EDITED BY CHRISTOPHER BONANOS
Less than a year after Joshua Muss unveiled Brooklyn's $325 million, 850-unit Oceana Condominium and Club, the first five of its fifteen mid-rises are nearly sold out. That wouldn't be much news in Park Slope or Cobble Hill -- but in Brighton Beach, prices like $325,000 for a 1,300-square-foot two-bedroom and $1.2 million for a 2,000-square-foot penthouse overlooking the water are the talk of the boardwalk.
Could the very bottom of Brooklyn be home to the next generation of Manhattan-real-estate refugees? With the opening of the Cyclones' park in Coney Island and the renovation of the B-D-Q-W subway terminus, the south end is showing signs of life. And buyers are smelling gentrification along with the salt air. "This was the only complex in Brooklyn where you can live on the beach," says Alex Klurfeld, a physical therapist who recently paid $426,000 for a three-bedroom Oceana condo. "This was the only area we were looking in."
Though some buyers still resist any place south of Borough Park, many are finding the Oceana's fifteen acres worth the risk. "These are big numbers for Brighton Beach," says William B. May's Christopher Thomas. "Not to say that Manhattan isn't still the point where the pebble drops in the pond -- but the ripples are going out further and further." And Brighton Beach's sales are sure to spill over into Coney Island. Sales have already risen at Brightwater Towers, a two-building high-rise on Surf Avenue that went condo in 1992. Two-bedrooms that sold for $115,000 now average $275,000. "I feel very positive about what's happening here," says Thomas Randazzo, Brightwater's operations manager. "We were the first -- if we didn't clear the market, I truly believe that Oceana wouldn't have been able to move ahead. The boardwalk is already cleaner and brighter. And with the transit system being redone, I wouldn't be surprised if what follows are more European tourists and upscale shops." (Mayor Giuliani's three-year timeline calls for two new developments and a hotel, rebuilding Coney Island in the manner of 42nd Street.) "The perception of crime and dirt from the sixties is still here," he adds. "But Coney Island's on its way."