Your Open House: Sunnyside Thanks New York Mag

Fall in love, start a family, buy a two-bedroom apartment in Sunnyside, Queens—not necessarily in that order. 

“We’re getting married this year!” said Claudia Salazer, when asked why she was looking at a two-bedroom condo at an open house Sunday at 41-21 42nd Street.

Ms. Salazer, with a grin nearly as big as the 1,200-square-foot apartment, was born and raised in Sunnyside. Her fiancé is from Brooklyn. They were star-crossed lovers for the subway age.

“We’re tired of renting,” said Ms. Salazer, who whispered her age—let’s just say late thirties—with a coy glance toward her fiancé. They wanted to buy, “now that my personal family is growing,” she said, gesturing toward a toddler-aged son. But whose borough?

Ms. Salazer said she loves Sunnyside because, “it reminds me of New York.” Some would argue it is New York, but Ms. Salazer said it’s even better than the city proper. “You can find everything here.” And you can even afford to pay for it. Many of her childhood friends who moved away have come back since the recession.

The couple finally settled on Sunnyside because it’s cleaner and more family-oriented than Brooklyn. Plus, her fiancé said, smiling toward his companion, “That’s where my heart is.”

For some, Sunnyside has a heartwarming tale. For others, it’s about “flat-out cheap” apartments—so says a recent New York Magazine survey, which ranked Sunnyside as New York’s third best neighborhood to live.

At 41-21 42nd Street, broker Cristina Torres was enjoying a post-Great Recession miracle. “Usually, open houses are when I sit and read the newspaper,” she said. Instead, this Sunday over 20 groups came by to see the pre-war condo with a $498,000 price tag.

It was mostly young couples. No one had a child over 7, according to Ms. Torres. Many were from the neighborhood and some came from Manhattan. People have been moving here because they’ve lost jobs and need a cheaper place to live, while others just want more space, according to the broker.

Nicole Manziak and Ray Nunez, along with their 19-month-old daughter Samara, live in Sunnyside and were looking for a bigger place to buy. “I’m shocked” by how many people were looking at apartments, said Ms. Manziak.

“We’re a blended family,” said Mr. Nunez. “The neighborhood is very mixed, with Europeans, Latinos, and African Americans – or at least getting a little more African Americans.”

Fall in love and come to Sunnyside. Or just fall in love with Sunnyside. 

A top-floor, rent-stabilized, two-bedroom apartment in Sunnyside was “the perfect storm,” said Doug Stender of the place he and his wife started renting 14 years ago, before they were married. Mr. Stender is an actor in his 60s. His wife, Jill Tasker, is a petite brunette who would only reveal she’s “significantly younger.”

On Sunday, they crossed the street to look at the apartment for sale at 41-21 42nd Street. The neighborhood has changed, he said, but not always for the better.

“They’ve got all these new things,” said Mr. Stender, of the condos going up nearby, especially in neighborhoods like Long Island City. “They’re teeny tiny,” said the towering thespian. “You can touch your stove and the wall at the other end without moving.”

Ms. Tasker added, “We’re pre-war people. We love the space.”

 

SUNNYSIDE IS ENJOYING that golden moment between undiscovered and over-hyped. But no one’s bragging yet.

“Who in their right mind would not want to live in Manhattan?” said Norman Kauahi, the broker at a two-bedroom co-op at 41-16 47th Avenue, when asked about the recent NY Mag survey, on which he said Sunnyside excelled because of availability and affordability. It’s also the last place in Queens for people who can’t live without a glimpse of the Manhattan skyline, he added.

“[Development] spreads out like the ripples when you drop a stone in a pond,” Mr. Kauahi said. Sunnyside is where the stone dropped in Queens, and it’s booming with restaurants, coffee shops and a wine bar. Not to mention that, for $432,000, the ample two-bedroom he was selling is the price of many one-bedrooms in midtown.

Joan O’Dey is retired and moved with her husband to Sunnyside after 25 years of living in Manhattan because the cost had become unbearable.

The quaint neighborhood is an appealing retirement destination because “it’s close to the Calvary [Cemetery],” Ms. O’Dey joked in a lilting Irish accent. Then, more seriously, she added, “It’s more for middle, lower middle class people. Those people haven’t been crowded out yet.”