Is Brooklyn’s Business Boom an Empty Dream?

Brooklyn has been a strong magnet for residents for many years now, but what about the business community? Many former industrial waterfront areas in DUMBO, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint have been either retooled for or replaced with condos, none of which seem to have too much trouble finding eager buyers. The past few years have seen a push to create office space, as well.

Some big-name retailers have moved into downtown on Fulton Street to serve the new residents coming into all the nearby condos that have sprouted up. Well beyond downtown, the race to create office space is instead resulting in a glut of empty space. According to a recent article on Bloomberg.com, there are plans by various developers to build about seven million square feet of office space in the next few years, mainly in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Sunset Park, as well as the old Watchtower Building in DUMBO. The article sites 23 projects due to open by 2020. That much space will require either a ton of small companies taking out leases or help from a few big companies that will take several floors of space at once. The problem experts are seeing is that the big guys don’t seem too eager to make the move.

Prices on Manhattan office space have plateaued, and there is room for negotiation there, so big companies with no real yen for Brooklyn have little incentive to pay for a big, expensive move and to uproot their employees for possibly newer digs and beautiful offices in a place that’s frankly not that easy to get to from Westchester, New Jersey, Connecticut, or even Manhattan and Queens. Big companies that have recently moved to the NYC area, including Facebook and Alphabet (Google), have settled into Manhattan, and those that have come to Brooklyn have put pieces of their businesses in rather than move the entire company.

Several commercial real estate experts interviewed for the Bloomberg article remain upbeat. Although the signing of a 100,000+ square-foot lease would be newsworthy and perhaps a shot in the arm, Andrew Hoan, the CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, noted that Brooklyn has added jobs faster than any other borough, and related his feeling that not being dependent on large companies is “a good thing.”

So, bring on the office space, we say. As long as it’s being concentrated in otherwise unused or underused buildings like those in the navy yard or Sunset Park’s Industry City, it’s a plus for Brooklyn, and in time, we feel, for the patient developer as well.

Read the full article on Bloomberg.com:
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-05-04/brooklyn-as-the-next-hot-spot-for-new-york-offices-not-so-fast

 

Renters, Work with Us

Thinking of renting an apartment? These days, you have a lot of tools at your disposal to help you find your dream home. Real estate-specific Web sites such as Street Easy, Zillow, and Trulia get you in touch with real estate agents and landlords so you can make four or five appointments with four or five agents/landlords to see four or five different apartments on the day you’re out looking. Such a scattershot approach may work for you, or it may not.

Having meetings set up with lots of different people can cause a time crunch for you that could compromise your search. It can take just one late train, one clogged roadway to back up your whole afternoon, cause you to run ragged from late appointment to late appointment, cutting down on the time you get to see each apartment or perhaps missing out on a showing because the next agent has another appointment and you’ve been held up so long she can’t take you out.

Also, you should be aware that most of the major Web sites allow only exclusive listings to be posted. Many landlords refuse to give a listing to one agent exclusively, giving out what’s referred to as an open listing to a number of brokers. This means that there are many great apartments perfect for you that you won’t see listed on the real estate rental sites.

The best way to find an apartment is to find an agent you trust that you will work with exclusively. Most people, probably including you, are more comfortable working with someone they feel is interested in them and is working in their interest. That’s a relationship that is easier to establish if you’re working with one agent showing you many apartments versus many agents showing you one apartment each, often one that doesn’t come close to suiting your needs. And agents working with different agencies should be willing to open their listings to you and your agent, so there’s no need to worry that you might get shut out of seeing a given apartment.

An agent who has been in apartments with you knows what you like and don’t like, knows what you consider to be an adequate-size bedroom, knows what features and amenities are important to you, and can preview lots of apartments, winnowing availabilities down to those she’ll know you’ll appreciate seeing. Touring a neighborhood and seeing four or five apartments with a single agent, with no time constraints, is a much more relaxed way to look at apartments than rushing from appointment to appointment. In addition, after the first day you’ll know that any apartments the agent has lined up for you to see will be of a size, layout, and fit and finish that you will be happy to consider.

Scattershot, by definition, is broad, even wild, and unfocused. It’s no way to search for anything, but especially not for a home for you and your family. Focus on finding a good real estate agent, one who will focus on you and your needs and who will guide you purposefully to an apartment you’ll love to live in.

Is Prospect Park Losing its Beloved Horses?

