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Brokers Weekly

Bringing Brooklyn into focus

By: Liana Grey
Published: 9/8/2010Source: Brokers Weekly

When Deborah Rieders first moved to New York, she would take the subway out to Brooklyn and Queens and photograph industrial buildings.


Today, she sells high-end condos where those warehouses and factories once stood.


"I photographed Williamsburg long before it redeveloped," said Rieders, a senior associate broker at Corcoran. "It's a totally different world. I sold out three buildings on the same sites I was doing photography 15 years ago."


Rieders, who joined Corcoran's Brooklyn Heights office ten years ago, has been documenting cityscapes since she was fourteen years old.


The stately 19th century brick rowhouses of her hometown, Boston, first sparked her interests in design and real estate.


"My dad and I used to wander around Beacon Hill and I always imagined I would buy a townhouse," she said. "I used to go for fun to open houses."


After brief stints as a museum curator in Boston and a web designer for Time Warner, Rieders was hired as an art editor at Brooklyn Bridge Magazine, a now-defunct glossy known for its coverage of colorful neighborhood issues, such as the lives of children in East New York.


Her assignments brought her to all comers of the borough. "I photographed the guy who runs a tug boat on the East River," she said. "I went out to Coney Island to photograph crazy drunken Christmas parties."


She has since sold her entire photography collection to Deutsche Bank - and has traded in a career photographing real estate for one selling it.


She still spends-much of her days running around Brooklyn, showing clients homes everywhere from Clinton Hill to Prospect Heights.


About the latter, she raves: "It has beautiful landmark architecture." Romanesque townhomes aside, she added, the neighborhood is cheaper than nearby Park Slope and has access to a greater number of subway lines. And when completed, the Atlantic Yards redevelopment project will serve as an additional draw.        


Rieders' recent listings include a $540,000 2-bedroom condo in Prospect Heights, a $750,000 2-bedroom co-op in Carroll Gardens, and a $575,000 condo in Park Slope.

But she is still drawn to industrial neighborhoods on the cusp of gentrification.


She was an exclusive sales agent for three buildings in Williamsburg just blocks from the waterfront, where zoning laws limit the height of new construction, guaranteeing skyline views.


Six weeks ago, Rieders sold a townhouse in gritty Gowanus, where new development has begun in fits and starts around what has long been the neighborhood's defining landmark: a polluted canal declared a superfund site earlier this year.


"The Toll Brothers bought a huge parcel there," Rieders said. "But within 5,000 feet of the canal you can't get a Fannie Mae loan." Plans call for building a park along the banks once the water is cleaned up, which is certain to raise property values in the area.


Rieders herself lives in a neighborhood under transition: 17 years ago, she bought a dilapidated townhouse in Boerum Hill, which her fiancé, a carpenter, fixed up. "We were able to buy the worst house on the best block," she said.


Before that, she lived in a series of walk-up tenement buildings in the East Village (four were on the same block) – and spent two years in Red Hook, another neighborhood with links to New York's industrial past. "It feels like a sleepy little town," she said.


Rieders was there when two harbingers of gentrification arrived: a Fairway supermarket and Baked, a pastry shop. But she noted that new development has stalled since the market entered a downturn, and that there have been clashes between the owners of light industrial businesses that have long occupied the neighborhood and newcomers from Manhattan.


It is precisely the presence of down-to-earth characters like Red Hook's manufacturers that drew Rieders – and her clients, which include a number of creative types she met during her days in the art world – across the East River.


Professionals and the owners of local businesses live side by side: the chef of Rieders’ favorite local sushi restaurant, for instance, lives right down the block.


"My lifestyle improved a lot when I lived in Brooklyn," Rieders said. "I don't find myself going to Manhattan anymore."