04/16/14 9:30am

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As luxury high rises sprout up on nearly every vacant lot in south Williamsburg, sale prices in the area are expected to match those of north Williamsburg in a few years, said a story in The New York Times. Right now they trade at about a 15 percent discount, or $1,000 per square foot, vs. the north side’s nearly $1,200.

However, there isn’t much to buy: There were only 16 listings for sale in July, including co-ops, condos and townhouses. The average price was $1,780,000, according to Streeteasy.

About 90 percent of the housing in south Williamsburg is rental, said the story. Rents in the new buildings “are on the high side,” starting at about $3,000 a month for a one-bedroom. Some of the new buildings include 424 Bedford Avenue and 15 Dunham Place. Thousands more apartments are planned for the area, including the huge Domino redevelopment and The Oosten, the Chinese-owned condos.

South Williamsburg: Catching up to the North Side [NY Times]

04/14/14 11:30am

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Store owners on Court and Smith streets in Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill and Carroll Gardens are banding together to create a Business Improvement District, or BID. They have also launched an online survey.

The purpose of the proposed merchants association would be to strengthen local mom and pops, who are facing escalating rents in the area due to recent lease signings from retailers such as J.Crew, Splendid and Rag & Bone, according to DNAinfo. “Merchants on Court and Smith streets are banding together to draw more business to the area so that they can afford the neighborhood’s rapidly rising rents,” said the story.

Like all BIDs, the group would take on sanitation, greening, safety and marketing to help businesses in the area thrive. They’ve also launched an online campaign to raise $10,000 for the BID.

Steering Committe members include D’Amico Coffee, Carroll Gardens Realty, Diane T., Stinky BKLYN, Viceroy Properties and Mazzone Hardware. Pictured above is a lower stretch of Court Street near the BQE.

04/09/14 9:00am

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For years people have been wondering who is buying luxury condos and multi-million-dollar townhouses in Brooklyn. Frequently the answer was people who had sold a one- or two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. But times have changed, and the new buyer in Brooklyn more closely resembles the traditional buyer in Manhattan: Buyers with a household income of $300,000 or more who work in finance, accounting, sales, law or marketing, according to a report from Brooklyn real estate firm Ideal Properties.

“The number of these high-income earners who bought homes in these areas shot up more than 316 percent in the first quarter of 2014 compared to the previous year,” said a story about the report in DNAinfo. “They accounted for 30 percent of the buyers.”

The number of buyers earning between $100,000 and $199,000 accounted for only 1 percent more of buyers, 31 percent. However, even buyers who can afford a given property may find themselves having to settle for something else because buyers with bigger assets or who can pay all cash have the edge, according to DNAinfo.

Interestingly, almost 25 percent of buyers in the first quarter were self employed, with the vast majority (74 percent) of those identifying as principals or owners of their own companies. This was a 16 percent increase from the fourth quarter and a 45 percent increase from the year earlier.

Slightly under half of all purchases were made by couples; singles accounted for 40 percent of buys.

Most buyers — 39 percent — already lived in Brooklyn. Seventeen percent came from Manhattan, 9 percent from California, and 12 percent from outside the U.S.

The numbers are based on information submitted to Ideal Properties Group from buyers. The area studied is the North and Northwest sections of Brooklyn only. Areas such as Bed Stuy, Crown Heights, PLG and Bay Ridge were not included.

Profile of Home Buyers in Brooklyn Q1 Report [Ideal Properties]

04/03/14 9:00am

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Prices are up, crime is down, and business is booming in Crown Heights, according to an article in The New York Post. “Crown Heights’ reputation has greatly improved in the past two years, but it always boasted great housing stock,” said the Post.

The paper recounts the story of an artist, whom it calls a “pioneer,” who bought a brownstone in the neighborhood 12 years ago as a studio and investment property while living in Park Slope. Eleven years later, he and his family bought another townhouse and moved. They paid $400,000 for the first house, $840,000 for the second, and now “recently comparable brownstones have sold in the $1,200,000 to $1,600,000 million range,” said the story. As the years went by “there was a lot less crime, walking down the street was more comfortable. There were more shops opening. It just felt better,” he said.

Investors and developers are also doing more in the area, and land prices are up. More than 15 condo developments are currently in the works, with a seven-unit building at 875 St. Marks Avenue slated to open in the next two months with prices starting at $449,000 for a one-bedroom.

