EDITED BY CHRISTOPHER BONANOS
Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn is like Eleventh Avenue in Manhattan: multiple traffic lanes lined with body shops, gas stations, KFC outlets, and a sprinkling of residential buildings. On weekend nights music pours out windows, and teenagers' voices fill the side streets. A far cry from the image of brownstone Brooklyn, it would seem to be the ultimate barrier to Park Slope's ravenous expansion.
Naturally, Realtors and developers see a gold mine. "Eight or nine years ago, people flatly refused to look at anything below Sixth Avenue," says longtime Brooklynite and real-estate broker Roslyn B. Huebener. "It was only in the past three years that we really started seeing major changes." And as the priced-out-of-Manhattan parade continues unabated, developers are happy to build: A new condo building at 2nd Street is asking $379,000 for a single unit and $579,000 for a three-bedroom duplex. Twelve blocks down, the NewsWalk condos (in an old Daily News printing plant) top out at about $1 million. Both buildings offer garden terraces, doormen, manicured walks. NewsWalk even has a gym.
The sharp contrast between the old Fourth Avenue and the new is giving the usual gentrification debate a nasty edge. Recently, tenants at 711 Union Street chained themselves to the building to protest an overnight eviction. (They got a reprieve, after 24 hours next to their heaps of belongings.) "These buildings are out of place -- this is a brownstone community, not a condo community. They belong on Park Avenue or something," says Martha Marquez, a resident and tenant organizer. Marquez used to live on 2nd Street in a building now sandwiched between condos. "My landlord raised the rents, and we couldn't afford it." (A lot her landlord sold is occupied by the new 2nd Street complex.)
Of course, Huebener has a different take on the changes. "These condos unite the neighborhoods. There's a real cross section of people who are buying. I work in this area, and I used to be nervous about walking alone at night on Fifth and Fourth Avenue. Now I feel safe."