Dead zones: Resi agents aren’t in these NYC neighborhoods

Areas include Highbridge in the Bronx, East New York in Brooklyn and the Rockaways in Queens

Clockwise from left: The Rockaways, Highbridge and East New York
Clockwise from left: The Rockaways, Highbridge and East New York

New York’s outer boroughs may be booming, but residential agents are not flocking to every neighborhood in equal measure.

The Real Deal recently analyzed data from the New York Department of State to determine which parts of the outer boroughs still have a comparatively low number of residential agents, finding that the dubious distinction belongs to Highbridge and Morrisania in the Bronx, East New York and its New Lots subsection in Brooklyn, the Rockaways in Queens and Port Richmond in Staten Island. TRD organized the boroughs using the New York State Department of Health’s neighborhood definitions by ZIP code.

As of 2017, just 86 agents were registered in Highbridge and Morrisania, while Port Richmond had only 140. The Rockaways had 178, and East New York and New Lots had 202. These numbers did rise in Highbridge and Morrisania, as well as in East New York and New Lots, from 2016 to 2017, increasing from 73 and 170, respectively. But agent couts dropped over the same time period in the Rockaways and Port Richmond, falling from 195 and 162, respectively.

Vic Sozio, executive vice president at Ariel Property Advisors, noted that many of these neighborhoods have a relatively high concentration of rent-regulated apartments, which could help explain why residential agents have largely chosen to set up shop in other parts of the boroughs.

“These units are often leased up through a specific process and have waiting lists and such and don’t require the help of a leasing agent,” he said. “And then as it relates to market-rate leasing and sales within those areas, the lower values I would imagine necessitate a higher volume of transactions in order to generate the same sort of revenue that you would get by focusing on another area.”

Only six firms had more than three agents registered in Highbridge and Morrisania, one of which was MVM Realty Services, where Vanessa Villanueva works as a salesperson. While agents are a more common sight in the southern part of the borough thanks to a rising market, very few are actually based in the neighborhoods, partly because there just aren’t a lot of commercial spaces that make sense for a brokerage office, Villanueva said.

“A lot of the agents come down from Throgs Neck or Pelham Bay or Gun Hill,” she said.

She described the extra attention the area is getting from agents as a mixed blessing: it’s getting harder for MVM to stand out, but it’s also resulting in partnership opportunities with larger brokerages.

In the Rockaways, one of the larger firms is Robin Shapiro Realty, which has eight registered agents in the seaside community. Broker/owner Robin Shapiro isn’t surprised that the Rockaways hasn’t attracted many residential agents. The community is pretty small, and it’s pretty insular.

“People do stay here, and then when they’re ready, half of these houses go to their children,” she said. “It’s just not enough activity or sales for a Corcoran or Douglas Elliman, and the thing is that we’re very cliquey here.”

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Jacqueline Alexander, an agent with Fillmore Real Estate and a resident of Brooklyn’s East New York/New Lots section, said she viewed the reputation of the area as one factor that could be keeping agents away.

“Historically, that neighborhood had not [had] the best reputation,” she said, “and so it is emerging out of that era.”

The neighborhood has recently seen a slew of affordable housing projects in the wake of a rezoning, and Alexander said she has started to hear it talked up as the next Bedford-Stuyvesant, though this hasn’t been enough to attract heaps of agents to the area.

“Agents tend to go where they feel the market is hot at the time,” she said. “They want to be where things are really happening, and so if it’s not at a fast pace right now, they might not be so interested in being there.”

Jonathan Reinhardt, president and CEO of Fillmore Real Estate, believes the East New York/New Lots area will be teeming with agents sooner than later.

“I think in five years, it will be a different story,” he said. “Bed-Stuy was a little short on agents a few years ago. Now, there’s an abundance.”

Neighborhoods on the opposite end of the spectrum were North Queens, which was at the top of the borough’s list with 3,319 agents in 2017, Northwest Brooklyn, which had 2,496 agents, Staten Island’s South Shore, which had 1,194, and the Southeast Bronx, which had 1,010.

Although Sozio said there were signs that the quieter outer borough neighborhoods were at least starting to trend in the direction of their more popular counterparts, he cautioned that the number of agents wasn’t going to skyrocket immediately.

“The increased amount of investment activity in those areas would result in more agents focusing out there and trying to carve a niche per se,” Sozio said, “but in general I don’t think it’s going to explode overnight.”

Outer-Borough Agent Counts by Region
RankRegionBorough2016 Agent Count2017 Agent CountPercent Change
1North QueensQueens3,0173,3199.1%
2Northwest BrooklynBrooklyn2,5392,496-1.7%
3West QueensQueens1,8101,9477%
4Southern BrooklynBrooklyn1,5791,5790%
5West Central QueensQueens1,5211,445-5.3%
6Southwest BrooklynBrooklyn1,2441,3366.9%
7Southwest QueensQueens1,2061,2201.2%
8South ShoreStaten Island1,0541,19411.7%
9Borough ParkBrooklyn1,2421,192-4.2%
10Northwest QueensQueens1,1921,183-0.8%
11Northeast QueensQueens1,2591,163-8.3%
12Central BrooklynBrooklyn1,0181,0291.1%
13Southeast BronxBronx9941,0101.6%
15Bushwick and WilliamsburgBrooklyn61889230.7%
18Southeast QueensQueens7297776.2%
19Northeast BronxBronx7027658.2%
20Mid-IslandStaten Island737736-0.1%
21Canarsie and FlatlandsBrooklyn694680-2.1%
22Stapleton and St. GeorgeStaten Island655647-1.2%
23Central QueensQueens5355899.2%
24Kingsbridge and RiverdaleBronx4014051%
25Sunset ParkBrooklyn3153150%
26Bronx Park and FordhamBronx2552550%
27East New York and New LotsBrooklyn17020215.8%
29Port RichmondStaten Island162140-15.7%
30Central BronxBronx11013417.9%
31Hunts Point and Mott HavenBronx788710.3%
32High Bridge and MorrisaniaBronx738615.1%
Source: TRData analysis of Department of State's Licensing Services Division records
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