Monday, March 24, 2014

Platinum Members Passing in Park Slope: 115 Lincoln Place

It's not everyday you see an off-market property in prime Park Slope, but Platinum Members have passed on 115 Lincoln Place not once, but twice.  While some Corcoran brokers were working the deal quietly without an exclusive, Platinum Members also had a chance to check out this house a few months ago while it was being tidied up a bit to make it more presentable.  In the land of $2M+ fixer-uppers, this certainly wasn't the worst we'd seen.  It was in even better shape than we'd expected...

"$2.3M-$2.5M for a fixer-upper?  By the time you do the renovation, you're all in for $3M.  Is that really what a house in Park Slope is worth?" a reader and small developer asked us.  But we pointed out that she wants $3M for the house she just closed on in Clinton Hill for under $2M, with the mere stroke of a kitchen or bath or two.  So why do people think their house in Clinton Hill is worth $3M, but someone else's in Park Slope isn't?  Ah, that's just human nature playing out in Brooklyn again.

No, 115 Lincoln Place is not located the in "mecca of public schools" PS 321.  It's in the "toxic" - as one neighbor put it - less desirable PS 282.  (Yeah, that's right Bed-Stuy bashers, Park Slope's got toxic schools too!)  However, there's nothing stopping this from running with the $3M houses in Park Slope some day soon...

Floors and original details intact, but a full gut renovation and extension was planned for this bad-boy.  Barely 17' wide, with an extra-deep lot.  But what's the point of a 140' lot if you can't really use it?  The much publicized battle over the extension had the owners peacing out for greener pastures on a better block with a Valentine a few blocks away.  Who can blame 'em?  What's the point of having buildable square footage on a property if anybody on the block has a say in what you do with it?  It's not like the neighbor doesn't get a deck...


And it's not like the houses on the other side of the perfect "donut hole" of uninterrupted backyards don't all have small extensions of their own...

It's not like this is the most perfect expanse of greenery ever seen, so it needs some special protection.  But the hate is real in Brooklyn when you can't even just let your neighbor pimp their ride within the guidelines of the city's building code.  That is some fuzzy jurisdiction in our book when the Community Board and Landmarks Preservation Commission has their tentacles wrapped so tightly around private property.  Now it has rowhouse developers all around town are telling us they're worried if FAR really means anything anymore when proposals like that get shot down.  It's hard to feel bad for developers, but when home owners trying to better their property get shut down like that so ruthlessly, not wonder it killed their vibe.

Now, a jungle-looking extra-deep double wide backyard like 117 Berkeley Place around the corner, that's worth sticking up for...


A contract flip for ~$2M a block down the hill was kind of interesting too, but more for home owners than developers or flippers.  115 Lincoln Place still makes a great renovation candidate for a new buyer. 

Pro's:  location, block, curb appeal, original details, extra-deep lot, was available again off-market, not a gouging flip, approvable plans in place

Con's:  lots of work to be done, narrow, major extension proposal denied, not located in the coveted PS 321 school district, with steep restrictions from LPC extra-deep lot can be a gift and a curse

Ideally:  even narrow homes like these make a great triplex over garden with separate entrances.  When $4M is the new aspirational price in Park Slope, the fixer-upper over $2M actually makes sense for some people.


  1. The additions on the far (St. John's) side are original & are not even a third the size of the proposed project. The architect prevaricated & elided information which made neighbors leery of the eventual integrity of the entire proposal. The garden core is almost unencumbered. I have friends in identical houses, one of whom comfortably reared 3 children in hers so it's not exactly cramped quarters. Patently, you have an agenda & your viewpoint has an extremely narrow scope.

  2. An extension being okay simply because it's "original" assumes that everything was perfect once upon a time & that time stopped ~100 years ago, which it wasn't & it didn't. Those additions on the far side are significantly smaller than the proposed extension here, which is worth mentioning. However, the point is that it's not a pure donut hole by any means.

    And we have friends who comfortably reared 3 children with a 20' extension on the lot adjacent to them, so it's not exactly overly-encumbering to let a neighbor live a little either. But extraneous anecdotes are neither here nor there.

    No agenda here, just an opinion. Everyone is entitled to theirs.

    1. Although everyone is entitled to an opinion, enough of the members of both the Community Board and the LPC, who saw the proposals and documentation presented by both sides, agreed that the proposed extension (and original proposal to add a 5th story to the house!), violated both the letter and the spirit of building within a Landmark district. This was not a hatchet job on the part of angry neighbors, but a set a reasoned proposals presented in a carefully developed and nuanced way by a group of neighbors concerned about the future of their neighborhood.

      Everyone knows that FAR does not apply exactly in landmark areas. There are plenty of places in Brooklyn where people can buy, tear down, and even build McMansions to their heart's content.

  3. A 3-story extension would've had a serious impact on the neighbors' gardens. The people on the block suggested several viable alternatives which the owners chose not to do. There were many thoughtful & nuanced arguments vis-a-vis the entire proposal that are too numerous to detail here - in its archives, digests some of them if you're interested in a broader perspective on the issue.