See eye-catching homes on the perimeter of Green-Wood Cemetery
Take this virtual tour while you’re staying home because of the coronavirus pandemic
Eye on Real Estate: Brooklyn residents are going to Green-Wood Cemetery to take walks in its wide-open spaces during New York’s novel coronavirus lockdown. The graveyard is an excellent alternative to parks, where some people have been congregating in groups instead of practicing social distancing.
As visitors head toward the famous 478-acre cemetery’s main entrance on Fifth Avenue at 25th Street, they get an eyeful of industrial buildings and construction sites. They may not realize the neighborhoods surrounding it are full of beautiful housing stock — and there’s a transit depot named for an old-school Brooklyn TV star.
Here’s a look at some of the eye-catching homes on these peaceful blocks. If you don’t live within walking or biking distance of this area, and therefore won’t be visiting it for the foreseeable future, this story can serve as a virtual tour for you.
Neighborhoods along the cemetery’s perimeter include Greenwood Heights and a snippet of Sunset Park.
I’m starting my story with Sunset Park because it’s the closer of the two neighborhoods to my Bay Ridge apartment, where I’m working during the coronavirus pandemic. To comply with social distancing rules, I am staying off subways and buses to leave more room on them for people who absolutely need to ride them.
Poblano peppers and Mexican spices
On Sunday, when I walked around the area near Green-Wood Cemetery, it took me one hour and one minute to get there from my apartment. (As I’ve mentioned, I stroll so slowly I’ve been told a sloth is probably my spirit animal.)
The first place I stopped was the corner of Fifth Avenue and 39th Street. This location is close to the portion of the cemetery’s border that runs along 36th Street from Fifth Avenue to Seventh Avenue.
On one corner of 39th Street, a grocery store called Guadalupita II occupies the ground floor of 3901 Fifth Ave. The shop is stocked with foods and spices from Mexico.
In happier times, when Brooklyn wasn’t in the middle of a pandemic, I bought ingredients from this shop, schlepped them home on the subway and cooked (err, tried to cook) a Mexican dish called Poblano soup.
On Sunday, food stores remained open on Fifth Avenue because they are deemed essential businesses. Several restaurants were open for takeout and delivery only, as bilingual signs in English and Spanish reminded customers.
To give you a rough idea of what rowhouses with apartments and storefronts are worth in this part of Sunset Park, 3901 Fifth Ave. was sold for $3.2 million in 2015 to an LLC with Alan Wasserman as general manager and member, city Finance Department records indicate.
On the opposite side of the street, there’s a handsome row of red-brick houses with storefronts that starts at 3904 Fifth Ave. and extends south to the corner of 40th Street.
A hotel among the rowhouses
Here’s a bit of Brooklyn trivia I should mention: The numbering system for Fifth Avenue addresses changes at the intersection of 39th Street. On the south side of the intersection, the first two digits in the address refer to the closest cross street that’s north of the property. On the north side of the intersection, they do not.
So don’t be surprised that 889 Fifth Ave. is the address of the handsome building with barrel-vaulted window bays at the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and 39th Street. Sunset Park Diner is located on its first floor.
There are also 12 apartments in this four-story property, city Buildings Department records indicate.
A modern hotel, Wyndham Garden, can be found a few doors down from a beautiful brick apartment house on the fourth corner of 39th Street. The apartment house’s address is 888 Fifth Ave. and its ground-floor tenant is a restaurant called China Wok.
CCL Management LLC, with Daniel Chen as member, built the hotel at 457 39th St. a few years ago. The LLC assembled the hotel site by buying two adjacent properties for a combined total of $1.545 million in 2012, Finance Department records indicate.
How sweet it is
On the corner of 36th Street, directly across from Green-Wood Cemetery, there’s a mammoth brick and concrete building whose address is 871 Fifth Ave. It’s not much to look at, but a sign near the roof depicts a full moon and a city skyline and is emblazoned with the words “The Jackie Gleason Depot.”
This NYC Transit System building is named after Brooklyn-born Jackie Gleason, one of the great comedians during broadcast television’s early decades. In his hit sitcom “The Honeymooners,” his character Ralph Kramden was a bus driver.
The 919,000-square-foot depot’s dedication took place in 1988 with a crowd of about 1,200 people present, the Associated Press reported at that time.
Between 36th and 24th streets, the border of Green-Wood Cemetery runs along one side of Fifth Avenue. There are Greenwood Heights homes on the avenue’s other side.
There’s a long-running debate about exactly where Greenwood Heights is located, and some people question whether it’s actually a neighborhood unto itself.
But Community Board 7, in whose district it’s located, recognizes it as a neighborhood. And the use of the name Greenwood Heights to describe the area near the cemetery was used as long ago as the 1840s by the Brooklyn Eagle, a 2013 Curbed.com story notes.
There’s eye candy all over the place
On the corner of 34th Street, a siding-covered rowhouse whose address is 822 Fifth Ave. is painted with a colorful mural by a graffiti artist who uses the name VERS 718.
A modern apartment building on the corner of 33rd Street and Fifth Avenue stands beside a row of beautiful, old-fashioned houses. To give you a rough idea of property values on this block, one of the homes in this row, namely 219 33rd St., sold for $1.295 million in 2016, Finance Department records indicate.
