Wednesday, May 30, 2007

New bar at the old Handyman? (This week's TILT SIP ProLeGs)

Charles just posted an intriguing comment in last week's post about the PLG commute (and how it compares to Williamsburg). I didn't want it to get lost in the shuffle, so here it is, in all its glory:

"There is a notice of a liquor license application on the gated storefront of what used to be The Handyman bar on Flatbush between Hawthorne and Winthrop." (The Handyman was at 673 Flatbush.) Any word/rumors/speculation about what's going on here? And while we're at it, let's fire up this week's TILT SIP ProLeGs -- or Things I'd Like to See in Planet PLG. My latest fantasy: some sort of performing arts space. Yes, this was prompted by this morning's Times story about Williamsburg's Galapagos moving to Dumbo. I think the Times overstated the effect Galapagos had on Williamsburg -- the hipster revival was already off and running (and you could argue this as a chicken/egg thing, too) -- and I think they're overestimating the effect it'll have on Dumbo. That said, there's nothing like a destination, whether it's a top-notch restaurant, an intriguing gallery, a new performing arts space, to help introduce a neighborhood to the outside world.

Being paid for community development and the makeup of PLUS: a follow up

Last Thursday, I posted some details of the Prospect-Lefferts application for a city grant and what that would mean for staff funding. I'd urge everyone to check it out -- not to read the post itself, but to read the spirited responses left in the comments section.

One clarification: in raising the question of what appears to be a $50,000 annual payment to a salaried executive director (a post which current Prospect-Lefferts United (PLUS) for Services Mark Dicus nominated himself) I wasn't trying to pass any sort of judgment...I was just raising the question. I'm one of those 'sunlight is the best disinfectant' folks, and I'm hard-pressed to think of an example where more transparency in any kind of public or civic organization is a bad thing. Maybe $50,000 a year is way too little money; I really don't know. But it can't hurt to talk about it.

What does bother me is what feels like an attitude of secrecy within PLUS. There is currently no way for community members to communicate regularly with members of PLUS. I've received several reports from people who've tried to get information from current members -- in order to discuss various suggestions and to learn more about the application for the city grant -- and were told that was not information meant for the hoi polloi. And it seems as if there's still no information regarding what happened at last week's board meeting. (As it is, the only reason anyone outside of PLUS even knows about the application for city funds is because of an email snafu whereby Mark sent out what was meant to be an email to board members to the entire PLG Yahoo board.) I'm well aware of all the good work PLUS has done, just as I'm well aware of its passionate commitment to PLG. I'm also of the mind that if a group wants to speak for the community -- and get paid by the city for doing so -- we'd all be better off if more information was made available and more participation was encouraged.

That's my two cents. Anyone else want to weigh in?

Wanted: one good photographer

One of the best and most beloved features of the original PPLG was a wonderful photo slideshow of the annual PLG house tour. As you undoubtedly know, this year's house tour (the 37th) is on Sunday from noon to five pm. (Check out details and buy advance tickets here.) Unfortunately, I'm no good with a camera...but I'd very much like to carry on in PLG's fine tradition. Anyone out there willing to volunteer for a one-day photo gig should email me at Thanks.

Nothing? Did everyone starve last night?

It's been more than 12 hours since the cut-off for pick up of last night's CSA bounty...and I've received nary a dispatch on people's culinary delights. No rhubarb pie reports? No spinach and broccoli feasts? I'm happy to report that Mrs. PPLG and I enjoyed an orecchiette with kale, pancetta, and oregano, along with a mixed-greens salad. Even though I try, as a rule, to avoid all vegetables, even I have to admit this was delicious...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Today: first day of the CSA!

Today's the first day of deliveries for the PLG CSA. Reports are the first week's bounty will be on the sparse side, and will include lots of greens -- kale, lettuce, boc choi, chinese cabbage, etc. -- but the deliveries will be getting bigger as we get further into growing street. We expect a full report on the healthyliciousness of the Woodbridge Farm's veggie delights before the night is done...

