View Full Version : Booming Queens

November 13th, 2004, 11:43 AM
November 14, 2004

'Outer Borough' Finally Attracts The 'In' Crowd


A view of Long Island City.

Habitats: The Outer Borough (http://www.nytimes.com/packages/khtml/2004/11/14/realestate/20041114_HABITATS_AUDIOSS.html)

IN the final year of the HBO hit series "Sex and the City," the character Carrie Bradshaw and her Prada-touting friends experienced a number of firsts: Charlotte converted to Judaism and settled into a happy marriage with Harry; Samantha let a man into her heart; and Carrie finally saw the Eiffel Tower and, it appears, snagged Mr. Big - maybe for good. And as for Miranda, she not only married Steve but also did something that at the time seemed even more shocking. Lured by a house with a backyard, high ceilings and a working fireplace, she moved (gasp) to Brooklyn.

When she broke the news, a wide-eyed Carrie nearly tripped over her Manolo Blahniks. Her response: "That is information that I can't handle."

The self-defined hipsters who have always considered Manhattan the center of the universe have gradually incorporated Brooklyn into their map of the world. But Queens?

Now, that would be going too far.

What is it about Queens, a borough that has been home for millions, that brings out the real estate snob in so many upwardly mobile New Yorkers? First of all, there is the very resilient "All In The Family" factor.

"Everybody thinks of Queens as the home of Archie Bunker and not much else," said Michael Carfagna, an independent real estate broker who lives and works in Queens. "For years we have had that stigma. We really have."

Molly Sheridan, a publishing consultant who has lived in Forest Hills for more than 30 years, agreed. "People think of it as being all working class, blue collar - far away and foreign - kind of a no-man's land," she said.

Yet with real estate in Brooklyn and Manhattan so breathtakingly expensive, that image may crumble among the Manhattanites who couldn't find their way to Astoria or Kew Gardens without Mapquest.com.

Like the character Miranda of "Sex in the City," Deborah Knudsen, 44, an advertising executive, made a move in October that would have once been inconceivable to her. With her husband, Eric, 35, a copy manager at Macy's, she exchanged a charming but relatively small - approximately 550 square feet - West Village apartment for a 1,150-square-foot, six-room apartment, complete with a dining room and garden view, in the heart of the historic district in Jackson Heights, Queens.

"People were saying, 'I can't believe that you are moving to Queens,' '' Ms. Knudsen said. " 'I simply can't believe it!' They were very surprised."

James Hill, 33, an architect who moved to Jackson Heights from Brooklyn in 2002 with his wife, Sarah, a designer, knows exactly what Ms. Knudsen is talking about. "When we first moved from Williamsburg to Queens, our friends were saying: 'What! What are you doing?!' " Mr. Hill said. "They really couldn't believe it. They were saying, 'Queens?!' "

Pamela Liebman, the president and chief executive of the Corcoran Group, thinks many Manhattanites have an outdated image of Queens. "In the old days people thought of Queens as the place where your grandmother, but not you, might live,'' she said. "But no more."

"It seems to be the next big thing,'' she added. "Queens has this gritty feel to it in parts, which makes it feel cool. When I go to speaking engagements and people ask what is the next big thing, a lot of speakers are starting to say, 'Queens, Queens, Queens.' "

There are several reasons. For one thing, many renters and buyers alike are finding Manhattan and Brooklyn far too rich for their blood. Consider the following data collected by Mr. Carfagna: the average price per square foot for a co-op in Queens is $250 to $400, versus $500 to $700 in Brooklyn. In Manhattan, according the most recent figures from the Douglas Elliman overview prepared by Miller Samuel Inc., the average price per square foot of a Manhattan apartment is $820, with condos and luxury apartments costing more.

And then there is the sheer convenience, particularly to Midtown Manhattan. "Queens is a tremendous solution for many people," said Jeffrey Silverbush, the owner and president of Century 21 Best in Elmhurst, Queens. "They can have affordable space in a nice, safe neighborhood, with good amenities. And you can be in Manhattan so quickly."

Popular Queens neighborhoods like Astoria, Jackson Heights, Forest Hills and Kew Gardens are easily accessible by several subway lines. "I have gotten from my house in Forest Hills to Midtown in less than a half hour," Ms. Sheridan said.

