Sun, Sea & Real Estate

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People are relocating here from Long Island, Queens, Brooklyn, and even further afield as the Rockaway renaissance gets into full swing. Yes, the long-awaited revitalization is coming and with it, new neighbors are arriving for better or worse.

With the stunning beach views, a stellar ferry service, and stylish restaurants to boot, it’s no surprise that families, ‘hipsters’ and everyone in between are hoping to own or rent a property here, with the arrival of developments like One Sixteen and The Tides at Arverne by The Sea.

“As the Rockaways become a more year-round community with services and activities available not just in the summertime, people are naturally gravitating towards the beachfront, laidback environment,” said Maxine Resnick, a Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker with Compass representing One Sixteen. “As prices continue to rise in Manhattan and Brooklyn, buyers are also drawn to the comparatively lower prices.”

Maryanne Farrell, another member of the development’s Sales Team with Compass, emphasized that house hunters have the “distinct advantage of buying in early on a block that is on the tipping point of undergoing a major renaissance.”

“We’ve had strong interest from local Rockaways buyers as well as people relocating from other parts of the New York metro area and as far away as Philadelphia,” Farrell added. Indeed, Kelly and Kristin Neinast of the Corcoran Group have found that their clients are buying property all over Rockaway, “now that the ferry is here and it’s an easy trip into Manhattan, there is no part of the peninsula that is off limits.”

“People are buying houses here for all different reasons,” Kristin told The Wave. “Some want a lifestyle change and want the more laid back beach scene, some are moving from their current neighborhoods because they want more of a community feel for their children to grow up in, some are moving to be close to their family and some are getting priced out of their current neighborhoods.”

Realtor Robin Shapiro pointed out that despite the peninsula’s increasing popularity, it maintains the “feel of a small town, where you can run into friends walking in the streets, bike riding, surfing or just hanging out at the beach!”

“I get the biggest kick out of being told that living here for 33 years I’m still a newcomer,” Shapiro told The Wave. “With close proximity to the city by train, bus, car, and ferry, more and more people are falling in love with our ocean town.”

Affordability is a large part of it agrees Maureen Walsh of Walsh Properties, who told The Wave that Rockaway offers a great opportunity for empty nesters/boomers from Brooklyn, “who are getting very good prices for their homes … [and] paying all cash or close to it.” But where exactly are these new arrivals flocking to?

“Sometimes, they are coming with an adult child who is married and needs childcare since both parents are working,” Walsh explained. “These homes are in the Rockaway Park/Belle Harbor areas and range in price from $900’s to over a million if they’re in good shape.

“These people are coming here because the makeup of their communities is changing and the groups moving into their neighborhood tend to be exclusionary—that is, if you’re not one of them, they don’t talk to you and, in some cases, harass you to move. But they do give you enough money to move to another decent neighborhood.”

She said the number of Brooklyn realtors setting up shop here is indicative of the mass exodus from the borough, while Long Island residents are also jumping ship in favor of lower taxes, adding that the ferry is a “home run for us.”

“Then we have the surfing, artist, [and] freelancer community who are realistic to know that they can’t afford a million dollar house so they’re buying on the bay blocks in the Arverne/Edgemere areas,” Walsh continued. “These homes vary in price but $3-600K range, some of which are two family homes are home runs for them. When they hit a bump in the road with income streams, the rental helps pay the mortgage.”

Likewise, Lisa Jackson, the owner of Rockaway Properties, noted that buyers with families from Bergen Beach, Marine Park, Bensonhurst, Bayridge, and Dyker Heights are mostly buying homes in the Neponsit, Belle Harbor, and Rockaway Park area. Jackson cited four primary reasons for these new arrivals: Rockaway’s increasing popularity; people being priced out of their neighborhoods; the NYC Ferry; and, of course, our beautiful beach.

“I see the younger hip buyers investing further downtown in the Rockaway Beach, Arverne and Far Rockaway area [where] prices are more affordable and they are seizing the opportunity to gentrify the neighborhood,” she said.

However, longtime residents have contended with the downsides of living in a beach community after Superstorm Sandy, so there is some concern as to how these new neighbors will contribute to the community— what are they doing to invest in it? According to the Neinast sisters, many clients like Bobby and Jen Graziose of Beach Tripper and Katie Long, the owner of The Swell Life, have actually set up shop here too.

“Businesses like this are helping the neighborhoods stores, shops, restaurants, etc by making it easy for beachgoers to come down for the day and spend time at the beach and our local establishments,” Kristin explained, while her sister added that these Brooklynites have since become part of the Rockaway furniture: “clients have now become friends,” Kelly explained.

What’s more, Jackson pointed out that many new owners are beautifying their homes, giving the surrounding area a much-needed makeover and thus enhancing the community: “Buyers are buying personal homes for their families, investment properties and seasonal retreats. So many of our buyers are improving their investments by remodeling, modernizing the homes and adding beautiful landscaping for a fresh new look. This is making our neighborhood even more beautiful.”

Despite the sun, sea and increased safety, do the benefits of living in this beach community really outweigh the downsides like flood insurance and elevated houses? Yes, yes, and yes say, Jackson, Walsh, and the Neinsat sisters.

“There are so many benefits to living by the beach: fresh clean air, delightful bike rides on our new boardwalk and bike lanes, trendy concession stands, no congestion, and a beautiful clean community,” said Jackson. “The flood insurance has not stopped people from buying in our area, depending on the elevation of the home flood insurance can cost you less than $500 per year.”

In fact, Resnick said there wasn’t much concern regarding a Sandy 2.0 from prospective buyers when “One Sixteen is built to the highest standards of post-Sandy building codes for flood zone protection,” like the majority of newer, savvier projects.

“Although it is agony to get to other parts of the city from here, who doesn’t like living at the beach?” agreed Walsh, who is sure that the new “hot spot” in Rockaway will be Arverne by the Bay and north of the freeway, due to its affordability and convenient location (“it’s the first stop on the Far Rockaway ‘A’ trainno changing at Broad Channel,” she explained).

The Neinsat sisters, who not only sell properties here but have grown up in the neighborhood and continue to live here, are sure there is no community like it.

“There are not many places where you can walk down the block and say hello to every person that you see whether it be a relative of yours or just an acquaintance,” Kristin told The Wave. “The effects of Superstorm Sandy will never change our minds about living in this great community!”

“From something so tragic came an incredible sense of community and resilience. If anything, Sandy brought the neighborhood closer,” Kelly added.

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