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We were astounded to pass by and see the falling-down house at 1260 Bushwick Avenue has been fixed up. If anyone’s wandered these parts, they’ve surely noticed the row house next to an empty lot with its front facade peeling off, porch roof crumbling and, most remarkable and eye-catching of all, huge side wall sheathed in pieces of thin plywood — and some of those coming loose as well. It’s been like this at least since 2007, based on PropertyShark photos and our own visits to the area. Sometimes it looked as though people were living in it, too, although we were never sure. Or perhaps they were squatters.

There had been signs, over the months, that some kind of construction might be imminent, but we didn’t really believe it. In any case, now here it is, with a completely new stucco facade, looking as if it were never abandoned or a likely candidate for a tear-down.

After years of stagnation, there is a frenzy of construction in Bushwick. It’s impossible to walk down the street in Bushwick without seeing new buildings rising and old ones being renovated — generally by investors, not owner occupants. We’ll be showing you more projects over the next week or two.

In the meantime, click through to see more photos of 1260 Bushwick as well as other houses being spruced up — or horribly altered, depending on your point of view. The stucco-over-wood-frame treatment is very popular these days. We saw two more up the avenue. (more…)

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You couldn’t give away a new-construction condo in Bushwick in 2009, but now new ones are starting to appear – along with Miley Cyrus twerking at parties there, apparently, as a story in The New York Times makes official. Brookland Capital has just launched sales at 13 Melrose Place, which is well located on the north side of Bushwick close to Flushing.

They weren’t aiming to attract families, because all the eight units in the building there are one-bedrooms. The condos are aimed at the first time buyer and intended to equal the cost of renting, Brookland Capital’s Boaz Gilad told the Times. “If they’re renting an apartment now for, let’s say, $2,400 a month, we price our units between $2,400 to $2,700 a month for mortgage, taxes and maintenance — but now they own the unit.” Asking prices for the units range from $389,000 to $733,000 (the latter for a one-bedroom duplex with windowless storage space).

Other developments are pushing into still marginal areas by the last Bushwick stops on the J train and L train. A condo development at 1300 Decatur Street, for example, is two blocks from the cemetery and a Superfund site in Ridgewood, Queens.

Much more common are new rental developments in the area. Construction is nowhere near started on the huge Rheingold Brewery development. Above, construction is well along at the block-long development of a church and school at 616 Bushwick Avenue, a rental development not mentioned in the Times article.

The rest of the article describes well-traveled territory such as how trendy Bushwick has become, displacement and rising rents. Interestingly, a new anti-gentrification group, Northwest Bushwick Community Group, which is helping residents stay in their homes, is asking the city to start tracking displacement of residents. What do you think of that idea?

Bushwick Takes the Spotlight [NY Times]

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Welcome to the Hot Seat, where we interview people involved in real estate, architecture, development and design. Introducing Christopher Allen, Founder and Artistic Director of UnionDocs, a documentary film collective based in Williamsburg. We talked with Allen about UnionDocs’ ongoing collaborative project Living Los Sures, which chronicles the culture, history and stories of Williamsburg’s Southside. You can check out a video installation with some of the project’s short films at the Ildiko Butler Gallery at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus. They’ll also screen some of their short films on September 19 at 7 pm, during the Southside Connex street festival in Havermeyer Park.

Brownstoner: What neighborhood do you live in, and how did you end up there?

Christopher Allen: We live in Clinton Hill. We moved there last year after living in Williamsburg since 2002. We found a place that we liked, and rent was going up in our building and it didn’t feel like it was a good deal anymore.

BS: Can you talk about the beginnings of “Living Los Sures”?

CA: We’ve been involved in a restoration project with the New York Public Library to restore and rerelease a film from 1984 called Los Sures by Diego Echeverria. That film we’ve been working with for four years — it’s inspired about 30 documentary projects made by people in our studio. Over 50 people have been involved in creating short documentaries about the neighborhood today over the last four years. We’re also doing a participatory platform where we’ve split the film from 1984 into different shots and we’re splicing in longtime residents of the neighborhood talking about places in the film.

So the project is three parts: the participatory website, called Los Sures Shot by Shot. There are 30 short documentaries, produced by our collaborative fellows. One of the characters from the original documentary, we’re updating her story as she sells her apartment and leaves the neighborhood. It’s an interactive documentary called 89 steps. She’s considering leaving the city and moving out — and the film follows her as she goes through that process, and we learn a little bit of history about the building she’s lived in for 40 years.