Ms. Knudsen, whose office is at 42nd Street and Avenue of the Americas, said: "I leave the house at 8:15 to 8:20 a.m. and am in the office at about five minutes to 9. Recently, I had an evening function to go to in the city. I left it at about 10:30 p.m., jumped on the train and was home in no time at all. There were lots of people on the street near my apartment, and I felt completely safe."

For residents of Manhattan and Brooklyn who can't afford to buy in those boroughs anymore, Queens offers a number of neighborhoods that have the restaurants and night life that might appeal to them - Astoria, Jackson Heights, Forest Hills and increasingly, Long Island City.

"The up-and-coming neighborhood clearly is Long Island City," said Andrew Heiberger, the founder and president of Citi Habitats. "There is definitely a major housing shortage in the New York City area, and anything with close proximity to Manhattan via train or car is going to be very desirable. Long Island City is literally a stone's throw away."

For years, people have been talking about Long Island City as the next big thing, but its time may have finally come. According to Jon McMillan, the director of planning for the Rockrose Development Corporation, recent rezoning laws that allow for development of the Long Island City waterfront - as well as the conversion of Hunters Point warehouses and factories into residential space - have intensified interest in those areas.

Next spring, Rockrose will break ground on seven buildings that will eventually house 3,200 units. "The city has finally gone in there and fixed the zoning in a very, very careful, block-by-block way, so that this neighborhood can start to blossom as a residential neighborhood, and buildings can be converted," Mr. McMillan explained. "Residential housing will gradually replace taxi repair shops."

The changes in neighborhoods outside of Manhattan, he said, have happened in a geographically logical way, and it makes sense for Long Island City to be next.

"There is an evolution of the gentrification of the waterfront areas, moving up from Brooklyn," Mr. McMillan continued. "If you imagine that things started in Brooklyn Heights, moved to Dumbo and then up the river to Williamsburg and Greenpoint, the next stop heading north is Long Island City, which is one stop away from Grand Central on the No. 7 train."

Long Island City has also benefited from the fact that the Museum of Modern Art temporarily relocated there while its Manhattan headquarters were being renovated. "That brought a lot of people out to Queens," said Ms. Liebman of the Corcoran Group. "It drew a lot of attention to the area, and a lot of that buzz has stayed."

In addition, thanks to the P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City, and the nearby Socrates Sculpture Park, "there is sort of constellation, almost a critical mass, of visual art in Long Island City," Mr. McMillan said.

"You get the artists and sculptors hanging around, opening up studios and living in that area," he said. "That is exactly the kind of thing you want for the development and creation of a new neighborhood."

Furthermore, Mr. McMillan said, Long Island City "offers spectacular views of Midtown Manhattan - the United Nations, the Chrysler Building."

"When you are in Long Island City, you can almost feel as if you can reach out and touch the buildings," he said. "You have this psychological connection to Manhattan, and that is important."

Ms. Liebman predicted that "two years from now people are going to say, 'Wow, I wish I had bought in Long Island City.' "

"And I don't know that they are going to call it Queens any more,'' she added. "I think they will probably end up breaking up the neighborhoods. They will say 'Oh, I'm in Astoria,' or 'I'm in Jackson Heights,' or 'I'm in Long Island City.' Just like people started to talk about Brooklyn. The idea of 'Hey, I went to Dumbo' or 'Hey, I went to Williamsburg.' And each of those Queens neighborhoods will develop their own personality and persona, much like what has happened in Brooklyn. There is no doubt about it, Queens has become hip."


"Rodney Dangerfield grew up in Queens," noted Herb De Cordova, a broker with Prudential Douglas Elliman. "Since he recently passed away, I think it would be appropriate to say that Queens is finally getting the respect that it deserves."

Brokers are getting a wider range of inquiries about apartments for sale. Recently, Megan Hoffman, a broker with the Corcoran Group, listed a 1,200-square-foot, three-bedroom apartment in a prewar building in the Jackson Heights garden district for $400,000.

"I was inundated with calls, many from Manhattan," Ms. Hoffman said. "People are starting to be drawn to Queens and, in this instance, to Jackson Heights because of not only the affordable space, but also the fact that it is such a thriving, diverse community. If you are walking down the street, you can hear four different languages all at once. You will see somebody carrying a Hermès bag, and somebody who is an average Joe. And I think that is great. That is one reason why people live in New York - so that they can be surrounded by all different kinds of people."

