Mill Basin

Reasons to love Mill Basin

November 10, 2015 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Welcome to Mill Basin, one of the only neighborhoods in Brooklyn where houses have private boat docks. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan

Eye On Real Estate

Brooklyn founding father Jan Martense Schenck owned a house there. In the 1670s.

It’s one of the only places in B’KLYN where houses have private boat docks. It looks a little like Fort Lauderdale with deciduous trees.

These disparate facts top our list of Reasons to Love Mill Basin.

The other day when the weather was freakishly warm instead of the normal “damp, drizzly November,” to borrow a phrase from Herman Melville, we heard the siren song of Mill Basin.

It’s a terrific place for a long walk when the sun is out. The autumn light has that peculiar, poignant quality you see near big bodies of water, and casts a glow on houses large and small.

This is a small peninsula, after all, with Jamaica Bay and two inlets known as Mill Basin and East Mill Basin all close at hand.

The place was Mill Island when Schenck lived there — he owned the entire island. It was connected to the mainland with landfill after World War II.

If you’re looking for Mill Basin on a map, it’s just north of Floyd Bennett Field.

On a weekday, Mill Basin is so quiet. When we were walking along its curving streets, we mostly heard leaves rustling in the tall trees. There was some hammering going on here and there, on sites where houses have been demolished and are being replaced with bigger houses.

Mill Basin’s big, new houses, often built by people with Russian surnames, get their share of attention from real estate bloggers.

These mansions are also on our list of Reasons to Love Mill Basin. They add visual pizzazz to the neighborhood.

The one thing we couldn’t see on our eye-candy-filled walk was Schenck’s historic house. It had been located where E. 63rd Street now runs, as Brooklyn historian John B. Manbeck wrote in the Brooklyn Eagle a few years ago.

In 1952, Schenck’s house was dismantled. A decade later, it was reassembled inside the Brooklyn Museum.

So on another freakishly warm day, we resigned ourselves to being indoors and headed for the fourth floor of the museum. The clapboard house has been painted red — researchers determined that’s what color it might have been around 1730 — and decorated with furniture from that time period.

 

‘If you’re willing to drive, it’s idyllic’

What’s on other people’s lists of Reasons to Love Mill Basin? we wondered.

We asked Gerard Splendore, who a couple years ago brokered the sale of a Mill Basin house whose owners had turned the garage into a party room with a disco ball and installed an above-ground pool the size of their entire yard.

“It’s all about love of the water,” the Halstead associate real estate broker told us.

“It’s not what people expect when you say ‘Brooklyn.’

“It’s got a suburban feel, with no subways. The person who lives here doesn’t need to commute, or is car-oriented.

“If you’re willing to drive, it’s idyllic.”

Summers in Breezy Point

There are two distinct real estate markets on the peninsula. (There’s also Old Mill Basin, an area on the mainland, but that’s not our focus at the moment.)

Those waterfront houses with boat docks constitute one market. Prices are $1.5 million to “the sky’s the limit,” Splendore said — even if the waterfront homes are small and destined to be torn down to make way for mansions.

Some enormous houses scattered around on inland streets are also part of Mill Basin’s luxury housing market.

An interesting tidbit about the residents of the waterfront homes.

The shoreline of Mill Basin, picturesque as it is, is lacking in sandy beaches and crashing waves. So many of the homeowners spend their summers in Breezy Point in the Rockaways, where they can enjoy the Atlantic Ocean.

The “build-it-bigger” trend that produced a lot of the big houses started a decade and a half ago, Splendore said, with a hiatus during the recession that started in 2008 and after Superstorm Sandy.

Mill Basin’s other real estate market consists of smaller homes on the “landlocked streets,” which sell for $500,00 to $700,000, he said.

The owners of these homes are house-proud, he said. They do a lot of renovations, and add stonework, skylights and plantings.

Buyers of these houses come from all over Brooklyn, he added.

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