The prices for Bushwick condos rose over 30% from 2013 to 2014, and prices are still steadily climbing. However, if that figure is not enough to convince you of the explosive growth that continues throughout the 1.3 square miles that make up Bushwick, consider the fact that in the last month alone, 11 restaurants have opened in the neighborhood. The restaurants include cuisine from Spain’s Basque country, Cuba, Mexico, and Vietnam, as well as many others. Looks like a restaurant hop is in order. Check out the details on Bushwick Daily here.
I just moved back to Williamsburg after two years in the Lower East Side and, besides the recent mishaps with the L train, I’m happy to be back in the neighborhood. I first moved to Williamsburg in 2002, when there was only one supermarket (Tops -now closed) and one Thai Restaurant (Planet Thailand -also closed). I lived in an industrial loft at what is now 184 Kent Avenue, a luxury rental building. At the time, Kent Avenue was filled with drug dealers and prostitutes. There were no cafés and there were very few bars. Good old Turkey’s Nest Tavern on Bedford Avenue (still open) was my local dive bar and the original hipsters who lived in Williamsburg at the time were authentic artists who had left Manhattan in search of more affordable homes and art studios. Williamsburg today only has traces of the Williamsburg I knew then, but the changes that have occurred in the last 13 years are nothing compared to the changes that have defined and redefined Williamsburg in the last 400 years.
The land was first purchased by the Dutch West India Company from the local Native Americans in 1638 and was named Williamsburgh in 1800 by Richard M. Woodhull who had purchased the land in order to build a Manhattan suburb that he hoped would attract wealthy residents. Woodhull and various other developers failed in their attempts to make Wiliamsburg an attractive neighborhood until roads were built through the area in order to make it easier to commute. It was officially deemed a village in 1827 and became its own city in 1852, then merged with the city of Brooklyn in 1855.
By this time, many German and Irish families built businesses and homes in the area and Williamsburg was the retreat of choice for the Vanderbilts, Whitneys, and for railroad magnate James Fisk. Despite its wealthy residents, industry dominated the waterfront. Major firms like Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, CorningWare, and Domino Sugar established themselves, along with shipyards, refineries, mills, and foundries.
The population boomed after the Williamsburg Bridge was built in 1903. Thousands of Jews migrated across the bridge from the crowded Lower East Side. Other immigrants came from Eastern Europe—mainly Lithuania, Poland, and Russia—as well as Italy. By 1917, it was as crowded as the Lower East Side that the bridge crossers had left behind; it was the most densely populated part of New York City. The Hispanic population began to grow during the 1960s, continuing through the 1980s, with Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and others drawn by manufacturing jobs. A loss of housing when the BQE was built as well as a loss of manufacturing jobs (factories along the waterfront were shutdown in 1980) led to clashes between the Hasidic and Hispanic populations as they competed for limited resources.
During the 1990s, many artists moved to the area, opening galleries in lofts in former factories, and the area became known for its hipsters. Today, Williamsburg is unofficially divided in two parts split by Grand Street. North Williamsburg is more gentrified, with condos rising, chain stores for shopping, and an crowd that is settling down and raising kids. South Williamsburg, especially around Bedford, is still the center of the hipster universe, where streets are lined with walk-up buildings, artists’ lofts, and independent boutiques. Development is starting to reach the southern part of Williamsburg, with the recent groundbreaking at the former Domino Sugar factory.
Although I won’t be able to head to Tops or Planet Thailand now that I am back in Williamsburg, I am looking forward to heading over to some of the below spots that make Williamsburg such a hot real estate destination now:
138 N 8th St
Brooklyn, NY 11249
Williamsburg – North Side
Chef jun Hiroshima, previously from Bond Street Restaurant, runs this great Japanese restaurant.
298 Bedford Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211
b/t 2nd St & 1st St in Williamsburg – South Side
As mentioned in my top oyster spot picks, Maison Premiere has some of the best oysters in the entire city; an old world French style interior stays packed most of the day, but the fresh seafood is worth the wait.
136 Metropolitan Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211
b/t Wythe Ave & Berry St in Williamsburg – North Side
What could be better than watching a movie while being served local beers or handcrafted cocktails?
East River State Park
90 Kent Ave at N. 7 St.
Rain or shine, this food flea market opens again on Saturday, April 4th. 100 local food vendors gather every weekend through the warmer months. Sunday Smorgasburg takes place in Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 5, 304 Furman Street.
