Landmarked Duffield Street houses unexpectedly sold for $10M

The Duffield Street houses earlier this month.
Photo by Susan De Vries

The landmarked quartet of early 19th century houses in Downtown Brooklyn known as the Duffield Street houses recently sold for $10 million, an Instagram story posted by the listing broker revealed. The marketing and sale of the property as a development site was unexpected because the houses are landmarked.

The buyers, whom listing agent Shaun Riney did not identify, plan to retain the historic structures and build housing with an affordable component on the property. Based in Brooklyn, the developers have experience in affordable housing and historic sites, he said.

“The one thing I can tell you for certain is the historic landmark houses are not going to be torn down or anything, those will 100 percent be the opposite, you know, kind of be given functional utility,” Riney said on Monday over the phone. The buyers want to “preserve them and give them a vitality and utility to the actual neighborhood.”

The sale comes at a time when luxury towers are being built around, on and inside landmarked structures throughout New York City. More broadly, a construction boom in Brooklyn is rapidly changing the character of the low-slung borough — historically known as the “borough of homes and churches” — irrespective of landmark status.

An Instagram story published last week.Screenshot via a Brownstoner reader

There is no shortage of examples of new construction on landmarked sites in Brooklyn. Brooklyn’s first supertall is attached to the Dime Savings Bank in Downtown Brooklyn. At the Domino Sugar Refinery in Williamsburg, the 1880s red brick factory has been turned into a shell, inside of which a glassy office building is rising. At the Hebron School in Crown Heights, developers intend to envelop the existing 19th century building and cover the complex’s park-like grounds with a large luxury housing addition. The list goes on.

Not unrelated, demolition of landmarked structures is also on the rise throughout New York City, typically because of neglect and construction mishaps. A group of preservationists last week called for better oversight to save New York City’s heritage.

In May, Riney posted the Duffield Street site comes with “100,000 buildable square feet” for a buyer who is “landmarks savvy.”

“If you are a developer with landmarks experience you are a buyer for this + will get paid for your skill set via a heavily discounted land basis. call…to discuss or email at…for materials and to set an intention to learn more.. this could be “the project” that changes a career,” said the post.

Riney told Brooklyn Paper’s sister publication Brownstoner the new owners don’t have a specific plan for the site and said they were waiting to see if the government creates a new tax abatement program for affordable residential developments before making one. Whatever ends up being built, he said, the developers will “breathe some life” into the historic houses and hopefully have them as a public feature of the site.

“What they want to do is honor the history of the site and provide some type of community facility or functional utility to those houses, and two, build some type of affordable housing development,” he said. He added the community facility could be a museum.

Left: Loose molding on the door hood of No. 188 in 2019. Right: The door hood this month.Photos by Susan De Vries

The four houses, 182 through 188 Duffield Street, appear to have been vacant for decades. Constructed between the 1830s and 1847 with some later alterations, the houses are relatively rare survivors from what was once a vibrant Downtown residential community. These houses, now all one tax lot, were moved from their original location on Johnson Street in 1990 to allow for the creation of Downtown Brooklyn’s MetroTech office complex by Forest City Ratner. They were designated as individual landmarks in 2001 as an example of the neighborhood that was largely demolished.

The houses have recently begun to show signs of neglect. A visit earlier this month showed rotten wood, a broken railing lying on the ground, a deteriorating portico, and missing decorative detail at the houses.

“The agency received a complaint about the condition of the buildings related to peeling paint and several other issues and is investigating it,” the LPC told Brownstoner via email.

The houses were owned by Forest City Ratner until the company transferred the property to Antlia Holdings LLC in 2018. Antlia was formed by Brookfield Asset Management Inc., which now manages the former Forest City Ratner property portfolio. The latest sale has yet to hit public records, and no recent applications for permits appear in the DOB’s online records.

Behind the houses is a backyard roughly the size of the four buildings, measuring perhaps 90 feet by 40 feet, where presumably any development would go. To the rear is the massive BelTel Lofts and next door is MetroTech. Just down the block, on the other side of a church, is the latest newcomer, a 40-story glassy tower under construction at 111 Willoughby.

This story first appeared on Brownstoner.