The residents of the Kensington stables, a fixture in that neighborhood for the past eighty years, grace Prospect Park and its bridal paths, taking daily strolls through the park and thrilling kids and adults alike as they lope or cantor by, huffing and snorting hellos and how are yous to all. Their home has been for sale for several months now, having fallen behind in property taxes and experiencing other headaches in the five years since the death of its owner. The property was scheduled to be auctioned off at the end of March, but at the last second an anonymous investor made an offer that the owner is considering. Word is that the investor has indicated that they would keep the stable in place, but the anonymity of the investor has area residents and equestrians worried that the plan is to raze the stable and redevelop it in the standard New York way, i.e., condos!

Local council member Brad Lander has made it clear to the mystery investor’s lawyer that he will block any rezoning requests for the property unless there is an ironclad promise to keep the stable open and running made by whomever ends up buying it. That, of course, could make other potential investors think three or four times about bidding on the property.

No matter what type of alterations are done on the property, the stable will in all probability have to be closed or moved during the construction period, which could be for years. We’re old enough to understand that nothing lasts forever, and the only sure thing in life is change. But it would be a truly sad day for riders and all of us if Prospect Park lost these beautiful animals.

The Clocktower that Gair Built

Unless you’re deeply into Brooklyn history, you probably don’t know the name Robert Gair. But if you’ve ever checked the time as you traversed the Manhattan Bridge or poured yourself a bowl of Cheerios (or any other boxed cereal), you’re only a degree or two separated from him.

Gair was a nineteenth-century immigrant from Scotland and a civil war veteran. While the war was still on, in 1864, he began producing paper products in a loft in downtown Manhattan, where he developed a mass-production system for printing and cutting cardboard boxes, complete with creases for easy folding. Gair’s customers included Colgate, Nabisco, and several cereal companies.

Success drove the need for more space, and in the late 1800’s Gair moved to Brooklyn, commissioning buildings at 25 and 30 Washington Street in what is now DUMBO, and later, 55 Washington Street and 1 Main Street, the building now known as Clocktower Building or, more simply, The Clocktower. The entire complex, referred to as Gairville, was interconnected, on the street by railways, underground through a warren of tunnels, and above ground by enclosed walkways. All Gair’s DUMBO buildings stand today, and several continue to bear his name.

Gair died in 1927. The Robert Gair Company was bought by the Continental Can Company in 1956. The commercial real estate giant Helmsley-Spear acquired the Gairville complex, which it sold to DUMBO’s current real estate mogul, David Walentas, in 1981 for $12 million, which amounted to $7/sq. ft.

Walentas has converted many of the buildings into condos, and this week the Clocktower’s clock tower penthouse alone closed for $15 million, or $2,140/sq. ft.

Buyer, Be Prepared

Be Prepared. That’s the Boy Scout motto, and as a buyer, it should be your motto, too. Time and real estate wait for no man or woman. Deals fall apart and homes are lost out on every day because the buyers are not as prepared as they should have been or as they thought they were.

If you’re considering buying a property, there are many things you can and should do to be ready and willing when the time comes to sign a contract. These include (in order):

1) Be ready to move. The heads of many “buyers” are ready to move long before their hearts are. Going through the motions and then backing out causes disruptions, disappointment, and lost time on the part of everyone else involved in the buying/selling process. No one will be happy with you should this occur.

2) Determine what type of property you are interested in: Apartment, single-family home, or multi-family house.

3) Decide what areas you are willing to live in. Don’t be too limiting, as different areas have different types of properties, and there might not be many of the types of properties you want to buy in a given neighborhood.

4) Do the math. Come up with a realistic price point for your purchase, one that you’re sure you can manage and are willing to commit to. If you feel in any way that you might get cold feet later when your offer is accepted, you’re not prepared to buy. Once you’ve estimated this on your own, it’s time to talk to a professional, so…

5) Get pre-qualified by a bank or mortgage lender. Any company that issues mortgages should be willing to go over your finances with you and determine just how much they would be willing to lend you. You might think you can afford X, but a thorough examination of your financial situation could determine that you can afford X+, or perhaps X-. Either way, you need to know before you start passing over For-Sale properties you think you can’t afford or visiting and falling in love with those you might not be able to have. The lender will give you a letter stating the amount of their pre-qualification for you to present to a real estate broker or seller. Have an accurate number for your price point. (BTW, it’s okay to visit more than one lender to get the best pre-qualification you can. But don’t use one that’s perhaps too much higher than others you might have gotten.)