The Great Big Bacon Picnic
The Old Pfizer Factory
630 Flushing Avenue
Between Tompkins and Marcy
Top NYC chefs and mixologists serve all-you-can-eat and drink gourmet bacon and cocktails at the Old Pfizer Factory on Saturday, May 16th and Sunday, May 17th. Live music performed by Brooklyn’s own High & Mighty Brass Band. Get your tickets here.
229 S 4th St
Brooklyn, NY 11211
b/t Driggs Ave & Roebling St in Williamsburg – South Side
Speaking of bacon, the word traif means “not kosher;” here they celebrate pork and shellfish with dishes such as bacon doughnuts and black truffle prawns. Amazing.
94 Bedford Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211
b/t 11th St & 12th St in Williamsburg – North Side
One of the only places still around from when I lived in Williamsburg from 2002-2012. Arguably the best dive bar in Brooklyn.
Thank you to Curbed for this article about the Mapping Brooklyn exhibition at the Brooklyn Historical Society. This map shows what the rents were for homes in 1940s Brooklyn, block by block. $100 was very expensive in the 1940s and was equivalent to about $1700 today. The exhibition aims to, “introduce visitors to the remarkable range of historic maps that have sought to study and document facets of the borough to contemporary art works that reveal mapping as a powerful means of representation.” The exhibition runs through May 3rd. Brooklyn Historical Society is located at 128 Pierrepont Street, Brooklyn, NY, 11201 at the corner of Clinton Street in Brooklyn Heights.
Although it is not a segment of the real estate market that I provide services for, I get many questions from friends and clients about how public housing works in New York City. The history of public housing in New York City dates back to 1934, when Mayor Fiorello La Guardia established the New York City Housing Authority (or NYCHA), then the only department of its kind in the United States. In less than a year, this new department created the city and the nation’s first public housing development, called the First Houses on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. In fact, it wasn’t until 1937 that the federal government passed public housing legislation, making New York City an innovator in affordable housing.
In New York City, many of the older tenements were falling apart, and deemed unsafe for anyone, let alone families, to live in. Mayor La Guardia, alongside the famed developer Robert Moses, intended public housing to accommodate working and middle class families, bringing them out of the poorly built apartments dating from the turn of the century or earlier. However, as the population of the city dramatically shifted in the 1960’s, so too did the population of public housing. Many poorer families entered these houses. No longer considered a place where economically mobile families would live, many of those in the middle class left these neighborhoods behind. By the 1970’s, over 800,000 residents—mostly more affluent individuals and families—moved away from the city. This, alongside the rising costs of maintenance for housing and unchanged tenant incomes, caused a massive budget shortfall. Many public housing developments became uncared for, some of which dated back to the 1930’s (and are still in use today). However, by the mid 1980’s the city’s population began to increase, and the need for housing increased as well. By 1992, the NYCHA waiting list was at 240,000 families and counting. Today, nearly 420,000 New Yorkers live in 334 NYCHA developments in all five boroughs. This includes 10 developments in Staten Island with 4,499 apartment, 22 developments in Queens with 17,112 apartments, 100 developments in the Bronx with 44,493 apartments, 100 developments in Brooklyn with 58,698 apartments, and 102 developments in Manhattan with 53,570 apartments. The Brownsville section of Brooklyn has the highest concentration of low income public housing in America, following the demolition of public housing units in Chicago’s South Side. The Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City, Queens is the United States’ largest housing project.
Applicants must apply online for consideration for an apartment in a public housing development. Potential residents must select a first and second borough choice, details of their household income, family composition and current living situation. Applicants must not make above the income limits (i.e. $67,100 for a family of four), meet the NYCHA definition of “family”, not be deemed as a risk for the welfare and safety of other residents, and the applicant (and co-applicant, if necessary), must be at least 18 years old. Applications are then given a priority code (indicating how severe the city views the applicant’s need is for housing), and placed on a wait-list period. Then, an in-person eligibility interview must be conducted. Only after all these steps can a family be placed in public housing. Hundreds of developments are over 40 years old. And in 2007, NYCHA faced a $225 million budget shortfall. In order to help alleviate this shortfall, one plan being discussed is to sell a 50% stake in six Section 8-subsidized developments to private developers in exchange for $350M for renovations over the next 15 years. Of course there is a “catch:” once the apartments are renovated (about $80K will be invested in each unit), the developers will be eligible to receive from the federal government the difference between market rate rents and the rents housing-authority tenants pay, and the developers could theoretically convert the units to market rate when the 30 years expires. The plans are still being written, so I will keep you posted. Still, for all these issues,public housing in New York City is the most successful in the country among major metropolises. As many other cities demolish their public housing developments, the demand in New York City increases. The city continues to provide services and affordable living to these residents, and Mayor de Blasio has outlined his plan to construct 200,000 new units in the five boroughs during the next ten years. Read his plan here. For a list of notable celebrities who once lived in the city’s public housing projects, click here.
