Catching up with the Riviera on NYE

NYE Flatbush Riviera

Some new developments and on-going events for denizens of the Flatbush Riviera. First and most exciting, Toren appears to have found a new retail client for its lobby floor — a grocery. Rumor has it that it’s the same grocery that was originally scheduled to open and after much negotiation have reached a new agreement with the sponsor. At last the long road to Trader Joes / Pathmark  may be coming to an end. A grocery along with the upcoming CVS would certainly spice up the neighborhood, putting DoBro well on track to becoming a residential neighborhood.

On the ever busy Fulton Mall, we not only had the usual NYE odd characters but massive sales. Newcomer Aeropostale posted sales of up to 70% off, and there was a verifiable line waiting for Macy’s to open its doors. A stampede of ornery shoppers seemed impending when we passed this morning.

Aeropostale Macy's

Photo from NY Daily News

The Blizzard

Photo from NY Daily News

After soaking in tropical paradise where the only worry I had was where my next Pina Colada was coming from — we came home to snow. And not just any snow but the word on everyone’s lips “blizzard”. I was surprised, after all NYC has seen it’s fair share of blizzards, even if this was purported to be the 6th largest in recorded history, we were built for bad weather, how could a blizzard shut us down? But it did.

Streets in Brooklyn remained unplowed until all of yesterday — and not just side streets but big ones like Ocean Avenue. This left not only residents stranded but I’ve heard reports of buses stranded too.  The sentiment around the water cooler was that seemingly only Manhattan got its streets cleaned, the rest of us were persona non grata on Bloomberg’s priority  list.

Some interesting coverage on 2010′s blizzard.


FR Resorts: The Seabird

Manila 2010

As a way to lure me back to visit sooner than later my brother offered to take my husband and I to Boracay, a powerdery white sand and crystal blue watered paradise. You’ll need to white knuckle a propeller planed flight, a lengthy side car ride, ferry and a final side car ride before you finally get there. But feeling the silky powder (they call sand but I call pure heaven) under your feet is well worth the journey.

Having learned that the resort was still undergoing some renovation I asked if there were still some pre-renovation rooms. YES. And folks if anyone is wondering what renovations can do to your property value just check out the bad boys (below) out. You would swear these weren’t the same resort — eat your heart out. The first thing I’ll be buying when I get back to the Flatbush Riviera are bed runners and throw pillows. Who would’ve thought they’d unify a room (and a complex) so effectively?

Super Sekrit tip — the wood seen throughout the units are actually the handiwork of a skilled painter. I spoke to the designer who casually said — said that she had hand picked him for his work, and that he used a combination of paint, a rag and healthy helping of creative imagination. No kidding.


FR Int’l: Parc Chateau Manila

Manila 2010
Park Chateau in Pasig Metro Manila is one of the older condo developments of the area, but still offers a lot of strong selling points. The hallways and walk ways may look older, and could use a face lift but they’re still spacious, with amazing light. In fact, rather unique for this condo the natural light is filtered throughout the complex from the center core. There’s enough indoor lighting to support a robust eco-system. We went to check out this development since my sister in law was in charge of one of the unit’s renovations.

I had seen pictures of the project — so half knew what to expect, but surprisingly, it was more impressive in person. The 1 bd/ 1 ba ~ 750-800 sqft’s main window was from the bedroom balcony with the effective use of glass and the layout the light was able to fall gently across the whole apartment. The dining room the wall was texturized with a grey-green marble / stone paneling that punctuated the room with a garden feel. The entrance — which I found to be the most innovative for a condo, actually had a kind of “outside” porch complete with a an inside door so you actually felt like you were entering a house rather than a condo. Nice. Not to be left behind, the master bedroom was well sized — it’s headboard acting as the focus of the room imbued a sense of grandness, and the view from its balcony was entrancing. It made me miss my old apartment with my own balcony that was more like a porch. Alas.

With it’s location, space, view, and just finished renovation they estimated that if the owner were to sell (and apparently he’s not in the market to do that so don’t get your hopes up) it would go for at least 3M (Pesos) ~ $60K. Tempting isn’t it?

night render

FR International Goes to MANILA: Nuvo City

Nuvo City

Going away for the holidays is truly a great tradition, and for this season my husband and I left the sun drenched shores of Flatbush for the balmy tropics of Manila. Once our jetlag became half-way manageable, we set doing what we love– looking at real estate.

First thing’s first, the Philippines is having a bit of a moment, symptoms include not only the shop-til-you-drop fever, but also the glassy-eyed stare of non-comprehension when we name-drop “recession”.  The Philippines is expected to have the second fastest growing economy in southeast Asia (after Thailand) in 2010, and as all Flatbush denizens know boom economies are exuberantly followed by condo building mania. Half way across the world– this logic stood its ground.

Our first stop — Nuvo City an ambitious mix-use 5 tower project  that has barely broken ground but promises to serve up the latest in Philippine condo offerings from a studio to 3BD penthouse. Amenities include: –gym, lounge / conference room / media room,  outdoor swimming pool (for each of the 5 towers), tennis court, basketball, badminton, volleyball, and playground(?).  Most compelling, they’ll have high-end retail businesses in the lower levels — making it into an upscale mall not unlike the Time Warner Center in NY — or other successful developments like Global City — Fort in Manila.