That’ll be launched at the New York Film Festival September 27.

After the jump, Christopher talks about gentrification on the Southside, Sternberg Park and how rezoning has shaped the neighborhood.

(more…)

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Developer Bawabeh Brothers is planning to remake a six-shop stretch of Fulton Street into a destination spot for upscale retail, including boutiques, restaurants and bars aimed at “Bed Stuy’s growing creative community,” according to an elaborate online marketing brochure forwarded to us by a tipster over the weekend. “Somewhere between the tough streets immortalized in the hip-hop genre and the chatter of gentrification and hipster invasion, Bed Stuy offers an interesting mix of transition and history in one of Brooklyn’s most fascinating neighborhoods,” continues the brochure, which is aimed at prospective retail tenants. (more…)

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The new owner of an Edwardian apartment building in Clinton Hill is renovating and raising rents as tenants vacate. The renovated apartments have more bedrooms and less common space than the old ones. It’s a pattern we’re seeing all over the borough in neighborhoods where rents are rising quickly, such as Bed Stuy and Crown Heights. (more…)

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A dramatic surge in sale prices and rents is causing change and displacement at a head-spinning pace in Crown Heights, Bed Stuy, Bushwick and other neighborhoods in Brooklyn, according to a story in Bloomberg. Buyers with more than a million to spend are choosing to buy whole houses in Crown Heights and similar neighborhoods rather than cramped apartments elsewhere. The story said:

Young buyers and renters who can no longer afford such established communities as Fort Greene, Park Slope and Williamsburg are moving to Crown Heights, Bedford Stuyvesant and Bushwick, bidding against investors for townhomes that have been neglected for decades. Longtime tenants too poor to afford the new rents in the predominantly black districts are moving out to less-well connected, more dangerous places.

We were particularly struck by this stark — and potentially depressing, depending on your situation — description of the wealth now required to buy in much of Brooklyn:

Families with children are increasingly choosing to stay in New York City and if they don’t have millions to spend, their options are limited, said Kathleen Perkins, a Realtor at Douglas Elliman Real Estate who helped the Katzes find their Crown Heights townhouse. “My cheapest house for sale in Fort Greene/Clinton Hill is $2,500,000,” Perkins said. “If you have $1,500,000 and you’re my client, I’m driving you to Bed Stuy or Crown Heights.”

The story is pitch-perfect, in our opinion, in its overview of what is happening here and why, even though none of it will be news to regular readers of Brownstoner. Does it ring true to you?

Brooklyn Boom Squeezes Buyers Pushing Into Crown Heights [Bloomberg]

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This weekend The New York Times real estate section looked at people who are finding themselves priced out of Brooklyn. No doubt this has been going on for ages, but the story points to some pricing trends that show that real estate in Brooklyn, or at least in the most expensive north and western neighborhoods (from Red Hook north to Greenpoint and Gowanus and Park Slope) is quickly accelerating towards Manhattan pricing, particularly since the financial crisis in 2008.

According to the story, in the second quarter of this year there were 107 sales over $2 million in these neighborhoods, more than any other quarter. Since 2008 the median sales price has inched 33 percent closer to the median sales price in Manhattan–now $575,000 in Brooklyn versus $910,000 in Manhattan. Five years ago median rental price in these parts of Brooklyn was $1,030 cheaper than in Manhattan. Now it is only $353 cheaper. (more…)

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Longtime Brooklynite and Brownstoner reader Heather Murray recently moved from Clinton Hill to Washington, D.C., because of a job change. But the Brooklyn she misses was already history before she left. She writes:

I’ve always loved places with history — and Brooklyn used to be such a place. Old lived easily alongside the new. People had rent control and rent stabilization, which meant –- pretty much –- that if you stayed in one place for long enough, you could build a nice life there.

But Brooklyn has changed. I’m stating the obvious, but that’s what I do.

Brooklyn used to be a place where you could step back in time. Parts of the city seemed to be completely unchanged from the ’20s, the ’30s, the ’40s, the ’50s and so on. There was Italian Williamsburg, and Polish Greenpoint, and Prospect Lefferts Gardens (which I only remember being referred to as “Flatbush” back then) and the Dyno-mite Lounge. Pork stores and Wash-O-Matics. Century-old bakeries on residential streets, and the fresh bread smell in the morning.