The story also notes that Brownstoner’s 1000 Dean Street office space will open this month, and Brooklyn Flea’s Berg’n beer hall and restaurant will open in May.

But, with brownstones in Fort Greene and elsewhere going for $3,000,000 and up, the neighborhood is still relatively affordable. “If you want a really classic Brooklyn brownstone, it’s one of the last affordable neighborhoods where you can get it,” the story quoted Douglas Elliman broker Alex Maroni as saying.

Brooklyn Neighborhood With a Bad Rap Finally Makes Good [NY Post]

03/10/14 9:00am

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It’s not exactly news that as neighborhoods gentrify, the artists who jump started the process are priced out. However, it may be the end of the line for some artists priced out of Industry City in Brooklyn, the huge industrial complex in Sunset Park, according to a story in The New York Times.

The Times followed up with some 24 of nearly 50 artists who left the complex more than six months ago after new owners raised rents there. After moving every few years for decades, some are using their living space as studios, changing the art they do to accommodate cramped quarters. Meanwhile, a few artist organizations are working on buying or leasing spaces for artists in Brooklyn in the affordable $250 to $400 a month range. The article noted that affordable space is even difficult to find in areas that are “too remote” such as Staten Island, Queens and the Bronx.

Many reader comments said it’s no longer necessary for artists to live in New York City, thanks to social media, and they should consider alternative locations such as Newburgh, Philadelphia and Buffalo.

“To own in Manhattan, you need an income over $250,000,” said commenter avery_t. “People with an income of $150,000 are getting pushed into Brooklyn. People with an income under $100,000 are getting pushed further into Brooklyn. People with an income of $50,000 are getting pushed out of Brooklyn. Etc.”

Here’s how reader RG of La Jolla, Calif., described the process: “Artists are the worms in the compost heap of redevelopment. Developers are the ones with the pitchforks.”

Do you think the city should give tax breaks or other assistance to artists in Brooklyn or let them move out of the borough?

Rising Rents Leave Sunset Park Artists out in the Cold [NY Times]
Photo by Chris Havens

03/05/14 9:30am

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Tenants of about a dozen buildings in Crown Heights have formed a group to fight gentrification, landlord abuse and rising rents called Crown Heights Tenant Union, Brooklyn Bureau reported. Formed in October, the group recently held a rally outside 1059 Union Street, above, to protest landlords who try to force out longtime tenants to deregulate apartments and raise rents.

“When long term tenants move out, landlords have been gutting the apartments to deregulate the rents,” said the story. “At the same time the long term residents are not getting repairs in their units.”

The group was created with the assistance of the Pratt Area Community Council and the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, or UHAB. The union has a list of demands, “including a five-year rent freeze, timely repairs, a right to organize and a right to fair leases.”

“They’re beautifying the neighborhood,” the story quoted a long-term resident as saying. “I’ve been here for 36 years. I want to enjoy that also.”

Crown Heights Tenants Form Union to Fight Gentrification [Brooklyn Bureau]
Rapidly Rising Rents Drive out Recent Arrivals in Crown Heights [Brownstoner]
Photo by Nicholas Strini for PropertyShark

02/25/14 9:00am

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As market rents rise dramatically in North Brooklyn, landlords are destroying their own buildings to get rent-regulated tenants to move, according to stories in Gothamist and The New York Times today. Meanwhile, landlords are suing the new state agency designed to crack down on unscrupulous landlords who harass tenants or commit fraud to decontrol their buildings, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Gothamist details the story of Catalina Hidalgo, a tenant at 300 Nassau in Greenpoint who until recently was paying $754 a month in rent. After Hidalgo, an expediter and mother of two 18-month-old twins, reported the landlord for mishandling asbestos abatement during a gut renovation of the apartment below her, the supporting beam under her bathroom was removed. In December, the building’s boilers, water heater, and electrical systems were destroyed with an axe. The DOB issued a full vacate order for the six-unit building. One of the tenants is living in a homeless shelter; the others are staying with friends.

As it happens, the landlord, Joel Israel, is also the landlord of 98 Linden Street in Bushwick, profiled in the Times today. Brownstoner readers may be familiar with the story, which Brooklyn Bureau detailed last month. Under the guise of making repairs, the landlord ripped out floors, walls and plumbing in the kitchens and bathrooms of the two first floor apartments. Eight months later, the construction wreckage is still there and can be seen in a Times video.

