An empty four-storey brownstone on Union Street in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, stands among rows of stately town houses in one of the borough’s most sought-after neighbourhoods. The tree-lined district ranks among the priciest in Brooklyn with a median home value of $1.21m, according to property site Zillow. In February, a brownstone property sold for $9.15m, a price thought to be a record for the neighbourhood.
Yet in an area populated by wealthy bankers and celebrities this home stands out: it is owned by former Trump presidential campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who faces charges that he laundered more than $18m to pay for what prosecutors describe as a “lavish lifestyle”.
According to the indictment, the Brooklyn property was purchased by Manafort in 2012 with about $3m in cash, all of which came from an entity held in Cyprus. These days, the 4,200 sq ft townhouse looks abandoned, with plywood in the windows and a padlock on the front door. While it is unclear what will become of the property, estate agents in the area say the controversy surrounding it is unlikely to damage its resale value.
“The media attention is really just more publicity for the property,” says Jonathan Miller, president of property appraiser Miller Samuel. “It’s actually a boon for marketers.”
Like other affluent areas of south Brooklyn, the upwardly mobile have been colonising Carroll Gardens and its leafy neighbour to the north, Cobble Hill, for years. The two communities have some of the best-preserved town houses in New York City with many dating from about the mid-19th to early-20th centuries.
Much of Cobble Hill, an area of some 40 blocks, is protected from development, allowing many of the Greek Revival properties that line the district to retain their period details such as classic stoops and high ceilings.
Carroll Gardens town houses often include front gardens, occasionally bordered by wrought-iron fences. The distinctive landscaping detail was the idea of the surveyor Richard Butts, whose 1846 plan called for 33ft-deep front yards in many parts of the area.
However, despite years of steady growth, some affluent Brooklyn communities are now seeing the values of homes falling.
The median price of a house in so-called Brownstone Brooklyn — pricey areas that include Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill — dropped 11.4 per cent year-on-year to $1.11m in the first quarter, according to Ideal Properties Group.
The decline was due in part to jitters over President Donald Trump’s tax reforms. The bill affects homeowners in high-cost coastal regions who could potentially end up paying more in taxes because it caps the amount of property and state income taxes filers can deduct.
There have also been big price falls in the condominium market. The average sales price for a condo fell to $1.446m, a 7.1 per cent decline from the same 2017 period, according to Ideal Properties.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Alex Calabretta, a broker with Douglas Elliman, says the dip in prices is likely temporary.
“We’ve seen this kind of thing before,” says Calabretta, a Brooklyn native who was raised in Carroll Gardens. “Sellers pricing their listings too high at the beginning of the year only to pull back a little by spring when asking prices get more in line with the market.” Still, drops of more than 10 per cent are hardly par for the course in this part of Brooklyn.
Renovated brownstone properties have held special favour among wealthy New Yorkers for years, but the number of condos on the market in Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens has increased, says Nicole Galluccio, a broker with Corcoran Real Estate, opening up the areas to people on more modest budgets.
“You don’t have soaring condo buildings here like you see in Williamsburg or Downtown Brooklyn,” she says. “The condo stock is mostly inside renovated brownstones and that appeals to buyers that can’t afford the whole building.”
Douglas Elliman is selling a three-bedroom condominium in Carroll Gardens with two bathrooms for $1.599m. The two-level home measures 1,104 sq ft and has a private roof deck with views of Brooklyn and downtown Manhattan.
For larger wallets, a 19th-century townhouse is listed for sale in Cobble Hill for $4.495m by Corcoran. The newly renovated four-floor property includes five bedrooms and three bathrooms. The home has a roofdeck, garden and front terrace.
- Landmark status protects many areas of Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens so potential buyers need to be aware of renovation restrictions
- Median monthly rents in Brooklyn reached $2,629 in March, 6.3 per cent lower than the same period in 2017, according to Douglas Elliman
- Apartment sales in Brooklyn fell 3 per cent, while the average sale price dropped 12 per cent to $836,000, according to Corcoran
- Property taxes in Brooklyn are based on the assessed value determined annually by the city
What you can buy for . . .
$3m A three-bedroom condominium in Carroll Gardens with two bathrooms and a large balcony
$5m A renovated four-storey townhouse in Cobble Hill with five bedrooms
$10m A six-bedroom brownstone in Carroll Gardens with three baths and a large garden
More homes at propertylistings.ft.com
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