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Queens catching up in race to be the next big thing

By Swain Weiner, President/ Partner, Greiner-Maltz Investment Properties

For years, Queens trailed behind Manhattan and Brooklyn in terms of growth and development. But now, the Borough is finally catching up with the race, and a lot of investors want to be part of the turnaround.

According to the New York Department of State, the number of real estate brokers in Queens rose by six percent last year – more than double the rate in Manhattan, demonstrating the Borough’s increasing appeal and demand across all spectrums of the real estate market.

Jackson Heights. Photo by Jay Santiago/ Flickr
Jackson Heights. Photo by Jay Santiago/ Flickr

Developers, businesses and renters alike are seeing the potential of Queens. Neighborhoods like Corona and Jackson Heights have paved the way for this relatively new trend – not only because they contain a diversity of cuisines – but also because of their accessibility and affordability.

In the first eight months of 2016, the sales volume in Corona, a vibrant neighborhood situated in the heart of Queens, reached a staggering $83.4 million record, outbidding the four quarters of 2015 combined.

Furthermore, the median sale price per square foot continues to rise over the course of this year, reaching a selling point of $354 per square foot, while the number of commercial transactions made increased to 155 – a strong indication of a better year for investment in the neighborhood.

While Jackson Heights’ sales volume figure is not quite as striking, the median price per square foot also continues to accelerate at an impressive rate through the first half of 2016, reaching a selling point of $431 per square foot.

Additionally, Jackson Heights is located four stops away from Midtown Manhattan, which makes it a top choice for not only commercial investments, but also for prospective renters and buyers.

With its established, niche neighborhoods and extensive network of transportation, enclaves like Corona and Jackson Heights continue to see the demand for multi-family properties overtaking availability.

Furthermore, the impending and controversial L-train shutdown will inevitably draw developers and renters away from Brooklyn and into Queens.

Just as Brooklyn has become a more affordable option to Manhattan, data suggests that Queens is becoming that same type of affordable alternative to Brooklyn.

That is especially true for neighborhoods like Corona and Jackson Heights, which are located along the convenient and reliable 7-train route.

According to MTA NYC transit reports, the 7-train sees more than half a million daily weekday commuters, and is tied with the 6-train for the most frequency of service throughout the entire system.

These numbers are projected to grow exponentially when Cornell Tech begins the first phase of its $2 billion science and engineering campus on Roosevelt Island next summer.

When the project is eventually completed, it will serve an academic community of nearly 2,500 students. Subsequently, Cornell Tech students, many of whom will seek off-campus housing, will be drawn to areas within close proximity to Roosevelt Island.

With Manhattan’s rent prices recently hitting an eight-year high, Queens neighborhoods are becoming increasingly more appealing – especially for this new pocket of fiscally-conscious City residents.

Similarly, Brooklyn, which for decades has had the largest increase in growth, may also soon be getting a run of its money.

When one of the largest disruptions in MTA history goes into effect in 2019, the 18- to 19-month inconvenience will leave approximately 225,000 daily cross-borough commuters displaced.

The subsequent decrease in foot traffic along the L-train route will transform a once robust hub into a transportation desert – at least during the shutdown.

Not only will businesses suffer, but it is more likely than not that some frustrated Brooklynites will pack their bags and leave, while newcomers may dismiss Brooklyn altogether.

All these factors combined will result in declining property values in Brooklyn – especially in neighborhoods located along the train line.

This transportation ultimatum will lead a propulsion of both residential and commercial real estate investment into Queens neighborhoods like Corona and Jackson Heights.

Astoria and Long Island City are often referred to as ‘the new Manhattan,’ but the reality is that renters, millennials and even developers, may soon be priced out of these markets.

This year, for example, Long Island City saw the biggest rent increase in the second quarter of 2016. Prices averaged $2,417, $2,921 and $4,062 for a studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartment, respectively.

These neighborhoods used to serve as a catchall for those priced out of Manhattan, however, their rapid expansion has welcomed competitive costs. Now, with the pending L-train shutdown, a perfect storm is in the works – and it’s headed for Brooklyn.

With these impressive figures, the second half of 2016 is primed for potential investors to capitalize in commercial properties. This means only one thing – Queens is the new boom market.

With these facts, I feel confident in asserting that investment growth and development will be strongly in favor of Corona and Jackson Heights throughout the rest of 2016 – and for decades to come.

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