January 22, 2013

Neighborhood Watch

Courtesy of Frederick Peters, President of Warburg Realty

My wife and I moved into our apartment on Central Park West in 1977. At that time we and three other couples were the first young people to have moved into our 86 unit building in a decade. At the same time, younger people with babies (or like us, soon to have babies) were moving into the surrounding buildings. The late 1970s were a baby moment for Central Park West north of 81st Street. The area was affordable and the proximity to the Park was an enormous draw. There were a lot of side streets we did not want to walk down, there were a lot of crack vials on the sidewalks of Columbus and Amsterdam, but we were all young and liberal and we felt a strong sense of connection to each other and our neighborhood.

At the time we arrived on CPW, it was the cheaper alternative to the East Side: more bohemian, less clean, more ethnically diverse. Today the demographics of Park, Fifth, Central Park West, and Riverside Drive are far more similar. Condos on Broadway sell for thousands per square foot. We could not have moved to CPW as young people today.

Neighborhoods ebb and flow, acquiring and shedding characteristics as the city around them changes. The New York neighborhoods in which we sell real estate have changed profoundly in the last 30 years. Today we would probably have moved to the area around 110th and Broadway, which seems to share many characteristics with the Upper West Side to which we moved many years ago. Our friends' kids have moved to Washington Heights, to TriBeCa, and, in increasing numbers, to Brooklyn. SoHo, which was emptier, grittier and far artier than the Upper West Side in 1977, now has few affordable residential alternatives and is a crowded tourist destination crammed with high end shops. TriBeCa became so desirable (and such a popular alternative for young Upper East Side transplants) that the public schools which were such a draw became overcrowded and thus LESS desirable.

In 1977 none of our friends moved to Harlem, but today the condos in Harlem have drawn a wonderfully diverse crowd from all over the city and the world. The neighborhood is teeming with new restaurants and the services attendant on residential development, such as supermarkets and dry cleaners, are finally arriving. And everyone goes to Brooklyn! BAM and the new Barclay Center, the Brooklyn Museum and the fabulous Botanic Garden, draw Manhattanites like never before. Bushwick is today what SoHo was when we moved in 1977, and only last week a $650,000 floor through apartment in Bedford Stuyvesant elicited 28 offers in less than a week!

One of the wonders (and there are many) of life in the world of residential real estate is that our finger is always on the pulse of the evolving city. When my mother tells me she would not feel safe wearing her jewelry out in the evening I have to remind her that the city she fears is simply no longer there. We experience little violent crime in most of our residential neighborhoods. Areas I did not even know existed as a young man now attract many of our customers with beautiful properties, vibrant street life, and cutting edge cultural events. And every day I wake up excited to see what will happen next.

You can read more on www.warburgrealty.com/blog.