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Queens: The Next Big Borough

Published: 8/12/2015Source: New York Times HOMES

PHOTO 2: Astoria lights, at 24-75 38th Street in Astoria, retains its prewar architecture but has been completely renovated with a more modern look. Photo: The Corcoran Group

PHOTO 3: Berkshire Green, a prewar co-op at 42-22 Ketchum Street in Jackson Heights, is being gut renovated to the latest modern standards. Photo: The Corcoran Group


From Long Island City and Astoria along the East River to Jackson Heights and Rockaway Beach along the ocean, cost-conscious apartment buyers are flocking to Queens to find the additional space they need.

“Missed buying in Williamsburg before the boom?" asked Jill Jordan, associate broker with Halstead Property. "Don't let it happen again. New York's hottest emerging neighborhood is Long Island City."

Besides more space for less, the advantage of Long Island City is its proximity to Midtown Manhattan. The Echelon, built in 2007 in the heart of the Hunters Point section of Long Island City, is one subway stop away from Grand Central Terminal on the 7 train (at Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue), one station to the 53rd Street and Lexington Avenue stop on the E and M trains (at 23rd Street and Ely Avenue), and a short walk to the G train (at 21st Street).

Amenities at the Echelon, which is near MaMA's PS 1, renowned as one of the nation's oldest and largest nonprofit contemporary art institutions, include a live-in superintendent, cold storage for Fresh Direct, a bike room, a fitness room with new equipment, an outdoor parking lot and a common roof deck. Most parking spaces are individually owned (some are rented), and buyers benefit from the building's tax abatement through 2023.

"Every time I go to the area, there is a new restaurant to check out, with new shops and bars opening every week - kind of like Williamsburg used to be."

The Solarium, Long Island City's first LEED-certified condominium, was built in 2010 two blocks from the subway and another two blocks to the river. The 30-residence building features a 7,000-square¬foot landscaped roof deck with an outdoor movie theater and panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline. Apartment 3C - a 1,009-square-foot two-bedroom, two-bathroom loft-like space with a 90-square-foot private terrace - features nine-foot ceilings, bamboo wood floors, floor-to-ceiling thermopane windows and its own washer/dryer.

On the market for $1.25 million, the apartment comes with monthly common charges ($432.32), taxes ($104.53) and a temporary capital assessment ($139.11) that total under $700 a month. "A similar apartment on a higher floor went for $1.24 million in June, so this is a competitive price for the area," said Elissa Burke, also an associate broker with Halstead Property. "Buyers respect green buildings in excellent condition like this one, and in this market, at a time when inventories are extremely low, this apartment will move quickly."

Just north of Long Island City, Astoria is another well-established neighborhood that has long been a favorite of Manhattan commuters. Consisting of four completely gutted and newly renovated prewar co-op buildings, Astoria Lights, located at 24-75 38th Street on the corner of 28th Avenue and Astoria Boulevard, has managed to retain its prewar architecture while completely renovating its interiors in 2013 for a more modern look. Apartment A3, on the market for $849,000, is a four-bedroom duplex townhome with den that features three bathrooms and an expansive living room adjacent to an updated kitchen equipped with new Fisher & Paykel and Bosch appliances.

The 360-degree view from the common roof deck encompasses the Queensboro Bridge and the Empire State Building. "The wonderful thing about Queens has always been prewar co-ops, but because of the co-op board approval process, they are often a real challenge to renovate," said Tom Le, associate broker with The Corcoran Group. "But in this case, Astoria Lights has already been completely gut renovated up to the standard of a new luxury condo, with all the modern amenities, and without the need to pay the premium for new construction. Four bedrooms with three bathrooms are rare these days in any condition, and the price of this totally renovated one is amazing. Here you can get a three- or four-bedroom for the price of a one bedroom in Long Island City or Williamsburg."

Astoria Chateau is a six-story boutique condominium, built in 1995, that is located a block from Astoria Park and the planned Hallets Point residential mega-development. Slated for a 2017 opening, that massive development of eight residential high rises will include a waterfront park and esplanade, new retail space, a school and expanded public transportation connections.

Listing for $789,000, Apartment 5A in Astoria Chateau, one of only two two-bedroom/two bathrooms currently on the market in all of Astoria, comprises 1,122 square feet, and offers a gated parking space next to the building. "The entire apartment has been gut renovated, including two new bathrooms, so it is essentially a brand-new apartment in a 1995 condominium," said Vasilia Palmos, sales agent with Douglas Elliman Real Estate. "The lobby and public spaces have all been redone, with just four apartments per floor.

The Hallets Point development is going to be a little city very nearby, and will almost certainly escalate the value of this apartment, while bringing new retail and the Astoria Park ferry to the neighborhood."

At the junction of Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, Berkshire Green, at 42-22 Ketchum Street, is another prewar co-op that is being gut renovated to the latest modern standards. The re-imagined property came onto the market in May, and already 25 apartments of the 126-unit building have sold - many with multiple bids. The four-bedroom combination unit, B18 and B19, on the market for $795,000, comes with a completely new electrical wiring and plumbing, new kitchen and new bathrooms. The building itself now comes with a landscaped backyard, gym, expansive sky deck and recreational space. There are five different subway lines within two to five blocks.

Studios in the building start at $199,000, with one bedrooms starting at $299,000. "Finding an apartment for less than $200,000 is tough in any neighborhood in New York City - especially one that has been completely updated and gut renovated," said Corcoran's Le. "Queens is being rediscovered, especially for commuters to Midtown Manhattan, who appreciate that the neighborhoods have always been here, and are already set up with all the services homeowners need. Astoria, Jackson Heights and Elmhurst are already cohesive neighborhoods with all the infrastructure already built in - it is not about converting industrial warehouses into new condominiums like parts of warehouse Brooklyn. These neighborhoods are historic, with a community, low-rise feel. The advantage is that it is so much more affordable than some of the newer neighborhoods."

But Queens offers more than an easy commute, established tight-knit communities and affordable space. At the other end of the borough, Ocean One Condominium, at 151 Beach 96th Street in Rockaway Beach, offers sandy beaches and a recently improved boardwalk right out the front door, and a world away from the busy metropolis. The direct ocean-front property, built in 2009, comes with a four-bedroom penthouse, with 2,296 square feet in all on the 11th floor, that is currently on the market for $1,599,000. Parking is underneath and adjacent to the two-elevator, pet-friendly building, and there is no charge for the two assigned spots dedicated to this apartment.

The combined common charges for the combination unit are $1,362 a month, with the monthly real estate taxes a paltry $60. The penthouse is a rarity for the Rockaway market, which offers mostly single-family homes. "The buyer will be someone who prefers condo living, and who recognizes the value of having both Manhattan and ocean views from the 11th floor," said Kevin McManus, sales agent with Douglas Elliman Real Estate. "Here you have the benefits of low carrying costs, with free parking included, in an elevator building that was recently designed for postmodern luxury living on the grand scale."

The penthouse features an open chef's kitchen with stainless and granite accents, three spacious glass-railed balconies, an expansive great room with wet bar, elaborate home theater, custom lighting, audio in every room, and two washer-dryer units - a plus for all the beach towels. "The Rockaways are under 20 miles from downtown Manhattan, and when you arrive there, you feel a genuine sense of departure from the big city, with its seven miles of pristine beach and boardwalk," added McManus. "You can spend more than four hours to get to the Hamptons, or two or even three hours just to get to Fire Island, so the accessibility of the Rockaways speaks for itself. It is a true escape within the city limits."