Ask any New Yorker what their favorite oyster varieties are and the answers will vary greatly. My top picks for oysters are Hurricane Island, Northumberland Strait, Puffers Petite, and Wellfleet, but I’m always on the lookout for new oysters and high quality oyster spots opening up in the city. I’ve listed my top five picks for oyster spots in NYC, along with their happy hour specials.
Cull and Pistol
75 9th Ave
New York, NY 10011
Cull and Pistol is a great raw bar in Chelsea Market that offers the best oyster happy hour in Manhattan. From 4-6 PM, Monday through Friday, all oysters on the menu are $1 as long as you’re sitting at the bar or at a high-top table.
298 Bedford Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Best oyster spot in Brooklyn. They offer 30 varieties of oysters and bespoke cocktails along with 12 varieties of absinthe on tap. All oysters on the menu are $1 during happy hour, Monday-Friday from 4-7PM, and Saturday and Sunday from 11PM-1AM. Get there early or you risk waiting on a line that stretches down the street.
280 Bleecker St
New York, NY 10014
Fish is a small place with an assortment of excellent seafood. They don’t have a happy hour, but they have a “Red, white and blue” special all day, every day: 6 blue point oysters with house wine or PBR for $8.
New York, NY 10001
Their oysters are fresh and delicious and the restaurant itself is very cool. Happy hour is from 5-7 PM M-F and weekends from 12-3 PM. Select oysters are $2 during happy hour along with $5 oyster shooters and half off oyster stout beer, sparkling wine, and sherry.
95 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10003
Upstate has a daily delivery of seafood so everything on their menu is super fresh (they don’t even have a freezer in the restaurant). They have a nice selection of local craft beers and wine and their happy hour special is a beer plus any 6 oysters for $12. Happy hour runs from 5-7 PM daily. It’s a pretty small place so they can’t accommodate parties over 6 people. They also don’t take reservations.
If you want to prepare your own oysters at home, some of the freshest oysters can be ordered online for next day delivery straight from the fisheries. Check out this list of options and here is a great instructional video on how to shuck oysters should you decide to order in.
Oysters have been an iconic staple in the New York area since before Henry Hudson sailed through in the 1600s. There were oyster beds encircling Manhattan, Staten Island, and an oyster bed chain that extended from Sandy Hook, NJ to Peekskill, NY. The Lenape People loved eating oysters, as did the Dutch and English after them. By the early 1800s, oysters were so abundant throughout NYC that the shells were even used to pave (and name) Pearl Street. They were one of New York City’s first street foods and were sold on street corners to rich and poor alike for about 1 penny each, the equivalent of thirty cents today.
Industrial waste pollution and over-harvesting of waterways caused the demise of NY Harbor’s 220,000 acres of oyster reefs. By 1910, 600 million gallons of raw sewage were being dumped into the harbor daily and the last of NYC’s oyster fisheries closed in 1927. After 50 years of a virtually lifeless harbor, the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, preventing further dumping into the harbor and making way for a regeneration of life.
Today, oyster bed restoration projects can be found all along the NJ/NY coast. A notable one is the Billion Oyster Project, a program that works with high schoolers and middle schoolers from 36 local public schools to achieve the organization’s goal of restoring one billion oysters and 100 acres of oyster reefs to New York Harbor by 2030. Check out the work they are doing here:
While many of us are counting down the days until it’s warm enough to hit the beach, we are also itching to hit the slopes a few more times before the snow melts away. Luckily, there are still a few weeks left in the ski season. Some great ski spots are within driving distance of NYC so I have put together a list of my local favorites to share with you. If you don’t see your favorite ski spot on this list, let me know. I’m always interested in finding new places to hit the slopes.
Thunder Ridge Ski Resort, Patterson, NY
With plenty of easy slopes for beginners and babysitting services for young children, Thunder Ridge Ski Resort is perfect for families who don’t want to spend hours driving to their ski destination. The trip to Patterson will take about an hour from the city, and lift tickets range from $25 on weekdays to $50 on weekends.
Mountain Creek, Vernon, New Jersey
Located just 47 miles from NYC, Mountain Creek is about an hour’s drive away. Here you’ll find 42 trails across 4 peaks, as well as a terrain park for those who want to try their hand at jumps and rails. Mountain Creek draws massive crowds on the weekends, so if you can get away on a weekday that’s your best bet. Full day tickets are $66.99 for adults, but you can purchase discounted tickets on the resort’s website if you’re on a budget.
