The abandoned courthouse has stood silently on Beach Channel Drive and Beach 90th Street, just east of Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge, for several decades, awaiting either the day when it would once again be occupied, or meet a wreckers’ ball.
The Magistrates’ Court sports the clean lines of the new Art Moderne buildings that were being built in 1932, the year it opened. In 1962, Queens consolidated its courts in Jamaica and Kew Gardens, and it was shuttered. It was reopened in the 1970s, briefly, by a cultural and theatrical group which soon succumbed to the fiscal crisis of that decade.
The New York Daily News attended today’s City Planning Commission meeting and, man, it was a doozy. As we blogged earlier, Daily News tweets reported that the CPC unanimously voted for plans to build condos on the 5Pointz site in LIC. The most recent development plans include two residential towers with retail space, outdoor art installations, maybe a climbing wall and swimming pool, and some affordable housing. The developer, David Wolkoff, has expressed a desire to demolish the graffiti-covered artist warehouse by the end of this year. It looks like 5Pointz artists don’t plan to go down without a fight — they are planning for a rally.
Also at today’s meeting, the commission approved zoning changes for the $1 billion Hallets Point project planned for the Astoria waterfront. The project (pictured above) will bring 2,600 units to a now-sleepy corner of Astoria. Plans for this mega-development have been floating around for years so it’s big new that it’s finally ready to roll. The commission-level approval today follows the Community Board 1 vote of support back in May.
Lastly, the CPC approved landmarking of Jamaica High School and Forest Park Carousel. No surprises there, since the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to landmark these two structures earlier this summer.
LeFrak City, the 20-building, 40-acre housing complex in Corona, has seen a lot in its nearly 51 years of existence. The Commercial Observer pens an in-depth piece today about the complex’s origins as a self-sufficient “city” built for middle-class New Yorkers, its struggle through the crack epidemic, and the diversity found there today. The complex has produced stars like NBA players Kenny Anderson and Kenny Smith, Sony Corporation President and Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai, and many musical artists. The Commercial Observer interviews Prodigy, a member of the hip-hop group Mobb Deep, on his time there from 1985 to 1990. As one longtime resident states of LeFrack today, “It’s not the same as it was 50 years ago – the whole climate has changed. But they’re working on it now to improve the quality of the complex.”
Is Ridgewood bound to become the next hipster haven of New York City? The New York Times seems to think so, in an article that looks at the rising popularity — and prices — in neighboring Bushwick. The average monthly rent for a studio in Bushwick rose 27 percent from July 2011, to $1,675, and it’s become the go-to neighborhood for hip restaurants, new development, and the HBO series Girls. Ridgewood, on the other hand, is home to much cheaper apartments, with a three-bedroom nearly 20 percent cheaper than in Bushwick. As the Times points out, Ridgewood doesn’t boast a comparable number of hipster destinations, but there are still “signs of gentrification.” They note Bunker, the new Vietnamese restaurant on Metropolitan Avenue, ChocoLatte Café, and the pedestrian plaza at the intersection of Myrtle Avenue, 71st Avenue and Stephen Street. Buyers aren’t immune to the neighborhood’s appeal, either. A family who couldn’t afford Bed Stuy or Bushwick on a budget of $700,000 ended up focusing their search over the borough line. The median sales price in Ridgwood is $400,000.
While development is moving quickly in Bushwick, it may play out a bit differently in Queens. The Ridgewood Community Board is pushing to designate a manufacturing area south of Myrtle Avenue as an industrial business zone, which would keep residential development from the 18-square-block area. But at the rate Bushwick is changing, the spillover into Ridgewood seems inevitable. At least for now, though, the neighborhood remains relatively under the radar. According to Andrew Barrocas, the chief executive of MNS, “We’re getting a lot of these landlords who historically have been in Manhattan saying, ‘Tell us about Bushwick; what is this area in Queens?’”
Daniel Karatzas, broker at the Beaudoin Realty Group, has just put out his latest quartlery version of the Jackson Heights Real Estate Report. Not surprisingly, the data is quite bullish, although the overall numbers are small enough that a single data point can really throw off the averages. Here’s a summary from the email he sent us: “The good news is that there is a strong positive trend in both sales and prices. However, the lack of inventory may constrain any increase in unit sales. Larger apartments and houses have far shallower inventories and will sell quickly. Overall, the lack of supply and increasing demand are helping prices rise. Jackson Heights has received some positive press attention of late, further adding to the increase in demand.” To get the full report, you can sign up here.
Chinese money has been pouring into New York real estate for years, but for a while the impact was felt primarily at the high end of the Manhattan market. Now, according to a story in today’s New York Times, newly-minted members of the Chinese middle class are starting to diversify their more modest wealth by purchasing condos in Queens and the neighborhood of Flushing in particular. It should come as no surprise that Flushing is ground-zero for this trend: It’s been a largely Asian neighborhood for years and it’s been undergoing something of a building boom more recently. Take the Sky View Parc, the 448-unit mixed use complex at the intersection of College Point Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue where one-bedrooms start at around half a million dollars. To date, 410 condos have sold to date, and of those 135–or about a third–have sold to buyers from China. Many of these apartments, according to the developer, will be held as investments and rented out. The article also notes that the Flushing market has gotten so intense that Chinese nationals are looking at other neighborhoods like Kew Gardens too.
