Breaking up with Manhattan

A look at the priciest luxury waterfront condos and single-family townhouses luring buyers to North Brooklyn and Brownstone Brooklyn

New York /
Mar.March 07, 2017 10:00 AM

Could you do it? Could you dare to get over your long-held belief that
Manhattan is the center of the universe and the only place to live —and move to a luxury home in Brooklyn?

We’re not being cute. While Brooklyn has obviously been hot for a long time, prices for luxury properties across the river are much lower than what’s available for comparable residences in Manhattan, and most have slashed prices since going on the market. And some parts of North Brooklyn and Brownstone Brooklyn, with their Instagram-perfect streets lined with renovated, upscale townhouses or small-scale shops, may even remind some Manhattanites of home.

“Many areas of Brooklyn offer a Greenwich Village-style quality of life for a little over half the price,” said Leonard Steinberg, president of Compass, who is marketing a Brooklyn Heights townhouse for $16 million. “That quality of life, with leafy tree-lined streets, human-scaled buildings, charm and history is super desirable. The quality of luxury real estate in Brooklyn has soared in the past 10 years, and is now on par with the best anywhere.”

At least half of Corcoran agent Leslie Marshall’s clients have made the switch.

“About 50 percent of the buyers we work with are moving from Manhattan,” she said. “Many come because they have friends who live here and they’ve visited beautiful townhouses and apartments. Several of our clients work for tech and media companies that are now based in Brooklyn. Many are drawn to the neighborhood for the green spaces — Prospect Park and Brooklyn Bridge Park in particular — and overall quieter lifestyle.”

So put away the frequent-flier card. Cancel the house sitter. Let’s do some house-hunting closer to home. In this issue, LLNYC takes a look at luxury homes on the market in our neighboring borough. We pinpointed the neighborhoods, principally the North Brooklyn and Brownstone Brooklyn areas of Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, Prospect Heights and Williamsburg — and streets within those nabes — where the most upscale properties are located to aid you in your search.

First, let’s check out the top of the market. In late January, a grand townhouse at 27 Monroe Place in Brooklyn Heights asking $16 million went into contract. The home is being marketed by Marshall and her Corcoran colleague James Cornell. As Curbed pointed out, if the sale closes at over $15.5 million, it will be break the record for the borough’s most expensive home, set by a carriage house at 177 Pacific Street in Cobble Hill that was sold in 2015.

“About 50 percent of the buyers we work
with are moving from Manhattan.”
—Leslie Marshall, Corcoran

There’s a familiar name attached to 27 Monroe: Jared Kushner’s Kushner Companies converted the former Brooklyn Law School building, a 7,000-square-foot property, to a single family, five-bedroom home. (Kushner is of course President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a top White House advisor). The home first hit the market last June at $18 million.

“The scale of this house is remarkable, at 25 feet wide and 70 feet deep,” said Marshall. It features an elevator, Savant smart-home system, 10-zone central air and radiant-heated floors and a grand center staircase. There are three private outdoor spaces, including a roof deck with views of Downtown Manhattan.

That’s not the only sales record on the verge of being broken.  According to a report from Ideal Properties Group, the average residential sale price in Brownstone Brooklyn and North Brooklyn is also approaching a milestone: the $1.5 million mark. Residential sales prices in those areas increased to $1,497,460 in the fourth quarter of 2016, according to the firm. This represents an increase of 2.6 percent from the same period in 2015.

In comparison, the average price of a Manhattan apartment rose nearly 8 percent year over year to reach $2.1 million, a figure impacted by closings at the super-high-end 432 Park Avenue.

Adding to the urgency for buyers in Brooklyn: Inventory is falling boroughwide. Jonathan Miller, CEO of appraisal firm Miller Samuel, told The Real Deal that the number of homes on the market in Brooklyn fell 31 percent to 2,232 in the fourth quarter of 2016 compared to the year-earlier quarter. The lack of inventory suggests that many may be holding off listing their properties while prices continue to rise, TRD reported.

While prices are rising in Brooklyn, comparable luxury properties are available for half the price in Manhattan, said Aleksandra Scepanovic, managing director of Ideal Properties Group.

Her luxury buyers, she said, want to be on specific streets in Brooklyn. In Park Slope, that means the “name streets” (like President Street, Carroll Street and so on) between the boundaries of Eighth Avenue and Prospect Park. In Brooklyn Heights, they seek locations near the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, such as Columbia Heights, Willow Street, Hicks Street, Love Lane, Grace Court, Remsen Street, Clark Street and Orange Street. In the adjoining neighborhoods of Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens, the area defined by Henry and Clinton streets from Atlantic Avenue to 4th Street is most desirable, as is Sterling Place in Prospect Heights.