Windham Mountain, Windham, NY
Windham mountain, at the northern end of the Catskills, is known for its nicely groomed trails and its extensive amenities. A two hour drive will take you to 53 trails, ranging in difficulty from beginner to double black diamond. If you get tired out on the slopes, you can kick back at the onsite spa or one of the resort’s three restaurants. Lift tickets will cost $50 $78 for adults.
Hunter Mountain, Hunter, NY
If you’re willing to drive a little further, Hunter Mountain offers luxury accommodations, awardwinning instruction, and programming for families, couples, and groups. The drive will take three hours, but there’s plenty to do at the resort and in the surrounding towns. Lift ticket prices are $66 during the week and $10 more on the weekends but you can save time and money by purchasing your tickets and equipment online ahead of time.
Smuggler’s Notch Resort, Smuggler’s Notch, VT
Looking for something that’s more off the beaten path? The drive to Smuggler’s Notch will take a little over six hours, but the breathtaking views of Vermont’s Green Mountains and the
1,000plus acres of terrain are well worth the trip. Smuggler’s Notch boasts the East’s only triple black diamond trail, and there are over 78 trails for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. An adult lift ticket will cost $70, but you can save with discount vouchers and offseason passes.
No Car? No Problem!
Local coach services such as OvRride and Urban Sherpa will shuttle you to and from nearby resorts, including Windham Mountain and Hunter Mountain. Bus tickets start around $50, and you can purchase package deals to save on equipment rentals and lift tickets.
Today kicks off the Chinese Lantern Festival in Manhattan’s Chinatown, a 2,000 year old tradition that dates back to the Han Dynasty and marks the return of spring, the first full moon night in the Chinese calendar, and the last day of Chinese New Year festivities. It’s a perfect excuse to head down to the Chinatown neighborhood.
One of the things I appreciate most about New York City is the rich history that each neighborhood was built upon. Chinatown has a fascinating story and is worth a self guided tour if you haven’t already gotten to know the area bounded roughly by Grand /Worth/Allen and Lafayette Streets.
Two hundred years ago there were no Chinese people in NYC. Today, Manhattan’s Chinatown has the largest concentration of Chinese people living in the Western Hemisphere, with between 70K-150K people in the 2 square mile neighborhood.
The original emigration of Chinese men occurred with the gold rush of the mid 1800s as well as the building of the Transcontinental Railroads across the United States. When those jobs were done, however, the Chinese people were persecuted by Americans who claimed that Chinese people were stealing their jobs by working for lower wages and by accepting poor working conditions. This was when the Chinese people began heading East towards New York.
Some historical accounts claim that the first Chinese man who settled in what is now Chinatown was a man named Ah Ken, a Cantonese merchant who arrived in the 1850s. Ken had a cigar shop on Park Row and then, when he earned enough money, moved his shop to Mott Street. He provided boarding for newcomers of Chinese descent, most of whom came from the region of Guangdong, China. Racism was prevalent even in New York and this led to a very closed community among the Chinese who then formed Tongs, secret societies that were tied to clan associations, political alliances, and secret criminal activity. The associations offered protection from harassment and helped give loans to newcomers for starting businesses. They also protected those who ran opium dens, gambling rings, and brothels throughout the lower Mott Street area. It was predominantly a bachelor town; by the 1880s there were about 2,000 Chinese men and only about 100 Chinese women in Chinatown. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, made it illegal for Chinese people to move to the United States (because they were a “threat” to American laborers). This stopped the growth of Chinatown until the law was repealed in 1943, and moreso in 1965 with the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Now the NYC Metropolitan area has the largest ethnic Chinese population outside of Asia, with a population of approximately 800,000.
Real estate prices in Chinatown have driven many residents out of the mostly tenement buildings, however prices are much less in Chinatown than in the rest of lower Manhattan; a 22 unit building is on the market for under $10M and a 4 bedroom apartment is on the market for $1.5M; a small two bedroom rental can be found for under $2,500/month.
Check out these five great places to see in Chinatown, compliments of a list created by NYCGo.com:
- A 37 year old, 800-Seat Chinese restaurant with more than 100 dishes on the menu,
- The Museum of Chinese in America which offers free entry every first Thursday of the month
- Kamwo Herbal Pharmacy, the “herbal Duane Reade,” where you can get $40 acupuncture treatments on Thursday afternoons
- The Mahayana Buddhist Temple
- And don’t miss Wo Hop, a basement Cantonese cash-only restaurant that stays open from 10 AM until 7 AM (yes, 7 AM) and where almost everything on the menu is under $10
And best wishes for a prosperous Year of the Ram.