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The Hunt: ‘Something New and Sparkly’

By Joyce Cohen

Having lived primarily in postwar high-rises, Jordan Kingston envisioned a charming brownstone as her next home. An entire ground floor would be best, with a garden out back and a “welcoming door that I could put a wreath on” for the holidays, she said.

But, after a few weeks of apartment-hunting, she and her husband, Michael, discovered that charming often went along with impractical. “We didn’t have money to pour into updating an old brownstone,” Ms. Kingston said. “And older buildings, pretty as they are, come with flaws.”

The Kingstons met as classmates at Fordham University. Mr. Kingston bounced around in sublets while Ms. Kingston, then Jordan Sullivan, shared a two-bedroom with a roommate on the Upper East Side. They graduated in 2001 and married in 2007.

When they began looking for a place to buy last summer, the couple had been living in a large one-bedroom in a Kips Bay high-rise for about five years. The rent had reached about $2,800 a month. The wail of sirens from Bellevue Hospital and a neighborhood fire station was constant. They were eager to move on.

With a baby on the way, they had their hearts set on a two-bedroom two-bath home, with outdoor space, for $600,000 to $700,000. They figured they could afford to buy in Brooklyn and sought help from Vanessa van der Linde-Brown, an agent at City Connections.

Ms. van der Linde-Brown tried to dissuade the couple from focusing on brownstones, which was fine with Mr. Kingston. “I was thinking, if we are buying a place, let’s buy something new and sparkly,” he said.

She took them to Third and Bond, a just-completed four-story condominium on the Carroll Gardens side of the Gowanus Canal. But the 44 units were walk-ups, and they would soon be lugging a stroller around. Besides, two-bedrooms were in the mid-$700,000s, beyond their price range.

A good combination of old and new presented itself at 25 Carroll Street in the Columbia Street Waterfront District. A five-story building with 17 condominiums and a common roof deck, it was once the Brooklyn Macaroni Company. Ms. Kingston loved the exposed masonry and timber beams, which she found “warm and rustic-looking.” Two of the two-bedroom apartments had prices well within reach.

“The bones of the building were phenomenal,” Ms. van der Linde-Brown said. And, in the area, “it is rare to get a condo-loft situation.” The first open house, last fall, was mobbed, she recalled. “I felt a little uncomfortable with it being such a pressure cooker to make an offer.”

Location was a problem: the building was a long walk from the subway. Mr. Kingston works north of TriBeCa at Edelman, the public relations firm (he promotes Axe shower gel) while Ms. Kingston works in Times Square as the director of merchandising for GQ magazine.

Were they willing to make the trek? In bad weather? “Mike all of a sudden went from, ‘Great, let’s do it,’ to ‘No way,’ ” Ms. Kingston said.

“I thought, we are going to have this newborn child, and every time we want to go anywhere we are going to take him on a 20-minute walk,” Mr. Kingston said.

Twenty-five Carroll Street sold out quickly.

At Columbia Commons on Warren Street, which also had a roof deck, two-bedroom condos were in the $600,000s and $700,000s. Apartments there were selling quickly, too.

Again, the location stopped them in their tracks. They thought this one was too near the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. “You would be flooded with street noise and fumes,” Mr. Kingston said. “The tranquillity you find on a lot of Brooklyn streets isn’t there.”

Meanwhile, the couple found themselves returning to Third and Bond. They asked an environmentalist friend about living just two blocks from the Gowanus Canal, a federal Superfund site. Their friend told them they needn’t worry, as long as they didn’t swim in the canal.

For the kind of place they wanted in a convenient location, they didn’t mind upping their budget. “Once I got over the ‘charming’ vision — it wasn’t realistic and it wasn’t going to happen — I realized how great this building was,” Ms. Kingston said.

And what about the stairs? They had a choice of a two-bedroom two-bath condominium two flights up, and an identical unit, at a similar price, one flight higher. That one, though, had a small terrace. And they decided they wanted the terrace more than they didn’t want the stairs.

“I never even had a fire escape,” said Ms. Kingston, who intends to grow tomatoes and herbs on the terrace. She used to garden on a windowsill, spilling potting soil all over the living room floor.

The Kingstons bought the 1,100-square-foot apartment for $755,000. Monthly charges are $640. The purchase price included a private section of the rooftop, where they plan to entertain. “It’s something we’ve never had and is something we can actually use,” Mr. Kingston said.

Twenty-four of the apartments are sold or in contract. Most buyers “come from the immediate ZIP code,” said James Cornell of the Corcoran Group, one of the building’s two sales agents.

The Kingstons hoped to move shortly before the baby’s due date in February. But, what with mortgage delays and young Michael’s early arrival, “looking back, that was a stupid plan,” Mr. Kingston said. The revised plan was to move during his two weeks of paternity leave; missing paperwork foiled that. Finally, as a threesome, they arrived last month.

They have had to make a number of adjustments in their lives.

“I am not going to say I don’t miss an elevator,” Ms. Kingston said. She sometimes makes two trips upstairs, taking baby and bags separately.

Their south-facing unit has a big picture window. In the late afternoon, “the sun is completely blinding and heats the apartment up to just about sweltering and you can’t really see anything because of the glare,” Mr. Kingston said.

They know they can’t complain. Still, “I never realized how expensive window treatments are,” Ms. Kingston said. “I am scared to get a quote because the window is so big.”

They wouldn’t mind a linen closet but are thrilled with their washer-dryer. The stackable units are small, so “it is just more loads I have to do,” Ms. Kingston said. She is grateful the machines are located away from the bedrooms, so as not to keep sleepers awake.

“I had this vision of what I wanted,” she said, “and I am so glad it didn’t turn out that way.”


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