PLG celebrates Memorial Day weekend...with a stabbing?

It was an absolutely glorious weekend here in PLG: the wonders of Prospect Park were in full bloom, the birds seem to be luxuriating along with everyone else, and the smell of over-grilled burgers filled the air. It was a wonderful time to celebrate the beginning of summer by giving thanks, sharing time with our families, and remembering the sacrifices of the men and women overseas.

For some residents, it was also apparently a great time for a stabbing: at approximately 3:10 on Saturday morning, "a group of men surrounded a 30-year-old man and stabbed him several times" outside of 105 Winthrop St. (between Bedford and Flatbush), according to this Times article detailing a series of six attacks over the weekend.

The stabbing occurred about 40 minutes after a drive-by shooting in Crown Heights (that victim is in critical condition) and a fatal drive-by outside of Bed-Stuy's Risley Dent Towers. Fatal violence can, of course, occur anywhere -- we only need the West Village shooting spree in March to remind us of that -- although the Bed-Stuy shooting was likely, according to witnesses (according to the Times) connected to a local gang.

Did anyone happen to hear of/see anything related to the Winthrop St. stabbing? Or have any other news?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Revitalizing our community: how much should we be paid?

Last night was a PLUS (Prospect-Lefferts United for Service) board meeting. (It didn't seem like there was a huge amount of advance warning about the time or location, but maybe we're wrong on that count.) The meeting, according to an email sent around yesterday at 1:45 pm, was meant to discuss Prospect-Lefferts' application for an Avenue NYC grant from the city's department of small business services. (Here's the city's SBS website; PLUS doesn't appear to have a site that outlines its work or mission.) Communities that receive the grants are estimated to get around $167,000 over the next four years, although funding will ultimately be decided according to "successful completion of the preceding year's activities."

In the first year of funding, the lion's share of that money -- $50,000 out of a total of $66,000 -- is designated towards "personnel and fringe" expenses. That certainly ain't chump change. In yesterday's email, current board president and A&H broker Mark Dicus nominated himself to serve as PLUS's official, salaried executive director. PLUS has certainly been active in the three years since it formed. Any thoughts on this kind of funding for personnel? Reports from last night's board meeting? Feelings about PLUS's work with other community groups? Opinions about the best way to spend a city grant? Info from K-Dog or Enduro owners on what it was, exactly, that brought them to the area? Thoughts about having a city-funded local group given the authority to speak (and spend) in the name of the community as a whole?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Straphangers, rejoice: more reasons to love PLG

On Saturday afternoon, I found myself in Williamsburg, which is a rarity these days; most of the time, I leave that city within a borough feeling vaguely like I'm a day late and a dollar short on the latest fashions.

I know it's no secret that W'burg is being built out like there's no tomorrow, but it didn't hit home just how insane the boom was until I actually wandered around. I lived up there back in 1999 -- on N. 3rd between Berry and Wythe -- in one of those absolutely lovely old factories that'd been converted into (illegal) lofts. We had jaw-dropping views of Manhattan; from the roof of the building it almost seemed as if you were looking at a postcard.

Said building is, needless to say, gone, and there's a concrete monstrosity going up in its place. I lost count of the just opened (or about to be opened) developments. I was always horrible at guessing the number of jelly beans in a jar, but it easily looked to me as if the neighborhood's population could double in the next couple of years. As I was heading home, Mrs. PPLG and I thought about the hellishness that is the L. Seven long years ago, I'd often have to wait for a whole bunch of trains during my morning commute. Admittedly I'm a bit of a sweater, but I wasn't the only one who found the long wait in those underventilated tunnels to be some modern form of torture. I can't even imagine what a commute on the L is like now. And I really can't imagine what it's going to be like in the years to come.

Apparently, the city can read my thoughts: earlier this week, there was an announcement concerning improvements to the L that should ease the strain on the system. That's the good news...the bad news is that said improvements won't go into effect for another three years. And that's if everything happens on time.

