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.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Up, Up and Away

The buying and selling rampage continues. This time, an old wood-frame house, in pretty good condition, will make a nice tall something-or-other. A finger building. Middle finger, that is.

Take a look at the zoning - R7-1. That's the zoning that made 626 Flatbush possible. Granted the below is not technically in Lefferts, but it's a good indication of the crunch of the building boom that's finally reached us. While the Community Board is busy arguing over process and how to deal with Ms. Boyd, the developers are laughing all the way to the bank. Good or bad or indifferent, them's the facts Jax. Take a look to your left, and the right. All the wood-frame houses are just winter's kindling.

This one lot can have more than 20,000 buildable square feet. That's pretty swell at today's rents for a cool $1.7 million.

And since a commenter mentioned that these are Archie Bunker houses, Bob Marvin was nice enough to point us in the direction of Archie Bunker's actual house. That is, were he not a television character created by Norman Lear. His house on the show, however:


MikeF said...

Here's another. 628 Parkside, between Rogers and Nostrand. 20k BSF

Unknown said...

what's wrong with that?

You can't have it both ways: complain about the cost of housing and then complain about the creation of additional housing that will take some of the pressure off rising rents. Even in New York the laws of supply and demand apply.

also these Archie Bunker houses are not exactly architectural marvels. Not sad to see them go.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Interesting that you read my commentary that way. The question isn't whether the price of market rate apartments will come down or rise less drastically (10% in 2014 - holy crap). The real issue is that real people live in these houses. I can think of very few that don't have at least half of dozen of mailboxes, suggesting they house many families and singles. They are undoubtedly paying severely under current market rates. The houses need to be delivered vacant. They have few rights, and many don't have leases. Some could sue; most won't, or will take a buy-out.

At this point, my friends who rent can no longer afford to live here. Do I care that these old houses will be torn down and replaced with new ones? If your interest in real estate begins and ends with square footage and building materials, then you and I don't see the issue the same at all. This is a human problem, not one of "supply and demand."

Bob Marvin said...


The house in question is hardly an "Archie Bunker "house. This is THE Archie Bunker house:

Archie Bunker house"

Semi-attached and half the size.

no_slappz said...

The real issue is that real people live in these houses. I can think of very few that don't have at least half of dozen of mailboxes, suggesting they house many families and singles. They are undoubtedly paying severely under current market rates.

The multiple mailboxes suggest that by packing in tenants, the landlord is charging a total rent that's high. Very high per square foot. Like many non-occupant owners, these owners are land-banking -- collecting rent, probably in untaxed cash, till the market price is high enough to encourage a sale.

Meanwhile, as the previous poster mentioned, the sale of this house and others like it are part of the process of creating a net increase in the number of housing units. There's no free lunch, especially in NY City real estate, so with land costs and building costs being what they are, it's irrational to believe there's a way to make the evolution of the city real estate painless.

As for the lot, I'd say it's 20 feet by 100 feet, which means the lot itself is 2,000 square feet. Not 20,000.

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Holy cow, Slappz. You missed the part that it's 20,000 square feet of buildable? This building could be tall, tall, tall.

Another misconception. The newcomers often demand considerably more square feet per person. Sometimes, unlocking more units doesn't even house a lot more people.

This is about a systematic change in the culture of the neighborhood. By systematic, I mean it's been done before all over the City and all over the world. It is part of a process that has ALWAYS benefited the developer, who does not live in the affected neighborhood.

Is the net result good for society? One can argue that that depends on WHICH society you live in. And after recent events have proven, there are two very distinct societies living in this country. With, I might a lot of people stuck in the middle, wondering which way their lives are heading.

babs said...

What isn't good is that by packing in more tenants then the building is designed or legally allowed to hold, often by building partitions in basements and between rooms, the landlord is violating safety standards and putting peoples' lives at risk. Who hasn't read of fatal fires where people died because they couldn't escape from the maze they were living in? All those mailboxes should be a flag for a city investigation AND re-housing the individuals in safe conditions.

no_slappz said...

According to the profile of the building, the lot itself is 6,000 square feet. My previous comment was confined to the lot size alone, which I mistakenly assumed was 2,000 square feet. Obviously Living Space in a new multi-story structure may well far exceed the lot size, but I wasn't commenting on that.

As for the construction, the space and the cost, well, as babs mentioned, overcrowding is what you get when old housing is packed to the rafters with people willing to pay a high rate for a small space. Those houses weren't designed with their current number of occupants in mind.

Only four people lived in Archie's TV house. So, it seems occupants of new places aren't hogging more living-space per-person than people in most of the older homes when those homes were occupied by the number of people the architects had in mind.

Developers develop properties that promise profits. Is this news? Only the government pretends it can lose money on real estate development and all comes out well.

De Blasio's most egregiously abusive landlord is the city itself, which fails to maintain way too many of its residential buildings.

