Downtown Brooklyn: A Neighborhood ‘within the Center of The whole lot’

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Downtown Brooklyn: A Neighborhood ‘in the Middle of Everything’

St. John Frizell took his son to school in downtown Brooklyn for years and felt "confused" by the lack of seating in the neighborhood.

"You just had to look up to see what was going on," said Mr. Frizell, the restaurateur who owns Fort Defiance in Red Hook, Brooklyn. “There are cranes everywhere and these huge towers soar. It's developing into a very dense, 24/7 neighborhood instead of the old 9-to-5 neighborhood that we used to be familiar with. "

That 9-5 reputation was thanks to downtown Brooklyn's position as the borough's civic center, home to Borough Hall, the Brooklyn Municipal Building, and several courthouses, as well as buildings that house workers from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the city's department of education, are housed and other services.

But a lot has changed in recent years: thanks to a reallocation in 2004 for more residential construction, shiny high-rise towers have sprung up like mushrooms. According to a 2019 survey by the nonprofit development company Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, more than 14,000 units have been added to the neighborhood since 2014, and residents are looking for more retail and dining options, as well as schools and family-friendly activities.

Now the district is "much more mixed," said Regina Myer, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. The offices are still there, but so are retail locations like City Point, which houses an Alamo Drafthouse movie theater, as well as a Target, Trader Joe’s and an outpost of the McNally Jackson bookstore chain. DeKalb Market Hall, a food court with more than 40 vendors, including New York institutions like Katz’s Delicatessen and Arepa Lady, opened in the basement of City Point in 2017.

And in August, a new Ace Hotel opened on Schermerhorn Street, which has enriched the area thanks to its chic lobby, neo-brutalist facade (like other Ace properties, it was designed by Roman and Williams), and the lively restaurant on the ground floor, adding the official imprimatur of cool.

Mr. Frizell is also part of this change to a 24-hour destination: Together with his partners Sohui Kim and Ben Schneider, he has revived the restaurant Gage & Tollner, an institution on Fulton Street for decades. Mr. Frizell and his partners planned to open the restaurant in March 2020; The pandemic put those plans on hold but finally opened in April and has since become a fixture for residents of the area.

“We have built up a group of regulars,” said Mr. Frizell. “These are the people who live in the towers nearby, which is really nice. We always thought that this was also crucial to the success of the company. It can't just be a place for special occasions; It has to be a place that people can come to a couple of times a month. "

Downtown Brooklyn's boundaries are constantly debated. Known as the Special Downtown Brooklyn District, the neighborhood is located between Tillary Street to the north, Atlantic Avenue to the south, Clinton Street to the west, and Ashland Place to the east. This roughly correlates with the boundaries set by the three business districts of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership with the exception of Atlantic Avenue.

Part of the neighborhood's appeal is that it's "at the intersection of more idyllic Brooklyn neighborhoods," said Cornelia H. Van Amburg, a real estate agent at Compass selling a 59-unit condominium called Symon on Schermerhorn Street. Residents are within walking distance of Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill and Boerum Hill to the west, and Fort Greene and Prospect Heights to the east.

“It's like being in the thick of it,” says Ryan Serhant, the real estate agent whose Serhant agency is handling the sale for Brooklyn Point, a luxury condominium tower on Willoughby Street developed by Extell known for its high quality. Late Manhattan properties.

The public transport connection is also a big draw: depending on where you are in the neighborhood, it's one or two subway stops to Lower Manhattan. Other transportation options, from buses to Citi bikes, are plentiful.

The housing stock is mostly rented thanks to the proliferation of towers built after the rededication in 2004, many of which include affordable housing – including Hub, a 50-story building on Schermerhornstrasse with about 600 apartments, and Ava DoBro on Willoughby Street with more than 800 apartments.

But there are also options for buyers. BellTel Lofts was one of the first condos in the neighborhood when it opened in 2008, Ms. Myer said. His loft-like apartments are located in the former headquarters of the New York Telephone Company on Bridge Street, a landmark of the Art Deco building. Smaller boutique properties, such as those represented by Ms. Van Amburg, can also be found throughout the neighborhood.

Newer put options include 11 Hoyt, designed by Studio Gang, and Extells Brooklyn Point, which Serhant says has drawn Manhattan shoppers because of its pricing (including a 25-year tax exemption) and 40,000-square-foot amenities. including private dining and a rooftop pool 700 feet above the City Point development.