We were offered to view the showrooms – which are similar in purpose to model units, except the materials aren’t exactly the same as the units you’d be buying– more like just the “look and feel” of the place. And some things are just designed to show you what you could do with the place (i.e. wood paneling) which the unit would not be coming with. Still, they were quite impressive. Many of the units came with a balcony, high ceilings, and spacious layouts. They also had a distinct modern aesthetic, overhead showers, roca finishes in some of the bathrooms, homogenous tiling (yum), engineered wooden flooring and synthetic stone tops in the kitchen — which looks nice but I prefer au natural. Glass was also a big theme throughout, they opted for generously over-sized windows rather than the floor-to-cieling drama favored in the Flatbush Riviera, and used it liberally internally using frosted glass partitions for bathrooms (studio units) to master bedroom walls to overlook the living room (penthouse lofts).

Sadly, I couldn’t take a photo of any of the showroom units we saw — as they were  top trade sekrits– so the ones I have are scoured from the internet.

Finally, we got to the real juice, the prices. Generally ~ $65k for ~350 sqft studios, ~$90k -$120k for ~750 sqft 1 bedrooms, and ~ $150 – $280k for 2 bd / 2BA, I kid you not, those are ALL IN prices and not down payments. Even more mind blowing — those are just about the same prices whether or not you’re located on the 2nd floor or the 42nd floor. I discovered this during a conversation that went something like:

Agent: Which floor would you like the pricing structure on? We have units still on the 8th floor which is close to the 5th floor amenities.

FR: {seeing they also have units on the 42nd+ floor}  I’d like to see the 42nd – 44th.

Agent: {silence} .. even for the 2 bedrooms? For 2 bedrooms we have corner units available on the 13th floor, which isn’t too far from the 5th floor amenities.

FR: Are these amenities on the 5th floor the swimming pool, and tennis courts etc,..?

Agent: Yes

FR: {gestures to husband} — HE only goes to the gym 2x a month, me 3x week TOPS, and with the gentle tropical sun (sarcasm inserted) we may never go to those “amenities” during the day. But I’ll be seeing my view EVERY day.

Agent: {shrug and smile} — people here like the amenities.

True story.


Brooklyn Restaurant: Motorino


Everywhere you look people have been talking about Motorino, everyone from NY1, NYMag,  Rachel Ray, even the venerable NYTimes has gone so far as to crown Motorino as the best pizza in NYC. Fighting words indeed.  My husband being the fiendish pizza connoisseur of course has had this place on his hit list for quite some time. We went there well into the evening, so unfortunately the photos don’t do this place justice, you’ll have to take my word for it. The hunger-creating smells entice you well over a block away. The ambiance is simple, with a real wood burning over as its centerpiece. Overall it creates an atmosphere of simple pleasures, letting its patrons focus on the task at hand, eating the pizza.

We decided to start off with the Margherita DOC and the Pugliese, thinking that 2 pizzas between the 4 of us would be enough. We finished off the two in record time, and were still hunched over our tables, hoping one more slice would magically appear — if we looked hard enough. We talked  ravenously about the cheese to crust ratio, the freshness of the basil on Margherita and the richness of conflicting flavors in the Pugliese. It didn’t matter that our breaths were laced with so much garlic that we would’ve killed every character from Twilight — it is impossible NOT to bond over this pizza.

How could it be that good? It is. And like all good things, it leaves you wanting more. We ordered a third. True story.

Motorino Motorino Motorino Motorino Motorino Motorino Motorino Motorino Motorino

Fulton Mall

Brooklyn Neighborhood: Fulton Mall


I remember the first time I beheld the Fulton Mall, nearly 10 years ago. I hadn’t earned my Brooklyn legs yet, so I and a friend of mine decided to venture to Brooklyn together, using the tried and true Manhattan reasoning of “in the case we get stranded, at least I’m not alone”. We took a wrong turn (of course), and ended up on Fulton, and if you think it looks bad now … well we quickly realized our mistake and did the world’s fastest 180, and it wasn’t the abundance of 99-cent-like stores that tipped us off.

Fast forward almost 10 years later and I’m house hunting, being lured by Belltel and her space. The only problem is, the neighborhood is clearly still developing, and while the Fulton Mall no longer keeps me up at night, I’m not sold that it’s going to change any more than it already has. And it has gone through a lot of change. Josh’s grand parents  reminisce about how this was the place for shopping back in the day, anchored by some fine stores like Abraham and Strauss. But somewhere along the line it fell out of favor. The “nice” retail stores shifted to the suburbs, and while Fulton Mall was still purporting to be “third most commercially successful” retail street you wouldn’t know it by looking at it. The city had spent millions trying to revitalize it, giving its corners more lights, removing the bus shelters that operated as homeless shelters, all to marginal avail it didn’t seem perceptibly THAT much better. The stores were the same, sneakers, cell phones, 99-cent-junk and thrift stores that also sold expired grocery. Yuck.

