Friday, February 27, 2015


Excuse the wonky picture. Here are four more three-family buildings about to bite the dust in the Fourth Avenue vicinity. 189-195 17th Street, just up from the avenue, have just been put up for sale as a development/conversion site. These brick buildings are still standing, as stated in the listing, but the site is also billed as vacant land. Clearly they're not destined to stick around much longer.

Just off of 4th Avenue, the subject property is comprised of an assemblage of four contiguous townhomes on the North side of 17th Street, immediately upon the R train stop at Prospect Avenue, which accommodates over 18MM riders annually, offering hi-visibility for retail, if desired and ease-of-access for residential buyers/renters. Each of the four lots are 19’.5” x 80’.17”, offering a combined frontage of approximately 80’ along 17th Street ... Offered at: $15,750,000. This offering presents visionary developers and builders of all types an opportunity to respond to New York’s insatiable appetite for luxury condo and rental property. Consider becoming a part of the reshaping of 4th Avenue and its transformation into “The Park Avenue of Brooklyn”. (Corcoran)

The area, according to the broker-speak, is an "emerging community," but it's hardly emerging for those displaced from small, walk-up apartment buildings.  Receding fast, more like.

If you look up at that wonky picture again, you will see a Google-warped lamppost with a sign fixed to it: NO HORN BLOWING EXCEPT FOR DANGER.   Why might horn-blowing be something of an issue here?  Well, this block of 17th, between Fourth and Fifth, is broken up by an entrance to the south-bound Prospect Expressway, and has a steady stream of traffic heading up the block.  Thank you once again, Mr. Moses.  This is another lovely street  - a stately street of brick and brownstone atypical, in this vicinity -  that was screwed over by the power broker.  The expressway entrance is just a few doors up from our development site.

Pity that poor house to the right, with its old lot razed almost entirely away.

189 - 195 are at the far left of the picture.

Nos. 189 - 95, like all the properties on the north side of the block, directly abut expressway traffic. As you can see here.

Right around the corner from Brooklyn's Park Avenue, these are today's million-dollar locations.

Update: I walked by the corner of Fourth & 17th today and noticed that the corner store (597 Fourth) is shuttered, so that might be another piece of the development plan here.  This is a classic old commercial & residential building  - the kind that gracefully anchors many a corner of the city - but as we know, corners are up for grabs. I didn't get a chance to take a picture today, but have managed to dig up this one I took four years ago.  I'm pretty sure I have some pictures of the wonderful store signs at 597, but will have to sift through old photographs.  Lost City was here in 2010, though, and took a closeup look.

And talking of corners, stores at the south-east corner of Fourth & 16th have been empty for some time, and the north-west corner business (briefly Country Boys) remains closed. I'm sure some of those visionary developers have ideas in mind.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

On 8th Street

Here's another back-house.  This one's on 8th Street, between Fifth & Fourth, and there's a similar back-house two doors up. I imagine there was originally a third one in between the two.  The front houses on this strip of the block are wooden and the rear houses appear to be brick.

You don't get to see much of them from the street, but a rental ad gives a good view.  You can see it here.  This block has an astonishing architectural mix, from wooden and brick rowhouses, and the beautiful old ink factory (apartments today), commercial back lots to 9th street businesses, walk-up apartment buildings, the St Thomas Aquinas church, and a host of modern & pricey townhouses and apartment buildings of mixed aesthetic charm.  In just this block you can see a busy timeline of an area's development.  It's also about the farthest north in the Slope where you will see this kind of mix.  Yes, there are wooden houses scattered among blocks to the north and east, but most of these are tucked in among late nineteenth & early twentieth century planned development of brick & brownstone townhouse, and apartment building.  What people think of as classic Park Slope. Head south, west of Seventh & it's a more mixed architectural bag.  It's been a target of developer mayhem in the last decade or so, but to me it has more far more character and historical complexity.  And it's been home for a long time

If I had the skill and the time, I'd like to use the Sanborn maps to catalog the back-houses that once existed between 8th, say, and 36th, and find out how many are still standing.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Another Demolition

Back in November the owners of 198-204 19th Street filed development plans for a 22-unit apartment building on the property.

The five-story building will pack 22 units into nearly 15,000 square feet of net residential space, for an average unit size of just 680 square feet – surely rentals (three on the ground floor, six on floors two and three, five on the fourth floor, and two at the penthouse level)... 
The 19th Street project is set to include 12 parking spaces (one more than required by zoning) in an open area at ground level, though the contextual zoning will require that the parking area be tucked behind the building.
... The strange 75-foot-wide property (which had four structures containing seven housing units, for which a demolition permit was filed in September) has not yet been officially sold to the developer.. (NY YIMBY)

While the demolition of the three remaining buildings on the site was approved, plans for the new apartment building were not.  As of last month the buildings to be demolished were boarded up and awaiting their fate.  Today I noticed that plans were recently approved (2/18) for the demolition of two buildings (front & rear) at the adjacent 196 19th.  The owner of 196 is listed as a David Pedram (Eshokol Development Corp.), and the owner of 198 is listed as Hadi Pedram (Atomic Contracting) .  The owners share the same business address.  196 was transferred as a life estate deed in September '14, but David Pedram's name does not appear on the document.  

I expect that any resubmitted building plans will take the extra space at 196 into account.

Buildings at the 198-204 site waiting to be torn down (January, 2014)

In truth I've become a little obsessed with this group of buildings, which in today's market fall into a category you could call expendable vernacular.  They might not mean much to preservationists, and are as far away from the world of landmarked brownstones a few blocks north-west as you can imagine, but to my mind they're just as important a piece of the neighborhood's history.




