Developers migrate toward G, J, M & Z Trains

NY Times, by Kim Velsey
May 26, 2017

The impending 15-month shutdown of the L train, which will heavily affect residents in Williamsburg when it begins in April 2019, has prompted many developers to scout properties along the G train in Greenpoint and the J, M and Z lines in South Williamsburg.

“There were already a lot of natural drivers pushing people into Greenpoint, but the L train shutdown has meant more people paying attention to it,” said Anthony Morena, who heads up the architecture and development firm Mortar. “We’ve had buyers who were looking strictly at Williamsburg who have started looking at other options.”

Mortar has recently secured three development sites on the path of the G where it plans to build 10- to 20-unit projects — one on Frost Street in Northern Williamsburg, another on Diamond Street in Greenpoint, and the third on Eagle Street, also in Greenpoint. Mr. Morena added that sites along the G — once plentiful and well priced compared with L train parcels — have become more difficult to acquire.

At the Gibraltar, a new condo under construction at 160 West Street in Greenpoint, some units have sold for upward of $1,500 per square foot, rather than the $1,000 per square foot older inventory commands. Bryan Atienza, a salesman at Nest Seekers International handling sales there, pointed out that G train-adjacent projects fetching L train-level prices were an enticing prospect for developers squeamish about bringing properties to market in the midst of the shutdown.

Jonathan Miller, the chief executive of Miller Samuel, an appraisal firm, noted that a shutdown of a year and a half “is a window, not a permanent structural change,” and as such wasn’t likely to generate buildings in competing transportation areas that would not have been created eventually. “But it does move the timetable up,” he said.

Although the G train has long been denigrated as poky and subpar — it’s the only major line that doesn’t go to Manhattan — improved service, along with overcrowded L trains, the growing popularity of alternatives like Citi Bike and Uber, as well as the rising number of people who work from home, has made living along it increasingly appealing, according to Chris Cavorti, an associate broker with the Corcoran Group.

“Greenpoint has always been standing on its own,” Mr. Cavorti said. “The shutdown will just push it over the edge into higher price points.”

While demand for properties along the G has been strong for some time, John Horowitz, a regional manager at Marcus & Millichap, a commercial brokerage, said he had seen more investor interest in buildings along the JMZ corridor, “which was not necessarily a line many people were talking about before.”

He added, however, that he didn’t anticipate a commensurate decline in L train interest: “There’s a reason it’s in more demand than the JMZ, and I don’t think two years is long enough to flip that,” he said.

After all, though sales along the L train may suffer in the coming years, the line’s status — and supremacy — is likely to be restored along with the Canarsie tunnel. And it’s worth noting that some of the highest condo sales along the G have been in areas also convenient to the L. Tami Earnest of Bold New York, who is managing sales at 533 Leonard, where a penthouse asking $2.87 million recently went into contract, pointed out that the location was, at the moment, hard to beat.

“It’s in this perfect pocket of Greenpoint — just over the border of Williamsburg, on the other side of McCarren Park, right between the G and the L,” she said.

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