In the News
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ELIZABETH A. HARRIS
January 28, 2013
Tim McDonnell and James West
Mar. 28, 2013
Meet a top real estate broker for Rockaway, Queens
Friday, July 13, 2012
If time flies when you're having fun, then life goes very quickly in Neponsit and Belle Harbor. Stretching 27 blocks on an island between Broad Channel and the Atlantic Ocean, these Queens waterfront neighborhoods offer the top quality-of-life experiences in all of New York City.
Children still play outside on their own, people watch out for neighbors, and the cleanest beaches in the five boroughs are down the street no matter where you live. The schools in Belle Harbor are some of the best in the city, and the real estate markets in both areas are so diverse that smart house hunters can score bungalows for $500,000, Queen Anne mansions for $850,000, and beachfront estates for as high as $6 million.
No one knows this better than Lisa Jackson. Her Rocaprop.com signs for Rockaway Properties are all over the streets. A whip-smart broker, Jackson can't walk down the street without stopping to talk to someone whose house she's sold. In the 18 months since she started her own firm, Jackson has set neighborhood and borough sales records. Already in 2012, Rockaway Properties has sold over $10.4 million in homes with eight under contract totalling $4.5 million more.
Last year, she sold the highest-priced house in Queens, a $3.2 million beach house. This year, she has the listing on a $6.2 million double lot beachfront home built in the 1960s with a wall of windows. From some angles, it looks like a Kennedy compound.
"This is a beach town," says Jackson, walking in the sand. "These are the best beaches in the city, and anyone who lives here can walk to them. It's like small-town America. You see full families riding bikes. Grandparents are here, too. It's a beautiful thing to be part of a real community."
The first house Jackson shows us is on the water. Built in 1994, the Southhampton-inspired shingle-roof home has a walled- in terrace directly on the beach. The kitchen is huge, the dining room has water views, and the home listed at $2.999 million has a cabana. There is a three-car garage. The driveway can fit 12 cars. On 128th St. in Belle Harbor, it's in the PS/MS 114 district, one of the city's top-rated public schools.
"It's got six bedrooms and six baths, so friends and family can all stay happily," says Jackson. "It has an area on the top of the house great for kids, with two separate bedrooms and their own private living room. The master bedroom has ocean views. It's great for a summer house or all year round."
Jackson, who comes from Canarsie, lives down the street in a beige home with a wraparound porch built in the Victorian style. The beach is two blocks away. A member of the community, she takes pride in the safe feeling of these blocks.
(At left, A home in Neoponsit on the market for $1.950 million. Owner Theresa McGrath and her children sit on the front porch; Jeanne Noonan for New York Daily News)
"It's like this is our private paradise," she says. "People from Manhattan and Brooklyn are coming out here more and more. Some start with small homes for the summer. Then they end up staying all year, putting their kids in local schools and buying bigger houses. Lately, we've been getting retirees from Manhattan who sell their apartments to buy here."
On 120th St., Jackson has a Queen Anne steal available for $849,000. Built in 1912 as a boardinghouse, the majestic home has original stained glass, a huge front porch, original wood on the staircase and floors, and seven bedrooms. It would make the perfect bed-and-breakfast. The kitchen is redone. The owner was on the front porch enjoying a cool drink on a hot day with two friends, just back from the beach.
"You can trust Lisa," says the owner, who wished not to give her name. "That's important with a real estate agent. I grew up here. I moved away to New Jersey for a few years and came right back. It's hard to get this neighborhood out of your system. Summers are really special. It's just relaxing. You can't say that about other New York neighborhoods."
Next, Jackson takes us to last year's borough record-breaker, the $3.2 million modern house that looks like a Malibu transplant. Built by a movie producer who moved back to California, the house has one of the most interesting designs in the borough. It has a pool, wooden deck, radiant heat, gourmet kitchen, and a screening room. The soul of the house is an open space, loft-like kitchen-dining-living area with raised levels fronted by a wall of windows looking at the water.
"Are you kidding, we love it here," says Brian Elgart, a Bay Ridge resident who lives in the home through the summers with his wife and children. "It's a great house on a great block. It's on the water. What more could you want?"
More inland, homes decrease in price. Brick ranch bungalows built in the 1950s and 1960s with quaint front lawns and backyards surrounded by hedges can be had for around $599,000. They will likely need work, but the homes can be rented for $2,500 per month. A few older co-op buildings are located toward 120th St. One-bedrooms are listed for around $189,000. Also, according to Jackson, home values have increased at a quick rate in recent years.
"These homes are getting more and more expensive," she says. "They either hold value or increase year by year. People do not lose money on their home investment in this neighborhood."
As we drive to our last stop, there are no cars parked on the street in Neponsit.
"That's what makes this area so unique," says a smiling Jackson. "From May 15-Sept. 30, there is no street parking allowed in Neponsit. People using the beaches who don't live here take public transportation or park in the driveway of who they know. That's another reason these streets are so special."
The midblock mini-mansion listed at $1.95 million has an open kitchen, central staircase and a well-framed front porch. The owner's father was outside fixing the basketball hoop. An American flag waved out front. The kids were just back from tennis lessons.
"Every day is a block party," says owner Theresa McGrath. "People are friendly. We help each other. I moved here from across the street. People stay here for generation after generation. That should tell you something."
After a visit along 129th St. with its antique stores, Rite Aid, Brown's Hardware, local bar/restaurant Jamison's, Chinese grocer, ice cream shops and dry cleaners, we head back to the beach. It's late afternoon. People head home with beach chairs and blankets in hand. Lifeguards close down. Beachfront homeowners sip cocktails with friends. You can hear children's laughter.
Jackson shows us some of the area's top homes. One compound with a tennis court is owned by an offspring of the Jordache jean family. Some of the houses date back to the 1920s, right out of Newport, R.I. Others are from the 1950s. Some have great lawns facing the water with the houses set back. Porch awnings are new for the season. Homes just off the beach have lush landscaping.
"This is the Hamptons of New York City," says Jackson. "People come out more and more for a reason. Rockaway is getting hip. Some of those people are going to come over to this area and love it for its peace and quiet. Once you discover this place, it's hard to stay away."
A detail of sea horses on a wall front of an older home overlooking the ocean.
WHAT: Belle Harbor and Neponsit are as strong a New York neighborhood as you can find. Broker Lisa Jackson's Rockaway Properties knows the area cold. Info: Rockaprop.com
HOW MUCH: Beachfront houses cost from $2 million up. Inland bungalows can be had for $500,000.
WHY: Beachfront living 35 minutes from Manhattan. It's no wonder people are buying second homes out here.
417 Beach 129th St. - Belle Harbor, NY 11694