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What the Coronavirus Has Done to New Development


“The ultimate question is: ‘At what point does the job market recover?’” said Nancy Packes, the principal of Nancy Packes Data Services, a real estate consultancy and database provider. If not for the pandemic, the new condos in Long Island City would have sold in due time, she said, while a number of slow-selling condos could potentially be listed as rentals, since the apartments there are generally smaller and less expensive than the ones in Manhattan. Despite unemployment numbers soaring, the buyers and renters targeted in these new developments tend to have more job security, she said.

Market observers are looking for answers at the 802-unit Skyline Tower, which has more than four times as many condos as the next largest building in the neighborhood. Since the quarantine began in March, there have been just six new contracts signed, for a total of about 30 percent of units sold, said Eric Benaim, the chief executive of Modern Spaces, which is leading sales at the project. But he says there is pent-up demand, much of it from local buyers, who have been waiting for a chance to see the sales gallery in person.

Prices at the tower range from about $680,000 for studios as small as 450 square feet to $4 million for a high-floor three-bedroom; the penthouse prices have not been revealed. More than half of the units are two-bedrooms or larger. Occupancy was going to begin around October, but may now be pushed to January.

Stella Liu, the head of sales and marketing for Risland U.S. Holdings, one of the Skyline developers, said the prices were warranted because of the unmatched views of Manhattan, subway access, and amenities, including a 75-foot indoor pool. But use of the shared amenities will depend on state guidance for at least the next several months, if not longer.

The lasting impact of Covid-19 is not lost on buyers. Gary Hirshfield, a 58-year-old ophthalmologist who works in Queens, moved with his wife, Stacey Kruger, also an ophthalmologist, into a three-bedroom penthouse at Galerie, a nearby condo project, at the end of 2019. Now he is having second thoughts.

“Today, if I could get my money out, I’d consider it,” Mr. Hirshfield said. For the cost of his 1,690-square-foot apartment, he said he could have bought a 5,000-square-foot house with some land in the suburbs. But Long Island City appealed to him because of the restaurant scene, its proximity to Manhattan, and the high-end fitness center in the building (now closed to residents). He still believes in the value of the project, but doesn’t know when he’ll feel safe enough to use the gym again.

Some buildings are already sweetening the pot to entice new buyers. At the Neighborly, where prices range from $585,000 for a roughly 440-square-foot studio to $2 million for a three-bedroom penthouse, the developer, New Empire Corp., is offering to pay residents’ taxes and common charges for the first full year, almost $10,000 for a one-bedroom. Another project, Corte, offered a number of “rent-to-own” plans, in which a renter would pay toward ownership — a tactic more commonly seen during the last recession.


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