Douglas Manor, Queens: a bucolic suburb in the city

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For some buyers, the X factor that seals the deal is a neighbor’s smile, a fine wine in a cafe, or the timely arrival of flowers.

But at Douglas Manor, a waterfront part of northeast Queens, where a lot of people say ‘yes’, this is when the early evening skies take on a beard tint. dad and fishing.

“The sunsets here are fantastic,” said Alexandra McMenamy, 46, who should know. Before buying from Douglas Manor last year, she drove regularly from her nearby semi-detached home with her husband, Brian McMenamy, 49, to watch the light show on Little Neck Bay.

The couple are now residents, but the allure of those sunsets hasn’t faded, Ms McMenamy said: ‘I’ll be in pajamas and Brian will say,’ You have to come around the corner and see this! ‘ “

Getting a closer view was not easy. The couple had researched Douglas Manor properties since before their marriage in 2014. But the narrow point of land has only around 600 homes and little turnover, with many homes remaining in the same family for generations.

Demand in the affluent area never seems to weaken, said Ms McMenamy, an executive in the pharmaceutical industry. The couple lost to top bidders several times before successfully bidding on $ 950,000 for a 1931 Tudor-style house with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room with a vaulted ceiling, and plenty of room for that. their two boxers can run.

A brilliant sunset also lingered in the mind of Siavash Ghazi, 38, after he and a friend drove to Douglas Manor one night in 2017. Parked along the shore road lined with properties, in front of floating sailboats, “we felt a little insecure, as if we had stumbled upon ‘The Great Gatsby,’ said Dr Ghazi, who was a medical student at the time and was renting an apartment of a size. room in Forest Hills, Queens. “But I fell in love with the neighborhood. “

A few years later, when he was a more financially secure psychiatrist with a family, Dr. Ghazi returned to the neighborhood, this time to stay. Last December, he and his wife, Melina Shahidi, 38, a chiropractor, paid $ 1.15 million for a 1923 colonial-style house with five bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms and a hedged courtyard.

Initially worried that the neighborhood had too many ‘old and dark’ houses from the early 20th century, the Ghazi were delighted to discover that a former owner of their new home had removed the interior walls to create an open floor plan and installed floor-to-window to ceiling.

Modifications like these became more difficult after 1997, when the 60-block area was designated as the City’s Historic District and renovations to Colonial, Mediterranean and Queen Anne-style single-family homes began to be strictly regulated. .

Another occasional deviation, brokers say, is that Douglas Manor is the rare New York enclave not connected to sewers. Rather, the houses are based on sumps, which require pumping.

But residents find these oddities a small price to pay. As Dr Ghazi said, “To be in New York but to feel like you are on Cape Cod is a very unique experience.”

Navigating by nature may be the easiest way to find the mansion, as locals call it. Pressed against Nassau County and accessible by only a few roads, this Bayside Brigadoon has a name that’s often confused with similar sounding places.

Although the name of the historic district that covers the district is the historic district of Douglaston, Douglaston is, in fact, an interior area to the south, although historically the name refers to the larger area. The mansion also has little in common with the Doug-Bay Mansion, a 1960s development bordering the wetlands to the west.

And street names can vary, depending on where you are looking. In 1906, when the Rickert-Finlay Development Corporation built the neighborhood as a no-go suburb, the avenues and alleys had British-sounding names. Decades later, officials gave them numbers in an attempt to give Queens Cartesian consistency. Today, street signs have names again, although the names do not appear in some city databases.

Households must pay an annual fee of $ 650 to a homeowner’s association that provides security, maintains green spaces, and provides access to a long dock and beach stocked with kayaks. But the mansion is not closed and non-residents can also join the association.

Homes in “Block 300” – three blocks east of popular waterfront properties – tend to be smaller and more affordable, although listings under $ 1 million are rare.

Although new construction has been limited since 1997, there are still some demolitions of homes considered less historic, including the approximately 120 Cape Cod and ranch style homes built after WWII.