And more new developments are in sight: JDS Development Group is building the district's first super-tall tower at 9 DeKalb Avenue for condominiums and rental apartments, and further south, Alloy Development is working on a multi-building, mixed-use project at 80 Flatbush Avenue, the Hundreds of apartments and two schools will have.

In mid-December, 131 downtown Brooklyn properties were for sale on StreetEasy, from a $ 315,000 co-op studio to a three-story, nine-bedroom townhouse for $ 4.8 million. The vast majority were condominiums and cooperatives, with only a handful of townhouses for sale, including a turn-of-the-century four-bedroom property on Concord Street that was listed for $ 2.4 million.

The pandemic has affected the number of homes sold in the neighborhood, but not prices: According to real estate appraiser Jonathan Miller, 538 properties were sold in 2021 at an average price of $ 997,885. That's a nearly 10 percent increase from the average 2020 sale price of $ 910,000 for just 247 properties.

Rental prices are also increasing. According to Zumper, the average rental for a one-bedroom apartment in the area was $ 3,744 per month in December – an increase of nearly 27 percent from the beginning of the year when the pandemic was still affecting rents.

In mid-December, 158 downtown Brooklyn apartments were listed for rent on StreetEasy, ranging from a studio apartment for $ 2,400 in an elevator building to a duplex with four bedrooms, three and a half bathrooms and a wraparound terrace for $ 25,000 a month.

The mood in downtown Brooklyn depends on which of its "little pockets" you are in, Ms. Van Amburg said. On the west side of the neighborhood, near the Brooklyn Heights Historic District, it can feel more residential. Two anchors in this area are Cadman Plaza Park and Columbus Park, where the popular Brooklyn Borough Hall Greenmarket takes place on Saturday mornings. Families regularly queue up to visit the New York Transit Museum, which reopened in October after being closed for more than a year due to the pandemic.

The eastern side, where Flatbush Avenue and Fulton Street converge, is more densely populated, both by residents and by shoppers on Fulton Mall, a shopping street with small businesses and national chains (including a flagship from Macy's).

The pandemic briefly hit these companies and some closed entirely, but overall, "downtown Brooklyn was doing pretty well," Ms. Myer said. Pedestrian traffic is now around 60 to 70 percent of its pre-pandemic level, according to a recent pedestrian census conducted by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. "I think that's because of how many people live in downtown Brooklyn or want to shop in downtown Brooklyn," she said.

The neighborhood is also part of what Ms. Myer's organization calls the Brooklyn Cultural District, which includes attractions like the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Mark Morris Dance Center, and the ISSUE Project Room.

Neighborhood schools include P.S. K369 Coy L. Cox, 383 State Street, has 527 students from kindergarten through high school. PS 287 Bailey K. Ashford, at 50 Navy Street, has 119 students from kindergarten through fifth grade.

Several charter schools have recently opened in the area. Brooklyn Prospect at 80 Willoughby Street had 416 students teaching from kindergarten through fifth grade for the 2020-2021 school year. In the 2018/2019 school year, 94 percent of the parents surveyed said they were satisfied with their children's education.

New York University has expanded its presence in the area with its multi-building Tandon School of Engineering. The mid-century office building at 370 Jay Street, once the seat of the later Metropolitan Transportation Authority, will soon become a science and technology center for the university's students.

Downtown Brooklyn is at the confluence of almost all of the city's subway lines: Jay Street MetroTech station has lines A, C, F, and R; DeKalb Avenue offers lines B, D, Q, and R; Borough Hall and Nevins Street stations are on lines 2, 3, 4, and 5; and at Hoyt-Schermerhorn lines G and C are available.

The bus routes include the B25, B26, B38, B52, B57, B41, B45, B54, B61, B65, B69 and B103. Citi Bike has a big presence in the neighborhood, with many bike rental stands on the main thoroughfares and back roads.

The Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges connect Manhattan to the neighborhood via Adams Street and Flatbush Avenue. Downtown Brooklyn can also be reached via the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, which connects the area with Bay Ridge and Staten Island to the south and Williamsburg, Queens and the Bronx to the north.

Downtown Brooklyn has been the civic heart of the borough since its inception: in 1835, a piece of land near the waterfront was reserved for a community building in the newly formed city of Brooklyn. The Greek Revival building at 209 Joralemon Street, which became Brooklyn Borough Hall, opened in 1848 and was designated a New York City Landmark in 1966.

Recent efforts to preserve neighborhoods that were part of the 19th-century abolitionist movement

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