are they with?

    every single one of those finds (the green house, the blue house, and the red gothic victorian in Jersey City) were listed only on craigslist by the owner/broker, the owner, and a broker, respectively. Interesting that they turned out to be the biggest contenders in our search.

  • Hello from Russell’s girlfriend Cynthia! I did the majority of the online searching for our “castle” so let me know if you have any questions.

    We looked at over 50 houses, bid on a dozen, had accepted offers on 3, and ultimately chose the 4 story villa that you see in this article. (That is the back view through the garden by they way). As Russell mentioned the square footage was incorrect in the sale listing. The house, with the tower/finished attic and finished basement, is at least 3200 square feet. Additionally the yard is an about 5000 square feet. So we got approximately 8200 square feet in NYC for under a million dollars. Way under a million dollars! That is pretty amazing. In addition, the house is in perfect shape. All I need to do is paint all of the walls. We are already listed with 5 location scouts for film and photo shoots so we might even make a little money off it so we can buy some furniture. The street we are on is very pretty to look at. It was a British fort during the revolutionary war so that is why it is such a steep hill. Our house is on the higher side of the circle and we are surrounded by beautiful tudor houses below us across the street. (My purple Victorian house in Boston was across from ugly triple deckers. They had a nice view but I did not!) Staten Island has the lowest crime rate in all of NYC. In Staten Island we found a perfect combination of affordable, safe, unique, and size.

    That gorgeous blue Victorian house we considered was just on the far edge of Ditmas Park. In fact, I’m not sure if that side of the street qualifies as Ditmas at all. It would have been a very long walk to the subway. Still, we were considering it but the owner took the house off the market because their kids wanted to keep it. I don’t blame them. The green house in Ditmas is probably still on the market. It had potential inside but it needed at least 400K in work. It looked as if somone had set the kitchen on fire. It also has aluminum siding. Aluminum siding is wrong, very wrong. The Jersey City brick mansion was my favorite (other than the one we chose). As you all know there is a lot that goes into your consideration for a house. Neighborhoods, safety, transportation, restoration, and what is immediately surrounding the house. It doesn’t mention in the article that the owner would only sell us the house with the small side yard and garage for 1.2 million. He was offering us the house alone for $800,000. He planned to build a monstronsity right up against the house. No deal there. However, I was torn as I was told that he would possibly demolish this beauty. Sadly, the house is not landmarked. Later we found out from another couple who almost bought it that he bought it only 2 months previously for $700,000 and he was trying to turn it around and make $500,000 on it. This is not close to the subway and it is a transitional neighorhood. We felt a little better about losing it when the couple also told us that it had a decaying oil tank leaking under it (you’ll see in the picture an oil tank repair sign in the yard) and termite damage so bad that the tower was pulling away from the structure. It also smelled pretty awful. I think a cat hoarder had lived there. Hence, the kittens left behind after they moved. In addition, the little old cranky lady who sold it to him was still living there on the first floor! She wouldn’t even let us see the whole first floor even though we had an appointment which we made weeks before. So, what comes around goes around.
    Maybe he’d sell it for a lot less now. It certainly deserves to be saved. We just couldn’t afford to do so.

    If any of you have questions about places where you can get something special and large for under a million let me know. We really did our legwork all over the place (Staten Island, Jersey City, City Island, Vinegar Hill, Rhinebeck, Rhinecliff, Peekskill NJ, Plainfield NJ, Hoboken, Long Island City, Red Hook, Gowanus, Dobbs Ferry, Yonkers, etc…..) and I’d be happy to share our findings with you. Cheers, Cynthia

  • We live in a beautiful historic district on SI…we have a historic home that is on the market and we would love to find owners that are interested in lovingly preserving it as we have…

    here is our craig’s list link…open house 9/25


  • I am a real estate agent, a native staten islander, and someone who has lived around the north shore my entire life…I would be very happy to speak with anyone interested in staten island, especially the north shore..i showed the house on fort hill circle and loved it, as did my buyers – didnt come up high enough with their offer – still kicking themselves!…contact me at FLV351@aol.com

  • that’s an amazing home. i know that block, i used to park my car up there (my SI Ferry- park and ride). great choice.. and the price is right.

    St. George is experiencing a renaissance.. the Cargo Cafe has been the strong man in leading that movement.. with its everchanging murial-facade.