The brownstones and limestones in most city neighborhoods were built for buyers with some money. But at various times when the economy was bad and stayed bad in some neighborhoods, those large single-family houses were chopped into small units. Plenty of that happened even in Park Slope during the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Bob Marvin said...

"at various times when the economy was bad and stayed bad in some neighborhoods, those large single-family houses were chopped into small units. Plenty of that happened even in Park Slope during the 70s, 80s and 90s".

FAR more in Park Slope, and other brownstone neighborhoods (including the Upper West Side) than here, and in the '30s and '40s, rather than the '70s, '80s and '90s.

babs said...

Exactly, and don't forget Brooklyn Heights, too. The single family covenant in Lefferts Manor really preserved a lot of lovely homes, thank goodness!

Anonymous said...

Clarkson, I have to say I don't understand your position on this. You talk about the plight of the tenants who live in these houses-- and you're right, their situation is not a good one. A lot of these houses are carved up into illegal rooming houses with shared kitchens and baths and bedrooms rented without leases for $200 or
$300 a month. And usually they are in dismal condition with all kinds of fire hazards, vermin, non-working heat or plumbing, etc. That is not the kind of situation anybody should be living in. Those tenants are victims of the affordable crisis -- they aren't living in affordable housing. These buildings are dangerous, overcrowded rat traps unfit for human habitation.

You're right that tearing down dilapidated houses like this usually means some tenants are displaced. But you can't build anything in this city, market-rate or affordable, without tearing something down. I think it is a good trade off to gain 20 or so brand new apartments in place of illegal rooming houses like this.

And some of these development sites are being developed as affordable housing. Surely you would support a development from somebody like CAMBA if they bought this site to build an affordable building?

Anyway I think one of the best things we could do for affordable housing in Lefferts is to allow the Manor District houses to be subdivided into more apartments. The fact that huge homes that close to the subway are restricted to single family use is appalling. Who needs a 4,000 square foot home in a neighborhood where you often see multi-generational families living together in a small apartment?

Clarkson FlatBed said...

My "position," if you must call it one, is one of watching the old ways cede to the new ways. I have a cat bird seat, as a matter of fact, to the strangest cultural show in the nation.

As to these houses, it's a gross overstatement to characterize them as deathtraps or overcrowded. I've been in quite a few, and they're homes, no different than anyone else's. Yeah, some landlords pack in immigrants like sardines, and it's illegal, as are the residents often. My house was like that before we bought it. The vast majority are just plain old apartments. Hell, I moved into a windowless room in the back of a commercial property for $250 when I got to NYC. Pretty much everything about it was illegal and uncomfortable, but I didn't complain. I was grateful.

Do any of you remember being at a stage like that in your life? The judgment coming off some comments is astounding.

On that, I'm not taking a position but rather pointing out that these houses have been here for decades, providing homes for families. They are generally not "blight." They're just houses. Heck, they're a lot like the houses that were all over the town where I grew up - Ames IA. They were mostly grad students and some undergrads. Hardly a cause for alarm - unless you don't like the constituents of those houses.

And before you rush into nailing me for bringing up race again, let me note that my mother led the drive to declare a lot of those homes next to our house illegal, since more than three non-related people were living in them. Why? They didn't conform to the neighborhood's "standards" for quality of life. Parties, too dense, too many cars, noise, litter, etc.

The issue there was more about taste than race, "decency" if you will. Same class, generally - college educated folks at different points in their careers. The change here is predominantly one class to another, one race to another.

Hardly a revolutionary point, and hardly worth arguing with.

babs said...

I am completely against changing the single family covenant in Lefferts Manor; in fact, I wish the LMA would enforce it more vigorously (they have in the past). It is the only reason these houses were preserved as they have been and the neighborhood has remained relatively intact.

Bob Marvin said...

I too am against changing the single family status of Lefferts Manor [pretty obvious since I've been an LMA board member for >30 years and am a past president) but, if, for the sake of argument, one were in favor of such a change, it would be exceedingly hard to accomplish. I suppose the single-family R2 zoning could be changed, but that's only been in effect since 1961, long after the 600 houses were built. The restrictive covenant however, dates to 1893 and is incorporated into each deed in perpetuity. I don't know that it could be changed at all.

In any case most LM homes couldn't practically be more than two families, so permitting such a use wouldn't add as much housing as a couple of the new apartment buildings now under construction. We'd be making an immense change to the core of our neighborhood for very little purpose.

diak said...

I'm completely with babs and Bob re the Manor single-family covenant. Keep it and enforce it.
But my fear is that as people move in to Lefferts Manor with gigantic, million-plus mortgages the motivation to create and then rent apartments surreptitiously (thank you spell-check!) will grow ever stronger. Or worse, new owners will organize and move to rescind the covenant altogether.