6) Have your funds ready. This will probably be discussed during your pre-qualification meetings, and it will be important once you receive notice of an offer acceptance. You will need money for a down payment. Often, there is earnest money, which eventually goes toward the down payment, required to be advanced to the seller when the contract is signed. If you are a homeowner now, determine whether your purchase of a new home will be contingent on selling your current property.

7) Get a real estate agent. In most situations, the real estate agent will receive their commission from the seller, though not in every circumstance. There is no reason to traverse on your own the complex process of such an important, unfamiliar, and financially significant transaction as buying property. You should want and should have professional guidance.

8) Hire a real estate lawyer. You may already have a lawyer who helps you in your business or other areas of your life, but for a real estate purchase you should have a lawyer who specializes in this area. Real estate agents are legally prohibited from practicing law or giving any legal advice, but your agent might be able to give you a list of names of real estate lawyers, or you may have associates who have used ones that worked well for them. When it’s time to go over the sales contract, and again at the closing, you’ll want a legal eagle on your side, one that’s an expert in real estate. It is money well spent.

Having completed all the above steps, you should be totally prepared to take your tours, find a place you love, put in an offer, close, and move in to your fantastic new home.

Cuomo Taps $$$ for Central Brooklyn Reno

Governor Cuomo last week announced a plan for a major infusion of money–$1.4 billion–into central Brooklyn, with the main focus to be in poverty-afflicted areas like Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, Crown Heights, and East New York.

Thank you, governor.

Of course, at this point, the plan, called Vital Brooklyn, is just that–a plan. The governor hopes to have the money allocated in his next budget, but that will mean convincing majorities in the Assembly and Senate to go along with him, never a sure thing when it means spending money.

According to an article about the plan in The New York Times, fully half the allotment, $700 million, would be used to fund initiatives related to health care, generally a huge problem for residents in the targeted area. Other monies would address neighborhood quality-of-life issues such as crime and violence, unemployment, and a lack of green space, “aiming to eliminate so-called park deserts by building green spaces and renovating athletic facilities within a 10-minute walk of every neighborhood.” It’s estimated that 7,600 jobs would be created, a network of 36 ambulatory care centers would be built, and 1,200 people would receive training to work in the construction industry. An additional $1.2 million would be used for youth development programs.

The Times article reports that the plan received positive initial responses from various experts in the fight against poverty, though some warned that, for continued success, any programs established or supported through Vital Brooklyn would need ongoing funding to maintain their level of activities.

Another piece of Vital Brooklyn includes the construction of 3,000 units of affordable housing in the area. While decent affordable housing is a noble idea, some current residents are wary of the plan, feeling that the new housing and all the upgrades in parkland could make the area more attractive to real estate developers, eventually pushing housing prices in the newly improved neighborhoods beyond their means. Residents will be happy for any improvement, but not if it eventually costs them their homes and their place in the neighborhood.

As mentioned above, the money for the plan will be included in the governor’s budget this year; whether or not it stays in will be up to state lawmakers.

To read the entire Times article, click here.

You Get What You Pay For; Should We Say It?

Brooklyn is considered by many to be the best place in the world to live. You may think that all those “many” people live here in the world capital of cool already, but the fact is, demand for homes of all sorts has been high for many years, and it’s all those buyers banging on Brooklyn’s door that have pushed prices to record highs and made Brooklyn New York City’s most expensive outer borough in which to buy a house.

According to NY Real Estate Trends, (www.nyrealestatetrends.com) Brooklyn has led the city in average sales price for the past twenty years, but in the last ten years the price differential between a home in Brooklyn and those in the other outer boroughs has increased dramatically. In 1995 Brooklyn was already the most expensive of the four outer boroughs, but by just a few percentage points. In 2005, Brooklyn remained ahead of the pack, but only by about 10% over Queens. By 2015, however, Brooklyn led Queens, its nearest competitor, in average price for a single-family home by 48.3%: Brooklyn’s average price was $838,977 vs. Queens’ $565,656, according to the NY Real Estate Trends data.

We get it. We know that living in Brooklyn is five or ten times as great as living in Queens or Staten Island, so in our mind, paying only 50% more for a house is a bargain! Buy in Brooklyn and you’ll get much, much  more than you paid for.