Thursday, April 26, 2007

Don't go changing to try and please me

The notion that PLG has been "next" -- the next undiscovered neighborhood, the location of the next real estate explosion, the next retail hotspot -- has been around virtually since Flatbush recovered from the dual blows of the '77 riots (which drove out many of the mom and pop stores that lined the Avenue) and the decade-long crack binge that's been on the wane since the mid-1990s (although reminders certainly survive on Beekman Place).

Even considering the years of not-quite-realized expectations (or hype, depending on your viewpoint), there seems to be more positive indicators now than there's been in, well, ever, a fact which has not gone unnoticed by the more observant Brooklyn observers out there. Brown Harris Stevens -- which, for years, has seemed like the only real estate agency that has any sense of the PLG market -- has, within the last the six months, sold three houses on Midwood between Flatbush and Bedford, the much-discussed Ocean Ave abode, and a 25-foot wide beauty on the corner of Rutland & Bedford, all for $1.2 million or above. This weekend, Corcoran is hosting an open house for another property on that first block of Midwood (a three-story landmarked brick priced at $1.2); just down the block, Brown Harris is having another showing of the two (and a half) story limestone (and former Brownstoner house of the day) at 181 Midwood for $925,000. (We haven't seen either of those; however, judging from Corcoran's seemingly poor sense of pricing in the neighborhood, it's hard to know what to expect from them.)

Still, despite the surfeit of homes on the market -- and despite the fact that PLG seems to be the only neighborhood within a mile of the park where gorgeous single families can be had for between $900,000 and $1.25 million -- there remain many people who've never even heard of PLG...and meanwhile, broken-down brownstones much further from the park (and from transportation) and in more dangerous neighborhoods regularly command prices that are 20 percent.

So what gives? One theory is services. Another is mid-market availability -- unlike virtually every other brownstone neighborhood, the century-old gems in the Lefferts landmark district can't be carved up. On the one hand, that means that a lot of original detail remains; it also means there's no rental income to offset mortgages and no floor-throughs for people to buy.

There's also the notion that PLGers like where they live, like they way they live, and don't particularly feel like cheerleading. The other evening, as five families (and their nine kids, all between two and ten) gathered on the sidewalk after work and before dinner, one of the fathers (a musician with two of the aforementioned kids), said that he often felt as if he didn't like New York...but that he loved PLG. It wasn't hard to understand what he meant. Many of the neighborhoods we've lived in -- from Williamsburg to Boerum Hill, from the Lower East Side to the West Village -- have gone from being vibrant and wonderful to being overrun and annoying...oftentimes within four or five years (less if said neighborhood is featured on the Sex and the City tour). Maybe the real reason PLG hasn't seen more wholesale change is as simple as the fact that the people who live there are happy with things the way they are...

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