Good Buildings Make Good Neighbors

Photo: James Leynse/Crobis

These days it seems every new construction in the city sets off Hollywood-worthy combat and controversy (good: local residents; bad: greedy developers). Instead of the typical David-versus-Goliath drama, though, a love story is shaping up in downtown Brooklyn with the arrival of the 14 Townhouses development on State Street.

For decades, Boerum Hill residents—especially those living in State Street’s National Historic Register townhouses and the landmarked ones across the way on Smith and Hoyt—vociferously contested plans floated for the site. “Very egregious proposals have been given to us,” recalls resident Constance Newsom, who serves on the Brooklyn borough president’s community task force overseeing the project. One suggested relocating the criminal courts there; another posited Section 8 housing. Denizens longed for a project that would breathe new life into the decaying area—a reasonable goal considering the spot was designated for urban renewal—but that seemed futile. That is, until developer Abby Hamlin and her partner, Francis Greenburger, came along.

Cue the happy ending: With its skeletons already up, 14 Townhouses, marketed by the Corcoran Group, appears to be a rare example of “contextual” new development. “I think it’s going to be terrific,” enthuses Newsom. Even preservationists like Charles Lockwood, author of Bricks and Brownstone and a renowned expert on New York townhouses, are supporting the single-family residences. “There are many look-at-me-and-the-neighborhood-be-damned buildings, and this one isn’t,” he points out. “This will create a pleasing streetscape.” (Supporters are reserving judgment for the development’s second phase, which includes a ten-story tower of affordable housing.)

Why all the love? The houses look great, for starters. “We wanted to pick up the same kit of parts of the traditional townhouse and play with that in a modern vocabulary,” says Jonathan Marvel of Rogers Marvel, the project’s architects. Priced at $2.75 million apiece, a record for the area, they’ll also drive up values for nearby homes. Moreover, says longtime Boerum Hill broker Camille Logan of Fillmore Real Estate, 14 Townhouses finally gives the neighborhood its due. “We’re no longer sloppy seconds to Park Slope or Brooklyn Heights,” she says.

Building Up the Home Base, Abreu-Style
Slugger Bobby Abreu may play right field for the Philadelphia Phillies, but that hasn’t precluded him from stocking up on real estate 100 miles north of the cheesesteak capital. In fact, he’s becoming a bit of a Manhattan mogul. Abreu, who clubbed a record 41 homers to win the Home Run Derby at this year’s All-Star Game in Detroit, just closed on the two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath luxury apartment at One Beacon Court he bought last year with the help of his broker, Dwelling Quest’s Jeff Silverstein. Although he bought the apartment initially just for investment purposes, Abreu decided he liked it enough to make it his New York City pied-à-terre. The Venezuelan slugger has also recently gone to contract on a $2.5 million, two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath condo on East 53rd Street that’s still under construction. Hopeful Mets fans might optimistically wonder if the all-star is planning for an off-season change of address. Alas, the recent spate of acquisitions has nothing to do with baseball. “He’s very interested in real estate,” says Abreu’s sports agent, Edward Greenberg. “He owns properties around the country.”

Same Space, Different Place
Details Make the Difference
Though exactly identical in square footage and layout, these two units on the same line of an Upper East Side condominium command different rents. Apartment 24A, which is on a higher floor and has open city views, is cheaper than 14A, which faces another building. Why the disparity? The more expensive property has sparkling new stainless-steel appliances in the kitchen, says listing agent Bruce Cohen, while the other has the original dishwasher, fridge, and stove installed when the structure went up in the eighties. But the biggest reason for the $195 price gap is underfoot: “24A has wall-to-wall carpeting,” Cohen says. “Most people prefer hardwood floors.”

171 East 84th Street, Apartment 14A
The Facts: One-bedroom, one-bath, 862-square-foot condo.
Monthly Rent: $3,195.
Agent: Bruce Cohen, Gumley Haft Kleier.

171 East 84th Street, Apartment 24A
The Facts: One-bedroom, one-bath, 862-square-foot condo.
Monthly Rent: $3,000.
Agent: Bruce Cohen, Gumley Haft Kleier.

Good Buildings Make Good Neighbors