November 20, 2008
Perhaps surprisingly, in nearly 30 years of This Old House, we had yet to renovate in New York City. So last Spring we put out a call for entries, and received hundreds of proposals from all five boroughs… but we heard overwhelmingly (over 1/4th of all submissions!) from renovation-obsessed Brooklyn. So here we are.
We’ve been talking with our new homeowners there, Karen Shen and Kevin Costello, on and off since July, but there was a lot to finalize and to line up, so work did not begin until early October. And if you’ve been watching the webcams lately, you can see that work there is flying – with most of the demo done, and new framing largely complete.
At This Old House, we probably considered about a dozen properties in Brooklyn, and scouted a few in places like Boerum Hill (where I got flea bites from touring an abandoned rowhouse) and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens (where we found charming, small rowhouses protected by single-family zoning). But, ultimately, we were drawn to the neighborhood of Prospect Heights, because unlike neighboring Park Slope where most houses have already been renovated, our area still has lots of properties that need attention and preservation. And it feels to me (clearly an outsider) like a real New York neighborhood – busy, bustling, diverse, and friendly. (Except when it comes to parking, which I think is a problem everywhere in New York!)
The second big attraction, of course, was the house. Although it had been chopped up as a rooming house, and later sat vacant until Karen and Kevin purchased it, surprisingly, much of the period detail remained intact. So there is a lot to work with, and that’s what the homeowners were drawn to as well. By their estimate, Karen and Kevin looked at (literally) hundreds of houses, but it was the intact detail that sold them on this house.
So they want to repair the rooming house damage, restore what they can, and create a lovely three-family home that will one day (when they can afford it) become a two-family. They are going to spend a little more time and money renovating the owner’s unit, which will occupy the first and second floors, and will make more economical choices on the garden and 3rd floor levels, which will be two rental apartments. Like all of us out there (and especially these days) Karen and Kevin have a fixed budget and are committed to sticking to it. So there will be tough choices and tradeoffs, and we hope there will be something that everyone can relate to on this project.
We already have a ton of great Brooklyn stories, so we will try to post as often as we can. We are so excited to be in New York City, and look forward to sharing the experience with you here on OldHouseMyHouse.
(6) CommentsComment on this Blog
This sounds like a great project! I'm quit interested in seeing how NYC contractors deal with getting supplies to and from the job site.
Could we please get some more frequent blog updates though?
happy to see you guys rehab another diamond in the rough, which looks to be an especially challenging project. have fun and be sure to keep the trucks locked 24/7.
I am a long time fan of TOH and would love to stop by to see the filming. What is the address or street this house is on.
The house is still beautiful. If I were the owner, I'll keep it as is. It will just consume much money where in fact, it could still accommodate people because it is still strong and is not deformed.
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