The neighborhood's diversity was a plus to the Hills, who landed in Jackson Heights after exhaustive searches elsewhere. Several years ago, after they both graduated from the Parsons School of Design, they moved to Williamsburg. They hoped eventually to buy a loft in a factory that was being renovated. But by the time the building was ready for occupancy in 2001, the loft's price had doubled, and they could no longer afford it.

So the Hills began to hunt in other parts of Brooklyn. "We started out looking in the better areas, like Park Slope," Mr. Hill said. Because those neighborhoods were too expensive, they searched in Prospect Heights, Crown Heights and Bedford Stuyvesant. "After six or seven months, we still couldn't find a place that we could afford that suited our needs," he said.

On a Sunday morning in the late summer of 2001, Ms. Hill noticed an advertisement for a two-bedroom apartment in the Jackson Heights historic district. "It had a working fireplace, a dining room and eat-in kitchen, and I thought something must be wrong with it,'' she said. "It must not have a roof! We walked into this apartment and I said: 'You mean we can afford this! Oh, my God. I can't believe it.' " Several months later, the couple bought the apartment for $173,000.

They have never looked back. And now the same friends who were so shocked that they would leave the hip confines of Brooklyn love to visit them. "They come out here and say, 'Wow!' " Ms. Hill said. "They want to go to restaurants out here. This is a very vibrant neighborhood that you wouldn't necessarily know about."

For their part, the Knudsens were all set to leave Greenwich Village and buy an 1,100-square-foot apartment in Inwood in Upper Manhattan for $444,000. "We had put a bid in, and then my husband said, 'Why don't we check the neighborhood out at night?' " Ms. Knudsen said. "So we went up there for dinner on a Friday night, and it was pretty desolate. We realized that we would not be particularly comfortable walking home from the subway late at night. Inwood is beautiful, right on the Hudson. But there is just not that much going on up there, and that is not why you live in Manhattan."

Several of their colleagues had suggested that they check out Jackson Heights. What they found, Ms. Knudsen said, "was just this great neighborhood, a little-known jewel. We walked into this apartment, and it was just gorgeous - completely renovated, two bedrooms, a living room, dining room, great kitchen, and it overlooks a garden. We fell in love with it."

Earlier this fall, the Knudsens bought the apartment for $333,000. "We are happy as clams here," Ms. Knudsen said. "My husband is a real foodie, and he was so psyched about all of the different restaurants: Indian, Thai, Colombian.''

Still, Queens is far from having the cachet that Brooklyn has gained.

"When I do my open houses in Jackson Heights, the people who are calling me are the people who have vision," said Ms. Hoffman of the Corcoran Group. "You just need some trailblazers to go out there, and that is exactly what we are starting to get."

Trailblazers notwithstanding, some people suggest that, at least in the interest of its image, there is one thing that Jackson Heights could use. "We need a Starbucks," Mr. Carfagna said, smiling. "We will know that we have arrived when we have a Starbucks."

Jackson Heights, with its parks and historic district, is becoming increasingly popular.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

November 13th, 2004, 12:10 PM
Jackson Heights is awesome. I'm going to be mighty depressed when it starts getting super-expensive.

June 8th, 2005, 11:29 AM
June 2005
Queens: the new Brooklyn
Long Island City set to boom: a look at new projects
By Melissa Dehncke-McGill


Long Island City is closer to Midtown Manhattan than Downtown, and in many ways farther along in its development than the much-touted revival of the Brooklyn waterfront.

The rising prices of Manhattan that made Brooklyn attractive only a few short years ago is set to transform Queens as well, making it the new borough for young professionals. New buyers may come to realize that Corona is not just a Mexican beer and there is a Murray Hill outside of Manhattan.

This month, The Real Deal gathered a list of new developments underway in the borough, presented in a detailed map. Long Island City leads the way, with 11,550 apartments slated for development out of the 16,400 new units planned for the borough.

Some 3,500 of those units - enough to house a small town - will come online in the next two years. High-profile developments include waterfront projects by Rockrose and AvalonBay, condo towers on the former site of the East River Tennis Club, and the transformation of the Smokestacks Building. A luxury project next to the Citibank tower, to be marketed by the Sunshine Group, serves as a portent for the area's upscale trajectory.

"All of the critical mass is bought, signed, sealed and delivered," said Barbara Corcoran, founder of the Corcoran Group, which is marketing several new projects in the neighborhood.

