New Yorkers find affordable housing in Brooklyn's Prospect Park South

New Yorkers find affordable housing in Brooklyn's Prospect Park South

In Brooklyn, the rental and home sales markets are hotter than ever as savvy shoppers continue to find housing deals in the borough’s nice, but less trendy neighborhoods. In recent years, Brooklyn has become a popular and highly desirable area for New Yorkers and out-of-towners seeking affordable housing.

Brooklyn is well-known for its famous bridge, its tree-lined streets, trendy eateries and breweries, distinct native accent, and of course, Coney Island. People love the authentic New York City “flavor” of Brooklyn complete with multi-cultural neighborhoods that offer a unique personality and vibe.

Brooklyn’s neighborhoods are appealing to young professionals and artists, such as Barry Rothbart, an actor and comedian from Queens, and his girlfriend, Grace Rosanova, a Chicago native. They were searching for a rental that would give them the most bang for their buck, but they also needed to be close to the subway since they both worked in the city.

“To find the right spot takes a lot of research and legwork, and it’s wise to get advice and tips from locals,” Rothbart says. “But it’s tricky, especially if you’re not familiar with New York City and Brooklyn, and the area’s proximity to public transportation, stores, schools, etc.”

The couple looked at apartments in Manhattan, but with astronomically high prices they decided to explore the cheaper parts of Brooklyn, and came across an area called Prospect Park South, which has been growing in popularity.

They discovered a charming enclave, with tree-lined streets and turn-of-the-century Victorian mansions, and no two were alike. Many boasted spacious wrap-around porches and large lots. They were smitten with the beauty of this historic area – one of the oldest in Brooklyn – and felt as if they were transported to another era. Colonial Revivals, Tudors, Federal-style, Japanese and even Swiss Chalet-style homes add to the architectural diversity of the area.

The couple rented a “sprawling” (by NYC standards) one-bedroom apartment near the popular main drag, Cortelyou Road.  It has high ceilings, arched entryways, a large foyer, comfortable living room and large eat-in kitchen. And best of all, the rental price was right.

Prospect Park South residents unwind in a green space along Cortelyou Road. (Photo by Grace Rosanova)

“We’re subletting from the current lessee, and we found it on a Facebook page called ‘Gypsy Housing,’ a group for performers and people in the arts seeking living spaces,” Rothbart says. “The area is great in that it's gentrified, but still has native roots and historic landmarks.” The neighborhood is near the B and Q subway trains, local bus routes, and only 30 to 40 minutes to Manhattan’s restaurants, museums and department stores.

Within the community of Flatbush, Prospect Park South is bordered by Church Avenue to the north, the Brighton Line to the east, Beverly Road to the south and between Stratford Road and Coney Island Avenue to the west. Church Avenue is a vibrant commercial strip, catering to a large Caribbean population.

Today, about 1,000 residents live in the Prospect Park South area, which has mixed residential and commercial buildings and multi and single-family houses, ranging from extravagant urban estates to modest, two-story Victorians.

“Buyers come from all over – Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Heights; our rentals are mostly in private two-family homes, usually a whole floor,” says Mary Kay Gallagher, a local real estate agent who moved to the neighborhood in 1959.

A neighborhood in transition

Built in the early 20th century, Prospect Park South was once farmland, until just over a century ago when Brooklyn was incorporated into New York City and the subway arrived -- along with developers. At the turn of the century, some of the city's elite made their homes in this bedroom community. Among the esteemed residents were wealthy merchants, businessmen, bankers and industrialists, such as the Guggenheims and Gillettes.

However, in the ‘70s and ‘80s, real-estate values declined, along with the neighborhood’s reputation. But today, it’s considered a nice residential area.

Because the neighborhood was landmarked in 1979, homeowners are obliged to maintain the exteriors of their houses in accordance with a set of regulations that ensure the historic area keeps its Victorian ambiance.

According to online real estate tracker Zillow, apartment rentals average $1,100 per month for a one bedroom and $1,850 for two bedrooms, and single-family rental homes start at $1,800 per month. By contrast, a multi-family home on Beverley Road with seven bedrooms is listed for $609,000, while two-bedroom condos cost $147,000 to $535,000.

The borough that was once a mecca for immigrants arriving via Ellis Island has been reinvented in many ways, and over a century later much of Brooklyn is still undergoing transformation. And with gentrification, rents and home prices do increase, but it also helps crumbling neighborhoods get back on their feet, enriching Brooklyn’s housing landscape.

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