Now, I am, obviously, a PLG cheerleader...but all of this highlights yet another benefit of our fair neighborhood. Way back in the mid-1990s, I lived on the F-train, and it sucked back then. As anyone living in Carroll Gardens, or Cobble Hill, or Park Slope (at least from, let's say, 6th St and points south), South Slope, Windsor Terrace, or Sunset Park can tell you, things haven't improved any. The B/Q line has two very distinct advantages: they're express, they're more frequent, they're marginally less crowded, and unlike the orphaned F and L lines, the B/Q connects with virtually every other line in the city at Atlantic Ave.

To me, those are big-time quality of life issues. So is having more space for less money. So is being close to the park. And so is not feeling like I flunked the too-cool-for-school test by not continuing to wear my multiple earrings now that I'm on the wrong side of thirty...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Get your condos here! And...your yoga?

The weekend's almost here, which means this weekend's open houses are almost upon us, which's real estate time, folks! Today brings another glowing(ish) PLG feature, this one in the Post. The story focuses on the recent condo development, all of which highlight one of the main attractions of the neighborhood: the prices, which remain less than half as much as those directly across the park in the Slope. There's the 2233 Caton Ave development, a six-story, 15-unit, elevator building; the condos feature oak floors, balconies, and access to the buildings roof deck. It sounds like these are mainly 2-brs, with prices ranging from $400,000 to $525,000 for between 800 and 1,000 sq-feet of new development goodness. (Twenty percent of the units are in contract; closings will begin later this summer.) There's also discussion of the Rogers/Lefferts Aves building; 850-sq feet 2-br units there are priced between $350,000 and $400,000.

Finally, story also quotes Prospect Lefferts United for Services' (PLUS) and A&H's Mark Dicus, who says there are plans to bring a wine shop, a lady-folk gym, and a yoga studio to the area. (Lord knows there's enough vacant retail space.) If those plans do pan out, I'd expect a big change here: the Ditmas exodus went from a trickle to a landslide once The Farm on Adderley, a high-end wine shop, a gorgeous furniture store, etc., joined the already-existing food co-op...

Lord knows there have been stories touting PLG as the next big thing for years (check out this Times story from 2004), but this really is one of the last remaining neighborhoods were single-family homes are available for a million bucks, and it's the only one within spitting distance from the Park (and on an express train). As for 2-brs in new construction buildings with nice appliances for under $500,000...well, try finding that anyplace else from Prospect Park South and points north (or west). The summer buying season should tell us a lot about what's to come. With prices at or above their 2006 highs, people hoping to wait out the boom are likely to wade back in before there's another double-digit increase in housing prices. And for people looking for some of the last bargains in the area...well, we're it.

PLG: Now, with less nausea-inducing cuteness

Yet another reasonn to love PLG: it's not even showing up on Gawker's recent map of Brooklyn's Historic Preciousness District. The top offenders are the usual suspects: Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Boerum Hill and Carroll Gardens, and Cobble Hill. One interesting omission is the Heights; we assume that's because it's more snooty than precious. And while Fort Greene and Clinton Hill aren't listed yet, that's only a matter of time: with Adam "MCA" Yauch purportedly considering a move to Washington St, it won't be long before the local tots are wearing vintage superhero t's to their baby yoga classes.

Oh, one more thing: there's still less of a frenzy here than there is in places like, say, Bed-Stuy...home to the filthiest streets in the city. For our money, the PLG historic district has some of the cleanest streets...unless, that is, you want to move to Staten Island.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

K-Dog: Now with milkshakes. (And ice cream.)

OK, not now, per se, but soon: the recent renovations at K-Dog & Dune buggy -- PLG's one, true draw-'em-in culinary attraction -- are in preparation for an ice cream and milkshake counter in the back. (Said counter is currently closed over.) Oh, and if you were wondering: it'll be Ciao Bella ice cream. Just in time for bathing suit season...

