Jamella Swift, a broker at Citi Habitats, lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and often handles listings there. Lately, she’s sold a handful of two-bedroom condos and brownstones to young professionals ready to start families.
The neighborhood’s quaint historic district is particularly attractive to parents priced out of Park Slope. The average apartment in Bed Stuy — currently the most-searched Brooklyn neighborhood on Trulia — is listed at $478,732.
“People out there are buying brownstones because they need space,” said David Maundrell, the founder of aptsandlofts.com
A growing number of shops in the neighborhood cater to toddlers, including the Little Red Boutique, a clothing store on Lewis Street. Family-friendly chain stores are making their way to Fulton Street, a major retail corridor that runs from the western edge of the neighborhood to the border of East New York.
But the area has held onto its multicultural vibe and quirky mom and pop fixtures, including a Trinidad-style Chinese restaurant and the Doctor’s Cave, a café on the ground floor of a brownstone. “I come across a lot of buyers and renters that don’t want Park Slope,” Swift said. “They think it’s too homogenous.”
The brownstone-lined blocks west of Prospect Park are still in high demand, of course; over the past year, housing prices jumped by over 20 percent, to $1.201 million, according to Trulia.
But hipsters with young children have begun migrating to Williamsburg, in search of an edgier arts and retail scene.
Those set on Brownstone Brooklyn, but not yet won over by Bed Stuy, are dispersing across western and central Brooklyn. “Kensington is another market that [appeals] to people in Park Slope, aesthetically it’s very similar,” said Maundrell.
Others are bypassing the Second Borough altogether and looking in Queens, which recorded more residential sales last quarter than any other borough, according to the Real Estate Board of New York’s most recent report.
Here, Brokers Weekly takes a look at neighborhoods with the potential to become the next hot spot for families.
Not too long ago, Maria Hadjidemetriou, a broker at Citi Habitats, helped a couple relocate from New Zealand to northwest Queens.
The pair was expecting their second child, and narrowed their search to the blocks surrounding Astoria Park, a 60-acre green space in the shadow of the Triborough Bridge.
Hadjidemetriou herself grew up in Astoria, and frequently takes her young daughter to the waterfront park, which has tennis courts, playgrounds, and the oldest and largest pool in the city. “It has a great sprinkler system,” she said.
She makes sure to fill in transplants about hidden gems scattered throughout the neighborhood, including the Museum of the Moving Image and the rock garden at the Noguchi Museum, which is “conveniently located next to a Costco.” Sesame Street, she added, is often taped in a local studio.
Since returning from Battery Park City, where she lived for 11 years, Hadjidemetriou has watched Astoria’s retail scene evolve to accommodate the Park Slope crowd, too.
23rd Street in particular has become a destination for the stroller set. Gym-mazing, a play space that opened recently on the block, offers Zumba classes for kids and lessons in Brazilian karate. Hadjidemetriou has considered enrolling in a mommy-and-me yoga session with her daughter.
While architecturally distinct from Brownstone Brooklyn, the neighborhood’s brick rowhouses and detatched homes form an urban suburb much like Park Slope. “I had a listing on a single family house with a front yard, back yard and driveway,” Hadjidemetriou said.
On the urban end of the spectrum, she added, “there’s been a huge uptick in condo development.”
On blocks zoned strictly for two- and three-family housing, a handful of small apartment buildings are undergoing construction, and landlords have begun fixing up older stock.
Luxury towers like Astoria NW, a 117-unit building with a roof deck that Citi Habitats began marketing last year, are still relatively rare, though.
“If families are looking for amenities and high-rises, then they lean towards Long Island City,” said Hadjidemetriou. “If they want more of a neighborhood feel, they move to Astoria.”
In a testament to rising demand for suburban-style living, Ditmars, a largely Greek enclave a ten minute walk north of the nearest N and Q stop, is now attracting house hunters from all walks of life. Hadjidemetriou’s father, who owns two apartments near Ditmars Boulevard, recently rented one to young professionals.
