BY MICHAEL STAHL
Hidden in the shadows behind the glistening, glassy residential towers of Long Island City, the Queens quarter of Sunnyside is poised to shine under a real estate spotlight sure to brighten over the next few years.
The broiling battle over how to develop the Sunnyside Yards—or why not build there at all—has seen shots fired from both the Mayor and Governor’s offices in recent months. As housing prices continue a pituitary defying growth spurt in the far western portions of the Borough, an inevitable spillover effect into the new next-best neighborhood is bound to come about soon—if it hasn’t already begun to curdle. The area off the 7 train that can be reached from Times Square in less than 20 minutes has already witnessed a mild housing cost upswing. There is certainly a sense of resistance to that trend emanating from Sunnyside residents though, and despite the promise of matured property equity, it even comes from their real estate agents.
“I’d like to see the neighborhood continue to be a place where residents will prop themselves and stay for a long time, like in the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s, as opposed to having prices go up sharply and having people priced out of the area,” said Amy Fitzgerald, a 16-year resident and current owner of Welcome Home Real Estate on Skillman Avenue and 46th Street. “There’s just a good community feeling here. That’s one of Sunnyside’s major draws, along with the proximity to the city. I’m proud to call it my home.”
Fitzgerald reports that Sunnyside attracts more than its fair share of young professionals who can’t afford to live in Manhattan or Western Brooklyn. The majority of that demographic—singles and young couples—seek rentals in the area. Statistics from Fitzgerald’s office indicate one-bedroom apartments range from $1,700 to $2,000 per month; while two-bedroom units might see prices approach $2,800 a month.
“One thing this neighborhood lacks is large apartments,” she said. If a three-bedroom is found on the Sunnyside rental market, it will cost upwards of $3,000 a month.
Those looking to invest in ZIP code 11104 will find co-ops and condominiums occupying a great portion of the market. Many of those units are located in the numerous six-story residential buildings that dot the urban-esque areas on either immediate side of Queens Boulevard. According to Fitzgerald, a studio co-op commands about $180,000, while its condo counterpart seeks $325,000 on average. Prices predictably increase by increments of about $75,000 to $100,000 in both co-ops and condos as individual bedrooms are added to a listing.
“But there’s a wide variety of residents in Sunnyside,” Fitzgerald added. “Because we also service retirees who want to downsize from a house and are willing to conveniently rent while staying close to Manhattan.”
Located in the more suburban part of the neighborhood, the Sunnyside Gardens Historic District—where classic pre-war brick constructs in spired by English townhouses dominate tree-lined streets—was one of the first planned communities in the entire United States. A couple avenues north of Queens Boulevard between 44th and 48th Streets, Sunnyside Gardens has an exclusive park all to itself, and homes range from one- to three-family options, selling in the range of $800,000 to $1.3 million, according to Welcome Home Real Estate’s recent sales figures. One- and two-family homes in the area, but outside the Sunnyside Gardens section, go for $700,000 to $975,000.
“The homes exist on the market,” Fitzgerald said. “But there are usually very few available, and they don’t stay that way for very long.” According to StreetEasy.com, the average Sunnyside home sold thus far in 2015 stayed on the market for half as long as they did just two years ago.
There are several reasons as to why Sunnyside properties are snatched up so quickly. Like much of the Borough, the area is suffering from a dearth of inventory. StreetEasy.com indicates that Sunnyside residential sales volume was down 3 percent last year when compared to 2013—though that figure emerged after a tremendous 44 percent increase between 2012 and 2013 as the post-housing-collapse economy finally began to stabilize. Of course, the neighborhood’s proximity to Manhattan helps, but arguably it’s the current prices that make Sunnyside so attractive to buyers. Statistics on StreetEasy.com and Trulia both say that Sunnyside housing costs are about average when compared to the rest of the Borough, with some sections remaining slightly below average.
So it seems there’s a little bit of everything in Sunnyside, and, in spite of what does or doesn’t happen at the rail yards site, it might very well stay that way.