When people think of NYC, one of the first things that they picture is Brooklyn’s historical brownstones. The iconic rowhomes that line the streets of some of Brooklyn’s more affluent neighborhoods have become synonymous with the city over time, and have won the hearts of Americans everywhere. We’ve seen them in Hollywood hits like “You’ve Got Mail” and a Manhattan home once even disguised itself as a Brooklyn brownstone for “The Cosby Show.” Celebrities, like Neil Patrick Harris and Sarah Jessica Parker, have proudly displayed their brownstones in feature articles, forever cementing in our minds that these timeless residences are reserved for an elite class. Are they truly unattainable for the masses, and if so, how did they come to be?
Brooklyn Brownstones Rose to Popularity During the Romantic Era
While most people call any kind of rowhome a “brownstone,” the term technically refers to townhomes that have a brownstone facade. Prior to the mid-1800s, Brooklyn was largely deserted. It’s said that the famous Dakota Hotel was aptly named as such because the area it was built in resembled the Dakota Territory- barren and uninhabitable. As new developments crept in, rowhomes began to pop up everywhere, but simple brick would not do for the new affluent crowd. As the New York Historical Society points out, brownstone was the ideal façade, largely because of price. Other popular choices, such as granite, limestone, and marble, were very expensive and difficult to obtain. A brown sandstone quarry, which sat on the Connecticut River, proved to be an excellent source. Because the sandstone could be carved easily and transported by water, it helped improve the aesthetics of buildings all over NYC.
East River Partners, LLC and Jody Kriss Focus on Brownstones
Quality brownstones are in short supply, and those that hit the market these days can sell in a single day. Even though America and NYC have been in love with brownstones since they first appeared, they have struggled to remain in top form. Early builders rushed the masonry, which meant that residents were trying to manage cracking and crumbling facades within a decade or two of the buildings rising. NYC’s constant battle with affordable housing also left building owners will no funds to make necessary renovations and repairs. Over the years, the problem has only gotten worse, across all of NYC’s buildings. Finally, developers like Jody Kriss and East River Partners are coming in and restoring the buildings to their original splendor.
Brownstones are Now the Ideal Choice for Brooklyn Families
There’s a huge movement in Brooklyn right now to restore the iconic buildings. East River Partners tends to focus more on buildings that were largely dilapidated before renovations. As Jody Kriss has explained, they often clear out much of the interior of the brownstones, and start from scratch. This enables them to create stunning homes, with the modern touches today’s buyers want. In an interview with Samantha Rowan, Kriss explained, “In Brooklyn, the public schools tend to be better, so you see parents going there because private schools in Manhattan are so prohibitively expensive.” Between quality education and affordability, Brooklyn is seeing a major boom in families. This is in line with a NY Post report that indicated more than half of those buying in Brooklyn right now are in their 30s. Even though about 40 percent of them are Brooklynites already, nearly one-in-five are coming in from Manhattan.
Due to the hard work of developers like Jody Kriss, many of the brownstones in Brooklyn have already been thoughtfully restored and renovated. Going forward, we may be seeing more of what NY Daily News calls “Brownstone 2.0.” Kriss gives a nod to this in his Rowan interview explaining, “The brownstone type of building is so well-received, that we’re actually looking at building a whole bunch of new ones.” Without a doubt, they’re sure to be as popular as their historical cousins.