Wednesday, October 11, 2006

21 years of Prospect Heights (blight?), via NYT Real Estate section

The Empire State Development Corporation says the proposed Atlantic Yards footprint is blighted:
Given the pattern of successful economic development in ATURA [Atlantic Terminal Urban Renewal Area] north of Atlantic Avenue and general neglect on the project site, south of Atlantic Avenue, it is highly unlikely that the blighted conditions currently present will be removed without public action.

What sayeth the New York Times? Well, the Times hasn't opined on the issue, though a report in July looked at the issue with some balance. (Photo from NY Times)

For a more longitudinal sense of the change in conditions, consider four "If You're Thinking of Living In" articles from the Times's Sunday Real Estate section. The articles, from 1985, 1990, 1999, and 2005, portray a neighborhood on a fairly steady rise.

1985 coverage

(No headline beyond "If You're Thinking of Living In Prospect Heights.")

Money quote: By the reckoning of a resident jogger, Prospect Heights is just a mile into Brooklyn from the Manhattan Bridge. Yet only recently has it become a popular refuge from the high cost of living in Manhattan.
Prospect Heights has grown even more attractive as prices continue to rise in neighboring Park Slope, which began its brownstone boom late in the 1960's.


Resonant quote: The former P.S. 9, at the corner of Sterling Place and Vanderbilt Avenue, was closed in 1976 and is being maintained and upgraded by the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Corporation, using public and private money. The corporation hopes to convert ''Old 9,'' as it is called, into artists' housing and a center for social-service programs.

Note: that was not to be.

(Current photo of P.S. 9, at right, from here.)

1990 coverage

(No headline beyond "If You're Thinking of Living In Prospect Heights.")

Money quote: It is graced with richly crafted turn-of-the-century brownstones and elegant 1920's apartment buildings. Its population is a rich mixture of all races and income groups. And it is now recovering from the turbulent 70's, when many buildings were either abandoned by landlords or burned out. This is leading to tension between developers and community groups.

Resonant quote: One of the most controversial buildings is the old Public School 9, known locally as ''old nine.'' The 1895 structure was renovated last year by the Forest City-Ratner Companies, who turned it into 22 apartments, selling for $92,000 for a small one-bedroom to $504,000 for a 2,300-square-foot, three-bedroom. Although the building needed repairs when the developers took it over, it had been a city-owned community center controlled by the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Corporation.

Ms. Bowers sees the sale as a betrayal. ''We have no place to have those programs we were providing for our children and senior citizens,'' she says.

Borough President Howard Golden acknowledges that some displacement has taken place but maintains that his administration has kept this to a minimum. He said redevelopment was inevitable because the building of several large office complexes nearby is creating new jobs.


Note: it's hardly clear that the development of MetroTech, which mainly served to accommodate government agencies and New York employers that might have moved to New Jersey, created jobs that led to displacement. Rather, displacement was more likely the result of general gentrification. Among those housed at P.S. 9 were those Forest City Ratner bought out to create MetroTech.

1999 coverage

Headline: A Diverse Neighborhood Spruces Up in a Turnaround

Money quote: Two decades after an economic downturn left Prospect Heights spotted with shuttered and abandoned buildings, the neighborhood is undergoing a revival. Newcomers are renovating long-neglected brownstones and Vanderbilt Avenue, a main commercial streets, new tenants trickle in as existing merchants spruce up their facades.

Resonant quote: In another transaction, investors including Manhattan-based Shaya B. Developers Inc. bought the former Daily News printing plant on an industrial strip of Pacific Street between Carlton Avenue and Sixth Avenue and are planning a commercial development, possibly with a theater complex, and including apartments above if the proper zoning can be obtained.

Speaking of the industrial buildings in the border area on Dean and Pacific Streets Mr. McLaren said: ''It's the last large concentrated amount of square footage in brownstone Brooklyn. These are no handyman specials. You need to have sophistication in navigating city bureaucracy to make them work.''


Note: The sophisticated Boymelgreen later sold other properties, including the Ward Bakery, to the even more sophisticated Forest City Ratner at a hefty profit.

(Photo from here)

2005 coverage

Headline: A Neighborhood Comes Into Its Own

Money quote from a 12/18/05 article: But in the last few years, Prospect Heights has begun to hold its own, enticing newcomers with attractive lofts, newly constructed luxury condominiums and brownstones that are often larger and more elegant than those in the rest of Brooklyn.

Resonant quote: The old Public School 9 on Sterling Place is now a stunning apartment building converted by the Forest City Ratner Companies, and the current version of the school on Underhill Avenue is the only primary school in the neighborhood.

Note: The controversy over P.S. 9 seems to have been forgotten--or simply cut because of space constraints.

(Photo from NY Times.)

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