Can Staten Island be the New Brooklyn?
New York City’s smallest borough is now poised for a new renaissance as investors and developers pour $1 billion into the North Shore in hopes of striking Brooklyn-style gold.
Staten Island has long been considered the city’s least hip enclave, but these boosters believe it can finally be transformed into the borough’s answer to booming Long Island City or even Jersey City
“Young people want the same types of vertical living as you see in Manhattan and Brooklyn,” said James Prendamano of Casandra Properties, a Staten Island commercial real estate broker. “Not everybody … wants to live in Uncle Joe’s one-bedroom apartment in a semi-detached home in Southeast Annadale.”
Developers are already building with an eye toward the hipster set. Ironstate Development, the developer of Pier Village and other notable New Jersey complexes is set to launch 900 residential units in the Stapleton area, with studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments starting at $1,600 a month.
The complex is called URL Staten Island, short for “Urban Ready Life,” which is ultimately slated to include top-of-the-line amenities and a string of cute, boutique retail spots geared at twenty-somethings.
The move to generate housing for young professionals, spurred by a prospective rezoning for high-rise residential use on the waterfront between St. George and Stapleton, follows a decade of underdevelopment and rising demand for housing on Staten Island that’s left many would-be local renters with few options.
“Kids will no longer have to feel like they’re settling if they want to stay on Staten Island,” said David Barry of Ironstate. “They can stay where they are and still get what they want.”
Staten Island is the fastest growing borough with the most undeveloped land in New York City. Over the last two decades, Staten Island’s population rose by more than 24%, compared with just 15% in the second-fastest growing borough, the Bronx. The North Shore’s population grew even more dramatically, by a whopping 29%, according to the Center for an Urban Future.
The rise in population, paired with a lull in development, has left some Staten Islanders, especially those in their Projects such as Empire Outlets, a massive outlet shopping center that will be home to Nordstrom Rack, H&M and Gap Outlet, thousands of market-rate and subsidized apartments, and the New York Wheel is building excitement about the borough.
“People come out here all the time and ask us, ‘Where’s the wheel, where’s the mall?'” said Joseph Ferrara of BFC Partners, the development company behind the outlets. “We have to tell them it’s not built yet.”
Developer Triangle Equities is also about to start construction on Lighthouse Point, a mixed-use project near the base of the ferry terminal that will include retail, a 164-room hotel and 96 apartments fashioned out of existing, historic waterfront buildings.
“People with deep pockets are coming into this market from all over the world,” Prendamano said. “They see this as the last bastion of waterfront real estate in New York with mass transit connections and favorable pricing.”
Staten Island is still a steal in comparison with Manhattan, where land now routinely trades for upwards of $800 a foot, or even Queens, where land prices in Long Island City have been hitting $300 a foot. But prices are starting to inch up.
“You used to be able to pick up available land for $30 or $40 a foot, maybe six or seven years ago,” Prendamano said. “Now, it’s still south $100 a foot, but it’s on the way up.”