Sheepshead Bay Is Not the Next High-Rise Hipster Haven

Sheepshead Bay Is Not the Next High-Rise Hipster Haven
Avalon Brooklyn Bay, a 30-story tower with units for rent and for purchase, looks over the water of Sheepshead Bay from Voorhies Avenue and Sheepshead Bay Road. November 1, 2019. Theresa Gaffney/Bklyner

SHEEPSHEAD BAY — A behemoth looms over Voorhies Avenue in Sheepshead Bay, its shadow falling over the rickety elevated train line next door. The neighborhood once known as a sleepy hollow became home to the giant a few years ago, but some real estate professionals say the Avalon Brooklyn Bay tower will always stand alone.

“There’s the siren song of the hipsters,” said Louis Calemine, a real estate broker at Calemine & Co. Real Estate out of Gravesend who grew up in Sheepshead Bay. “They just want it so bad, they’re trying to will it to happen. It’s not happening.”

He’s referring to Sheepshead Bay’s new identity as the place “where priced-out young professionals look for spacious rentals,” as AMNY named it in March 2016.  The Real Deal named the Avalon Brooklyn Bay high rise the third most valuable Brooklyn condominium filing accepted in 2017.

Residents and those invested in the neighborhood argue daily in the public “Sheepshead Bay, NY” Facebook group over the costs and benefits of being the next chosen target of southern migration from Manhattan and northern Brooklyn.  “This is not sustainable for most people currently in Sheepshead Bay,” said one user. “Couldn’t be happier about it,” said another.

Michael Geraci, a real estate agent at Douglas Elliman Real Estate and a Sheepshead Bay native,  says that the development craze will fade due to a larger plateau of Brooklyn of property values.  Data provided by Douglas Elliman Real Estate shows that the average sale price for a condominium in Brooklyn has gone down 5.7% since last year.  The average sales price for new developments in Brooklyn also fell over 10% between each quarter in 2019, according to the agency.

“I think the boom, as far as condo development down here, is pretty much right now the highest point it will be,” Geraci said.  “And if anything, it’s going to slow as we go.”

The 30-story Avalon Brooklyn Bay on Voorhies Avenue is the area’s largest and most controversial development, with 180 rental units and 56 condominiums. Touted as a sign of major change in the area, it actually has vacancies in its condominiums after being open for over a year. StreetEasy currently lists nine available for sale, with prices ranging from around $700,000 to $3 million.

“1 Brooklyn Bay is over 93 percent occupied, and has been incredibly successful achieving market leading pricing on both a per square foot and absolute basis. The data on StreetEasy includes resales, which are not currently vacant units,” Jason Muss, President of Muss Development, clarified. “1 Brooklyn Bay is home to a diverse group of residents including those who were priced out of Manhattan but want to have all the bells and whistles of a luxury condo as well as those who have always called Brooklyn Home,” Muss said.

Not every new development in the area has vacant units.  The Vue on Emmons Avenue, a much smaller building at seven stories, sold out before it ever opened.  Units have sold for as little as $183,855 according to StreetEasy, and none for higher than around $1.7 million. The success of a location like The Vue demonstrates the difference in approaches by the developers, said Calemine.

The Vue on Emmons Avenue sits right at the waterfront. Teresa Gaffney/Bklyner

“That big monstrosity [is] completely out of character for the area,” he said about the Avalon Brooklyn Bay, which he believes was built based on the expectation that “a more gentrifying type” would fill it.  But the Vue, he says, is geared toward current Bay residents, which is why it has had more success filling every unit.

Geraci agrees that smaller buildings like the Vue could become more common by the water, but other parts of the neighborhood are unlikely to change, inhabited by residents in one and two-family houses.  Sheepshead Bay is a densely populated neighborhood, with 90% of its land residentially zoned, according to city data. It’s also a neighborhood built low to the ground, as one and two-family buildings alone make up 49% of the total land use.

Even one of the Avalon’s creators doesn’t believe that they’re going to have more company in the Sheepshead Bay sky due to the crowded infrastructure.

“I don’t think developers are going to have an easy time developing similar products,” said John Vogel, senior vice president for development at Avalon Bay Communities, which handles the rental units in the 30-story building.

“It’s a real needle in a haystack type of situation,” he said on finding a large enough lot to build on.

Local representatives try to slow what many see as overdevelopment in the area. On October 29, Community Board 15 unanimously voted against the development of a senior center because it didn’t include plans for parking.

“We’re overly congested now; people come home from work, they can’t find parking anywhere,” said Theresa Scavo, the board’s chairperson. “I don’t think the infrastructure is keeping up with the development.”

Calemine and Geraci both echoed the concern that the infrastructure of the neighborhood was not built to support big developments. The area’s history as a thriving community is another sign to Calemine that larger development will slow.

“You can’t revitalize something that wasn’t dead,” he said.

Updated on 1/2/20 to add comments from Muss.