Brooklyn Heights

The rent for Brooklyn Heights’ ‘Asphalt Jungle’ house is $30,000 per month

Eye on Real Estate

August 26, 2015 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Greetings from newly renovated 113 Willow St. (the gray-blue clapboard house at right). Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
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There are no asphalt shingles on this house now.

Genteel 113 Willow St., a piece of historic Brooklyn Heights that was built when Andrew Jackson was President, is all fixed up and newly arrived on the leasing market.

The asking rent is $30,000 per month.

That is not a typo.

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What’s it like inside a home with a price tag like that?

We got a first-hand look. It’s very tasteful. And very tranquil.

Sagging floors have been leveled, and didn’t creak when we walked across them. When the sun shone a little too brightly through the parlor floor’s historically appropriate new windows, we tapped the screen of a small control panel and window shades soundlessly descended.

The air-conditioning was so silent, and so efficient. It made us forget it was 93 degrees outside. It made us want to try out the two Federal-style fireplaces, which were original to the 1829-vintage house. Their mantels are made of black marble veined with gold.

Because we were visiting rather than moving in, we could only daydream about how stress-busting the “rain shower” in the master bathroom would be. In addition to two huge shower heads hanging overhead, there are water jets along the shower walls so the water shoots sideways as well, our host, Brian Lehner, a Brown Harris Stevens licensed associate real estate broker, explained.

The light and airy rooms, filled with furniture impeccably staged by Foster & Associates, were so comfortable, so understated.

We wanted to ask for a tea and cake delivery from Lassen & Hennigs on Montague Street and settle into the second-floor sitting room to read Wordsworth. (His poetry, which is about “emotion recollected in tranquility,” would have suited the serene atmosphere.) But it occurred to us that we might be overstepping some boundaries.


Mahogany clapboard and a horse walk

It was a slightly surreal experience — in a good way — to be inside this particular house, to walk under the distinctive cast-iron filigree of the entrance porch and through the front door.

Over the past two years, we have spent considerable time on the sidewalk outside 113 Willow, checking up on renovation work there. For the longest time, we didn’t know what the outside of the Brooklyn Heights Historic District townhouse was going to look like.

It had been covered with ghost-gray asphalt shingles for at least a half-century, which provoked us to nickname it the “Asphalt Jungle” house.

In due time, owner Heights Advisors removed the shingles and replaced the clapboard underneath them with replicated clapboard — mahogany planks painted a historically appropriate gray-blue. The original clapboard underneath the asphalt shingles had deteriorated too much to be left on the house.

By the way, a Heights Advisors LLC bought 113 Willow for $2.9 million from Christa Burns in December 2012, city Finance Department records indicate.

When the house was ready to be shown to prospective tenants, we asked Alain Kodsi, who runs Heights Advisors, if we could visit. Lehner, who is the leasing agent for the house, showed us around.

We counted six bedrooms on the second and third floors of the three-story house, plus a bedroom in the garden-floor “multi-purpose suite,” as Lehner called it. Middle-aged Brooklynites like us would call the below-the-stoop floor, which has a kitchenette, a mother-in-law apartment.

Lehner showed us the rear garden and other outdoor spaces. There are decks on the back of the parlor, second and third floors, and a lower-level patio behind the multi-purpose suite.

There’s also a path Lehner called a “horse walk” along a side wall of the house that connects the rear garden to the front sidewalk. 

Who would pay $30,000 per month to rent a house?

The $30,000-per-month asking rent sounds like a big number, even in Brooklyn’s premier brownstone neighborhood.

To put it in perspective, a lot of tenants with studios or one-bedroom apartments in nice Brooklyn neighborhoods pay that much rent per year. Others pay less.

But another way of putting it in perspective is to compare it to high-end rentals in Manhattan, where numerous apartments are priced at $30,000 per month — or more.

We found an online listing for 15 E. 80th St., a single-family townhouse near Central Park, for $115,000 per month.

As for brownstone Brooklyn, the asking rent for 11 Cranberry St. in Brooklyn Heights is $25,000 per month. In Cobble Hill, 118 Amity St. rented for $20,000 per month. The asking rent for recently leased Brooklyn Heights townhouse 157 Columbia Heights was $18,500 per month.

There are just a handful of houses available for rent in the area.

“When the right person sees it, there won’t be much competition from other homes,” Lehner said of 113 Willow.

People who would rent such a home could include those who need a place to live for a year or two while renovating a newly purchased home or doing a makeover of the house in which they’ve lived for many years, and people who are relocating to New York and don’t want to purchase a home here, Lehner said. Some folks prefer to rent their homes and not invest their money in real estate.

A walk down Memory Lane

For many years, Lehner was the leasing agent for the prior owners of 113 Willow, who lived in another state and would stay in the garden-floor suite when they came to Brooklyn Heights. They rented out the top three floors of the house as a triplex.

For a decade, various employees of the German Consulate rented the triplex.

Remodeling that was done in decades past created “dark corners” and “wasted space,” he recalled. “The materials were dated beyond usefulness.”

Thanks to Heights Advisors’ renovation, “it’s an easier house to live in now,” he said.

Lehner, who lives in a Boerum Hill townhouse, has been a broker in Brooklyn Heights since 1986.

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