Gates in Place of Doormen
The only thing stretching across the entrance to the Bay Front Estates at Mill Basin last week, over a mud-and-gravel road split by a trench for the new water and sewer pipes, was a string of multicolored flags, sagging from a pair of long two-by-fours driven into the raw ground.
Jeremy M. Lange for The New York Times
But while the development, in southeastern Brooklyn, is still unfinished and the lavish single-family houses inside have only begun to sell, there is a sign that something unusual is afoot. On either side of the entrance, a few feet from each of the ersatz flagpoles, are little guard huts. Once the road is done, the people in the huts will control access to that rarest of New York development phenomena: a gated community.
“Just about everyone in Florida lives in one now, and Las Vegas, but they are kind of rare in our area,” said the development’s exclusive broker, Tony vanderBeek of Coldwell Banker Mid Plaza Real Estate.
True, New York City has a small number of long-established gated communities, like Sea Gate in Brooklyn and Breezy Point in Queens. But the Bay Front Estates is new, and at least one more is on the way, in Brooklyn’s Bergen Beach. That fenced-off complex is called Mill Harbor Condominiums, and according to its Web site, it will offer its residents “suburban lifestyle close to Manhattan.”
Surprisingly enough, a suburban way of life is just what many people are after, said Dorothy Turano, district manager of Community Board 18, which includes Bergen Beach and Mill Basin.
On the Bay Front Estates site, the board pushed for low-density housing during a tortuous, decade-long rezoning process that saw the rise and fall of multiple development proposals for the land, a fallow stretch across the water from Kings Plaza Mall. In the end, Ms. Turano said, the board was thrilled with the plan by the Queens-based developer H & H Builders for a gated, strictly residential community.
“We don’t have mixed uses here, and we don’t want them,” she said. “We don’t think you should mix commercial and residential. It doesn’t work, not in Brooklyn. The boroughs, they’re more suburban and we want to keep it suburban.”
State Senator Carl Kruger, who represents the neighborhood, said he was impressed by Bay Front Estates, with its meandering road and decorative streetlights, and the flexibility it will give a future homeowners’ association to determine its own level of security.
“It’s exactly what we’d like to be able to replicate on undeveloped parcels throughout the community,” he said.
In the section of Mill Basin near the site, the houses are similar to, if smaller than, the ones inside where the gate will be. The neighboring houses are brick on the first floor, with white siding or shingles above. The homes at Bay Front Estates have stucco. The neighboring homes are detached from one another, with yards, driveways and even garages.
The streets were largely quiet on a recent afternoon, but comments by the few residents who were out suggested that the new estates were no big deal.
“I don’t think anything is really a big deal around here,” 23-year-old Daniel Bykhovsky, who was walking to the bus, said wryly.
So far, Mr. vanderBeek said, four of the new houses have been sold. Twenty others have been built, and 10 lots on the water are set aside for custom houses. The asking prices for the existing houses begin at $1.35 million.
The gate that will be installed at the entrance, he said, is less about safety than about creating a sense of distinctness for the homes within: five-bedroom houses with marble bathrooms. They are, Mr. vanderBeek said, “the nicest houses in the area.”
Construction at the Mill Harbor Condominiums is scheduled to continue until the end of the year, but new owners are to begin moving in next month. Sean Lavin, one of the partners in Parkmore Development, which is building the complex, said the gate would distinguish the walkable, garden-style units from the detached one- and two-family homes nearby.
“It’s not so much that you’re preventing people from getting in there,” Mr. Lavin said. “I think people liked the idea of added security. They didn’t feel the necessity to have it, but it’s similar to being in a doorman building, where it adds a sense of exclusivity.”
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