The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Some Neighbors Actively Promoting Development and Teardowns

As the Q has tried (in vain) to point out, not all Development = bad Development. Sometimes it's good to build housing, especially in a tight and overpriced market. That's how prices come down. And given the Mayor's priorities and tactics, that's also how you get new affordable, rent-stabilized housing. Except on City-owned property, like the Bedford-Union Armory, your options are somewhat limited, given the law's basic assumptions of the right to build on privately owned land. Givens? Givens,

Just saying you're against change doesn't mean that change stops. And many benefit from upward rent and development pressure. Actually, anyone who owns land or sells land or builds or does commerce, and let's face it, that's a lot a lot a lot of people who have financial incentive to gentrify and grow.

Take real estate brokers. Now, I have nothing but respect for the real estate broker in question and her  wonderful home up in the Manor. They're lifers, a lot of these agents, full of love for the nabe and its inhabitants. But I was surprised at the enthusiasm she shows for tearing down buildings, talking up the oversized and disruptive 626 Flatbush and overzoned R7 distinction for much of the neighborhood (R7 led to 626 and is helping create elephantine structure all over Flatbush). Developers probably don't need much hyping. I'd frankly have left the house and lot sell themselves, to whomever. But then it IS the seller's choice and right to exact whatever they can from their property. A developer will probably pay twice what a single homeowner would. This is, we must resign ourselves, the age in which we live. And there's nothing that the CB's or your elected leaders seem interested in doing about it.

Perhaps what bugs me the most is that folks in Historic Districts should really be content to enjoy the benefits of their low density housing, rather than promoting the destruction of buildings nearby.


Jacob said...

We need some nuance here. It's always sad to see old buildings go, and undoubtedly their replacements will not be as attractive in the exterior. Plus I agree with a lot of your criticisms on the lack of affordable housing.
However, this is not an architecturally unique building. Most of Lenox Road, once lined solely with large detached houses, became large apartment buildings starting 90 years ago. This house is more of an anomaly. It's not an efficient use of a large plot in a housing crisis.
I also think that the homeowners deserve to reap the rewards of their investment. Certainly they must have considered that, when they bought their house, it was on a large plot of land, which perhaps wasn't that significant from 1965-2013 but is certainly looking smart now!
A developer told me that they are looking for properties that are only built to 1/3 or less of the possible sq footage. By downzoning enough, you will chase the developer away, but the homeowners won't get $2.4 million. In fact there's a bit of irony here that these homeowners stand to profit as much or even more than someone who had bought a beautiful, now landmarked home in Lefferts Manor.

Anonymous said...

As someone who lives in a large, modest apartment building that only exists because tearing down single-family homes in the 1920's was relatively easy, I have a hard time getting worked up over this. If you transported today's land-use and development politics back to the early 1900's, PLG would basically be Park Slope.

Anonymous said...

Tiny house sandwiched by huge apartment buildings. Looks like a pretty appropriate site to build to me. In fact, looks pretty weird the way things currently are and would probably look a lot better as a big apartment building.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

I have no love for this house, and frankly I don't care if it gets torn down. That's not my point. When I get a postcard like that in my mail, I wonder what's being communicated. I'm a homeowner. Maybe I should sell to the highest development bidder right now. Isn't that what's being said? Hardly seems right coming from a fellow homeowner whose house is protected. That's, as I said, what bugs me.

babs said...

"It IS the seller's choice and right to exact whatever they can from their property" - True, and often all a seller wants is as much money as possible. It isn't the real estate agent's job to persuade them otherwise. Also, unfortunately, that may be the "highest and best use" of this property - that poor little house is a goner, but it is incongruous stuck in between two big apartment buildings like the house in Up. Far sadder is the beautiful semi-attached limestone at 142 Lenox Rd., also marketed as a development opportunity and listed at an insane $4 million. No developer (or regular homeowner) with a triple-digit IQ would pay that price, so hopefully it's safe for the moment.