Some new twists in the case: When the DOB fined the landlord for demo without a permit, the landlord successfully argued that the tenants had done it, despite a case against him for hundreds of violations by the Department of Housing and Preservation.

Gentrification has pushed so far out in Brooklyn that tenants are moving out of New York City altogether.

“The market for housing has expanded enough that there’s a demand for expensive apartments even that far out [in Brownsville and Canarsie],” Gothamist quoted Cypress Hills Development Corporation tenant organizer Dubois Thomas as saying. “I see it coming down Bushwick Avenue toward East New York — I literally see it. It’s kind of scary.”

Under Bloomberg, more than 60,000 rent regulated units were decontrolled, said the Times.

A tenant at 193 Bedford Avenue in north Williamsburg who works as a home attendant and street vendor was forced to move to Coney Island where she pays twice the rent when the city issued a vacate order because the building was in danger of “imminent collapse” because of the landlord’s “renovations,” according to Gothamist. The building has since been restored but the tenant cannot return to the building because her apartment has been rented to someone else for $3,000 a month.

Yesterday, landlords sued the state over the creation of a state agency, Tenant Protection Unit, designed to prevent exactly these sorts of abuses, claiming it is unfair to landlords.

De Blasio ran on a platform of ending these kinds of abuses and recently said he plans to strengthen tenant protection to prevent homelessness. He has also said he wants to increase development of new buildings and affordable units in them. Do you think these policies will work?

Gentrification Sparks Surge in Landlord Sabotage in North Brooklyn [Gothamist]
Tenants Living Amid Rubble in Rent-Regulated Apartment War [NY Times]
The Fight for 98 Linden [NY Times]
New York City Landlords Sue Over Tenant Protections [WSJ]
Photo by Nicholas Strini for PropertyShark

 

02/18/14 9:30am

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Decades-long residents of a walkup building at 78 St. Marks Place in Park Slope fear losing their homes to a new development. The building, on the corner of 4th Avenue, sold two years ago to new owners, who have filed permits to replace it with a warehouse, The New York Times reported. The new owners have offered the residents money to leave, but it is not enough for a new home, said the residents.

The owners, Victor and Harry Einhorn, father and son, told the Times they actually plan to build a condo tower, not a warehouse. According to PropertyShark, the FAR on the building is 6, and the current building uses slightly less than half that. In 2002, the elder Einhorn was convicted of fraud. They also made headlines recently for serving eviction papers to a Williamsburg day care and senior center.

The New York Times said:

This is New York City in an age of real estate as oil wells. To speak of gentrification, that house-by-house renovation march, is not to do this justice. This is turbo charged, developer plotted, bank fueled, quite intentional and difficult to mediate.

The residents said gentrification has improved the area for the better and they would like to stay.

After Decades at a Walk-up in Park Slope, Tenants Fear Losing a Home [NY Times]
Photo by Nicholas Strini for PropertyShark

Update: It looks like the new owners are planning much more than a condo development at one address. In October of 2011 they picked up the three adjacent properties, 85 4th Avenue, 80-82 St. Marks Place, and 87 4th Avenue, in one transaction for $5,400,000, public records show. Except for the aforementioned permit to build a new two-story commercial property, no permits have been filed for these addresses.

02/12/14 9:00am

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Despite efforts to include members from a variety of backgrounds, food co-ops in Clinton Hill, Bushwick, Oakland, Calif., and other gentrifying areas across the U.S. are having a hard time attracting low-income, non-white residents as members, according to a story in the New York Times.

The Greene Hill Food Co-op in Clinton Hill and the Bushwick Food Co-op — two alternatives to the overcrowded Park Slope Food Co-op — are well under way, as more than 120 co-ops open across the country. In Prospect Lefferts Gardens, a group starting a co-op there has secured a storefront space and hopes to open soon, The Brooklyn Paper reported.

The Bushwick Food Co-op organizes tours and other outreach efforts through neighborhood groups; Greene Hill offers discounted memberships for low-income members. But, we would like to point out, because they are new and lack the buying power of a large membership, they cannot offer the extremely low prices and high quality for which the Park Slope Food Co-op is famed. (Prices there are about 30 percent lower than other groceries in New York City, even mainstream ones, according to studies.)

The Times also mentions an African-American-led effort in Detroit, but says recent attempts to start co-ops in East New York and the South Bronx have failed.