"Everyone is getting ready with every deal," said Neil Binder, a principal at Manhattan brokerage Bellmarc, who grew up in Queens. "It will happen as one big effort, not dribs and drabs."

Other development hotspots in the borough include Flushing, the most built-up urban area of Queens, where nearly 2,000 new units are planned. Developer Joshua Muss is planning a $600 million, 1,000-unit mixed-use development on the Flushing River. Boymelgreen and Vornado are also planning or competing for projects in Downtown Flushing.

Prices in Forest Hills, arguably the most desirable section of the borough, are appreciating more dramatically than Manhattan, brokers say. The neighborhood is also getting its first major luxury residential project in over a decade, designed by the same architect who did the Time Warner Center condominiums.

Astoria, for a decade an established outpost for renters priced out of Manhattan, is also bustling. Jackson Heights, the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in the city's most ethnically diverse borough, is drawing buyers seeking value in its prewar apartments and tree-lined streets. Substantial high-rises are planned for nearby Corona and Elmhurst.

The Rockaways, rundown for decades, are also seeing condo development.

The survey didn't look at areas dominated by single-family homes, such as Bayside or Little Neck.

Sounds great, but Queens still has a certain reputation, much as Brooklyn did a decade ago. Corcoran believes the only thing wrong with Long Island City in the minds of young urban professional Manhattanites is that it is called Queens.

"Right now if you say you live in Brooklyn, that is hipper than living in Manhattan," added Binder. "An artsy name would speed the transformation in people's minds. But it will happen."

Market forces could take care of the image problem.

"The market is so hot in Queens," said Donna Reardon, the branch manager of Prudential Douglas Elliman's Bayside office. "I have been a manager of this office for the past 12 years and I have never seen anything like this year. The more that prices go up, the more people want to come."

A look at some of the neighborhoods:


While the Brooklyn waterfront gets headlines, with the City Council last month rezoning 175 blocks in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, the transformation of Long Island City's entire waterfront will happen sooner (see detailed story in this issue).

"It's a market that is waiting to happen and it's coming in the next year," said Andrew Gerringer, managing director of Douglas Elliman's Development Marketing Group, which is representing several projects there.

Units in new projects are expected to fetch anywhere from $675 to $800 a square foot, compared to Manhattan, where $1,000 a square foot for conversions and $1,300 for new construction is now a moderate price. Longer-term projects involve Rockrose's seven buildings at the Queens West site, one of which will be done by summer 2006 and the rest over the next five or more years, according to Rockrose CEO H. Henry Eighanayan. Also planned are Silvercup Studios West, with 1,000 units, and an Olympic Village with 4,500 apartments if the city wins its bid for the 2012 Games. "If the Olympics come the place is going to be unbelievable," Binder says.

More office buildings will also help fuel the area's rise. Citibank is developing another $200-million, 475,000-square-foot office building next door to its existing 50-story tower, the tallest structure in Long Island City. Tishman Speyer is negotiating with the city's Department of Transportation to develop a 600,000-square-foot office building on Jackson Avenue, the first of five buildings planned for the block.


When Dottie Herman, CEO of Prudential Douglas Elliman, purchased the 100-agent Goldmark Realty company in Flushing last year, she said the neighborhood was the borough's fastest growing "emerging market."

Downtown Flushing, with a mainly Asian population, is the site of plenty of new development, and big players are starting to notice.

Most projects in the works only average around 20 units, but Muss Development, which built Brooklyn Renaissance Plaza, is planning a massive six condo and rental building project with 1,000 units. It's part of a larger project with 725,000 square feet of retail space and a waterfront esplanade along the Flushing River. The first apartments will open in 2008.

"It will be a major economic stimulus," said Joshua Muss, president of Muss Development.

In other major projects, Boymelgreen Developers is planning an 18-story, mixed-use project on the site of the former RKO Keith's Theater, which could fetch prices in the $500 per square foot range. Vornado and Silvercup Studios are competing for a five-acre site in the middle of Downtown.

"Boomtown Chinatown has become a very exciting location," said Binder. "Until 20 years ago it was suffering, then the Asian population moved in and that area has undergone a renaissance."


Astoria was once a suburb of industrial Long Island City when a housing boom began in Queens in the 1920s. But it has long been a destination for Manhattanites seeking bargain rents for the better part of a decade.

It's also getting new housing stock as former warehouse space is converted to apartments by Pistilli Realty Group.

