Real Estate

The Fox Hunt: The Most Unexpectedest Route to Brooklyn

Via Flickr user verseguru.
Kenneth Hubriston on his way to his new home. Via Flickr user verseguru.

Welcome to the Fox Hunt, Brokelyn’s new column inviting you to tag along on a totally relatable story about trying to purchase a New York City home. 

It was last December when Kenneth Hubriston realized he needed to change his neighborhood, or else go insane. Engaged at the time in the fourth revolution of his “gap year” between an undergraduate degree and finding a job suited to his interest level, he had been paying month-to-month living in the uppermost hidden apartments of Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall, and it was clear why he hadn’t signed a lease. His downstairs neighbors were constantly playing their music too loud, particularly in the evenings, and there’s only so many times one can hear The Nutcracker in its entirety before admitting that, while beautiful and signatory of Tchaikovsky’s genius, one needs peace and quiet when watching Survivor.

And of course, there were “those vagabond cellists, hanging out every day after rehearsal,” Mr. Hubriston said. He wasn’t aware of the actual figures of the rent he was paying, but the board members in charge of his trust consistently informed him it was prohibitive. It was time for a move.

Mr. Hubriston, 26, and descended from the Connecticut Massengills, is still unemployed, or, as he likes to call it, “not ready to dabble in money funsies,” but he began to contemplate buying a place. “Another place,” he corrected Brokelyn.

He wasn’t aware of “down payments” or “loans”, but he indicated he was eager to dive in and purchase several of them in an array of colors to suit his mood or the season. Stacy Keller, the executor of his trust, found this request exceedingly reasonable when compared to that of his last birthday — to “run for president” — and set about connecting Mr. Hubriston with the Massengills’ broker in New York.

The meeting with the broker, also attended by Ms. Keller, proved to be more difficult than either party previously imagined. When pressed, Mr. Hubriston could not name one neighborhood, or indeed even a borough in New York City. The closest he came to narrowing the search was when he exclaimed, “Subway!” but this also happened to coincide with suggestions to break for lunch, so no one took the direction too strongly.

Settling on a price range was equally difficult as decisions on viable locations, as Mr. Hubriston often had trouble understanding what the term “range” actually meant, or any limits in general.

“I am a person who has made a lot out of nothing,” he proudly declared, gesturing to the grazing dodo on his balcony, and referring to the effort he has expended to get to this position in life, in general.

The broker sent him listings frequently.

“I didn’t understand why the pictures were so cropped,” Mr. Hubriston said. “Do they expect me to live somewhere that can be captured in a half dozen pictures and only one floor plan?”

Other listings were off-putting for more personal reasons.

“Some of these homes already had furniture in them. I’m sorry, is someone expecting me to buy a USED property? Isn’t it customary to digitally erase the structure entirely, along with its air rights, so that I can properly imagine on a blank slate?”


Via Flickr user Scott Beale.
Gracie Mansion was appealing, but its low-income requirement was not. Via Flickr user Scott Beale.

One spring Tuesday, the broker, Ms. Keller and Mr. Hubriston set off to Brooklyn to look at some properties. While no apartment made much of an impression with him, some locations did seem to resonate. On the drive to the borough, Mr. Hubriston spotted Gracie Mansion and remarked it might make a quaint pied-a-terre.

“It’s not for sale,” Ms. Keller advised him. “You have to be the mayor to live there.”

“Excellent,” Mr. Hubriston replied. “Will that cost much?”

In Brooklyn, Mr. Hubriston was most captivated by Prospect Park.

“I believe this shall do, though we’ll have to determine the location to begin construction,” he declared.

His companions tried to dissuade him from planning to reside in the entire park, pointing out the various public facilities available to all visitors. While these arguments fell on a deaf ear trumpet, a visit to the Park Zoo unintentionally provided the desired results. Upon seeing the peacocks roaming the grounds freely, he immediately rescinded his offer (which hadn’t involved any known currency), announcing, “Ugh, ethnic pigeons. They’re the garish, flying rats of the safari. Never mind.”

Prospect Park is still currently not for sale, according to a spokesman for the NYC Parks Department.


Via Flickr's Tom Bastin.
Another property, Prospect Park, lost some points for having been pre-lived in and full of animals. Via Flickr’s Tom Bastin.

The search continued for several more months, with various circumstances precluding a sale. Either Mr. Hubriston wasn’t interested in the places he saw, or they were public facilities that had never been for sale, or communities had organized to prevent him from buying their city blocks. There was, at last, one place that eventually stood out: a spacious 146-year-old brick property that seemed to straddle both Manhattan and Brooklyn.

“Every other place I saw, I walked in and I was, ‘Nope, nope, condemn, unfit for occupancy by lab animals, raze, raze, flay yourself for showing this to me,’ ” he said. But here was “somewhere I could see myself for the rest of my life, or at least until I was bored. But like, really, really bored. Like after The Walking Dead season finale,” he said. “For me, this was enough.”

Despite the protestations of both the broker and Ms. Keller, the place was sold for an undisclosed cash offer. Mr. Hubriston moved in during the summer. Ms. Keller still has severe doubts about the legitimacy of the sale, but Mr. Hubriston’s delight cannot be dampened.

“It’s great to own … more,” he said. “This feels way more adult than graduating college or even making appointments to meet people at a specific time, even if I don’t feel like showing up later on.”

He far prefers his new neighborhood to Lincoln Center.

“Here, I have easy access to both Brooklyn and Manhattan. I don’t have to deal with that Whole Groceries bodega or whatever across the street, and I’m right by the water. Right on top of it, even.”

There are, however, still some setbacks. He often gets unwanted visitors all through the daylight hours, since moving into the neighborhood he’s started calling “BroRidge” (once known as “the Brooklyn Bridge” to locals).

“I mean, I suppose I could complain. The bicyclists are the most treacherous, and people never stop taking photographs or driving their cars or trucks through,” he said, “but where else can one get such a view?”

For more tales of an average New York city apartment shopper, go here.

Follow Eric for more reports on NYC success stories: @PrimeSilver.

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