Another recent similar sale is 227 Winthrop St., which sold for $1.75 million a few months ago (for a detached frame house in "bring your architect" condition), with full demolition permits filed in August. Obviously, this price was more about the extra-large lot the house sits on than it was about buying a home.

Fortunately, there are homeowners out there who do care more about what happens to their house after they sell than they do about getting maximum $$$.

Jacob said...

First of all, as I pointed out above, at $2.4m, this is worth more than most of the homes in Lefferts Manor except for the very biggest and most spectacular specimens on Midwood I, Rutland I, Maple I, etc. This seller could very well sell this house as a teardown, and buy a landmarked house at full price!
Second of all, as a fellow (extremely lucky) homeowner with an under built home in R7, I sympathize with your predicament. Developers are lurking. It's a weird feeling.
Maybe we should look at the bright side? Our land is worth a fortune. Someday, far in the future, with home equity rising, we could build up and out. We could make modernist alterations which Manor residents could never dream of. We could turn our small houses into 4 or 8 unit apartment buildings. Or giant mansions (8500 sq ft on Clarkson, right?). Rooftop decks. Artistically painted front doors. Triple paned, energy efficient, seamless windows (try that in the Manor). Build apartments for your children's future. Build into the back yard.
Or, wait until the next housing downturn, and lobby for downzoning to get say, R6. Which still allows room for expansion.

Jacob said...

BTW, Bracebridge Hall, at the corner of Caton and Ocean Ave, from the 1920s, is not as tall, but considerably more dense than 626 Flatbush Ave. If we are talking Park Slope, 9 Prospect Park West, home of Chuck Schumer and Chloe Sevigny, is even denser, more dense than anything in PLG or Flatbush, and could not be built today.

Anonymous said...

Brokers are legally obligated to help their clients get the highest price for their properties. It would be irresponsible not to market to development bids whether or not if its good/bad for the community.

Anonymous said...

Don't you think it is a bit unfair for you to call out a private citizen by name and include her image? You could have shown the flyer without the name and picture. I'd be horrified and a bit scared if I was Bette and saw your post.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

What???? She sent a postcard to the entire neighborhood, just as I've posted it.

Horrified? If you can't stand by your publicly sent postcard, then don't send it. I think I made it clear I have no problem with a) tearing down the house or b) selling the house. I just find it odd that we need to go out of our way to sell houses specifically for tear down and build up. That's up to the buyer to decide, is it not? Over-pushing then SENDING IT TO EVERYONE is a bit of overkill, even disrespectful, to the people who find this sort of, horrifying. I consider my role, even duty, to call it like I see it. Why the hell else start a blog?

If anything, given the tone of the promotional piece, I'd think she'd be thrilled for the extra promotion.

And you have a very outsized idea of how many people read this blog if you think someone should be scared. Scared of what? Selling houses?

Anonymous said...

A flyer is limited to the people who received a physical copy. When you post it on the internet it can be forwarded to an exponential number of people. The scale of publicity is very different. You essentially posted her name, photo, email and phone number on the internet, along with some negative comments for anyone to see and internalize. You don't know who will see the post and how they might react. I don't think she deserves that just because she mailed out some flyers--even if they are offensive.

I recall you didn't understand why Ta Nahesi Coates was scared when his address was made public on the internet. And you still don't get it.

You're free to call it how you see it. Go ahead and write the post, but don't put someone's name, picture and contact info on the web. That's excessive and retributive. You could have done the post without that information.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

You're living in a fantasy, anon. And her email is her work email. I didn't say where she lived, and frankly, she's done nothing wrong. What she did was, I would argue, unnecessary and insensitive. You're saying that I'm doing that too. Well, touche. I would also argue that your not giving me your name is unnecessarily fearful, but that's your stuff.

It's a story, it's relevant, and the information is not only out there but it is INDISCRIMINATELY out there. She didn't send it to me; she sent it to everyone in the surrounding area. That's exactly what I'm doing here - sharing indiscrinately. Would it somehow be different if someone picked up the postcard and mailed it to some sinister third party who would then hire a hit man?

