Jersey City Jaunt

SO MUCH FOR PRECONCEIVED — or rather, outdated — notions. I hadn’t been to Jersey City in probably ten years, so when I went there yesterday (a distance of 7 whole miles from my home in Brooklyn) to visit a friend, my first reaction on driving through the streets was a surprised “This is NOT BAD!”

In fact, it’s pretty great. There are plenty of grubby areas inland, but the waterfront sections, with their sparkling views of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty, and many blocks around, have been totally spiffed up. It’s not just hi-rise city, either. Fine blocks of 19th century row houses in the historic neighborhoods are likewise in good shape, which means we’ve missed the boat on real estate investment.

For better or worse, depending on your P.O.V., Jersey City has gentrified, and it happened while I wasn’t paying attention. Walking around with my friend Joe (for as long as we could stand in the bitter cold), we passed a brick row house, right, with a nice Greek Revival doorway, colorfully painted, and a ‘For Sale’ sign. “It’s probably over a million,” Joe said. Said I, ever the victim of wishful thinking. “I’m guessing 899K.” Joe quickly found the listing on his iPhone. He was close: the ask is $1.15M, in ‘as is’ condition.

Of architectural delights, there are plenty. They’ve been hiding in plain sight all this time. Have a look.



Brooklyn Snapshots


Prospect Heights looking lush


Cherry blossoms and brickwork, Prospect Heights


High style on Columbia Heights, Brooklyn Heights


Rope wrapped tree, Fourth Avenue, Boerum Hill


A cornice too pretty for a boiler company, Fourth Avenue, Gowanus


Window box show, Columbia Heights, Brooklyn Heights


Something Parisian about this one, Columbia Heights, Brooklyn Heights


Elegance, Columbia Heights, Brooklyn Heights

Prospect Heights in Today’s Times

THE NEWSPAPER OF RECORD has become the newspaper of the obvious. Today’s “Living in…” column on my recently adopted Brooklyn neighborhood of Prospect Heights, in the Sunday New York Times Real Estate section, tells me nothing useful or surprising, and almost nothing I didn’t know (except about the public schools, whose performance is sadly more abysmal than I thought). One wonders if the Times’ hard news stories are equally self-evident to those in the know. One hopes not.

I’m glad to see in black and white that the long-opposed and now quickly rising basketball arena has not yet affected property values in the neighborhood, at least according to the brokers quoted. Overall, the article says, the “popularity and relative scarcity” of Prospect Heights’ brownstones “protected their values in the downturn.” They are “consistently in demand because there is a small supply.” Always glad to have my own biases confirmed. That’s kind of the whole point of this blog (see “10 Reasons Old Houses are a Good Investment…” in column at left).

There was one small surprise: to read that one-bedroom apartments in the neighborhood “command as much as $1,800.” I wish. I pay more than that for mine.

Only one lucky shop and two restaurants are mentioned of the dozens and dozens that line Vanderbilt and Washington Avenues, and the “history” of the neighborhood is confined to two sentences about the composer Aaron Copland at the end, as if they ran out of column inches — but there are no column inches in the digital world.

Perhaps I’m just feeling grumpy, though it’s a beautiful April morning and I’m about to head out for a walk in Prospect Park. Probably I feel a certain proprietary interest in the quality of Times reporting, since I used to write a lot for the Home and Styles sections. And — full disclosure — maybe I’m grouchy about this particular column because last year I sent a well-thought-out pitch for a “Living in… Springs” (Long Island, N.Y.) to the editor of the Real Estate section and never got so much as a “No, thanks.”

The author of the Prospect Heights article is a New York Times media reporter, and the column is always formulaic. But still. Come on, Times! Tell us something we don’t know.

Brooklyn in Bloom


I CAME BACK TO BROOKLYN after a few days in East Hampton to find the place exploding — florally speaking, that is. Whereas the East End of Long Island is still brown and bleak, except for the relief of roadside forsythia, Brooklyn’s daffs and other bulbs are popping, and the street trees — white Bradford pears, magnolia, and redbud, are in full force, an immensely cheering sight against dark brownstones and rainy skies.







In Just-Spring


THE POET e.e. cummings (1894-1962) said it way better than I could:

in Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame baloonman 

whistles far and wee 

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's

when the world is puddle-wonderful 

the queer
old baloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing 

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and 




baloonMan whistles

from Tulips and Chimneys (1923)


I don’t know how luscious the mud is, or how wonderful the puddles, and the little lame balloon man has been replaced in my mind by the Felco-wielding flower man at the corner deli (the one who combines your tulips, roses, and pussy willows into a bouquet with such finesse) as a harbinger of spring.


But I sure appreciate the glow of yellow forsythia and the pale pre-emergent pink of the magnolias against the wet brownstones. They are hope, and reassurance that all is unfolding as it is supposed to. How do they know it’s time?


It’s enough to make you a believer.