Don’t Let The Skyscrapers Fool You—NYC Real Estate Has A Lot More Going For It

From the heart of gentrifying Brooklyn to the quiet waterside neighborhoods in the outer-boroughs, NYC is all about construction.

By Jeff Vasishta February 1, 2017

Think of New York construction and you think of Hudson Yards, Long Island City and the plethora of shimmering towers piercing the clouds and remaking the city’s skyline. However, if you think that’s the rocket fuel behind NYC’s building boom, you’d be wrong. According to data from DNAInfo, the majority of construction going on at the moment isn’t in the sky—but closer to ground, in lower lying one to four units, often near to the water.

A map of construction hubs showed low-lying waterfront neighborhoods affected in Queens and Staten Island by Hurricane Sandy—or booming neighborhoods such as Bushwick, Williamsburg and Long Island City. Things started to hit overdrive in 2015 when the city’s Department of Buildings approved the construction of 56,528 units spread out over 1,998 buildings—a 67 percent increase on the previous year.

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According to DNAInfo, here are the top zip codes for construction permits in 2016.

11697 – This includes Breezy Point, Rockaway Point and Roxbury in Queens, which was hard hard by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Funding for the repairs via the Build It Back program.

10306, 10312, 10304, 10314 – All Staten Island neighborhoods, hard hit by Sandy. These are suburban on to three unit properties, often frame.

Inland, the ever bustling 11221 zip which covers Bushwick and BedStuy ranked #3 for permits with over 120 filed, with 70 of them being four-story new construction properties and 15 for six-story buildings. Similarly, the close by 11206 zip (Williamsburg, Bushwick and BedStuy) including the Broadway Triangle was another hive for filed permits, mostly for smaller buildings.

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Clearly, these smaller buildings individually don’t compare with the amount of units that skyscrapers in Manhattan and Long Island City contain. But cumulatively, they make up the bulk of construction going on in the city. Also, importantly, smaller buildings are being made by smaller developers employing local, often non-union workers, proving that the construction industry  and the appetite to buy is healthy in the city. These smaller developments were not contingent on the 421-a tax incentive, so there was not a flood of permits filed to meet the deadline as with the larger skyscrapers thus giving a more accurate reading as to to the state of New York City construction.

The scope of development also shows how valuable NYC has become as a whole, rather than just select pockets. Of courser, bigger developments in Manhattan, with high profile corporate or high net worth tenants and packed with amenities are going to be sexy and get a lot of publicity. But a small developer, building a four-unit apartment building in Borough Park or Sunnyside and a couple qualifying for a mortgage to buy a unit shows not only that the real estate market in the city is buoyant but that there are buyers or renters who can afford them.

Again, it gives a more even portrayal of the financial state of the outer boroughs and the city as a whole. All cash foreign investors snapping up $10 million condos in Manhattan clearly not really a fair reading of the financial climate of real estate in NYC. And if the stats are anything to go by, NYC, despite its increasing prices, seems to be in good shape.


Jeff Vasishta



Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.
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