Forest City’s Gilmartin: Queens and the Bronx are where it’s at

Developer cools on Brooklyn market

From left: 550 Vanderbilt Avenue and MaryAnne Gilmartin
From left: 550 Vanderbilt Avenue and MaryAnne Gilmartin

Forest City Ratner may be famous for betting big on Brooklyn, but its CEO MaryAnne Gilmartin isn’t as bullish on the borough as she used to be.

“Brooklyn might be a little overheated for us,” Gilmartin said Wednesday at the Honest Buildings Real Estate Innovation Summit, held at 7 World Trade Center. She added that real estate prices in Brooklyn have gotten “out of control.”

Forest City is co-developing the Pacific Park residential project in Brooklyn with China’s Greenland Group, and Gilmartin said she still likes Brooklyn neighborhoods such as Gowanus. But she sees greater potential in two other boroughs.

“I think the future is probably Queens, to be honest,” she said. “If I had enormous amounts of cash to invest, I would pick up properties in Queens and the Bronx.” The way Gilmartin sees it, artists moving from Brooklyn to Queens and the Bronx in search of cheaper rents are the vanguard of growth.

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Meanwhile, she is worried that Brooklyn may soon no longer be the hippest and most diverse part of town. “It’s what people call Tribeca Triburbia. You don’t want Brooklyn to become so diluted and watered-down that it loses its edge.”

“Could you have all this prosperity, all this growth, and still keep the ethos of the borough?” she asked, adding that she is also concerned about individual neighborhoods losing their specific characteristics amid a new development boom.

Incidentally, no one has done more to change the characteristics of Downtown Brooklyn and Prospect Heights than Forest City. Having completed the Barclays Center, the developer is currently working on getting the rest of its megadevelopment Pacific Park, formerly known as Atlantic Yards, off the ground. Gilmartin assumed leadership of the firm from Bruce Ratner in April 2013.

The modular tower B2 Brooklyn is still far from complete after the high-profile divorce from partner Skanska. But the company is making progress on another residential building, 550 Vanderbilt Avenue. Gilmartin said sales for the condo building, located at the eastern end of the Pacific Park site, will launch in June out of a sales office in the Barclays Center.

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