Brooklyn Townhouses are Hot; Small Apartments Not?

The publication Mansions Global, which I discovered only because I have a Google alert for anything mentioning Brooklyn Heights (which, along with stuff about our neighborhood, gives me info about a suburb of Cleveland, a poor neighborhood in Nashville, a pizza parlor in Austin, a drag queen popular in the D.C. area, and a race horse), has an article by Michele Lerner with the title “Are Brooklyn Brownstones the New Manhattan Co-op?”

The premise is that COVID-19 has made the wealthy squeamish about having to share building common spaces with potentially contagious fellow residents, guests, and staff. This has made the single family town house (perhaps with a ground level apartment that can be leased at a rental that might be sufficient to pay the mortgage) an attractive proposition. As Ms. Lerner begins her piece:

The allure of owning a condo or co-op in Manhattan, an icon of success for many people, may be fading in favor of something once considered a little mundane: a townhouse in Brooklyn. While the increase in Brooklyn’s desirability has been happening for well over a decade, the pandemic has pushed more people to look for a home with extra indoor and outdoor space and less interaction with neighbors and staff.

She quotes Gerard Splendore, a broker with Warburg Realty, on the attraction of Brooklyn Heights:

Townhouses in Brooklyn Heights are particularly sought-after and tend to have higher prices than some other Brooklyn neighborhoods, said Mr. Splendore, because of their proximity to Manhattan and views of the Manhattan skyline. Williamsburg and Greenpoint also have an easy commute to Manhattan, and Ditmas Park, close to Prospect Park, has freestanding houses as well as townhouses, he said.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has a story by Kim Velsey about the effect of the pandemic on the less affluent. It tells of a couple – James Casey, an associate director of a biology lab at Barnard College, and Erin Boyle, a writer with a blog, Reading My Tea Leaves – who lived happily with their three children, now ranging in age from six years to nine months, in a 500 square foot one bedroom apartment here in Brooklyn Heights. Before the pandemic hit, this was tolerable, because they weren’t almost always all at home at the same time. COVID changed this, and they needed more space, so they’ve now moved to an 800 square foot two bedroom floor-through in Carroll Gardens.

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  • Jorale-man

    I wonder how many of these people who moved this year will be regretting it in a year from now, when – knock on wood – a vaccine has started to bring the virus under control.

    Also, would the affluent really look to Greenpoint or Ditmas Park for townhouses? No knock on those neighborhoods – they’re great in their ways – but they’re not the Upper East Side.

  • Cranberry Beret

    Well, I doubt the supposed clientele of “Mansions Global” are buying in Greenpoint. But there are certainly plenty of deep-pocketed folks snapping up houses there and Williamsburg. You see their handiwork in mags like Architectural Digest – people with big $ renovation budgets buy one of those little vinyl-sided houses, completely gut the inside so it looks like a fancy white-box Manhattan condo, and plunk down a big addition in the backyard.

    That Mansions article about the “new” allure of Brooklyn is pretty ridiculous. It’s an evergreen piece based on a dubious premise: they always include a line like, “While the increase in Brooklyn’s desirability has been happening for well over a decade…” – no matter in which decade the article is written.

    More articles, please, about real families trying to work-from-home and school-from-home in 500-800f!

  • Cranberry Beret

    Also, Claude: how could you NOT include the quote from the urban real estate expert cited in the article whose name is (allegedly) “John Walkup”??

    In the follow-up article, they’ll cite his Dickensian colleague Nancy Woodburningfireplace.

  • Jorale-man

    Yes, it’s definitely more of a nouveau riche crowd that buys in “edgy” Brooklyn neighborhoods – not the old-money types. Well, these articles probably appeal to the Journal’s advertisers, hehe.

  • Claude Scales

    I got a laugh out of John Walkup, but what he said didn’t seem on point. When I first came to New York and started reading real estate classifieds I was bewildered and amused by the acronyms. Along with some friends, I started to say them as if they were words. If
    I visited someone’s apartment and saw a fireplace with some logs, I’d say, “Ah! You have a wubuff.” One that puzzled me longest was “w/FDR.” I was pretty sure this didn’t mean that, on entering, one would be greeted by an old man in a wheelchair wearing pince-nez glasses and smoking a cigarette in an ebony holder. Someone finally told me it meant “with formal dining room.”

  • KXrVrii1

    I’m more impressed by this line of BS from Mr. Caleo:

    “Given that most townhomes are attached on either side, utility costs are remarkably lower, making the buildings more energy efficient from the insulating factor of a shared wall with neighbors.”

  • El

    moving within NYC is probably fine, but I read some article about a woman who gave up her rent stabilized apt on the UWS to move to Vermont and immediately regretted it – have to imagine that won’t be unusual!