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Brooklynites just get the North Fork

By May 6, 2016February 26th, 2018No Comments

Read the original NYT article here: Brooklyn on the North Fork

MAY 6, 2016

Screenshot 2016-05-06 11.38.59

When Maddy and Hormuz Batliboi of Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, realized that they could not afford to move from their condo to a larger place in the borough, they turned their attention to the East End of Long Island.

After visiting friends with a second home on the vineyard-laden North Fork, the Batlibois — she is a lawyer, he’s an architect — started checking out the countryside, studded with quaint hamlets and framed by pristine beaches. The couple ended up keeping the condo and buying a larger house on the North Fork for weekends and parental visits.

“It was much cheaper for us to buy a house out there rather than a place in Brooklyn,” said Ms. Batliboi, who, like her husband, is 37. “There is something about how much less intense it is than the South Fork and how relaxing it is.”

The South Fork, a k a the Hamptons, is the North Fork’s better-known, celebrity-laden, more expensive, swankier ocean-beached sibling. Carol Szynaka, the North Fork sales manager for Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty, said that for a growing number of the people heading east, “Brooklyn is the new Manhattan and the North Fork is the new Hamptons.”

While the Hamptons are “very hip and happening, that is not what we want from life when we go out,” Ms. Batliboi said. “The synergy between Brooklyn and the North Fork is like the synergy between Manhattan and the South Fork. It is more than the fact that it is less expensive.”
Sheri Winter Clarry, an associate broker with the Corcoran Group Real Estate on the North Fork in Southold, also attributed the uptick in buyers from Brooklyn to the region’s “laid back, chilled vibe” and its growing status as a family-friendly second-home haven for foodies and oenophiles. “Brooklynites get the North Fork, period,” she said.

There are reasons other than the vibe, of course. The North Fork doesn’t have the South Fork’s Atlantic Ocean beaches, but buyers can find houses perched on bluffs overlooking Long Island Sound, facing farmland or creeks, or on Great Peconic Bay. Particularly desirable over the last few years are older houses — some renovated, some in need of fixing up — in Greenport, in walking distance of the harbor, shops and restaurants, real estate agents said. The average price for a house in Greenport in the first quarter of 2016 was $595,000, according to data from Brown Harris Stevens real estate.
Maddy and Hormuz Batliboi and their sons, Zahaan, left, and Cyrus, at home in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. The house they bought a year ago on the North Fork of Long Island is a short walk from the water.
In February 2015, the Batlibois paid $380,000 for a 1,400-square-foot 1960s ranch with three bedrooms, two baths and a basement on a third of an acre in Mattituck. Their sons, 7 and 4 years old, play in the backyard. A tiny community beach on Great Peconic Bay is a quick stroll away; a larger beach is within a five-minute drive.

“It’s very restful,” Ms. Batliboi said. “It’s a nice break from the city.” And the two-hour drive is “very doable on a Friday night.”

The Batlibois coordinate visits every other weekend with Brooklyn friends who have vacation homes nearby. “They are people like us who can’t afford that much more in the city,” Ms. Batliboi said.

“It’s the best of both worlds,” she continued. “We love all the farm stands. There is wine and beaches. What more do you need in life?”

Marianne Collins, a saleswoman with Brown Harris Stevens in Greenport, said buyers might find “a sweet little house on the North Fork for $400,000, a three-bedroom two-bath house close to a beach with farm views, for way less than what they would be spending for a one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn.”

To focus their buying power on the North Fork, brokers said, some Brooklyn buyers opt to hold onto their digs there, continuing to rent a home or stay in a smaller co-op or condo.

The magnets that draw city dwellers include the area’s burgeoning farm-to-table movement, new craft breweries and distilleries, wineries, farm stands, antiques shops and seasonal agri-tainment activities like apple-, berry- and pumpkin-picking. Niche farms offer locally raised meat, goat cheese, organic greens and hops for making beer.

