I live in a bungalow. A bungalow on a little court/alley in Brooklyn. Below street level, with a bunch of other bungalows. The neighborhood has a lot of these tiny homes, from when the neighborhood was a resort community of sorts, a vacation destination.
There are still commercial fishing boats, party boats, piers, bait shops. There are also some nice restaurants, nearby beaches, quiet streets, marinas and yacht clubs. Working class yacht clubs, yes, there is such a thing.
Somewhere along the line the neighborhood was zoned for denser population than it is, and the condos started coming in.
First larger properties, old restaurants, gas stations, pool clubs were torn down, and condos put in their place.
But then the developers noticed the bungalows. Buy up a couple of them and you can put a tall skinny condo building on it. There was a neighborhood meeting — the real estate agency told us flat out that they will buy the homes for $150 per buildable square foot. Not what your house is worth, but what the land is worth. So even if you are one floor, they will count the floors they could put over you, minus the legal setbacks they have to put in.
Then we talked to someone who has built homes in Brooklyn. Non union labor construction costs are around $70 per square foot. Most, if not all, projects around here are non union (and dangerous, there have been accidents, and they are filled with violations — I just did an article about it for the local paper). So you figure this is going to run the developer $220 a square foot. Maybe a little more.
Do you know what these condos are going for? $450-$650 a square foot. They’re selling out immediately, no thought given, mind you, for the problem this causes for the infrastructure. The transportation, sewers, water, schools, are not geared for the massive population influx. Oh sure, we’re due for downzoning, but it will take at least a year, even though it is a done deal. Why?
So people are selling their tiny bungalows for a couple hundred thousand dollars. They can’t go anywhere with that! Pennsylvania, maybe, a 2 or more hour commute away. So those that stay wind up with condos against their windows, mere feet away. Wide enough to walk through, that’s about it. Blocking light, views, air. But it’s all legal.
And combined with this, the people in neighborhoods around South Brooklyn (a name I never understood — we are much further south than Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, and the like) are getting priced out of THEIR neighborhoods.
Those that looked down upon us, the blue collar, working class, born and bred in Brooklyn, residents of Sheepshead Bay, are now looking to join our ranks. With recent open houses on the block, these NYTimes toting hipsters, artists, yuppies, and the like, are peering in our yards, our windows, wondering if they can tolerate living with the likes of us.
They ask questions about the commute, mostly, but you can see in their eyes that living with people with honest to God Brooklyn accents may taint them, somehow — but then, isn’t this what it is like for brave pioneers? To come in, make their mark, put in what they want?
This isn’t like regular gentrification — where people see poor neighborhoods and want to get houses on the cheap. Our neighborhood is safe, is stable, is doing just fine. I suppose to them, we’re poor, or perhaps they prefer this because instead of worrying about crime as they are the new pioneers in a ‘new’ neighborhood, they just have to worry about unsophisticated hicks who prefer Cappuchino on the Bay to Starbucks.
I don’t think many have made the move, yet. The commute is still daunting, but as they get priced out of their lovely brownstones, a quaint bungalow or water-view condo may be just what they’re looking for.
The question is, where are we going to go?