Gravesend is known for its opulent 21st century mansions, built mostly by Sephardic Jews from Syria in the decreasingly Italian neighborhood in southern Brooklyn. The area most heavily blanketed in huge new homes is the part of Gravesend west of Ocean Parkway (the Sephardic Park Avenue) and south of Kings Highway, where historicist palaces started going up in the late 1980s.
But the trend has also spread to Midwood, just to the north, and we’ve spotted homes of around 10,000 square feet as far north as Avenue I, just a block away from the border with Flatbush.
Today, we’ve got a permit filing from the Midwood part of the teardown zone, for a 7,400-square foot home, with another 3,000 square feet of space that doesn’t count towards zoning. The owner is Jack Habert, who bought the land (and, less usefully, a couple of buildings) in two transactions, in 2010 and 2013, for about $800,000 a piece. The architect of his family’s new home, which will sit on a double-wide 54-foot lot, will be Hesham Elshamy.
While YIMBY does appreciate the unique vernacular architecture of the modern mansions in Gravesend and Midwood, the zoning is less than ideal: the Special Ocean Parkway District, which blankets the Syrian Jewish heartland, forbids apartment buildings. By forcing everyone to build mansions, the city is wreaking havoc on the affordability of Gravesend, an area teeming with other immigrants, who can’t afford $5 million homes.
While the builders of single-family homes in this area are quite wealthy, spending a few million to buy an old home and another few million to build a new one, they likely wouldn’t be wealthy enough to outbid developers of new apartment buildings if zoning allowed them to compete for the land. Any new rentals or condos in this area would of course not be cheap, but an expensive condo is a lot more affordable than an expensive 10,000-square foot mansion.
And if local architect Teo Cambeiro’s extravagant Naboo-like apartment building on Avenue P is any hint, denser development would still respect the architectural uniqueness of the modern Gravesend vernacular.