GREENPOINT ISN'T JUST THAT AREA NEXT TO WILLIAMSBURG ANYMORE
By MAX GROSS
June 19, 2008 --
OF all the places around the city that the young, the professional and the hip have found to nest, the neighborhood that has proven most resistant to change might be Brooklyn's Greenpoint.
Walking along Nassau Avenue you will see a restaurant called "Pyza" which does not serve pizza -- it serves Polish food (far and away the dominant cuisine of the neighborhood.) If you turn a corner, there's a flag-bedecked chapter of the American Legion. And the low-rise, vinyl-sided houses appear no different from how they looked 30 or 40 years ago.
"It's got a very village feeling," says Dewey Thompson, who has lived in Greenpoint for the past 12 years and is co-chair of the Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning. "I don't think anyone would have dreamed that people were going to sell luxury condos in [this] neighborhood."
Well, the unthinkable has happened.
New condominiums along the Greenpoint side of McCarren Park are fetching prices that were once unheard of in the neighborhood. Take the Robert Scarano-designed Loftology at the intersection of Driggs and Manhattan avenues.
"Everything is super modern," says David Maundrell, president of Aptsandlofts.com, of the condo.
And the prices are super modern, too. A 600-square-foot, one-bedroom is getting between $850 and $900 per square foot.
Or Manhattan Park, next door, where a few of the upper floors have seen units go for as much as $1,000 per square foot.
And this phenomenon is not limited to the area around McCarren Park. Last week, the Viridian, a 130-unit luxury building on Green Street near the waterfront, began sales. The six-story building (one of the developers is Magic Johnson) will feature all the luxury bells and whistles, including a pool, a gym, a courtyard with a skylight and even rooftop cabanas. Three-bedrooms at the Viridian are going for more than $800,000.
This is a huge jump for a neighborhood where you can still buy an entire house for less than $600,000, and where a one-bedroom can be rented for as little as $1,300.
Most of Greenpoint has remained largely unaffected by this new development. Rents have remained much lower than they have a few blocks south in Williamsburg. And the majority of condos that have popped up in the last few years have been six-to-eight-unit buildings with low price points.
"I actually think I like it better than Williamsburg," says Laura Gensinger, who began looking there for an apartment to buy but decided instead on an 850-square-foot, one-bedroom duplex in one of the Belvedere boutique buildings that have been cropping up all over Greenpoint. Her condo was big enough to share with a roommate, and she paid less than $650 per square foot.
"One of the things I like is that there's a better sense of family," Gensiger says.
Mom and pop grocery stores, flower shops, pharmacies, butchers and bakeries can be found all over Greenpoint in abundance.
"It's got the stuff Williamsburg doesn't have," says Bill Ross, director of development for Halstead Property. "Greenpoint always had infrastructure."
But one of the things that probably protected Greenpoint (at least until recently) from losing its village vibe was the fact that it was somewhat off the beaten track. The sole subway in the neighborhood is the G train - the only line that does not go through Manhattan. ("There's definitely room for improvement on the G train," says Gensinger. "But it's not that bad.") This lack of transportation kept much of the development more modest in terms of size and price.
For example, 185 India St., another Belvedere condo that will be finished this summer, has only eight units, with prices in the $700 to $800 per square foot range. Somewhat bigger boutique buildings like 149 Heron, a 30-unit condo, are selling for $500 to $675 per square foot. And there's 118 Greenpoint Ave., a converted factory with condo prices ranging from $500 to $750 per square foot.
For many residents, the big, lingering question about the future is what will happen with the waterfront since the zoning laws were changed in 2006 to allow for residential development in Williamsburg and Greenpoint.
"They had this really spectacular vision of a 28-acre park from North Seventh Street all the way around the Bushwick Inlet," says Thompson. Officials from the Department of City Planning met with local groups like Thompson's to sell them on the idea of a planted esplanade along the water that would be paid for by condo developers.
Williamsburg saw an almost immediate rush on waterfront property, with developments like the Edge and Northside Piers, which have brought many hundreds of units to the market.
Greenpoint, however, has been far slower to get any foundations in the ground. Developers are now picking up plots of land along the water, presumably to build apartments, but no buildings have been announced.
"One of the conditions is if the developer is willing to do 20 percent affordable housing, they're allowed more bulk and they can build higher," says Ross. This will mean towers that are conceivably 20 or, according to Ross, even 30 stories high.
Franklin Street, which is one block away from the water, "is where all the action will be," says David Kazemi of Bond New York, which is selling 185 India St. and other Belvedere buildings. "That's where all the bars and cafes are opening up."
Greenpointers are, as of now, on notice: This might not be a remote little village for much longer.
GET IN THE ZONE
Ask any broker who works in Greenpoint (or Greenpoint resident, for that matter) where the future of the neighborhood lies, and you will likely hear one word: Waterfront.
In 2006 the city rezoned the Greenpoint and Williamsburg waterfront, making it open to high-rise residential and mixed-use development. A lot of the gears of this redevelopment are just starting to go into motion.
Should you want to find out more about what lies in Greenpoint's watery future, check out the AIA Planning and Urban Design Committee's panel discussion Friday morning from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on this topic. Speakers will include Ward Dennis of Community Board 1; Shirley Jaffe, the vice president of development for RD Management; and Arden Sokolo of NYC Housing, Preservation and Development.
The discussion takes place at the Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Place, aiany.org.