I wish brownstones could be as easy to get as sexually transmitted diseases.
I am, one of many, desperately seeking an affordable multi-level brownstone in an affordable Central Brooklyn neighborhood. Emphasis on affordable.
The truth is, I live in a brownstone now. That’s right. I live in a brownstone with 3 bedrooms. That sounds luxurious and I should be grateful that I am not stuck 10 blocks away from a train station in a 5 story walkup with 17 roommates. But the multi-family, mixed use brownstone I live in now is nothing like I imagined it would be.
Growing up in the 1980s and 90s in a low income community, television was an inexpensive way of seeing the world. Though pop culture can be criticized heavily for its unrealistic cultural contributions, there were times when it gave me aspiration. Like other brown kids, the Cosby Show was the pop culture symbol that changed my idea of who and what I could accomplish economically in this world. Because Clair Huxtable was so charming, I was drawn almost exclusively to her lifestyle. I knew I wanted to go to an HBCU, I knew I wanted to get married, I knew I wanted to be as witty as she was, I knew I wanted to be in love with jazz music, and I knew-even from very early on, that I wanted to live in Brooklyn in an iconic brownstone.
Brownstones are multistory townhouses that are made of stones that are brown. Brownstones to Brooklyn transplants are essential status symbols. They represent everything you move to Brooklyn for-space, a patch of green, a bit of quietness, and to be slightly closer to authenticity. They conjure up feelings of summer time nostalgia. They force you into conversations about neighborhood events, gentrification, community happenings, so forth and so on. They are charming. They represent memories of romantic nostalgia. Brownstones breath life into your otherwise tiny, cramped up existence. Brownstones are everything.
Brownstones today are expensive. Brownstones in Park Slope, Cobble Hill, or Downtown Brooklyn can start at well into the $1 million range for a 3 story single family. Brownstones in Bedford Stuyvesant and Crown Heights are slightly more affordable starting at $600,000 going well into the millions for fully renovated properties. Buying an affordable brownstone at $400,000 is also a gamble, with many of them requiring significant renovations.
I always wonder how people got into these amazing brownstones? Don’t you love the stories of how the city sold vacant brownstones to people for $1 during the height of the crack epidemic? Don’t you love the stories of your coworkers who inherited their brownstone from their great grandmother who paid $12,000 for it in 1942? Don’t you love how people talk about how cheap they got their brownstone for in an ‘up and coming neighborhood’ and now they use it as rental property?
I think the days of brownstone affordability may be over. I’m searching almost daily for my Brooklyn brownstone so if you see her...et me know.