Ada and Julio Diaz could buy a two-bedroom condo in Williamsburg or a three-bedroom house with a yard in Sunnyside for the same amount of money and the same mortgage. Their decision was easy.
In April the couple moved to Sunnyside with their 3-year-old daughter from Williamsburg, and they are not alone. In recent years, Sunnyside has seen an influx of young families who have given up on high rents in places such as Manhattan, Park Slope and Williamsburg creating higher prices and demand, Sunnyside Real Estate agents say.
In 2010, a two-bedroom in one of the garden homes around Sunnyside Gardens would go for between $1,200 and $1,600, depending on the condition, said Michelle Sullivan, salesperson at Welcome Home Real Estate on Skillman Avenue. Today, a similar two-bedroom rental is at least $2,100.
It’s also become harder to find apartments. As soon as something goes on the market it’s gone, said Sullivan. Families wait in a Sunnyside one-bedroom apartment until something bigger comes up.
“People out-bid each other on rentals,” said Sullivan. “That didn't happen here before.”
Traditionally the family-oriented neighborhood with a short commute to Manhattan has been home to many Irish working- class families, but now there is a new, hipper crowd moving in, said Terry Cole, a Sunnyside resident for more than 20 years.
Much of “hipper” crowd are often young professionals with small children, Sullivan said, and to cater to these families a growing number of child-oriented groups and local businesses are springing up.
The group SunnyMoms was started by four local moms in 2004 and now has 873 members. The group, which organizes six weekly get-togethers, has gotten more than 400 new members in the last two years.
“Just these past two months, we’ve had 10 new moms who moved here from places like Williamsburg or Park Slope,” said Rebecca Wilkins, one of the group’s founders.
Another more recent addition is SunnyBaby, a baby-sitting co-op that kicked off on Oct. 1. The idea is to cut down on babysitting costs. The mothers receive or pay one point for every 15 minutes of babysitting, founder Susan Bachman said.
There are already 10 families in the network with a cap of 25.
“That’s just what you can handle before it gets out of control,” she said.
Tiny You, a children’s boutique, opened up on Skillman Avenue 18 months ago.
Apart from a wide collection of designer clothes for children, owner Jill Callen has been sponsoring events such as kid’s portraits, face painting, storytelling times and a Halloween mask-making workshop. She also sells handmade wares produced by neighborhood artists.
“I couldn’t understand in a neighborhood with so many families there was nothing like this,” said Callen, a mother of two.
Callen’s shop had a big impact on bringing the neighborhood together, said Lisa Jacobsen, president of Sunnyside Gardens and a frequent customer at Tiny You.
Grocery shops have noticed the trend too.
“Since three or four years ago, I started seeing much more young, white families with two or three kids,” said Nihat Yildiz, 35, owner of Sunny Grocery on the corner of 43rd Ave. and 46th St.
New residents will spend money on pricier but healthier goods, he said. Due to the demand he started selling multi-grain breads and organic eggs.
Restaurant owners are also having new experiences with the growing number of families in the area.
Padraigh Connolly, 37, decided a year ago when he opened The Dog & The Duck, a bar and restaurant on the corner of Skillman Avenue and 46th Street, that it would be child-friendly from the start.
Apart from allowing strollers and serving a children’s menu, he would let kids run around and play in the backyard while parents ate brunch.
Although he liked it, not everyone was thrilled. Neighbors complained about kids screaming, and the landlord recently changed Connolly’s contract to prevent him from having a full backyard next year.
Connolly thinks the loss of the yard says it all about the new feel of the neighborhood.
“It’s not because a drunk guy falls out of the club at 2 a.m. and we get complaints,” he said. “It’s because children are screaming at 2 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon.”