My opinion about Ta-Nehisi Coates is that he blew a minor gag in the NY Post into something about fearing his safety. That's his prerogative. But as a multi-week best-selling author he is now a very public personality. He's not entitled to complete anonymity. Since his book was a memoir, I would argue he has created his OWN public persona - he didn't have to write a book about his ENTIRE life, full of names of people and places. He'll see that his (unrealistic) choice about Lefferts was minor compared to the cult of celebrity. Hell, were he to divorce or have an affair, it would probably end up in People magazine. I shit you not. And anyway I wasn't the source of his moving here...that digging was done by someone else who sent it to me, and other places as well I'm sure.

So please, save your indignation for something that matters. I assure you that no one's safety is at issue because her postcard was made public. That's so hilarious. Her bulk mail was made digital bulk. And that's a problem? My opinions, as I've said a zillion times, are my own.

Alex said...

Ummmm... Q isn't the first to put the information about the listing on the web.

babs said...

Her name, photo, address (business only), etc., are already all over the internet - on her website and on all places her listings are shown, like StreetEasy, Trulia, Zillow, etc. - just like every real estate agent in NYC (myself included). He didn't publish her home address, or even her personal e-mail, and I'm sure she wouldn't care if he did. Bette is a seasoned professional and more than capable of taking care of herself and I'm sure she appreciates any extra publicity for this listing the post brings.

FlatLen said...

I wonder whether 250 Lenox has so much land because there was one a garden for farming? That would tie into the unattached aspect of the property dating back to the late 19th c.

Now 142 Lenox is surprising. Who would buy at that price, if not a developer? But wasn't that one sold and developed not that long ago? The buyer really did some major upgrades.

Interesting if it sells at that price to a developer. If not, it would be interesting to see if a private party buys it. This might become a matter of pricing too high.

FlatLen said...

Further thoughts. I must admit I was always curious about 250 Lenox. It seemed so anomalous, a tiny house in between the two apartment buildings. In today's climate, it was only a matter of time, that eventually it would go.

So I happened to be walking down Lenox on that side yesterday afternoon, when I saw the huge "Development Site For Sale" sign on the property. I had to cross the street to get a better look.

Yes, indeed, I thought, somebody decided to cash in. I checked the website, a $2.45 million asking price. They might get it. 154 Lenox and 100 Lenox (unattached frame houses each) went for similar prices.

Anonymous said...

This is a nasty attack of somebody who absolutely appreciates actual, true, historic and special houses. I don't have a problem with 626 Flatbush either, or with some sites on Linden being developed depending on what it is and what's on either side of it. There are much better houses on Linden worth fighting for preservation. Guess I had better not confess those things out loud in this smugly judgemental mcjudgy neighborhood.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

It's not nasty, Anon. I said nothing nasty. Nasty is a very different thing - I would refer you to a certain candidate for president. Yes, I'm singling out. She is one of the primary real estate agents in the area, and like I said, I think this is tone deaf behavior. Nasty? Of course not. And I wish her no ill will or harm. I do wish she took public sentiment on tear-downs into account, but hey, it's her business.

Look, when someone is putting themselves out there, particularly in a very public and open way, in the marketplace or politically, they shouldn't be exempted from public comment. If they're prepared to make the statements, why is it not to comment back? A strange vision of public discourse, have you.

And who doesn't like historic, actual, true, and special houses? She's hardly alone in that.

I get singled out all the time, as do other commenters here, and I don't take it personally. Neither should she; or you. I do like the line "smugly mcjudgy neighborhood" though. I'd leave out the redundant word judgmental, which was also misspelled, but I don't mean to judge.

Anonymous said...

My very bad phone actually gave me that spelling. It weirdly saves misspelled words as part of some kind of program to auto-add words it doesn't know which is a lot. But oof, typos happen all the time. I can't tell you how much I hate the spelling and grammar police of the interwebs. I appreciate and take the note about the extra word not working. Not merely for being redundant because redundant is funny when it works.