Ridgewood rising

Brokers are seeing artists, 20-somethings and young families trickle in to Queens neighborhood

66-22 to 66-44 Forest Avenue
66-22 to 66-44 Forest Avenue

Every year in New York City real estate, it seems, a new area is anointed the next hot neighborhood — from Long Island City in Queens to Bushwick and Greenpoint in Brooklyn.

But there’s something different about this year’s most-buzzed about up-and-coming neighborhood: Ridgewood, Queens.

Ridgewood is just one stop past Bushwick on the L train, but the working-class enclave, with its rows of attached houses, has a far different feel than the converted post-industrial warehouses of its hipper neighbor. Nonetheless, real estate brokers are seeing artists, 20-somethings and young families trickle into Ridgewood, lured by cheaper home prices, a burgeoning local arts scene and new restaurants.

“There’s a big upswing in the market in terms of people coming in,” said Joe Crifasi of Crifasi Real Estate, which has offices in Williamsburg, Ridgewood and Middle Village, Queens. “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.”

Demand from these new residents, combined with the overall uptick in the real estate market over the past year, has led to more sales and rising rents. According to the real estate listings provider StreetEasy.com, the median closed sale price of a Ridgewood home in the second quarter was $400,000, up 14 percent from the same period of last year.

“In the past year, we’ve seen an uptick in sales and rentals,” said Aaron Hillel of Ridgewood-based Hillel Realty Group. “Apartments have definitely increased in price. We were renting one-bedroom apartments for $1,150 to $1,200 two to three years ago, and now they are going for as high as $1,500.”

He added: “Last year, apartments would stay on the market for months, but this year they are renting so fast it’s unbelievable.”

Different housing stock

Located just over the Queens border from Bushwick, Ridgewood’s manicured brick row houses were largely constructed in the early 1900s to house the immigrants who worked in the area’s breweries and knitting mills.

That gives it a far different feel than trendy, post-industrial Bushwick.

“You’re talking about different housing stock,” said Sofia Song, vice president of research at StreetEasy. “Bushwick is more apartments and multi-family homes. Ridgewood has more single-family homes and row houses.”

Nonetheless, artists and young professionals priced out of other areas are moving to Ridgewood, brokers said. They’ve been followed by new art galleries — for instance, Famous Accountants on Gates Avenue and Valentine, opened by a founder of Galapagos Art Space — as well as restaurants and bars. At the Vietnamese restaurant Bunker on Metropolitan Avenue, chef Jimmy Tu once cooked at Eleven Madison Park in the Flatiron District.

So, what is behind the sudden surge in demand? First, a 2010 change to the “M” subway route shortened the commute of Ridgewood residents to Midtown, brokers said.

But more importantly, the resurgent economy has strengthened the housing market citywide. With rents again on the rise in popular neighborhoods such as Williamsburg, home seekers are again venturing farther afield in search of bargains.

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“A lot of people are getting priced out of Manhattan, Williamsburg, Long Island City and even Greenpoint,” said Eric Hantman, CEO of boutique real estate firm Prime NY, “so they are going to the next areas of gentrification, which seem to be Bushwick and Ridgewood.”

In particular, the increasing popularity of Bushwick has led more home seekers to start looking over the Queens border.

“I think Bushwick opened up Ridgewood,” Crifasi said.

Good deals are still readily available in Ridgewood, brokers said, because the area was hard hit by the ensuing real estate downturn and has not recovered as fast as its hipper neighbors.

For example, the median home price in Ridgewood at the end of the first quarter was $370,000, about 11 percent lower than in the same period of 2008, according to StreetEasy. By contrast, the median price of a Bushwick home sale was $412,000, up nearly 30 percent from $317,382 five years ago.

Not on the radar

But there are some factors that may prevent an explosion of development in Ridgewood.

First, Ridgewood is densely populated, and its attached row houses make development more difficult than in Bushwick and Willamsburg, with their large multi-family buildings and former factories.

“There just isn’t that much available land for big developments,” Crifasi said.

Ridgewood has seen some new residential projects, such as the Times Bldg on Cypress Avenue. The former headquarters of the Ridgewood Times newspaper was converted to condos in 2009, and is now sold out, said David Maundrell, president of Brooklyn-based real estate brokerage aptsandlofts.com, who handled sales at the 19-unit building.

Still, “you aren’t going to see so much new construction here,” Hillel said. “It’s hard to knock down an apartment building, because there isn’t much [room for another one].”

Ridgewood landlords are investing in renovating their properties to make them more attractive to renters and buyers, brokers said.

But so far at least, Ridgewood simply isn’t on the radar of many Brooklyn and Manhattan apartment hunters.Ridgewood is still largely “unfound,” Hillel said. “You see all these people moving into Bushwick because Williamsburg is so expensive, but they still haven’t found the L [train stop] at Wyckoff and Myrtle.”