“Farms have upped their game like crazy, vineyards have upped their game, restaurants have upped their game,” Ms. Clarry said. “It’s really translated into the North Fork coming into its own. The food industry has helped people not just day-trip, but fall in love with it and move out here.”
Gabe and Tori Phillips with their son, Levi, at a winery near their cottage in New Suffolk. Mostly they live in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.
Last year, after a decade in Boerum Hill, Allison Katz, 49, moved lock, stock and barrel to the North Fork. As an owner of Goodfood, a takeout shop in Mattituck, Ms. Katz carries local eggs, honey and mixed greens as well as Brooklyn-roasted Gorilla Coffee. “I try to bring some stuff that is a little more urban,” Ms. Katz said.

The many former neighbors among her clientele “care about where their food comes from and the environment and having a quality of life with their kids,” she said. “It is very low-key. It is not like in the Hamptons, where everyone goes out every night. It is cook or pick up food and serve it at home.”
Scott Russell, the supervisor of the Town of Southold, which encompasses the village of Greenport and assorted hamlets including Mattituck, Peconic and Cutchogue at the heart of the North Fork, said in an email message: “If people are looking to escape to the ‘country,’ Southold is a close as you can get.” He added that “through hard work, planning and sound investing, the town has been able to keep its rural charm, protect its open spaces and has worked to keep its agricultural industry vibrant.”

Real estate prices that are “still within many buyers’ reach, less traffic and congestion than you would find in the Hamptons, and large open spaces filled with active and productive farmland all make Southold a compelling option,” he said.

Jonathan J. Miller, the president of the appraisal firm Miller Samuel, said that for Brooklyn buyers, the North Fork “would be a logical option because of the affordability compared to the South Fork.”

The median sales price on the North Fork for the first quarter of 2016 was $550,000; it was $662,431 in Brooklyn. The Hamptons median price of $895,000 aligns more closely with Manhattan’s median of $1,137,500. Only 6.7 percent of sales on the North Fork topped $1 million in the first quarter, while on the South Fork, 77.3 percent of sales exceeded $1 million.

At higher price points, Ms. Collins said, “people might be renting a fabulous loft in Brooklyn, but when they decide to buy, they put down roots on the North Fork.”

Waterfront homes on Long Island Sound or Peconic Bay run from $2 million to $10 million, Ms. Szynaka said. The middle of the market ranges from $750,000 to just under $2 million.
Kristina Ivy and Ben Wartofsky have a Dutch colonial in Southold. Their primary residence is in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.
Summer rentals, often a precursor to buying, are also more down to earth on the North Fork than in the Hamptons. A house with a bay view and a pool in New Suffolk, another Southold hamlet, is for rent for $50,000 from Memorial Day to Labor Day, while a Cutchogue creek-front property with a dock is $35,000 for the season and a Sound-front house in Cutchogue with stairs to the beach is available for the month of August for $12,000, Ms. Collins said.

Shift your sights to the Hamptons and you can rent a pond-side house with a pool in Sagaponack for $85,000 for July, or a place on Mecox Bay in Bridgehampton for $395,000 from Memorial Day to Labor Day, said Gary DePersia, an associate broker with the Corcoran Group.

In search of a more family-friendly neighborhood, more peace and quiet and more space for their money, Gabe and Tori Phillips, both 32, moved from Manhattan’s Lower East Side to a three-bedroom rental apartment in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, two and a half years ago.

But when it came to buying, last June, the Phillipses, with their infant son in tow, chose a 100-year-old cedar shake cottage with two bedrooms and two baths in New Suffolk, paying $650,000. “It seemed like a good idea to make the second home purchase on the North Fork instead of in the five boroughs, where your dollar doesn’t go as far,” said Mr. Phillips, the chief executive officer of GP Renewables & Trading, a small energy company.

