Rental market heating up with Woodside buildings

By Bill Parry

Woodside is being mentioned in real estate circles as the next hot neighborhood in western Queens, and a new luxury apartment building called Icon 52 may be responsible for moniker.

The nine-story building, at 52-05 Queens Blvd., sold all 66 units in just six weeks, surprising Eric Benaim, who represents the landlord, the Tsilo Group.

“You could say we stumbled onto a phenomenon,” he said. “We thought it was going to take longer, especially during the winter, the slowest time of the year.”

Benaim is co-founder of Modern Spaces, a five-year-old real estate group which claims to be responsible for marketing more than $250 million worth of real estate in Long Island City to date.. The company was founded in LIC and expanded to include offices in trendy neighborhoods like Astoria, Williamsburg and Chelsea and is responsible for marketing more than $1 billion worth of real estate in New York City.

Asked why he got involved in his first Woodside project, Benaim said, “I’m a Queens native so I know all the places, and I knew Woodside well.”

The Modern Spaces president was raised in Jamaica Estates and lived in Forest Hills before moving to Long Island City seven years ago and he knows what is drawing young, upwardly mobile professionals to Woodside.

“It’s an up-and-coming neighborhood simply because the rents are more reasonable,” he said. “The rents are 25 percent cheaper than in Long Island City and that makes it attractive.”

Icon 52 rented studios starting at $1,500 per month, one-bedrooms for $1,700 and two-bedrooms for $2,600. Benaim’s first venture in Woodside went so well he is already at work on another project just a couple of blocks away.

“It’s in the early stages, but it will be 70 units,” he said.

The hot neighborhood buzz has at least one Woodside resident feeling uncomfortable.

David Rosasco leads an award-winning neighborhood beautification nonprofit called the Woodside Neighborhood Association and he said he is aware of more hipsters and young professionals moving into the neighborhood but not enough to cause the current buzz.

“I suspect there are more powerful forces in play,” Rosasco said. “I have a feeling that this is by design to gobble up Woodside and transform it into another generic, dull, hipster and young professional community where they make demands but never get their hands dirty.”

He added that his all-volunteer group has worked too hard cleaning up the neighborhood for the last seven years for the community to be overrun by outsiders, noting that three condominium and apartment buildings have been built in Woodside in the last three years.

“What I do fear is that, after all the work we did to restore confidence and order, pride and service, that all we did was beautify Woodside so thatwe could be banished from it,” Rosasco said. “I am depressed by it because all this work was done by poor, minority, immigrant, working-class people at no cost to the taxpayer.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718.260.4538.