The story does not mention the Park Slope Food Co-op’s diverse membership, which includes Hasidic Jews, African-Americans, low-income members, and people who live in subsidized housing. We remember back in the 1970s when food co-ops symbolized a do-it-yourself effort to lower costs and improve nutrition, not yuppification. Perhaps new Brooklyn co-ops could short circuit some growing pains by doing group buys with the Park Slope Food Co-op.

Do you think food co-ops are a positive or negative development for Brooklyn?

Food Co-ops in Gentrifying Areas Find They Aren’t to Every Taste [NY Times]
Thought for Food Co-op in Prospect Lefferts Gardens [Brooklyn Paper]

02/03/14 10:45am

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A panel on gentrification Thursday night at P.S. 321 proposed some concrete ideas for things people can do to improve affordability and increase diversity in their neighborhoods and schools. As a slide show of photos of Brooklyn’s changing communities played in the background, three sociology professors, all of whom live in Brooklyn, briefly presented their research on gentrification and then took questions from the audience. The panel was convened by the school’s Diversity Committee, made up of P.S. 321 parents.

The main way to improve affordability and diversity in the borough is to increase the availability of affordable housing, said the panel. There are many ways to do this, including via rent regulation, community land trusts, co-ops and taxpayer-funded development. “We should be advocating more public investment in these projects, especially at the federal level, and ensure distribution in the most equitable way, including to different neighborhoods,” said Emily Molina, a professor at Brooklyn College whose research focuses on the uneven impact of the ongoing foreclosure crisis. “The private market will not do that.”

Practical suggestions for improving diversity at P.S. 321 included joint projects with other schools. “Figure out what resources you have to share so you can be involved in joint projects,” said Brooklyn College Professor Emeritus of Sociology Jerome Krase. “Think of the district as being one large school.” (more…)

01/27/14 4:00pm

P.S. 321′s Diversity Committee is hosting three sociology professors for a roundtable discussion on gentrification this Thursday. Their conversation will explore the changing racial, ethnic and economic demographics in Brooklyn, as well as the causes and consequences of gentrification in neighborhoods throughout the borough.

The panelists are Dr. Zaire Dinzey-Flores, associate sociology professor at Rutgers, Dr. Jerome Krase, professor emeritus of sociology at Brooklyn College, and Dr. Emily Molina, associate professor of sociology at Brooklyn College.

Audience members will get to ask questions after the panel is over, and the discussion is open to the public. The Diversity Committee “is a parent-run group at P.S. 321 that is committed to creating a welcoming environment, which supports the rights of all individuals and reflects respect for our diverse student body with a spirit of sensitivity and tolerance,” in their own words.

The panel will take place Thursday at 6:30 pm in the auditorium of P.S. 321, located at 180 7th Avenue between 1st and 2nd streets.

01/09/14 10:00am

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WNYC has been doing a series on middle-income neighborhoods in New York City. Yesterday it was Bed Stuy’s turn.

They spoke to three residents about their households — two who with their families have been in the neighborhood for many years and own property there, and a couple who just arrived and is renting. While the story doesn’t get specific about all their incomes, ironically it looks like the renters, who are public interest lawyers, have the highest incomes, but are also living paycheck to paycheck with crazy student loan debt and relatively high housing costs. They are struggling to save a down payment to buy something, and note that by the time they do, if they do, they won’t be able to afford to buy anything in Bed Stuy.

All those interviewed identify as middle class, as most U.S. residents do, although a sociologist would probably disagree. The series assumes that “middle income” is also “middle class,” which is not necessarily the case, depending on how you define class.

One of the long-time residents plans to pass her house on to her children. The other one intends to cash out and move someplace warmer.

The story extensively quoted Evans & Nye co-owner and Bed Stuy resident Ban Leow, whose agency has been setting price records left and right for exquisite brownstones in the area. With a refreshing honesty, he acknowledged real estate firms play a role in gentrification. “A lot of middle class people are looking for homes around here, it also seems they’re being priced out,” he said. ”The vigorous activity of Bed-Stuy became suddenly so hot, we are partly the reason for it as well…Brokers are always the person that brings the right people in, creates this vibrant mix of people, and hence business will come in, prices will go up and you are liked by some, hated by many.”

The story also has many beautiful photos of Bed Stuy’s amazing architecture. (Above, some brownstones we photographed — but click through to the WNYC story to see their great photos.)

The bottom line, according to the story? Bed Stuy is not going to remain middle income for long.

The Middle Class Squeeze in Bedford-Stuyvesant [WNYC]