Trees, some dating from long before the early days of development, are also a point of pride. Although a white oak tree on Arleigh Road, estimated to be over 600 years old, was felled in 2009 after a member damaged a house, maple trees, oaks and beeches over 100 years old survive, Kevin said. Wolfe, architect and founder. of the Douglaston and Little Neck Historical Society, who lives in the house where he grew up. Probably the oldest specimen? A towering ginkgo in front of a 1910 colonial at 112 Manor Road, Mr Wolfe said.

As of Aug. 19, eight single-family homes were for sale at Douglas Manor, with an average list price of $ 1.9 million, according to Zillow. The most expensive was a stucco-walled 1909 house with six bedrooms, four and a half bathrooms, and a kitchen with marble countertops, listed for $ 3.35 million. At the bottom of the scale was a three bedroom, one and a half bath house for $ 995,000.

While many communities outside of the city have experienced a rebound in property values ​​this year, Douglas Manor has seen a decline. By mid-August, 13 homes had sold for an average of $ 1.25 million, said Compass agent Michael Misiti, who is active in the area. During the same period in 2020, 10 homes sold for an average of $ 1.36 million, Mr Misiti said.

The region’s unusual identity – a suburb of the city – could put it at a disadvantage compared to more traditional dormitory communities, brokers said.

The Manor is entirely residential. Even the small shopping area along 235th Street just outside the neighborhood offers only modest shopping, including a nail salon and dry cleaners, though there is fine dining ( with an outdoor shed) at Il Toscano Ristorante.

The Douglaston Club, in the former mansion of the Van Zandt family, is a social hub that offers three-lane bowling, two swimming pools, and five tennis courts (formerly used by John McEnroe, who lived on Beverly Road). Club membership requires an initial fee of $ 6,500 and a monthly membership fee of $ 250; members are also required to spend $ 350 each quarter on food and drink.

But the mansion’s grassy, ​​open fringes – owned collectively, rather than controlled by private owners, as in other waterfront areas – are free.

Near the neighborhood border is Public School 98, the highly regarded Douglaston School, which caters for students from Kindergarten to Grade 5. Of the school’s approximately 280 students, about 46 percent are white, 31 percent are Asian, 14 percent are Latino and 4 percent are black, according to state data. In 2019 state exams (the most recent available), 79% of students met English standards, compared to 48% citywide; 81 percent met math standards, compared to 50 percent citywide.

A nearby public college is Louis Pasteur Middle School 67, on Marathon Parkway, for grades six to eight; a nearby high school is Benjamin N. Cardozo High School in Bayside. In 2019, the average high school SAT scores, which has a 92% graduation rate, were 548 in reading and writing and 573 in math, compared to 491 and 496 citywide.

“The school system is becoming more diverse,” said Moira Casey, a lawyer who moved to the Manor in the early 1960s, raised children there and now lives in a four-bedroom mansard-roofed house she bought in. 1989. for $ 350,000.

The nearby Douglaston station on the Port Washington line of the Long Island Rail Road has four trains to Pennsylvania Station from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., a trip that takes 28 to 34 minutes. Monthly passes cost $ 234 and street parking is available.

But many residents drive to Manhattan because the Manor is close to the Cross Island Parkway and the Long Island Expressway.

The manor house’s oldest house, 126 West Drive, has sections that date back to 1735. Built by Cornelius Van Wyck, the son of a Dutch settler, it is now owned by Peter Ermish, 65, who stumbled upon the house in as a son obsessed with the story of a butcher, who grew up on nearby 245th Street.

In 2017, Mr. Ermish, a retired electronics executive, purchased his childhood ‘rosebud’ for nearly $ 3 million, investing a similar amount in a refurbishment to consolidate the structure and style his. rooms in the decor of different eras of early America. It also plans to feature portraits of the country’s founders, as well as muskets and earthenware.

“I try to be a good steward of the property,” he said, “because I love Douglas Manor and I love New York.”

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