There’s a pair of squared-off, flat-roofed houses at 219 and 221 31st St. Both have red awnings over their front doors. The facade of 219 31st St. is creamy-colored brick with red accents, and the facade of 221 31st St. is red brick with white accents. They’re pretty as a picture together.
Further down the block, close to the intersection of Fourth Avenue, stucco-covered and siding-covered rowhouses looked serene in the mid-day sunshine.
Pedestrian pathways named after presidents
On Fifth Avenue just north of the corner of 30th Street, there are yards with lush foliage growing on fences and brick rowhouses, some painted and some not. They’re an unusual and eye-pleasing sight.
These are the backs of homes whose front entrances are on a pedestrian pathway called Roosevelt Court, which runs parallel to Fifth Avenue. To describe the setup more precisely, there are two sidewalks with homes facing each one, and garden space between the sidewalks.
To give you an idea of what these houses are worth, 5 Roosevelt Court was sold in January for $975,000, Finance Department records show.
When you stand on 30th Street in front of Roosevelt Court and do an about-face, you will see another set of homes and sidewalks laid out pretty much the same way. This is Woodrow Court.
The house at 10 Woodrow Court sold for $980,000 in 2015, Finance Department records indicate.
Pita chips and a high-profile greenhouse
On 29th Street off Fifth Avenue, beautiful 2 1/2-story rowhouses in varying shades of caramel and orange seem to stretch to infinity.
On 27th Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues, old fashioned red-brick rowhouses delight the eye.
At Baked in Brooklyn at 755 Fifth Ave. near the corner of 26th Street, social distancing is being enforced. A sign on the door says a maximum of 10 people at a time are allowed to enter.
This is a division of Aladdin Bakers, which makes pita chips, flatbread crisps and crunchy breadsticks. The retail store, which is attached to a production facility, also sells fresh bread and pastries.
There’s a construction fence obscuring all but the top of the Weir Greenhouse at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 25th Street, across from Green-Wood Cemetery’s main entrance.
The cemetery is in the process of renovating the landmarked commercial greenhouse, which was built in 1895, and turning it into a visitors center.
Green-Wood Cemetery bought the greenhouse for $1.625 million in 2012, and purchased an adjacent property for $1.5 million in 2015, Finance Department records show.
‘Nuestro Andar Florece’
Green-Wood Cemetery’s Fifth Avenue border ends at 24th Street, where it turns east and extends to Sixth Avenue. There’s a Con Edison substation on this block, which I didn’t photograph.
Before I leave Fifth Avenue, I should point out a former factory building on the corner of 23rd Street. Pablito’s Taqueria and Restaurant occupies its storefront, whose address is 723 Fifth Ave. The Mixteca Organization, which offers programs and services for Mexican and Latin American immigrant families, has a community center in the building that uses the address 245 23rd St.
The building’s 23rd Street facade is decorated with a vivid painting titled “Nuestro Andar Florece.” (The English translation is “Our Journey Blooms.”) Mexican women immigrants who now live in Brooklyn collaborated on this mural project, which was led by artists Michelle Angela Ortiz and Federico Zuvire.
While I was taking photos on 23rd Street, a man wearing a big backpack and clutching a shopping bag in one hand rode by on a unicycle. His ability to balance on the one-wheeled vehicle was impressive.
Further up the block, a handsome blue-hued house at 291 23rd St. caught my eye. It has changed hands four times in the past decade and a half.
Finance Department records show the sale price was $220,000 in 2003, then $529,000 in 2005 and after that $850,000 in 2016. And in 2019, it sold for $1.325 million.
Minerva’s view of Lady Liberty
The border of Green-Wood Cemetery extends along Sixth Avenue from 24th Street to 23rd Street, then runs along 23rd Street to Seventh Avenue. Then it stretches along Seventh Avenue from 23rd Street to 20th Street.
As I strolled through this area, another residential property with a beautiful blue-hued exterior got my attention. Its address is 301 23rd St. It has six apartments in it, Buildings Department records indicate.
On the corner of 23rd Street and Seventh Avenue, there’s a low-rise condo development on a site that caused a big controversy.
In 2005, property owner Chaim Nussencweig’s plan to construct a 70-foot-tall building at 614 Seventh Ave. came to light. The development would have blocked Green-Wood Cemetery visitors’ view of the Statue of Liberty from up on Battle Hill.
That’s where a statue of Minerva, the goddess of wisdom and war, stands as a tribute to the brave soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War’s Battle of Brooklyn on the terrain where the cemetery is situated. Minerva holds up her hand in a salute to Lady Liberty, in a gesture that mirrors Lady Liberty’s raising of her torch.
The developer signed an agreement with Green-Wood Cemetery in 2006 to construct a shorter building at 614 Seventh Ave., which would allow the Statue of Liberty to remain visible to visitors on Battle Hill. The agreement was binding in perpetuity.
So it remained in effect after another developer, Aaron Lebovits, bought the property for $1.04 million in 2008, Finance Department records show. He constructed 11 modern townhouses that look like a single building.
And the view of Lady Liberty remains intact.
Follow reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.
Eye on Real Estate is veteran reporter Lore Croghan’s column on Brooklyn’s built environment. During the coronavirus pandemic, I’ll share glimpses of places I saw while practicing social distancing. Fellow New Yorkers — please do the same when you take walks.
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