Proximity to a good school is an important factor, even for families without school-age children who want to make a good investment, Scepanovic said. “The most requested private-school areas are those surrounding Saint Ann’s School and the Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn Heights, and Poly Prep Country Day School in Park Slope. On the public-school side, PS 321 in Park Slope, and PS 29 in Cobble Hill.”

Other brokers mentioned PS 107, also in Park Slope, as well as Berkeley Carroll and Brooklyn Friends private schools.

Brooklyn is certainly also seeing a burst of new condo development, with about a dozen new high-end apartment buildings hitting the Brooklyn market in 2016, according to Curbed, particularly in Downtown Brooklyn. All those residents certainly need places to shop and dine. Retail and eateries in Downtown Brooklyn tilt toward big, national chains, more upscale than luxury, such as the new Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. Along those lines: a new, albeit lower-priced Whole Foods concept store called 365 is opening in early 2018 at the 32-story mixed use-building rising at 300 Ashland Place, designed by acclaimed Mexican architect Enrique Norten.

Like Manhattan, Brooklyn is also serving up upscale food halls. The Ashland, a new luxury rental building nearby at 250 Ashland Place, recently opened Gotham Market, featuring barbecue from Mason Jar, fried chicken from Flip Bird and much more. And in 2018, the Brooklyn Navy Yard will open a massive new food hall at Building 77, dishing up a diverse roster of local favorites with international flavors.

The Navy Yard, where battleships were built, is at the heart of the tech and design boom remaking industry here. Building 128, for example, is now New Lab. The co-working space opened last year for 60 companies in fields like robotics, artificial intelligence and nanotechnology. And New York University announced a $500 million expansion of its high-tech campuses in Brooklyn for its students studying fields such as computer coding and video game design.

Read on for a look at the luxury homes on the market in this very happening borough, sourced from StreetEasy and broker’s listings.

360 Furman Street #1131 in Brooklyn Heights: $23,888,000
5 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, 2 half bathrooms; 8,333 square feet

At the top of our list is this home at One Brooklyn Bridge Park, notable for its views of Downtown Manhattan, the harbor and the Statue of Liberty. It features an eat-in chef’s kitchen, large landscaped terrace, home theater and a wine cellar that holds 3,500 bottles. The amenities continue outside as well: A year ago, a marina called ONE°15 Brooklyn opened in Brooklyn Bridge Park between Piers 4 and 5 with 100 boat slips. Another unit at this building, 218/219, with four bedrooms and four bathrooms, is on the market for $11,988,000.

146 Willow Street in Brooklyn Heights: $16,000,000
7 bedrooms, 7 bathrooms, 2 half bathrooms; 8,850 square feet

A two-year conversion of this eight-unit 1920 townhouse into a single-family home was recently completed. “This large house is extremely energy-efficient and qualifies as a passive house,” said Leonard Steinberg of Compass. It has a filtered air system and double-hung, triple-pane windows. The rear of the home features enormous sliding doors that disappear into the wall, he said. Each floor is accessible by an elevator, and a large skylight floods the center of the house with light. Notably, the kitchen and dining room are on separate floors and linked by a dumbwaiter — perfect for living out your “Downton Abbey” fantasies.

192 Columbia Heights in Brooklyn Heights: $13,250,000
7 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 1 half-bathroom; 6,500 square feet

Modern meets historic in this five-story, 25-foot-wide home built in 1859, notable for its grand proportions, including 14-foot ceilings and front and rear floor-to-ceiling windows. There’s a gourmet eat-in kitchen, a wired sound system with in-ceiling speakers and six-zone central air and heat. There are views of the harbor, promenade and lower Manhattan from all levels, which include a “writer’s nest” once kept by Norman Mailer. The current price is a discount from the original
$16 million ask in 2014.

838 Carroll Street in Park Slope: $10,750,000
8 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, 4 half bathrooms; 8,200 square feet

Known as the Remington House, this Romanesque Revival-style mansion was designed by Charles Pierrepont Henry Gilbert and built in 1887. The 32-foot-wide home has been gut renovated with original detailing maintained, such as fireplaces, pocket doors, decorative plaster ceilings, moldings, and oak floors with mahogany inlays. It also features a curved tower bay and a wide front stairway. The home originally hit the market about a year ago for $15 million. The sellers, Jeanne and Joseph Accetta, paid $3.8 million in 2014. “It feels like a real mansion,” listing broker Fredrik Eklund of Douglas Elliman told The Real Deal last year. “If this were on Park Avenue or Fifth Avenue, imagine what it would cost.”