  • I am a grade student in psychology from a NJ suburb 20 miles west of New York City. I am very familiar with most of the suburbs of the New York metro area since real estate is a huge hobby of mine. Due to having a girlfriend there, I go to Staten Island often. I’ve seen the nicest parts of town Todt Hill, Nicalosi Drive. Anyway given this I’d have to say that there are a few nice houses in Staten, but overall its one of the worst places to live in America. 95% of the island is absolutely disgusting. It is probably the ugliest county in America. It also has a higher cancer rate than even the rest of metro new york because of all the industry around it. It has some of the meanest people I’ve ever met. It is urban yet residents there enjoy none of the benefits of urban life (e.g. major cultural destinations nearby, good public transportation) and all the problems (e.g. crowds, noise, pollution, traffic). I really don’t understand why anyone would want to live there. There are 4 bridges out–they cost $6, $6, $6, and $9! The schools are absolutely horrible.

  • St. George renaissance hah! It is still a big ugly ghetto. Have you been to Hoboken? Newport in Jersey City? St. George hasn’t been through 1/70th of the renaisance of Hoboken. The cargo cafe is an ugly restaurant with decent food that is a good value. I don’t see how that makes a whole neighborhood revitalized. Staten Island attracts almost no new residents from anywhere other thanBrooklyn possibly one of few places that has areas uglier than it. You don’t see someone move from NJ or Chicago or Westchester to Staten and its for a reason.

  • kk, I think you overlooked something:

    > enjoy none of the benefits
    > of urban life

    I think living in New York City qualifies as some of the best urban life in the world. I chose to live here (rather than the NJ suburbs, which can be quite lovely, but which are suburbs) because I get the best of all worlds. I think this is more true perhaps for St. George than for other parts of the island which are indeed more removed and self-sufficient. The North Shore waterfront of Staten Island, though, really does feel like it’s connected to the urban life of the city, and that’s the reason I chose to live there.

    To Jason, I’d say I do agree, St. George hasn’t had much of a revitalization at all yet, but since I moved here last summer, I’ve seen things happening slowly. And of course it’s the people from Brooklyn who are moving here, those are the same people who, ten years ago, made Brooklyn what it is now. That’s like saying, “Brooklyn isn’t interesting, it only had residents from Manhattan.”

  • I normally do not key in or write blogs because I am 2 busy, but this time I had 2 write in. I currently live in the prestigious and almighty Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens area and quite frankly am getting fed up. Its become Manhattan and thats not a good thing. Population boom and car boom, not to mention development/oversized building boom is sure to ruin this area soon. What I thought was once the best place to live is now getting on my nerves. You cannot walk one block in peace. People everywhere and way to many kids (not that I dislike them but they take up the remaining space). Smith street is over rated and the prices have become outrageous!!! Although I own a expensive property I am going to bail out while the market is still good. I think over development is going to drive prices down and continue to overpopulate the area which once was brooklyn best kept secret. Sorry if this offends anyone but if you take a step back you will agree. I think I am Staten Island bound. There is definately room from improvement there but at least there is some elbow room.

  • Interesting stuff here, vis-a-vis SI living. As a lifelong Islander who moved to Ridgewood, Queeens in 2005 (with various stops in other boros and San Diego over the years!), I sometimes miss the VERY quirky charms of Staten Island. St. George should be the next Hoboken, but then who wants to live in a very expensive frat-house ‘hood, where old-timers are anyone who has lived there for 3 years and way over-priced homes? The commute to/from SI can be rough (trust me), but the fact that SI is hard to get to w/o a car is what keeps it relatively inexpensive, clean, safe and un-hip. Islanders, for the most part, are nice (if not a bit weird and insular), which is also a plus. I barely know my neighbors in Ridgewood, and thruthfully don’t want to! If I were to move back to SI (and am seriously considering it), I’d pick Dongan Hills/Grant City/New Dorp corridor, as it has lots of shopping, places to park my little hoopdie safely, and numerous express bus routes to midtown Manhattan that run nights and weekends.

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    SI isn’t clean. It is hard to get to yet still plenty of people drive through it and traffic is a mess. The main problem is the horrible zoning and the fact that one road (Richmond Parkway) never got built as far as it was intended to. SI isn’t inexpensive either only compared to the rest of the city (which has access to the subway). It is expensive considering commuting is easier from places as far as Stamford, CT!