Blooming neighborhood managing to change while staying the same
By Holly Dutton
Stepping out of the subway at the F/G Carroll Street station in Carroll Gardens, the first sounds you may hear are children playing. It’s a quiet, slow-paced neighborhood, absent the typical Manhattan noise.
Across the street, hipsters sit on benches at tiny outdoor bar Gowanus Yacht Club, sipping draft beer as mothers with strollers and small children in tow leisurely pass by.
Smith Street, one of the main thoroughfares of the area and also known as the local “restaurant row,” offers up a variety of services for residents.
A jewelry and watch repair shop is neighbors with a tanning salon, while a juice and salad restaurant is sandwiched between an outdoor bar and a newsstand.
Carroll Gardens is a neighborhood where there’s something for everyone — and it’s all about family.
Named after a Revolutionary War hero Charles Carroll, the brownstone-lined neighborhood was constructed in the late 19th century, and become home to many Irish, Jewish and Italian immigrants. In recent years, as the area has risen in popularity as a prime neighborhood for raising families, the prices have, too.
Average listings for homes in Carroll Gardens are $1.55 million, according to real estate website StreetEasy.com, while average listings for rentals are $3,750.
Price per square foot in the nabe has increased 22 percent since 2004, according to numbers compiled by the website Property Shark. In 2004, the average price per square foot for homes in Carroll Gardens was $574. By 2012, it was up to $701 psf.
Rising costs in the neighborhood made news in recent weeks after Cecilia Maniero Cacace, 76, a well-known and lifelong resident who served on Community Board 6 for 24 years, revealed she was being forced to leave her apartment on First Place because the building was being sold and she wouldn’t be able to afford the new rents.
She pays $500 for her rent-stabilized first-floor apartment with a front yard garden, a staggeringly low amount considering the average rent for a one-bedroom in the area is $2,500, according to StreetEasy.
Community members have rallied around Cacace to help her stay in the neighborhood, including holding a fundraiser at a local restaurant.
Resident Lisa Wood, a 23-year-old mother of two who was born in Staten Island and raised in Carroll Gardens, works at the F. Monteleone Bakery on Court Street, an Italian-American café and pastry shop dating back to 1920 that sells intricate handmade cakes, cupcakes and pastries in a classic bakery setting.
Wood said the biggest changes she’s seen have been apartment rents skyrocketing and some neighborhood stores vanish.
“A lot of mom and pop stores are gone,” said Wood, who lives four blocks from the bakery on Nevins Street.
But despite that, Wood says the increase in property value is ultimately good for the neighborhood, which has excellent schools where she expects to send her children.
“I think it’s great, bringing everything up in value,” she said. Wood’s parents bought a building in the neighborhood years ago, and hope to make a profit when they sell it in the future.
Though her parents have pushed for her to move to Staten Island, where they now live, she’s adamant about staying. “I don’t want to move, I love it here,” she said. “It’s a perfect area.”
Wood added that the neighborhood used to be composed heavily of people of Italian descent, but that now “It’s a mix of everything” and still “very friendly.”
Sackett Union, a new condo development under construction just half a block from F. Monteleone on the corner of Court Street and Union Street, is in prime Carroll Gardens acreage.
“We had a great opportunity to buy this site,” said Alchemy Properties president Ken Horn. “And thank goodness, it’s doing great.”
The building is one of a three new luxury condo projects, including Third + Bond and 165 West 9th Street.
Horn said that of the 32 units brought to market a few months ago, 23 are under contract and three are out for signature.
Horn, who grew up in Brooklyn, knows the area well, and has seen it change enormously in the last two decades.
“The area has become a magnet for a lot of younger people to move to that don’t want to live in the city and want larger space where it’s available,” he said.
Excellent schools, an easy commute to Manhattan, and a surplus of good restaurants are some of the top selling points.
“It still has that flavor, but younger people are moving in who enjoy the fact that it’s a polyglot; the perfect mixture of old and new,” said Horn.
With a limited amount of space in the neighborhood, and even when there is space, there are obstacles of height and scale restrictions, new developments aren’t as common as other Brooklyn nabes.
“People realize it’s a great place to raise a family,” he said. “It’s got a great pace to it.”
“There have been some places that have become victims of change, where nothing remains the same. The good news is, this neighborhood has maintained a lot of old world character and little flashes of the new, which is very exciting.”
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