2458 National Drive in Mill Basin: $12,500,000
5 bedrooms, 9 bathrooms, 14,000 square feet

Homes on the waterfront are what lure luxury buyers to Bay Ridge and Mill Basin, said Scott Klein of Douglas Elliman. He and Kurt Vikki are marketing this home, which looks like it floated off the set of “Miami Vice.” Homes on National Drive “are among the nicest in Brooklyn with waterfront views,” he said. In addition to the views, he said that the privacy and security of this home (there is a private security office near the drive’s entrance gate), make it appealing, as well as its circular meditation room and an outdoor gazebo with seating for 40. The home also has a swimming pool, two boat slips, a four-car garage and wrap-around terrace. The owner, Galina Anisimova, a woman once married to Russia’s 38th-richest man, put this home on the market for $30 million in 2013.

15 Willow Street in Brooklyn Heights: $12,500,000
6 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, 2 half bathrooms; 6,200 square feet

This 25-foot-wide Greek Revival-style home was built in the 1830s and owned by Franciscan nuns for close to three decades. In 2014, owners Damian and Britt Zunino bought the house for $4.1 million and embarked on a gut renovation and restoration of the property. The home now has modern interiors with historic details such as an Italianate white marble mantel. There’s also an elevator, wine cellar and screening room, as well as a hot tub on one of the two roof decks. The property was listed last August for $14.1 million and reduced to the current price in November.

81 Hanson Place in Fort Greene: $12,500,000
4 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms and 1 half bathroom; 10,564 square feet

This home is a combination of a 19th-century red brick and terracotta schoolhouse and an adjoining four-story townhouse, which was rebuilt with a new facade. A modern zinc wall was added to enlarge the upper floors. Inside is a double-height living room with exposed wooden beams and four skylights, and a large kitchen with professional appliances and a breakfast nook. There’s also private indoor parking, an office, gym and artist loft. The master bedroom and en-suite bath take up the entire third floor of the townhouse. Outside is a landscaped terrace and a Zen garden. (As the issue was going to press, this home appeared to be off the market).

90 Furman Street #N1007: $10,490,000
5 bedrooms, 4 baths; 4,187 square feet

In the winter months, the finishing touches were being put on this major 108-condo development, the Pierhouse, which also has a hotel. In December, Brownstoner noted that the final portion, the exterior work, appeared to be wrapping up. The project launched sales in 2014 and is 80 percent sold out, according to the listing.  Situated alongside the Brooklyn Bridge, the homes have sweeping views of the waterfront, and all have private outdoor spaces. Amenities include valet parking, two fitness centers and event space. The adjoining 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, which has a restaurant, spa and rooftop pool and bar, opened in February. Homes here have private outdoor spaces, Gaggenau appliances, Calcatta marble counters and islands and spa bathrooms with Waterworks fixtures.

13 Pineapple Street in Brooklyn Heights: $9,800,000
7 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, one half bath; 4,000 square feet

This is a Federal-style home steeped in history. Brown Harris Stevens broker Rhea Cohen pointed out that “it is one of the oldest homes in the Heights,” just steps away from the site of Washington’s last stand at the Battle of Brooklyn. Other details to take note of: “It is one of only a few stand-alone houses in the Heights,” said fellow BHS broker Jill Seligson Braver, who said the home’s width of 50 feet, including the attached garage, allowed for a double-width garden. The parlor and dining room have south-facing windows, and both rooms have period mantels. The kitchen is state of the art and features a bay window and breakfast nook.

8220 Narrows Avenue in Bay Ridge: $10,999,999
6 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, one half bathroom, 5,746 square feet

This home, known as the “Gingerbread House,” is nearly 100 years old and has been on and off the market since 2009. It was designed by architect James Sarsfield Kennedy for the shipping mogul Howard Jones and was one of the first landmarked homes in Bay Ridge. The Arts and Crafts-style home boasts sculpted wood reliefs, stained-glass windows and hand-carved stone fireplaces. An outdoor area features an archway that connects to a three-car garage. The fountain room links the great room to tiered exterior terraces where, the listing points out, “your lemon trees may grow or your chamber musicians may perform. Think Victorian soiree.”

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