by Dennis Holt
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Last year, according to the Halstead Property Co., 17 houses were sold for a total of $46,689,000 in Brooklyn Heights. This comes out to an average of $2,746,417 per house. These numbers do not include condos and coops. There is nothing really surprising about these numbers, even in an inflated housing market. The Heights, for a very long time now, has led the Brooklyn market in average price per house, and there is nothing on the horizon to indicate that will change.
And there is nothing surprising about why. It benefits from location: for healthy people, a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge to a Wall Street job is no big deal. There are a lot of nearby subways. And for those who travel by car, it is usually a quick pop over to Manhattan.
The housing in the Heights, even with all the apartment buildings, is almost classic, the streets gentle with plenty of trees, the Promenade and Cadman Plaza Park are close to everyone, and a stroll down Columbia Heights to the waterfront, with a magnificent park coming before long, is high fun.
People will pay a lot, and are doing so every year, to live there. But there are other housing opportunities in the wings that are creating a lot of anger and fury, foot stomping and a threat of a lawsuit.
As most people know, about 1,200 apartments are planned on Brooklyn Bridge Park property to raise enough revenues to pay the annual operating costs. No other combination of revenue sources comes even close to matching the income level the housing will bring.
Most of the housing will be discreet, at the ends and middle of the long park. No building planned for the park will be as tall as the tallest building in the Heights. For most people, the buildings will not be obstructive. The particular building containing the largest number of condos has been a fixture on the park property since the 1920s.
I, for one, and a good many other people, have been puzzled by the intensity and heat of the language of most of those who have been railing against housing on the waterfront. No logical position has been advanced. Housing there, diffused as it will be in three rather distant areas, will not create a traffic condition.
If the park is as appealing as it probably will be, more traffic will be generated by it than by nearby households. Schools may or may not be affected in a few years, but with all the other new residential building planned, that’s going to happen anyway.
It finally dawned on me that there may be something more basic at play here. The new housing, with compelling views, will compete with the rather view-less buildings in Brooklyn Heights or Cobble Hill. People who like the Heights-Cobble Hill style will not be attracted by waterfront views. But an awful lot of other people, most with significant money amounts in their pockets, will be.
And, quite frankly, those who want the convenience of newly built units, looking out at a pretty park, Manhattan, and all the rest, will not look over their shoulder inland unless they have to.
The value of homes in the Heights will not go down because of the new competition, but there won’t be as many people with money looking to invest there. It has been a clear seller’s market before in the Heights-Cobble Hill, but now new buyers may level the playing field a little.
It will be interesting to watch all this.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006