What's up with Brooklyn, according to real estate developers

By BrickUnderground  | September 17, 2014 - 9:59AM

Ever wish you could be a fly on the wall as developers, deal-makers and financiers talk shop about their plans to reshape NYC's most talked-about borough? We did, which is why BrickUnderground spent the day at the Brooklyn Real Estate Summit yesterday. Sponsored by heavy-hitting commercial real estate brokerage Massey Knakal, the rather posh full-day summit at the Brooklyn Museum touched on everything from affordable housing to sparkling new developments from Williamsburg to the Brooklyn Navy Yard to (eventually) East New York. Below, the Cliff's Notes version of what we learned:

  •  Among 200 Brooklyn apartments rented out by one company in the last few months, 85 percent went to out-of-state kids with driver's licenses from Colorado, Florida and elsewhere...whose parents could afford to act as guarantors, according to one major NYC lender.
  •  Dreaming of living AND working in Brooklyn?  You may need to dream awhile longer, since Brooklyn's booming "Innovation Economy" needs far more commercial space than the projected supply. That's because developers can make boatloads more money building apartments.  Developers say that only property tax abatements and other government incentives are likely to change this anytime soon. 
  • The last real estate bargain in Brooklyn may be commercial rents, which cost about half as much as in Manhattan. 
  • Red Hook will never be a Williamsburg because the transportation isn't there. We are a city of subway riders, after all.
  • That said, an urban gondola to Manhattan could shave 12 to 20 hours a month off a Williamsburg commute--and drive up the price of real estate there.
  • What gets Brooklyn renters and condo buyers most excited?  Outdoor space and  swimming pools.  Plus, unlike Manhattanites, Brooklynites actuallyuse the pool if their building has one.
  • Most people won't buy or rent a place that's more than 10 blocks from the nearest subway. And the closer you get to the train, the more you'll pay for your apartment.
  • At 388 Bridge, a condo/rental tower that's the tallest in Brooklyn, extended families--parents, kids and grandparents--are buying several apartments at once, says the developer.
  • Along the BQE, way too many cool old warehouse-y buildings are being used as storage facilities.  Maybe it's time to rezone and put some apartments there. (With soundproofing?)
  • Yes, New York City is in a housing crisis. Which is why the De Blasio administration will require every apartment building that goes up in a re-zoned area or needs re-zoning in order to be built to include affordable housing.
  • Meanwhile in Park Slope, there's a different kind of housing crisis.  As fewer creative types move to the 'hood, and more professionals like attorneys and finance workers don't much care for the no-frills, DIY brownstone life, there's a shortage of luxury housing options, though plans are in the works.
  • A few decades from now, the Brooklyn Navy Yard might loom as large on the skyline as the Williamsburg waterfront, and there's a good chance your office will be in one of the buildings.
  • East New York won't be "the new Bushwick" anytime soon. While rents in the east-of-Williamsburg nabe have soared, big new developments are only now heading in, meaning that the powers that be won't be building any farther east just yet.
  • Working with the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission is like melting the Great Wall of China.
  • Internet and bandwidth availability are a surprisingly major problem facing Brooklyn tech companies (or any companies, for that matter). For instance, in much of the borough, Verizion FiOS isn't an option.
  • Apartments in walk-up buildings don't have to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Acts. Expect to see more 800-square-foot three-bedrooms as developers rehab old buildings to maximize profits.


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