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Sunday's Times celebrates PLG (And: the meaning of racial diversity)

The Real Estate section of tomorrow's Times features a wonderful article on writer Darcy Steinke and her 120-year-old wood-frame Victorian located in the heart of PLG. Steinke got in ahead of the curve -- in 2002, she paid (deep breath) $240,000 for her 1,800-sq ft Hawthorne St. home. Granted, it was a mess, but even a significant fixer-upper anywhere in the historic district would cost upwards of $500,000 today.

Steinke describes the best of PLG, and she does so quite truthfully. On her first visit to the neighborhood, she says she "felt a little nervous about the clusters of young men hanging out on some of the street corners," but also realized she loved the warmth of the residents, the area's racial diversity, and PLG's location so close to the Prospect Park.

The racial diversity is one of our favorite things about the neighborhood, too. The mandated single-family residences in the Manor gives PLG a sort of stability that's unique in the city's (and the borough's) gentrifying neighborhoods, where you often find a kind of reverse white-flight: hipsters move in; longtime, predominantly minority residents move out. Not so here. On our block, we have more diversity within a 10-house radius than we've had anyplace else we've lived; more importantly, virtually everyone in the neighborhood gathers outside after work to talk about their days. In Park Slope (and Carroll Gardens, and Boerum Hill), diversity often seems as if it can be measured in whether you trace your musical lineage back to the Pixies or to Radiohead. I love the Pixies and Radiohead (and I love a lot of the restaurants in the Slope). But I also love the fact that my children will grow up in a neighborhood where they'll experience living next to, and interacting with, people who look differently than they do.

Steinke, incidentally, also illustrates another of our favorite things about the neighborhood: the influx of writers and artists. Steinke's latest book, Easter Everywhere, was inspired in part by her home in PLG. Her partner is a reporter at the Wall Street Journal. A Times writer and a couple of magazine journalists live within several of blocks of us. And there's a sense among all of us that this is someplace we actively want to be...even if initially it was someplace we just happened to end up in.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Please tell the Times: there're plenty of affordable rentals out here

Not surprisingly, this Times story about younguns being forced to live in tents and in office buildings is getting lots of attention; on a day with no shortage of real-world news, it's the third-most emailed article on the Times's site.

Those poor little dears: there's 29-year-old Nina Rubin, who "struggled to find halfway decent housing in New York" before moving in to the Long Island City offices of Outward Bound, where she slept on a bunk bed, surrounded by cohorts bedding down in cubicles or on tents on the roof. And Kate Harvey, who joined eight of her friends and shacked up in an office building. (The space was owned by a company that her dad happened to run.)

There are two things wrong with this story. 1. The Times didn't bother to do any actual reporting into what it would actually cost someone to rent an apartment within, say, a half-hour of Union Square, and 2. Their cherry-picked "sources" are either stupid or aren't looking for affordable housing so much as they're looking for free housing...cuz there's still plenty out there that's available for the picking.

Like (and who among you didn't see this coming) a bunch of these offerings in PLG. It's hard to tell exactly what the situation is with these two Lincoln Road apartments, both of which are listed with The Real Estate Group: the pictures on the Times are identical, but one is listed as a 2000-sq ft 2 br for $3200 and the other is a 950-sq ft 2 br for $1950. Whatever the case, these look like pretty good deals: it's a big open space, there's a roofdeck, and a washer-dryer; the bigger of the two apartments is advertised as having new hardwood floors and 14-ft ceilings.

Citi Habitats also has a couple of two bedrooms listed at $2400 and $2100; there's this 3-br on Rutland that's listed at $1,600, and perhaps most enticingly, a $1050, 1-br rent stabilized apartment on Fenimore and Rogers.

I'm sure none of these apartments are as nice as they look, but they'd have to be a helluva lot worse not to be attractive at some of these prices...especially for someone camped out in their dad's office. Eight years ago I felt blessed to find a run-down, 1-BR on Atlantic Ave between 3rd and 4th Ave for $1100. Atlantic Ave was not fun seven years ago. And my apartment was not a couple of blocks from the park.

