Can Williamsburg make the transition from Alphabet City East hipsterdom to the next Fort Greene yuppieville?
"This place is so hot -- it's sizzling!" says William B. May broker Penny Pear, swaddled in fur in the backseat as her hired Mercedes cruises by the Sukkoth tents in this Hasidic block in Williamsburg. "This is the best-kept secret in New York, I swear!"
For pretty much anyone who's graduated from college in the past five years, this bleak Brooklyn neighborhood, with its playground of bars and revivified diners, isn't exactly unknown. But as postgraduate ghettos go, Williamsburg remains mostly rental-driven -- the slacker younger brother to nearby Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, where renters have matured into buyers and prices are up as much as 20 percent in the past two years.
Certainly, the Hasidic community is expanding. "They're buying houses from the blacks, Hispanics, and Italians, gutting them, and moving their people in," says Pear. But will kids busy growing retro eighties rat tails want to set down roots in the polluted postindustrial soil? "It's like ripples in a pond," predicts Jeffrey Jackson, who runs the city's largest appraisal company, Mitchell, Maxwell & Jackson. "For the past couple of years, you've had prices in the surrounding areas pushed up to a point where they're totally out of proportion with Williamsburg. It's only a matter of time before things catch up."
One landlord who owns eight buildings says his tenants now "run between the ages of 21 and 30 and pay like clockwork." And while competition among landlords is heating up -- "It took me two years to buy a building here that's the biggest piece of garbage in America!," says this anonymous owner -- it's not at all clear that his tenants will want to own there. The tenements and warehouses might be fine for the vie boheme set, but Williamsburg's not exactly brownstone Brooklyn.
Upper West Side200 Riverside Boulevard
4-bed, 4-bath, 2,000-square-foot condo. Ask: $1.925 million. Sell: $1.925 million. Charges and taxes: $1,031. One year on market.
With this sale, the Donald's sold out the first mammoth Trump Place condominium tower, part of his $3 billion riverfront complex. Eventually, there will be sixteen of these Philip Johnson-skinned residential towers, each tastefully trimmed in gold. This one has a wall-to-wall view across to Jersey and a two-door kitchen, says Corcoran's Tina Eichenholz, who sold it. If the buyers can't sleep, they can shuffle down to the lobby before dawn and watch fellow resident Bryant Gumbel clamber into his Town Car on the way to the Early Show (in the similarly Trump-branded GM building).
65 Montague Street
4-bed, 21/2-bath, 2,100-square-foot co-op. Ask: $799,000. Sell: $850,000. Maintenance: $1,270. One week on market.
After coveting his neighbor's duplex for nearly a decade, hoping to expand the two-bedroom he shares with his French wife and their two kids, the buyer of this prewar finally got his chance when the neighbors relocated to Philadelphia. But it wasn't easy: "It came down to a bidding war with another couple who didn't live in the building," says Corcoran's Ann Macdonald, the broker on the sale. The insider won, and, appetite sated, he's annexing only the top floor of his new duplex and selling off the bottom floor.
Broadway showman David Merrick died last spring, and his showstopper of an estate is finally having its curtain call: His townhouse at 130 East 71st Street, most recently occupied by an ex-wife he married twice, has sold for $4.9 million. The flamboyant producer looked like the villain in a Victorian melodrama and reveled in his rep as the "Abominable Showman," doing whatever it took to succeed -- or at least get press. His hits included Gypsy, Hello, Dolly!, and 42nd Street. Married six times, Merrick spent much of his life in court -- especially divorce court. He left everything to Natalie Lloyd, whom he married not long before his death. That included this townhouse, even though his ex was living in it. The 5,120-square-foot house has five fireplaces. "It was in great shape," raves its broker, Douglas Elliman's Lisa Wong. (The buyers were brought by Elliman's Sally Barnett.) Wong's also selling Merrick's $4.6 million flat at the Galleria, where his white piano survives him.