The former Eagle Electric Company factory and warehouse site will become a $30 million co-op complex with 188 apartments. The project includes the construction of three floors on top of the existing warehouse and a new building connected to the old plant.

"The warehouses have outlived their time," said Joseph Pistilli, chief operating office of Pistilli Realty. "They are in the middle of residential areas, not like Long Island City."

The other conversion by Pistilli is a residential condominium at the former Stern's warehouse site at Ditmars Boulevard and 45th Street.

The 300,000-square-foot industrial structure was built by piano magnate William Steinway and will become 200 apartments by the end of the year, Pistilli said.

Broker Demetrius Partridge of Partridge Realty says contractors are paying up to $700,000 for old dilapidated houses and tearing them down. "They are essentially paying just for the land."

The average starting price for a one family house in Astoria is $700,000. A one family attached house is $575,000 and up.

"There are so few homes for sale and such demand that in Astoria a little 18-by-45 foot deep house on a 100 foot lot has an asking price of $800,000," Partridge said. "That's what's driving the market; there's nothing available."

Demand for condos is hot. "If I had 100 condos right now, I would sell them out," he said.

Partridge, who grew up in Astoria, moved out to Long Island 20 years ago to raise his children, and now said he's looking at moving back.

"The city built brand new schools here, a new state of the art elementary school," he said. "The irony is I moved out of the neighborhood because of the decrepit schools."


The new Windsor at Forest Hills condominium is the first major luxury residential project in the area in over 10 years, according to developer Cord Meyer, though more are likely to follow. (The developer has a century-long history in the neighborhood. It bought 600 acres of farmland in 1906 and named the area Forest Hills.) Architect Ismael Leyva, whose projects include the residential condominiums at the Time Warner Center, is designing the building.

Property appreciation in Forest Hills recently has been substantial.

"I own property in Forest Hills, condos where the appreciation has been more dramatic than Manhattan," said Binder. "Whereas Manhattan appreciation over the last few years has been 100 percent, in Queens it has been 150 percent."

One-bedrooms generally sell for $200,000. Prices for an apartment in a high-rise on Continental Avenue might be 50 percent more, and prices generally go up with proximity to the train. Attached houses run in the high $600,000's to $700,000's, up from the mid-$500,000's last year.

The most sought after area in the neighborhood is Forest Hills Gardens, a planned community with stately, Tudor-style homes and winding tree-lined streets designed by Frederick Law Olmstead Jr.

Nearby Rego Park is also seeing change. Giant REIT Vornado is betting on the future of the area, planning a mixed-use project with 450 residential units and 650,000 square feet of retail on the site of an old Alexander's department store. The project generated controversy when Wal-Mart announced plans to open there in what would have been the national discounter's first foray into New York. Vornado reportedly dropped Wal-Mart, and there are plans for a Home Depot now.

"Rego Park has continued to strengthen and has started to go through a resurrection," said Binder.


Ethnically diverse Jackson Heights, which is starting to see arrivals from hip Brooklyn neighborhoods, boasts wide, green streets and prewar apartment houses. In the 36-block Jackson Heights Historic District, one- and two-bedroom co-ops are available for under $200,000, and single-family homes start at $450,000. Further afield, neighboring Corona and Elmhurst are set to see new development, including the tallest residential structures (at 16 and 17 stories) seen in those neighborhoods.


Far Rockaway and Rockaway Beach is going to be the new hot area," said Reardon.

"Developers are looking for rundown multifamily properties to convert, to tear down and build up."

At least eight projects with more than 800 units are in the works on the long, thin peninsula south of Kennedy Airport. The Rockaways fell on hard times in the early 1960s, due both to the jet airplane and low-income housing built on the eastern end of the peninsula. The first new projects in the recent era began in 1999.

Development maps:

November 13th, 2008, 07:08 PM
Rego Park and Forest Hills have always been solid neighborhoods.

Forest Hills has its first Manhattan style condo developments going in right now that is being marketed with a sales office on Austin St. (http://www.novo64.com/) The building has a lot of luxury amenities. It'll be great for the neighborhood if the development does well. It's still under construction at the moment. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/tedchang/2293039028/)

Here's a Rego Park listing that I think would match up decently to apartments in other borough neighborhoods. It's renovated in a modern contemporary style. (http://rp.fjproperties.com) So I think Queens is making some good progress!

Me (http://www.fjproperties.com)