In its effort to prove that those among us who aren't I-bankers or trust-fund babies are being squeezed out of the city, the Times writes how "the rents for one-bedroom apartments in Manhattan average $2,567 a month, and two-bedrooms average $3,854 a month. ... Because landlords typically require renters to earn 40 times their monthly rent in annual income, renters of those average apartments would need to earn at least $102,680, individually or combined, to qualify for a one-bedroom and $154,160 to afford a two-bedroom." I've never lived anyplace where a landlord insisted I make 40-times my monthly rent; I usually set aside 35-percent of my salary. If you go by my figures, someone making $35,000 could afford a one-bedroom in PLG; three friends all making $27,000 could live in one of the $2000/mo two-bedrooms.

But the real question here isn't why the Times story doesn't present the whole story; that happens all too often. The real question is...why are these apartments sitting vacant? Complaints about services, or Flatbush, don't cut it with me; for $1,000 a month in NYC, you're going to need to make sacrifices no matter where you're living. And there's nowhere else where you'd be be so close to an express train and so close to the park. So what gives?

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Update: sweet, sweet meats

Ask, and ye shall receive! On Monday, I (virtualy) wondered whether folks who signed up for the local Community Supported Agriculture program would be able to place special orders for meat. (The CSA subscription covers produce. Yummy, yummy produce.) In addition to putting my query out there in the Interweb, I used some of my top-secret reporter's jujitsu...and got in touch with the good folks at Connecticut's Woodbridge Farm -- the local supplier for the PLG CSA. Here's their answer:

"Members can definitely put orders in for meat or any of our products for that matter. 72hrs notice should give me the time I need to put it together for delivery day!" Some of the specifics need to be worked out; for example, I doubt that the men and women of the Maple Street School are going to store people's meats every Tuesday, so you might need to commit to being there when Woodbridge makes their dropoff. But it's hard to see how this is anything but great news.

Fresh Direct: Is it available everywhere?

At least in the 11225 zip code, anyway...

Today's Brooklyn Record has news about Fresh Direct's expanding delivery zone. I thought it was available in all of 11225, but I'm not sure how to check. Anyone out there know the answer?

(And in response to AdrianLesher, who has taken a commanding early lead as the most charming commenter on the site: yes, I'm aware that the FD site asks you to punch in your zip code to see if it serves your area. If you check, you'll also find that after entering in 11225, you're greeted with the following message: "We need more information...Please enter your street address so that we can make sure your building is in our zone." That's why I asked if anyone knew whether delivery was available in all of our fair neighborhood.)

The things I'd like to see in Planet PLG

And I'm talking about the entire neighborhood, not the website...

The last year-plus has brought some notable additions, with the just-redone K-Dog paving the way for Enduro and now, it seems, a revamped (or at least revamping) Papa & Sons. The CSA will add a weekly supply of delicious, farm-fresh produce.

But there's a lot left that's still be desired. I, for one, would love a restaurant that's a true destination -- the kind that would bring in outsiders and show off what PLG has to offer -- rather than an acceptable alternative; as thankful as I am that Enduro is here, it's hard to pitch it as anything more than your typical, standard-fare Mexican.

I could go on, but I'd rather hear from everyone else out there. Which is why I'm launching a new feature, TILT SIP ProLeGs. (Now there's a catchy acronym.) Write in with your deepest desires, and every week or so I'll put them all together in an effort to steer the conversation in one direction or another. Our ideal world is only as small as your imagination...

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Reader mail

Before I dash off for most of the day, some answers to a couple of quick questions...

Adrian and Anneke: I need to admit that my initial reaction to your comments on the "For sale in PLG" post was to recommend that you start blogs of your own. But I'm working on practicing instead I'll use this as a way to clarify the new PPLG comments policy.

As of right now, there will be no editing of comments without explicit permission from the commenter him/ if there's something you want to say that I think might be offensive, racist, sexist, etc., I'll email you and ask you if we can amend it in a way that would work for everyone.