In the Google pics above, 196 is the partially-obscured house to the far right.  Here's another 2014 shot from farther down the block.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Open House

We've seen this one before. 337A (center, above) has been hanging around the market for almost a year, with a couple of other brokers handling the sale before Corcoran. Sold in April of 2013 for $570,000, it's been listed for as high as $1,795,000, but the sale price now is only $1,550,000.

Two unit, three story townhouse on a serene tree lined street, this meticulous and completely renovated house allows you to move right in... 
The house features great dimensions, open kitchen/Living Room plans, lots of sunlight, hardwood floors throughout and great closet space. The basement is completely finished with a half bathroom and ready to create to your specifications. Beautiful stucco exterior. EVERYTHING IS NEW. This property is the great example of living in your own house while enjoying rental income. Subways are D/N/R . P.S 10, a charter school is around the corner. Enjoy all the 5th ave restaurants and shopping have to offer. Since this house was built in 1930 there is no C of O. This house is vacant and showings are easy. (Corcoran)

This is a lovely block, with Greenwood views up the street, and harbor views down. The broker-speak for this listing, however, has a few too many imaginative embellishments.

Meticulous?  The reno here looks like a low-budget job, with forlorn looking kitchenettes shoved in the corners of the living rooms.
The house may be described as a two unit building, but it's not a legal two-family right now.  It's true that an application for a change from one to two-family is in the works but it hasn't been approved yet.
The R train is in easy walking distance, but the nearest N & D trains are either at 36th Street (south) or Atlantic (north), via the R.  Not super-convenient
Was this house really built in 1930?  An E.B. Hyde Brooklyn map dated 1903 clearly shows a building on the lot similar in size to this one (minus its recent add-on), though it is not evident on maps made a few years earlier.

The Open House is today.  See what you make of the place yourself.

Shades of Babeland?

Well what have we here?  A paper sign at 557 Fifth (15th Street) where a couple of cafes had brief & unsuccessful runs, has a message for passers-by:

Everyone deserves happy endings!!
We'll get you closer ... Coming very soon

Inside the store there are bottles on a counter, bold-labeled Get It On, and painted on a rear wall the torrid line, Hold Me While I Let Go.

And next door, at Der Kommissar ... there are sausage samplers!

Update, 2/24  And the name of the new store is Please.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Multi-Family Shopping Spree

Breaking news of a multi-million portfolio acquisition involving thirty-two multifamily buildings in Brooklyn, Manhattan & Queens...

...  Douglas Eisenberg’s A&E Real Estate acquired a massive multifamily portfolio spanning 32 buildings across three boroughs from the Dermot Company for north of $360 million, The Real Deal has learned. 
The Brooklyn-centric portfolio contains more than 1,000 apartments — a mix of rent-stabilized and market-rate units — and 17 commercial units. There are 19 buildings in Brooklyn, 10 in Manhattan and three in Queens. Of the Manhattan properties, eight are in Morningside Heights and two are in East Village. Six of the Brooklyn buildings are in the stroller-friendly Park Slope. A six-story, 113-unit Clinton Hill building at 266 Washington Avenue is the largest building in the portfolio. 
(The Real Deal)

As I've demonstrated many times on this blog, I have next-to-no skills in unraveling the mysteries of property deals, but the rental site NY Bits identifies eight South Slope addresses as being owned by Dermot. All buildings were acquired in 2007.

243 13th Street - 3/2007 
249 13th Street - 3/2007 ($10,500,000 for the two buildings)

252 12th Street - 4/2007 ($4,642,857)

300 12th Street - 5/2007 ($3,714,286)

280 14th Street - 5/2007 ($4,642,857)

1677 8th Avenue - 6/2007 ($1,100,000)
1683 8th Avenue - 6/2007 ($1,100,000)

439 16th Street - 6/2007 ($2,200,000)

Foolhardy as it may be, let's assume that six of these buildings are part of the portfolio.  We'll find out which ones were, & what prices they reached, soon enough.  There have certainly been plenty of complaints at the buildings above, including construction work without permits, cracks in an apartment ceiling, gas fumes & lack of heat, though few violations were ever issued.  Few work permits are on file for these buildings since 2007, & many of the complaints recorded were (conveniently?) dismissed due to DoB inspectors' lack of access. 

Updates to follow.

Further Reading on Dermot Company & A & E/Urban American

Out with the old landlords,

Another Rent-Stabilized Notch in Dermot's Belt (Brownstoner)
Tenants Charge Dermot Company with Harassment (Brownstoner)
Stuck with Dermot Management, A Modern--Day Slumlord (Consumerist)
Dermot Realty Management Co. reviews (Citysearch)

And in with the new!

State Officials Probe Rent Hikes in Washington Heights (NY Daily News)
State investigators are probing an uptown real estate mogul for hiking tenants’ rent — by double digits rates — sparking a fierce housing battle in Washington Heights.

Eviction Anxiety Rattles a Formerly Subsidized Upper Manhattan Building (NY Times)
This summer, James Russell Outlaw, a disabled World War II veteran, received a letter from his landlord saying he would be evicted from his apartment after 32 years.
Mr. Outlaw, who turns 83 next month, was losing his one-bedroom apartment, at Broadway and 135th Street, because the city had terminated his monthly housing subsidy after finding evidence of a vermin infestation, as well as a nonworking oven.
Though his landlord (Urban American - chief operating officer Doug Eisenberg) had failed to carry out the needed work, it became Mr. Outlaw’s problem when eviction proceedings began

Who is Running Urban American Management? (Slumlord Millionaires)

A & E Real Estate Management (Yelp)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Astoria, 21st & Broadway

On the coldest day of winter, Lady Liberty is sticking it out in front of the tax office.  In crushed velour and foam crown, she is looking for customers.  Her face is sunburn-red with cold.

I ride home from Queens in a salt train.