First it was Williamsburg, then Greenpoint, then Bushwick. Is Ridgewood next? It’s on the L line, a prerequisite for catching the spillover from the more in-demand neighborhoods to the west. According to brokers and developers in an article in The Real Deal, more and more people squeezed out of those popular and increasingly expensive neighborhoods are heading for this once obscure section of Queens. The median sales price in the second quarter of this year in Ridgewood was $400,000, up 14 percent over the same period last year. One realtor told The Real Deal, ‘”We have people come into our office on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg and now we can turn them on to a property in Ridgewood. Before, that would have been impossible — now it’s relatively easy.’” Rents too are on the rise here as they are across the city. Ridgewood is now home to a burgeoning art scene. The gallery, Famous Accountants, opened in 2009 in the basement of the building where industrial noise musician Genesis P. Orridge lived until 2010. The co-founder of Galapagos Art Space has a gallery here. Restaurants and bars have followed. However, the kind of development that has transformed Williamsburg and Long Island City and is getting a foothold in Bushwick is unlikely here. Those neighborhoods had open waterfront or large industrial buildings for developers to convert or knock down to make way for large residential projects. Ridgewood has few of these buildings and lots of intact, and well looked after residential real estate — apartment buildings as well as townhosues. To the extent that there will a boom here, it may be one without the crush of development that has been such a large and controversial part of recent changes in Queens and Brooklyn. What have you seen happening in Ridgewood? Do you think Corcoran going to open an office there soon?
According to a report put out last week my Massey Knakal Realty Services, investor sales in Queens in the first half of 2013 jumped significantly over the first half of 2012. The number of sales in the borough increased 21 percent over the first half of the previous year and the total dollars in sales — $530 million — was up two percent. That is in contrast to the city as a whole where sales dropped by 5 percent in the first half of this year and the dollar volume was down by 6.6 percent compared to the first half of 2012. The overall drop in sales was expected due to a surge in sales in late 2012 caused by the increase in capital gains tax. All of this makes the sharp rise in sales in Queens particularly notable.
Yesterday the New York Times Magazine ran a story online examining the impact and the future of rent regulation in the city. In it, Adam Davidson argues that the mix of rich and aspiring in Manhattan — broke writers and wealthy publishers, young artists and wealthy collectors, etc. is part of what makes New York City great, relevant and an economic power. Rent regulation, be it rent control, rent stabilization, subsidized or public housing all make it possible for the less well off to live here. But, as he and many others have pointed out, these regulations have an unintended consequence. He writes, “There are, effectively, two rental markets in Manhattan. Roughly half the apartments are under rent regulation, public housing or some other government program. That leaves everyone else to compete for the half with rents determined by the market. [Christopher Mayer, a housing economist at Columbia Business School] points out that most housing programs tie government support to an apartment unit, not a person. “That is completely nuts.”’ Under this system, people wind up sitting on housing for decades. Whether they need it or not, they will never leave their fantastically cheap apartments. That, of course, stiffles supply which drives up the cost of market rate apartments for everyone else. As he points out, this kind of housing is waning. Older housing is phasing out of many of these programs, funding for new housing is facing the axe in congress and 231,000 units have been deregulated in the last 30 years. Tiny gestures like the offer of 75 affordable units (out of 1,000) at the proposed 5 Pointz development hardly keep pace with demand. Davidson speculates that those priced out of Manhattan will just move to the outer boroughs. That has already been happening for some time resulting in the development rush we’ve seen in many parts of the borough and price tags headed the direction of the $3 million townhouse in Long Island City. Is that trend only likely to accelerate? Has rent regulation worked for Queens? And how would a less regulated city housing market change the borough?
A Long Island City townhouse priced at $3.25 million has received several offers over $3 million possibly making it a record for the area. According to the broker, some offers were under $3 million and some over including some that were all cash and others not contingent on financing. The 21 foot-wide brick townhouse at 531 51st Avenue is set up as a four bedroom owners duplex with a finished basement playroom that includes its own entrance. It also has a 1,000 square foot two bedroom, two bathroom top floor rental with a roof deck that could be combined into the main house. Prices have been rising dramatically in parts of the borough according to the Wall Street Journal which first reported the offers on the home today. According to a report by the Real Estate Board of New York, sales prices of one to three family homes were up nine percent in the second quarter this year compared to last year. The median sales price borough-wide for these homes was $475,000. Prices in Astoria were up 27 percent in that period. However, prices in areas hit most severely by Hurricane Sandy including the Rockaways and Howard Beach were down by as much 30 percent.