In addition to the neighborhood’s famed Greek restaurants, transplants are frequenting the hookah bars and Middle Eastern cafes along Steinway Street, a primarily Egyptian section of Astoria.
Lured by the promise of living in a melting pot with reputable public schools, a couple from Hoboken, New Jersey, began hunting for a rental before starting a family. “They want Astoria specifically because they could expose [the kids] to diversity,” said Hadjidemetriou.
It should come as no surprise that DUMBO’s converted warehouses, once the domain of young bankers and lawyers, are filling up with families.
The neighborhood is home to the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, a popular summer spot for moms and toddlers, and a renovated esplanade with plenty of space for kids to run around. A restored carousel sits along the waterfront, encased in a glass cube reminiscent of Manhattan’s Apple store.
The list goes on: Deweys Candy, a whimsical shop with lollipops hanging from the ceiling, opened on Front Street, a prominent retail corridor. Parents flock to Half Pint on Washington Street to buy toys. “There are a bunch of little shops,” said Maundrell. “It’s very boutiquey.”
Families eyeing western Brooklyn, but hoping to steer clear of pricey listings in Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights, are often torn between DUMBO and Cobble Hill.
“Cobble Hill has more townhouses, and DUMBO has more condos,” said Maundrell, of aptsandlofts.com.
The latest condo building to open near the Manhattan Bridge is Kirkman Lofts, a former soap factory that was carved into large apartments.
Cobble Hill has little room for new development, with the exception of an industrial stretch of waterfront now home to Columbia Commons, a 48-unit condo building.
DUMBO, on the other hand, is still a work in progress, with abandoned factories still awaiting conversion, and Brooklyn Bridge Park continuing to expand.
Commuting to Manhattan from the northern tip of Brooklyn requires a subway transfer in Williamsburg, or a walk to Long Island City over the Pulaski Bridge, but the busy, affluent stroller set has been flocking to Greenpoint nonetheless. “If you have a car, it’s a great neighborhood,” said Maundrell.
Rather than attracting Park Slope types, the peninsula is often a top choice for couples that frequent the bars, restaurants, and art galleries on Bedford Avenue, but don’t wish to pay a premium for living near the L train.
“Greenpoint’s a little more affordable than Williamsburg,” Maundrell explained. But the neighborhood, with its large Polish population and industrial fringes, remains a hidden gem.
In recent months, house hunters with young children have been dropping by 214 Green Street, a five-story glass and brick building, and 149 Huron Street, a relatively new condo development that was briefly converted to rentals during the recession. Two-bedrooms at the latter property start at $519,000.
“There’s a mixture of first-floor duplexes that give you a lot of space,” said Maundrell.
Even two-family homes, which range in price from $750,000 to $1.2 million, are not out of reach for those seeking to maximize space. “You have a mixture of housing,” said Maundrell.
Much of the stock is similar to that of Greenwood Heights, a rough-around-the-edges neighborhood sandwiched between Sunset Park and Park Slope, along the D, N, and R lines. Both neighborhoods have highly-ranked schools and are slightly removed from Brooklyn’s hottest neighborhoods.
But Fourth Avenue, the main retail drag in Greenwood, leaves much to be desired, and child-centric attractions are limited to a bowling alley in the neighborhood’s southernmost corner.
“Greenpoint is well-established,” said Maundrell. “Manhattan Avenue has anything you can think of in terms of retail.” Franklin Avenue, another commercial thoroughfare, is packed with funky shops that might appeal to kids, including Kill Devil Hill, which sells penny candy, and Junk, a purveyor of everything from 69 cent comic books to costume jewelry.
When it comes to residential sales, however, the most coveted portion of the neighborhood is closest to McCarren Park, a 35-acre green space near the Williamsburg border. A house in the area listed by aptsandlofts.com was recently sold after receiving nine offers.
“People are looking for space,” said Maundrell. “They’ll keep moving further out.”