New York Post
Saturday, May 8, 2004
By Lisa Keys
Judging from its wide green streets, stunning pre-war apartments and low housing prices, Jackson Heights may be the city's best-kept secret. But not for long.
Over the past decades, urban explorers of all stripes have been riding the 7 train to the neighborhood for a taste of faraway lands; Argentinian churrascos, Korean dumplings, Indian biryanis and the latest Bollywood flick. But recently the masses are discovering that in addition to being charming, Jackson Heights is highly livable and best of all, cheap. No need to tell that to Silva Books editor Ned Barnard, who last year sold his seven-room Upper West Side apartment for over $1 million - and bought a similar-sized, sun-drenched apartment in Jackson Heights for $350,000. "Everything here is superior," he says. "There was nowhere else in the city where I could have bought something like this for this price." Jackson Heights is a lively, dynamic neighborhood if you like diversity," he adds. "And I do." Indeed, Jackson Heights is considered the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in Queens, a county where 46 percent of the residents are foreign-born. Along the busy boulevards live a lively mix of South Asian immigrants, new arrivals from South and Central America, and, most recently, a tiny trickle of hipster refugees. After three years of renting in Williamsburg, Ryan Humphrey, 33, closed on a one-bedroom in Jackson Heights in October. He bought the place for $175,000. "It was cheaper for me to own in Jackson Heights than it was to rent in Williamsburg," he says. "I have more space and it's $500 cheaper a month."
"I got tired of three of my four neighbors in Williamsburg being in rock bands," he says. "That stuff wears on you." Like Humphrey, many of Jackson Heights' newer, younger arrivals are refugees from Brooklyn's ultra-hop neighborhoods." "People from Manhattan aren't coming here en masse yet, because it's too cheap, says Michael Carfagna of Carfagna Real Estate, only half-joking. "It's more like viral marketing," he says of the slow and steady attractiion to the 'hood. "Usually people come here and they're sold on it."
It's easy to see why. Just steps away from the busy bustle of Roosevelt Avenue - where the din is magnified by the rattle of the overhead 7 train - lies the bucolic 36-block Jackson Heights Historic District., the country's first co-operative garden community. Spacious one-and two-bedroom co-ops are available for under $200,000; nearby single-family homes typically start at $450,000. "There's a lot of movement in the neighborhood," says Donna Reardon, manager of the Queens office of Prudential Douglas Elliman. "Prices are going up, absolutely."
Betsy Long-Phillips, 29, and her husband, Ken Phillips, 43 of the band Strange Attractors, moved to Jackson Heights from Greenpoint four years ago. Like most newer arrivals, the Phillips' moved to the neighborhood because "some friends were here first," she says. "We saw their apartment, which was really beautiful, really great."
At the time, the newly married couple were looking t buy a place of their own. "We made a list of what our dream apartment would have: wood floors, lots of light, access to greenery, two bedrooms and, ideally, a fireplace." Long-Phillips says. "Basically, we got everything with the budget we had."
At the time the couple paid $155,000 for a 1,100-square-foot two-bedroom with four exposures. A similar pad is on the market today for $349,000. Still, despite the diverse vibe, great apartments and 20-minute commute to Midtown, the neighborhood still has its downsides. "I do feel a little bit like I'm out of the hip areas." Humphrey says. "But my standard of living has gone up so much. We have full-size grocery stores here, where you can get a giant container of Skippy, which is nice."
"The only thing about the neighborhood is the lack of bars," says Barnard's son, Steve, an Upper West Side native who recently bought a Jackson Heights two-bedroom with his girlfriend. "But we're passing on middle age, so 10 years ago, that would have meant more to me.