Why this Blog Exists

To make the case for expanding the Park Slope Historic District

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Preservation and Affordability

Sigh.... here we go again... according to a letter in this week's Brooklyn Paper, "the extension of the Park Slope landmark district will contribute significantly to the exclusion of future new middle class homeowners, helping make Park Slope a less diverse neighborhood, economically."

The writer continues:

"I would like to have a neighborhood where newly arrived, middle-class neighbors can imagine moving, working to raise their children, and paying their mortgage — like me. The real irony is, in the South Slope that is what we have without landmarking."

Actually, we hate to break it to you, but the irony is, the South Slope is not a neighborhood where "newly-arrived middle class families" can move in and raise their families. Even without landmarking.

Let's do a price check... just the other day, Brownstoner listed the results of a public auction that included 482 7th Street, a 3-family, brownstone-faced building on the south side of 7th Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues. The building is in the proposed first phase extension of the historic district, and part of a block we have discussed before on this blog (it is identical to the house, 2 doors away, shown below):

486 7th Street

The auction price of this "affordable to the middle-class" house in the South Slope? Get ready for the "real irony":


And this building isn't in the historic district.

We preservationists are often accused of being "delusional," of wanting to walk around in a fantasy land of fake-old lampposts etc. (Except, we invite anyone to find any appeal for fake-old lampposts on this blog... you will search in vain.)

But the idea that a $1,600,000 house is affordable to anyone in the "middle class" seems totally delusional to us.

Perhaps the battle to keep the South Slope "affordable" has nothing to do with landmarking, and has already been lost, years ago? Could there perhaps be larger economic forces at work?

Meanwhile, in the "lower Slope", west of 5th Avenue, one finds housing that still might be slightly "affordable" to the "middle class". Often it is in older, walk-up "flat houses" or small apartment buildings from the late 19th century. Unfortunately this older housing is increasingly being ripped out and replaced by "luxury" condo developments.

Case in point: the following groups of buildings stand across the street from each other in Sackett Street between 4th and 5th Avenues. If you were looking to rent an apartment, in which building do you think you'd find a more reasonable rent? Which group of buildings is historic, and which is a new development?

Sackett Street, between 4th and 5th Avenues, south side

Sackett Street, between 4th & 5th Avenues, north side

The new development even has off-street parking for residents in the rear, with a "convenient drive-thru" passageway protected by an automatic gate, quite like the automatic garage door openers one finds in the suburbs.

Which buildings look more "affordable" to you?


Oldparksloper said...

The letter writer is wrong.

Landmarking, instead of contributing to the exclusion of future new middle class homeowners, can have the opposite effect. By preventing residential buildings with rent controlled and rent stabilized apartments from being demolished, landmarking can prevent affordable multiple dwellings from being replaced with the very expensive apartment buildings that have been appearing on blocks in Park Slope that are not in the landmarked district.

Landmarking also can prevent moderately priced (by today's standards) one and two family homes from being demolished in order to construct luxury dwellings in Park Slope.

Blayze said...

This Urbanski guy seems like a pompous balloon filled with hot air, mainly with real estate profitting on his mind over the well-being of immigrants and middle class arrivals.

All of Park Slope has gentrified and is drastically unaffordable for any middle class buyer or renter. New arrivals with not much financial security are not moving to his beloved little enclave. If he wants to preserve neighborhood affordability, he can move down to Sunset Park, or better yet, Brownsville, or Central Queens where the majority of new immigrants land in NYC.

That being said, we all know landmarking actually keeps prices relatively stable. That and it is the one neighborhood in Brooklyn that has been clamoring for an extension of the district for years. Clearly Park Slope residents have seen the damage wrought on Williamsburg through the senseless construction of crap condos. Surely they don't want that to happen again.

Aside from parts of Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights, and Prospect Lefferts Gardens, I can safely say Park Slope has some of the grandest architecture in NYC. To lose even a lowly leftover tenement is a loss.