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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Moving From "Hip" Carroll Gardens to Jackson Heights

Credit: Streeteasy.com

Yes, friends, we have found "the one". We made an offer on an apartment today and it was accepted!

It is a 2 BR in Jackson Heights, where I think Ross and I will be very happy. For half the price, no, one-third the price of a Carroll Gardens 2 BR we are getting 1100 square feet in a full-service building, with a super and porters, with a door man and garage - yes parking in the building!

It is a bit of a fixer upper. That photo above is actually the same apartment two floors down, already renovated. It gives you an idea of how lovely ours will be when I get through with it. The one we are buying looks like this right now:



Same apartment, un-renovated
I know. Hard to believe it's the same apartment. But I am not daunted. You know how I love a project!

I would have liked to be able to stay in Carroll Gardens. I love my old Brooklyn neighborhood. But the neighborhood is popular now and we are just priced out. So, with the same pioneer spirit that I embarked on Carroll Gardens when it was not "hip" and there was only one good restaurant on Smith Street (RIP: Patois) that I head to this new neighborhood - Jackson Heights, Queens - where with the proceeds from my Brooklyn sale we can "trade up" to a 2BR and still have $ leftover to renovate it to my taste.

And this renovation, my friends, is going to take a lot of sweat and a good bit of cash.

The living room boasts an ugly wall of mirrors circa 1970s that will have to be removed. I think I'd like my bookshelves to go there. The floors, while gorgeous 1940s oak, have been nearly destroyed by "pet damage". Kitchen and bath, though advertised as "recently renovated," were updated on the cheap in "builder beige".



The work that was done to the kitchen while not to my taste at least appears sound. But the bathroom is a bit of a shambles, with tell-tale signs of a poorly executed DIY. The faucets for both bathtub and shower as well as the shower heads are all crazily off-center. And the bathtub was installed backwards with the faucet hanging over the backrest.  Do you find it strange that the tub even has a shower head? There is a entirely separate shower stall - weird things people do.



I am sure there are some out there who will bemoan my pulling out new tile because I don't like the color. But when a renovation has been shoddily executed as this one was, it is very likely that bad things are happening behind the walls, as well. We need to take this room down to the studs to ensure corners were not cut on things that really matter - that pipes and wires and wet board are up to code and that there are no leaks that might come back to haunt us later.

Even had I not concerns about shoddy workmanship, mere esthetics dictate I update the backwards tub and the tile. We intend to live in this home a long time and there is no way I am living with pinky-beige tile. Why do people insist on choosing these godawful pink beiges? It can't just be that cost considerations. White subway tile is the least expensive option and it always looks classic, timeless, and beautiful. That is probably what we will go with.

I looked up on Streeteasy.com some of the other available units in this building that still have the original bathrooms - and as you would expect, they were classic black and white subway tile. To think that someone thought beige blandness was an improvement over this is just baffling to me.



                                                                    Original subway tile, circa 1946                              Photo: Horowitz Real Estate
Look at that original basket-weave floor! If this were my bathroom, I would re-grout the tile, have the tub refinished, restore the sink to what was likely a pedestal originally, and call it a day.

If I could advise those who are selling in Jackson Heights, I would say "do not renovate" a place just to sell it. Clean it up, certainly. Remove carpeting to expose hardwood floors, remove window air conditioners that block light, remove iron bars on windows, repair plaster, paint the whole place a modern gray, and list it for a fair price. It will sell. Leave the renovations to the next owner. They will have their own ideas, and they will appreciate not having to pay for your renovation.

Okay, off my soapbox!

The bones of this apartment are beautiful, and these projects do not daunt me. I look forward to rescuing this home and restoring its charm. With an agreement in place and the contract going out to my lawyer today, I am heading over on Tuesday with my contractor Henry to get his estimates so that I can start to plan my next renovation!