Brooklynites moving to Poconos for cheap real estate, fresh air

Would you trade the Gowanus Canal for the Lehigh River Gorge — and the hustle and bustle of Brooklyn for bucolic country living in the Poconos?
Rick Smith / Associated Press

Forget East Williamsburg — realtors say the hottest new neighborhood for Brooklynites looking to relocate is East Stroudsburg.

A growing number of Brooklyn residents are moving to Pennsylvania’s Poconos according to real estate insiders, who claim rock-bottom real estate prices, fresh mountain air, and 90-minute New York City commutes are drawing Kings County locals in droves.

“New York buyers have always been familiar with the Poconos, but at some point it turned into a primary location as opposed to just a weekend resort type of area,” said Christine D’Amico, a sales representatives with Toll Brothers developers, which manages multiple communities in the wooded area and will develop condos and a hotel in Brooklyn Bridge Park. “People are able to afford a brand new home and at what they’re paying in rent — a three-bedroom or four-bedroom home.”

In the past two years, nearly half of Toll Brothers sales — nine out of 20 in two developments near Stroudsburg — have gone to Brooklyn buyers, D’Amico claims, with a sizable amount of those homeowners coming from East New York, Canarsie, Ditmas Park, and Flatbush.

And with reliable bus service shuttling workers to Port Authority in Manhattan every morning, some borough-residents are willing to trade in the perks of the big city for country living.

“I kept looking at houses in Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, but I couldn’t afford it,” said Linda Porter, a lifelong Brooklyn resident who moved from Fort Greene to East Stroudsburg with her daughter, son-in-law and their two children in May. “You don’t get a lot for your money [in Brooklyn]; but you get a lot for your money out here.”

Homes in the Poconos can go for as little as $120,000, said Stroudsburg real estate agent Kriss Ferrara, herself a longtime New York City resident who bought a vacation home in the area, then decamped for good.

“Oh my goodness, it’s almost like a bedroom community for New York City,” said Ferrara. “After several years of living in New York City people can’t take it any more and have to get out.”

Ferrara says it’s a migration trend that’s been going on for more than a decade — which isn’t so surprising considering a whole generation of Brooklynites grew up knowing the jingle to Mount Airy Lodge in the Pocono’s thanks to its memorable, if not over-played TV commercial.

But the Brooklyn influx has only picked up in recent years, as property values neared pre-Recession levels in Brooklyn but continued to lag in the Poconos. Sale prices in Brooklyn have depreciated just 3.2 percent since February 2008 to a median of $581,000, but they have been cut in half in East Stroudsburg over the same period, falling from $250,000 to $125,000, according to the real estate site Trulia.

Porter, who commutes to a 9–5 job in Manhattan’s Financial District, says she can hardly go anywhere in the Poconos without bumping into old faces.

“Everywhere I go I see someone from Brooklyn that I knew,” said Porter, whose sister also moved to the area from the borough. “I’m like, ‘What are you doing out here?’ ”

An old neighbor from East New York lives nearby and now attends the same Pennsylvania church.

It’s not just space and skiing — the Poconos offer more of a community, some Brooklyn expats claim.

“I’m originally from Trinidad; we’re accustomed to having homes with backyards and more of a community atmosphere,” said Lauren Luces-Burris, who will move with her husband and daughter from a two-bedroom Crown Heights rental to a brand new four-bedroom Toll Brothers home slated to be completed this summer. “Here it’s tough to forge a strong sense of community in an apartment, and everyone is on the go. There you have kids playing in the street, it’s a safer, and you have stronger programs in the schools.”

Luces-Burris, like many Pocono transplants, says she will continue to commute to her job as the manager of a Starbucks near the Empire State Building after the move. And commutes could get even better — and real estate more expensive — if a proposed train link from the Poconos to Penn Station ever comes to fruition.

And residents say that though they’ve moved away, Brooklyn is never too far away.

“I guess sometimes I wish I could just walk to the store, or something like that,” said Porter, who still has family in Brooklyn. “But I can still go to Fort Greene Park any time I want.”

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.

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