However, comments do need to be approved, and this will occur in as timely a manner as possible. I'm well aware of the downside here: there will be those times when I'll be away from a computer for a couple of hours and some comments might get held up in the cue; this, of course, will on occasion make it more difficult to have the kind of robust back and forth I hope I feature here. At the moment, I think the trade-off -- a troll free forum for everyone to enjoy -- is worth it, but this is a policy that'll constantly be in flux, and I welcome any and all feedback.

One response from yesterday's post on PLG's new CSA that you non comment readers might have missed: dliss, who helped set up the arrangement with Woodbridge Farm, had this to say: "We haven't really talked much about meat yet because we've been so focused on getting the vegetable deliveries up and running, but it's definitely a possibility. If enough members are interested we could probably work something out with the farm. The only problem I can think of is refrigeration, but maybe we could get an insulated cooler?"

As for Ed's question about pictures, yes, I will be making Son of PPLG as visually appealing and as visually active as the original PPLG; I've been stuck in a particularly rough patch, work and commitment wise, so have been scrambling to get some posts out in a timely manner. As for whether we'll be welcoming photos from area residents...we'd absolutely love to. (The photo on our homepage is by Brandon Williams, who has some great shots of the area.) We also would love to make PPLG a forum/clearing house for all sorts of info about the neighborhood, and we'll be brainstorming/thinking of ways to make this as much of a collaborative effort as possible. In general, we think more is more...

Monday, May 7, 2007

Now, with more beef

The just launched PLG Community Supported Agriculture has been rightly getting attention. (For those of you who somehow missed the ATP post, CSA is essentially a program whereby a local(ish) farm sells produce to a community. Members pay up front and get a weekly batch of veggies throughout the growing season. The farm gets capital before the season; the community gets super fresh food. And everyone rejoices!) This is great news for people who don't want to use Fresh Direct or trek a couple of miles for their weekly shopping, and I think there are still some spots available; at least there's no info to the contrary on the official PLG CSA website.

As it turns out, our partner farm -- southeastern Connecticut's Woodbridge Farm -- isn't a veggie only concern; they also sell meat from organically fed cows, pigs, and poultry. I'm trying to find out if CSA members can put in individual orders to be delivered for the weekly pickup...

Across the park (on the other side, that is)

For all of you writers out there that find it hard to work at home but hard to do all the work you need to get done in one of the city's no-phones-allowed writing spaces (i.e. The Writers Room (which rather pretentiously calls itself "an urban writer's colony"), the year-and-a-half old Paragraph, and King County's own Brooklyn Writers Space), there's a new kid on the block: Gowanus's Room 58, a writing space that advertises itself as being designed for journalists and other "research based writers." Translation: you're allowed to use your phone. At least in one of the Room's rooms. (Room 58 is actually a joint Brooklyn Writers Space and the Brooklyn Artists Gym, which, of course, isn't a gym at all but a kind of collective studio. Somehow, I don't imagine a gym designed solely for artists would be a huge hit.)

There was an open house on Saturday and they're a couple of more coming up, this Wednesday and next Wednesday from 11-1. I'm curious to hear from anyone who checked/is planning on checking it out...

Friday, May 4, 2007

On sale in PLG: the allure of a $799,000 house (and a $299,000 2BR)

Some interesting properties newly on the market in the hood. There's this two-story townhouse on Sterling between Rogers and Nostrand, which is a bit east of what we normally think of as Lefferts Garden but it is, indeed, part of the landmarked district.

Corcoran has the listing for $799,000; if this was located .2 miles west and .3 miles south (putting it on Maple between Bedford and Rogers), it'd be a steal. As a comparison, check out this Brown Harris property on Midwood between Bedford and Rogers; it's also a two-floor townhouse but is listed at $925,000. The Brown Harris listing does have a garden -- and judging from the photos posted online, the Corcoran house looks as if it might not -- and the B-H listing might have some more original detail, but the Sterling St. one definitely appears to be in decent shape.

