By Liana Grey
Over the past couple of years, Julia Segal, a broker at Miron Properties, has watched demand rise for luxury apartments surrounding McCarren Park, the site of a popular pool-turned-concert-venue on the border of Williamsburg and Greenpoint in northern Brooklyn.
One-bedrooms near the 35-acre green space are selling for $700,000, she said. And rentals are approaching Manhattan prices, with one-bedrooms asking up to $2,800 a month.
“As soon as it gets nice out, if you have nothing to do on a Saturday, you can walk through the park and you’ll find your friends,” said Segal, a resident of Greenpoint. “You’ll see people working out, playing kickball, baseball. It’s already a hot area in the summer.”
Now that the concert venue is slated to turn back into a pool at the end of June — a decision community activists have been fighting for since the pool was drained over two decades ago — Segal thinks interest in the neighborhood will only continue to increase, particularly in up-and-coming Greenpoint.
“Greenpoint used to be where you went to get deals,” said Segal, who is listing a renovated three-bedroom walkup at 204 Kent Avenue for $3,200 a month, as well as a four-room railroad-style unit near McGolrick Park for $1,850. “Now, it’s a destination.”
Both in Brooklyn and Manhattan, trendy outdoor attractions are putting the spotlight on formerly grungy or off-the-radar neighborhoods.
Before the High Line opened three years ago, drawing over two million visitors a year, one-bedroom rentals in far west Chelsea fetched up to $3,000 a month, according to Douglas Wagner, an executive director of leasing at Bond New York.
Now, comparable apartments are listed in the $3,850 to $4,000 range. “Rents increased by 15 to 18 percent,” Wagner explained. “We have a lot of properties listed near the High Line. They’re not very large, but developers have taken advantage of the locale.”
Beyond its landscaped, elevated walking path, part of the High Line’s allure for apartment hunters is the surrounding retail scene. Much like Greenpoint, a formerly working class Polish neighborhood now packed with hip restaurants and boutiques like Old Hollywood, a purveyor of vintage accessories, the blocks surrounding the High Line are home to hotspots like the Biergarten at the Standard Hotel.
“The High Line is unusual, kind of like McCarren Park. It has that cache,” Wagner said. Of course, while McCarren Park is popular among hipsters, “the High Line is more for the Chelsea fashionista crowd.”
At Bond’s Upper East Side office, brokers have been emphasizing proximity of affordable, no-frills walkup rentals to John Jay Park, an outdoor space with a pool on East End Avenue and 77th Street.
For instance, online promotional materials for a rent-stabilized one-bedroom in the neighborhood, listed for $1,950 a month, include a photo of the pool at John Jay.
Like many of the city’s public pools — there are about 26 outdoor spots to swim in Manhattan — John Jay was built as part of a job-creation program during the Great Depression.
Though the Upper East Side’s affordable rentals often lack amenities, including elevators, “agents market the fact that there’s a public swimming pool nearby,” said Wagner.
So far, the strategy has proven successful: agents have been receiving frequent inquiries from bargain-hunting apartment hunters interested in living within walking distance of outdoor recreation options.
Though pools are a rarer amenity than lounges and fitness centers, “if you want to spend a lot of money, you can get a pool in your building,” Wagner said. At the Edge, the best-selling waterfront development in Williamsburg, a major selling point is the private pool with sliding glass doors, a skylight, and access to a deck with barbecue grills.
“It’s not like those bathtubs most buildings have,” joked Eugene Litvak, a Citi Habitats broker who lives at the Edge and is listing a two-bedroom rental at the development in the low $4,000s.”It’s a good, solid pool, and more importantly, because it leads right to a deck, there’s more of a social scene.”
Through a Google group, residents have organized several poolside potluck barbecues on Friday nights, some attended by as many as 50 to 60 people. On sunny weekend afternoons, neighbors lounge in beach chairs and chat. “It’s a really friendly building,” said Litvak. “People are always hanging out with each other.”
Over the next few months, Litvak will be marketing four apartments in the development, which he compares to a “condo in Miami,” including a one-bedroom on the 20th floor with an asking rent of $3,600 a month.
With summer around the corner, Kelly Elivo, a colleague of Litvak’s at Citi Habitats, has seen a flurry of interest in a studio at 333 East 75th Street with a 400 s/f garden patio.
While the building lacks a pool, the landscaped yard behind the first-floor unit, which has an asking price of $325,000, has been enough of a draw.
“The outdoor space is almost equivalent to the indoor space,” said Elivo. “There aren’t any other studios on the market with that much outdoor space.”
John Jay Park, the recreation area on East End Avenue, is two blocks away. “A lot of people, unless they live in that area, don’t know about the park,” said Elivo. “So it’s a fun find.”