The house has an open floor plan, a big wraparound porch, the original flooring and exposed beams, and views of Peconic Bay. The couple watch sailboat races off Nassau Point from a balcony off the upstairs landing and are two blocks from a Southold Town beach.

The couple fell in love with the North Fork, Mr. Phillips said, having frequented bed-and-breakfasts there for a few weekends every summer for the better part of a decade. “In Brooklyn we would have gotten a closet — a two-bedroom apartment in this neighborhood is over a million bucks,” he said, referring to Boerum Hill.
Three years ago, Ben Wartofsky, 48, and Kristina Ivy, 45, of Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, bought a Dutch colonial in Southold for $365,000 and furnished it with vintage pieces from local shops.

“What attracts buyers to the North Fork is a lot about what is not here,” said Mr. Wartofsky, a standup comedian known as DC Benny who sells real estate on the side for Dwell Residential in Park Slope, Brooklyn. “It’s not about being able to buy the same Gucci bag you could in SoHo, but instead it can be the quest for the perfect tomato, or during your Saturday-morning walk with the dog, stumble onto an amazing antique at a Saturday yard sale.”
Sophie and Dan McNeill and their daughters practice skipping rocks into Peconic Bay, a short ride from their second home on Nassau Point. On weekdays, the family are residents of Park Slope, Brooklyn.
Ms. Ivy, who owns Rica Bath and Body, a skin care company in Carroll Gardens, uses peppermint and lavender found on local farms in her products.

Last fall, after renting on Peconic Bay for half a dozen summers, Mark Timmins, 42, an architectural designer from Park Slope, paid under $500,000 for land a block from Long Island Sound in Southold. He and his wife, Nell Daniel, 45, an art and design teacher, are building a contemporary four-bedroom beach house there with sunset views over the Sound.

Time on the North Fork is “all about friends and family,” Mr. Timmins said. He enjoys the open space, the beach and shopping farm stands for “food that was harvested the same day or the day before. I love cooking that stuff myself.”

In April 2015, Sophie McNeill, a marketing director for Scholastic, and Daniel McNeill, a managing director of an investment bank, who live in a brownstone in Park Slope, paid about $765,000 for a two-story 2003 shingle house with three bedrooms, three baths and a wraparound porch on Nassau Point, a peninsula in Cutchogue that juts into Peconic Bay. It’s close to beaches well-suited for their daughters, who are 10, 7 and 2.

The tranquil environment and lack of pretension draw them to the North Fork year round, said Ms. McNeill, who, like her husband, is 42. “We get deer wandering through the garden, a flock of wild turkeys crossing the road,” she said. “It’s idyllic. It is a complete contrast to city living, which is what we like.”

In 2014, Francisco Pineda, 38, of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the program director for Columbia University’s master’s degree in construction administration, purchased and renovated an old house on the Sound in Southold to use as a second home. Having fallen in love with the “more languid way of life,” he then paid $2 million in 2015 for an 1880s Victorian on nearly five Sound-front acres in Orient that he hopes to finish fixing up this summer.

Though Mr. Pineda considered buying in the Hamptons, the traffic was “a turnoff,” he said. But heading east from Riverhead on the North Fork, he found uncongested roads, restaurants he described as “on a par with Manhattan” and swaths of open land protected by the Peconic Land Trust, a nonprofit group.

“More and more people are noticing that the North Fork has value,” Mr. Pineda said. He wonders whether a 2014 episode of the Brooklyn-based HBO series “Girls” set in Greenport might have tipped off the hipsters.

Victoria Eichinger, an art director, and Peter Baumann, a banker, both in their 50s, moved from TriBeCa to Brooklyn a year and a half ago but have had a home in Cutchogue for a dozen years, enjoying the quiet, family-oriented lifestyle.

That may be changing.

“I laugh, because a lot of my friends always lived in the Hamptons and wouldn’t come visit me before,” Ms. Eichinger said. “Now everyone is coming to the North Fork for the breweries and vineyards. Every restaurant is reservations-only on the weekend.”