There's also this 3-bedroom Tudor on Chester Court listed for $697,000. Even more than the Corcoran house, this is a property that's going to be effected by its location. Chester ain't no Beekman, but it's sketchier than just about any Manor block on the other side of Flatbush. It also butts up against the subway tracks. Still, even for what appears to be a pump-and-dump property, there's a lot to like here: jacuzzi, finished basement, two fireplaces, backyard, exposed ceiling beams, wainscotting, parquet floors; if you told your average New Yorker you could get a single-family home that was a stone's throw from Prospect Park for under three-quarters of a million bucks, they'd assume you'd just been dropped off from a 1990s time machine. (An aside - and I know I'm about the billionth person to remark on this -- but it boggles my mind that some real estate companies are so lazy (or ignorant) as to not even bother to set up a functioning website. It's the equivalent of not bothering to clean up the dog crap in your front yard before you schedule a showing.)

Speaking of stupid web strategies, here's a $299,000, 2BR listing with virtually no information contained therein. I'm pretty sure it's 306 Lincoln Rd (between Rogers and Nostrand). It's these type of properties that are going to be the most interesting over the next year. A million bucks -- which is probably a good average for townhouses in the Manor proper -- is going to be too high for a lot of younger couples/families priced out of Park Slope (or Fort Greene, or Windsor Terrace, or virtually anyplace north of Brooklyn College), especially without the possibility of rental income to offset the mortgage. But a $299,000 2BR with 10% down comes out to a monthly mortgage of $1,662...and that's less than you're gonna pay in rent in most places in the city. When I moved to New York (in the early 1990s), I was paying almost a grand to live down in the Lower East Side, and that was when junkies were literally shooting up on the street. (I actually was only paying a grand until I discovered the apartment I was living in was stabilized; from that point on I paid $350. But you get the point.)

Anyone seen any of these places? Or have any thoughts? I'd especially love to hear from apartment hunters out there...

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Hot or Not? Reading the tea leaves on the PLG real estate scene

There's been, to put it mildly, a lot of movement in the PLG (and environs) real estate market...and I'm not talking about those mint $1.2 million Brown Harris limestones on Midwood, either. In the past couple of weeks, two major developments -- which combined could add thousands of new local residents -- have come on the market: 123 Parkside (which is located just west of Ocean Ave) and a package of three sites down by the Club Medical, which is a bit east of PLG proper. (That link, to a Brooklyn Eagle article, is, annoyingly, pay only. For the life of me I can't understand why small papers alienate potential customers like this...but I digress.)

The three sites by Kings County Hospital, et al, make up two buildings, three vacant lots, and have 55,950 buildable square feet; they're on sale for a combined $11.8 million. At first blush, that seemed like a steal; then I realized that my predecessor got $1.2 million for his house -- located on a lot with, if I recall correctly, somewhere around 15,000 of FAR. All of which is to say I have no idea how to assess the relative costs of empty lots, especially in an area with as many variables as ours.

The Parkside property seems like much more of a sure thing -- and, I'd imagine, is going to cost a pretty penny more as well. That site has a whopping 220,000 square feet of buildable, residential FAR, and off the top of my head I can't think of any other significant and empty property adjacent to the Park. The Prospect Park improvements are only going to make this area more attractive, and the presence -- and hopefully proliferation -- of excellent restaurants like The Farm on Adderley in Ditmas (and excellent coffee shops like K-Dog in PLG) should help bring in Manhattanites who don't want to spend a million plus for a one-bedroom in Chelsea. It's hard to imagine a developer buying that site and not trying to maximize his investment by putting in high end condos, and with penthouses a couple of miles up the road going for upwards of $6 million, well, who's to say what a top-notch place could go for down there.

All of which raises a chicken/egg question: one of the main knocks -- as far as I'm concerned, the only knock -- on PLG is the lack of services. It is an issue, to be sure. But there seems to be a fair amount of vacant storefront property along Lincoln and Flatbush; will more forward-thinking/enterprising merchants take the opportunity to establish a presence when retail rents are (I'd guess) lower then they are elsewhere in Brooklyn? Or will it take an influx of new residents to get restaurants, etc., to follow?