Brooklyn Bridge Park is turning everything it touches to gold

Dumbo and Brooklyn Heights, two of New York’s most desirable — and expensive — neighborhoods, probably didn’t need a shot in the arm.But Brooklyn Bridge Park gave them one anyway.First opened in 2010 and slated for completion in 2018, the 85-acre...

Brooklyn Bridge Park is turning everything it touches to gold

Dumbo and Brooklyn Heights, two of New York’s most desirable — and expensive — neighborhoods, probably didn’t need a shot in the arm.

But Brooklyn Bridge Park gave them one anyway.

First opened in 2010 and slated for completion in 2018, the 85-acre green space along the East River is the maraschino cherry to prime Brooklyn’s hot fudge sundae. It’s the Hermès tie to its Brioni suit, the Kevin Durant to its Golden State Warriors – at least in real estate circles.

Seven years later, developments in and around the park – which stretches from the Manhattan Bridge to Atlantic Avenue – keep cropping up.

This month sees the debut of 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, a 194-room stay featuring perks like a rooftop bar and a star-chef restaurant that is attached to Toll Brothers’ Pierhouse condo development.

Also on deck are additions to the park’s Pier 5 section set to roll out later this year, including a grassy berm and lawn, as well as new waterfront seating.

The park was a key selling point for Jason Wachob, 42, founder of Dumbo-based media company MindBodyGreen, who moved to the neighborhood with his wife and co-founder Colleen, 37, in 2009.

The outdoors sold her, a Southern California native, on the area.

“Having the water, and the park coming, definitely played a role,” says Wachob. “Granted, the East River isn’t the Pacific Ocean, but there’s something to be said for having a little nature nearby.”

Renters since they arrived in the neighborhood, the couple recently decided to plant firmer roots, buying a unit at Slate Property Group and Adam America Real Estate’s 74-unit warehouse-to-condo conversion project 51 Jay St. (prices from $2 million to $6 million).

51 Jay, in particular, has profited from the opening last summer of Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Jay Street entrance, says Halstead’s Deborah Brener Zolan, who is marketing the building. The new entrance links Jay Street to the rest of the park, which parallels the river some 1.3 miles.

“Part of our sales pitch is definitely talking about the park,” Brener Zolan says. “It’s basically like your backyard playground.”

In hindsight, the biggest beneficiaries of the park’s arrival have been the developers of ground-up residential buildings that, like 51 Jay, went to market after the completion of its northernmost sections, says Zach Ehrlich, CEO of real estate firm Mdrn. Residential. Among those successes is One John Street, Alloy Development’s 42-unit condo building that just finished construction and is home to the most expensive condo sale ever recorded in Brooklyn ($8.89 million). Another is Kirkman Lofts, a soap manufacturing industrial space turned 45 loft-like condos at 37 Bridge St. that hit the market in 2011.

“The fact they actually had the park as a selling point during the marketing process and everyone could see what they were getting,” Ehrlich says. “It’s been a major boon.”

To wit: the only available listing at Kirkman Lofts is a three-bedroom asking $4.49 million. It sold for $3.5 million in 2014.

Sure, Dumbo’s real estate prices were already hot. But it can be argued that some new sizzle is due to proximity to the beloved green space. In 2016, according to listings site, condos within two blocks of Brooklyn Bridge Park went for an average of $2.8 million, versus $1.5 million for apartments outside this radius but still in park-adjacent neighborhoods. (By way of comparison, the equivalent figures for Prospect Park are $1.1 million versus $1 million, and $3.9 million versus $1.6 million for Central Park.)

In Brooklyn Heights, apartments at the aforementioned 108-unit Pierhouse are selling in the $2,000-per-square-foot range, which, Ehrlich notes, “for Brooklyn is pretty unprecedented.” The building has 12 apartments left.

Both One John (one unit there, a penthouse, is still available for $7.1 million) and Pierhouse ($3.4 million to $10.5 million) are located in Brooklyn Bridge Park proper, with residents making payments that fund park maintenance instead of conventional property taxes.

Mandated by its General Project Plan to be financially self-sufficient, the park generates revenue through five development sites, which, in addition to One John and Pierhouse, include RAL Development’s 435-unit condo One Brooklyn Bridge Park (units from $895,000 to $23.9 million), which launched sales in 2008, Midtown Equities’ partially open mixed-use retail and office development Empire Stores, and a site on Pier 6 to be developed by RAL and Oliver’s Realty Group.

Plans call for a pair of residential buildings slated to house 266 total apartments, including 100 affordable units.

These in-park developments have proved controversial with residents. Community groups sued unsuccessfully to stop the Pierhouse development and are engaged in legal challenges to the RAL-Oliver project as well. Opponents are concerned the developments could block neighborhood views and take up parkland. Some have also suggested that the park currently generates enough funds to support itself even without the planned Pier 6 buildings, though park officials dispute this.

Not every unit is flying off the market. A six-bedroom trophy penthouse at One Brooklyn Bridge Park, on the market from 2014 to 2016 and last priced at $32 million, is currently off the market.

Still-luxurious, but more moderately priced units, though, have gone gangbusters with buyers.

Stephen Kliegerman, president of Halstead Property Development Marketing, says park living appeals for reasons from architecture to views spanning the Statue of Liberty to downtown Manhattan.
“It definitely places this area at the top of the [Brooklyn] food chain,” he says.

It’s even lured die-hard Manhattanites. Bond broker Paul Emanuel moved to Pierhouse several months ago after spending the last six years in the Meatpacking District and Tribeca. Married with three children, he did want to move to the suburbs but wanted more space and a family-oriented atmosphere. “I was looking at new buildings in Tribeca, and they’re like $3,000 a square foot,” Emanuel says.

Though he and his wife were reluctant to cross the river, Brooklyn Bridge Park seemed like an acceptable compromise. “We figured, [you have] the green grass and the park, you’re right by the water and very close to Manhattan with nice views and a lot of light,” he says. “It’s just a good combination of everything.”

The park’s influence is trickling southward to the Columbia Street Waterfront District as well. Though not directly on the park, this neighborhood sandwiched between Cobble Hill and the East River has benefited from its proximity – about a 15-minute walk away – says Doug Perlson, head of real estate firm RealDirect.

A couple of years ago, you still had chicken slaughterhouses. That’s all changing,” Perlson says. “Having the park nearby cements that this is a residential neighborhood now.”

Among other reasons, “the park is having a big impact on bringing people to the Columbia waterfront,” says Zev Sohne, a partner at Sohne Brothers Real Estate Development. His firm has developed several condo buildings in the area, including 60 Tiffany Place and 138 Sackett St. While there are no units currently on the market, most recent listings there sold in the low $1 millions. At Sohne’s rental 213 Columbia St., which is fully occupied right now, two- and three-bedroom units go from $3,700 per month.

In the last decade, Sohne says he has seen prices for new construction in the neighborhood rise from around $600 per square foot to the $1,200 range.

Other public amenities are also coming to the area. Naturally, more green space is involved. The Brooklyn Greenway Initiative is currently raising funds for a waterfront park between Kane and Degraw streets.

Up at the northernmost part of Brooklyn Bridge Park, which gets the most foot traffic, the area’s retail and dining scene has flourished with recent additions like home goods store West Elm, Australian coffee shop Bluestone Lane and Mexican eatery Gran Eléctrica. That’s despite having limited subway access (though there are ferries to Manhattan and Queens).

Of course, being a destination can be something of a mixed bag. “The pro is there are lots of tourists. Tourists spend money and that’s good for the neighborhood and local businesses,” Wachob says. “The con is … there are lots of tourists.”

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