The Knick is a new condominium on Knickerbocker Avenue; it was formerly a grocery store and warehouse. The front corner units have neighborhood views. — Photos by Michael Weinstein
The mortgage market is now essentially a government program, and developers in Bushwick have responded to this reality in different ways. Some, like Castle Braid on Troutman Street, have canceled or postponed plans to offer their units for sale; others, like 38 Wilson and 326 Melrose, have jumped on the FHA bandwagon, applying for federal backing of loans for units under $729,000. We reported about a year and a half ago on the Hudson Companies’ planned “green” condominiums at Knickerbocker Avenue and Hart Street, and these plans remain intact — the units, being finished up by construction crews, are now available for sale.
Prices for the 49 LEED-certified units at The Knick condominiums start at $299,000 for a 611-square-foot studio, and the building will secure backing from HUD and New York’s State’s own mortgage agency, SUNYMA. This will enable buyers to put down as little as 3.5%. Common charges range $335-$993 per month; a J-51 tax exemption means property taxes are all under $105 per month.
The Knick is, unlike so many other Bushwick developments, simple. No overwrought detailing, no overdesigned flourishes an out-of-touch developer thinks his customers will want, just clean lines and simple materials in the repurposing of a proud piece of classic commercial architecture. Some of the top units have that most coveted of views — shining Manhattan in the distance, owning the sky over comparatively squat Brooklyn. But it is the lower, terraceless units which might inspire the most neighborhood pride.
The front corner units enjoy perfect positioning to see out over Knickerbocker: a wide swath of Bushwick’s lush central square to one side; to another, the honey-colored Kreischer brick of Hart Street, intact cornices and stone detailing amid mature trees; a glance downward affords a view of quaint neighborhood holdover Circo’s bakery. This intimate urban texture should evoke a pride of place the city’s jutting landmarks might never muster.
Many units have enormous terraces, some nearly as large as the apartments themselves. The top floor of both buildings, hidden from the street, is a new-construction addition containing the master suites for the penthouse units, with their own large roof decks facing the city or the verdant cemeteries and church spires of Bushwick and Ridgewood. Two units in the Hart Street building will have landscaped back yards.
Filling the ground-floor retail on bustling Knickerbocker Avenue is the job of the Scaturro family, operators of the former supermarket and who retain ownership of the street-front spaces as part of a deal with the developer. So far, none of the spaces are rented — Knickerbocker has lost several stores in the last year and rents on the strip, which used to be some of the highest in Brooklyn, may now need some downward adjustment.
The rear parking lot off DeKalb will remain, with 17 units available for the residents.
As for the “Are You Bushwick?” campaign that has apparently provoked a few eyerolls in the neighborhood, it doesn’t seem to have kept prospective buyers from visiting. So far, according to Hudson’s Andrew Jackson, there are several offers, one accepted. Jackson thinks the pricing is appropriate for the product and neighborhood, and the units have been well-received by visitors at Sunday open houses. If the experience of other local condominiums is any guide, it will be at least another year before The Knick is substantially occupied. The Knickerbocker-front retail is a wild card, though — upscale groceries and restaurants? 99c warehouses and saran-wrapped furniture shops? — and only time will tell which way it swings.