What I find most depressing about the pace of Brooklyn’s change is the erosion of the communities that Chris Arnade celebrates in his article, “Some Things I Will Miss About Brooklyn.” Working class people in Brooklyn are now under siege. If they’re lucky, they might get a buyout, or a lottery slot for affordable housing. If they’re not, they’re displaced. I knew a family at our old school in Clinton Hill who commuted from Staten Island. STATEN ISLAND — so that their kids could stay with their friends and be near extended family for childcare. In Clinton Hill and elsewhere in Brooklyn, churches are closing. And the people — the people that spun the fabric of these amazing communities? Those people are leaving.

They leave for East New York, for Atlanta, for the Poconos, for Forest Hills, for Yonkers. They leave for Mamaroneck, for Montclair, for Austin, for Florida. And they are replaced with people who are never home (perhaps because they work all the time?). They are being replaced by investors, or relocated bankers from Europe on two-year assignments. New York City has always been a place where people come from elsewhere and move to — in that sense, none of this is new. But what’s being lost now is being replaced with a facade of itself. Behind that reclaimed barn wood is cheap drywall. And all the patina of old Brooklyn that the new Brooklyn loves — the Edison lights, the “hand-crafted” cocktails (as opposed to made by… robots?), the artisanal pickles –- all of that doesn’t make up for the real thing that’s gone forever.

All of that fake patina, replacing the real.

I’m a hypocrite. I enjoy a good restaurant with reclaimed barn wood and old timey wallpaper just as much as the rest of my herd. But, having left Brooklyn and most of that motif behind (we live now in a part of D.C. that doesn’t have much of it) — I’m not missing having three wood-burning pizza restaurants that make their own cheese within a five-block radius of my house. I’m not missing much, actually. Except the people. I miss the people terribly. And I hope that everyone who wants to can manage to stay.

Slave-Theater

The son of the man who used to be the caretaker for the storied Slave Theater at 1215 Fulton Street in Bed Stuy, who claims to be the rightful heir to the property but lost a court case contesting its ownership, has prevented the new owner, an LLC, from taking soil samples and plans to tear down any fence erected to keep him out, according to a story in the Brooklyn Eagle.

Meanwhile, the LLC has amassed two other sites adjacent to the Slave Theater, said another story in the Eagle. The developer has not said publicly what it plans to do with the sites, but a mixed-use apartment development seems likely. Most important, plans to restore and continue the Afrocentric theater’s mission in a new form are, surprisingly, not dead.  (more…)

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Rents are high all over Brooklyn, and the price gap between “prime” and “emerging” neighborhoods is narrowing.

Average rents increased 6.82 percent since June 2013, with rents in Crown Heights increasing the most of any Brooklyn neighborhood in the last year, according to a report out from MNS. Average rents in Brooklyn are now $2,741 a month, up from $2,566 a month in June 2013. (more…)

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Brooklyn past and present are coexisting nicely, found a 44-year resident of the borough when he stayed overnight at the Wythe Hotel and wrote about the memories it prompted for The New York Times travel section over the weekend.

The forces behind the changes of the last 44 years are, of course, complex. Many have lost out, been pushed out, as others have thrived; not everyone from Brooklyn has benefited from the new Brooklyn. But coming here on vacation allows you to marvel at what the place has become, even as the forces behind it linger beneath the surface. When I visit a foreign city, my greatest joy is to just walk around. Park Slope is the perfect place for that, with its spectacular collection of 1880s neo-Grec rowhouses. The Plaza Hotel is now a fancy condominium, beautifully done; Prospect Park, a finely groomed sylvan escape rather than a netherworld of foreboding. This is a neighborhood where physical urban beauty is as easy to appreciate as it is in Paris or Edinburgh. Much remains as it was, even if there are an awful lot of bank branches and real estate offices. The sycamore trees on St. Johns Place still provide a cooling canopy in summer, three churches still stand sentry at the top of the block. The faux-oriental plastic letters of the San Toy Laundry on Seventh Avenue are as unintentionally comic today as they were then. The girls whom my 14-year-old son hangs around with look and dress almost exactly like the girls with whom I sat on stoops 30 years ago. They even listen to the same bands.

Other conclusions: The real estate prices are crazy, of course, but one can hear good music everywhere, and the borough is perhaps somewhat more racially harmonious and accepting than it once was. There are still murders and muggings. Do you think it’s a fair portrait?

My Brooklyn, Then and Now [NY Times]
Impressions of Brooklyn [NY Times]