As subway construction along Second Ave. marches forward, residents have been up in arms over just about everything. There’s constant construction, noise, dirt, debris, blasting, smoke, drilling. You name it, and it’s happening as the MTA works to buil a subway line through a densely populated area. Businesses are shuttering, and people want to move out. But for the hardy among us who can withstand the area, it might not be a bad time to move in.
Conventional and practical wisdom in the New York real estate market often focuses around accessibility. Brokers and the folks who post to Craigslist tout the nearest subway stop, and we wear our commutes as badges of honor or disgrace. I have friends who will live only so many blocks away from the nearest subway stops, and express stations command a premium.
Lately, the Upper East Side along Second Ave., once a desirable place to live, has seen a market downturn. Sean Creamer for Our Town profiled the state of the market last week. He writes:
Commercial tenants who rent 700 square feet would pay $5,200-5,600 under regular rent conditions, but now that the construction has curbed business, the same renters pay $3,200-3,700 and businesses are “still struggling,” [real estate manager Andre Soto] said.
Even residential properties have been discounted in the construction zones. On average, a one-bedroom apartment in one of Soto’s buildings on the Upper East Side would go for $1,100-$2,200, and a two-bedroom would go for anywhere between $1,800 and $2,800. Soto has lowered rents by 30 percent in the areas that are at the mercy of subway construction because of the volume of complaints filed by residents…
Although the problems with the subway construction have caused some people to move, they have opened the market on the Upper East Side to a younger generation willing to deal with the clamor in exchange for lowered rents. Because of the proximity to the hustle and bustle of Second Avenue and the cheaper rents, many more young professionals have come in, according to Norman Shakner, a realtor from A.C. Lawrence Realty. He noted that real estate in the area is booming because of the prospect of having a train line in the future and the fact that proprietors are driving down prices to fill empty apartments.
Renting near the Second Ave. subway construction might not be the best life decision right now. The trains are not enter projected to enter revenue service until at least the end of 2016, and another 59 months of subway construction can lead to many an explosion and numerous sleepless nights. But for those with the money and the patience, buying on the Upper East Side may be a sound investment.
Over the course of New York City history, real estate booms in newly accessible areas have generally followed the subway as it opened. The Upper West Side grew up out of the El trains and IRT in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Large swaths of Queens came to life as the Flushing Line opened. While the Upper East Side is already a well-developed neighborhood, it will become even more desirable once the subway opens, and travel times to midtown, Union Square and beyond are cut considerably.
For now, though, a promise of that increase in value and a lifeline for a neighborhood under siege is a long way off. Those who have lived through four years of work know what it’s like, but another five years is a rather long time indeed. “The new subway is going to take the Lexington Avenue crowd and bring them over to Second Avenue,” Mahoud Ahmed, who works at Ray’s Pizza, said. “Once the train is done, it will bring more business to the area.”