But then in this perfect storm kind of way it just all fell together, and suddenly the nicer stuff WAS coming, not just “reporting to think about it”, but as soon as Aeropostale swung open its doors the rest are finally pitching a tent.  Aeropostale, then Shake Shack, and even health conscious Panera is joining the party — practically next door to it’s competitor,White Castle. There’s talk of others, some sound like real possibilities:H&M, Sephora, and Filene’s Basement, others are just delusions of having drunk too much Kool-Aid, the Apple store.  But even with just this development — I’m happy enough to not complain for at least a week. I may even start to brag about it, and join in on conversations that Park Slopers have about their 5th Avenue. Wait for it.

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Toren and Avalon

This week in DoBro: Skyscrapers, sandwiches and More!

Toren and Avalon

DoBro and its surrounding neighbors continues to get some snazzy highlights, some snippets below:

Skyscraper District – The Gothamist ran a post yesterday on how the Landmark Preservation Commission is considering the city’s first historic skyscraper district. But it won’t be where you’d expect to find skyscrapers (i.e. midtown, downtown or anywhere in Manhattan) but rather by Brooklyn’s own Borohall. Read More.

Panera is joining the recent restaurant boom in DoBro. I think we can all thank Brooklyn Fare and Shake Shack for the recent restaurant fever. The same article also mentions Sephora is en route —  I’m snapping my fingers but I’m not waking up from the dream. Read More.

The the Observer called Fulton Mall “gentrification defiant” a few weeks ago, but by the next month NY Times ran a story that indeed (much to everyone’s surprise)  gentrification is coming. I have to say. I didn’t think it would happen so soon.

Albee Sq. properties open auction at $4M. This isn’t so newsworthy until you actually see the photo of the place. I mean, it really is hard to look at, but I guess when you consider that the land you’re buying is contiguous and can be easily developed.  Read More.


27 Quincy

Brooklyn Real Estate: 27 Quincy

I spied 27 Quincy from, it looked like they were offering some pretty attractive units at pretty affordable prices. Duplex 2 BD / 2BA at $499k in a new development, very tempting. It did have some initial red flags – it’s not that close to the subway, and the subway that is within walking distance is the G. It’s also right on the cusp between Clinton Hill and Bed Stuy, which might not be a big deal depending on the surrounding area. But the building has some nice amenities: super high ceilings (in duplexes), bike storage, FIOS hook-up, custom cabinetry, oak flooring, stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops. And did I mention they’ve made it very affordable, 15 year tax abatement and FHA loans that let you put down as little as 3.5%.

The lobby is well lit and nicely decorated, video intercom — but no doorman. The model unit that I visited was aesthetically pleasant and gave you a good feel for what you could do with the space. I’m always creeped out when I see the silent owner in the corner “observing”. In this case since these units were new, I’m not sure who the silent man was in the living room area looking out the balcony. But he didn’t seem that friendly and so I skirted around him — missing out on some details of the unit. But there was no denying the expansiveness of the ceilings in the living /dining room or the enormous windows that made the downstairs alone feel like the 1,000+ sqft. And the juliet balcony is a nice touch. I liked that the bedrooms are separated, one downstairs and one upstairs, so the downstairs could easily operate as a home office. I liked the downstairs bathroom fixtures especially since upstairs one with its small tiling, and unimaginative white –( which was already looking off white-ish) — left something to be desired.

Now, while the downstairs had everything going for it, the upstairs did not. It really just has medium sized master bedroom with a white-ish bathroom, and a rather obstructive air unit. I’m also not a huge fan of the precarious stairs. While it does have a dramatic look, it’s rather steep and it’s floating so children will be able to crawl through the steps.

Finally, the neighborhood … not great. Certainly not one of Clinton Hill’s most charming areas. It has an industrial surrounding, followed by the Salvation Army across the street — and little else in terms or residence. I also didn’t spy any convenient stores or restaurants nearby — though I suppose they could exist since I didn’t look too hard. It would feel like a long and lonely walk back from the subway.

Disclaimer: These reviews were written before I was a real estate agent, and reflects my previous opinions solely as a buyer.

Cafe Lafayette

Brooklyn Restaurant: Cafe Lafayette


Nothing spells charming quite like a French-ish cafe and this one is no different. It has a decided European feel in both its aesthetic and menu. I fell a little bit in love practically the moment I pressed open the door and saw the vintage kitchen scale. They spared no details in the decor, everywhere you look there’s something to oohh and ahh about. I didn’t even mind the small spacing of the place, it made it feel cozy and allowed me to over hear my neighbors speaking German, true story!

I had a tasty mozzarella panini with a side of green, my husband had the real treat smoke salmon and brie panini. The sandwich was unreal, it was perfectly mixed between the richness of the salmon and the creaminess of the brie. I watched in envy as he ate it. I would go back just for that sandwich alone. But throw in the ambiance, attentive service, and just-right coffee — I will definitely come back for seconds.

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Living the fabulous A-List Life in Downtown Brooklyn