The Green House Effect presents... The Greenhouse Effect

Last week, I attended an event creatively titled Greenhouse Effect. Okay, maybe I’m not the only one to borrow from 1980s environmental crises for an ironic title, but at least my column is about the ups and downs of green design, building, architecture, city planning. Their Greenhouse Effect was an open house of the newest luxury green apartment building, called the Greenbelt, to rise among the uber-hipsters of Williamsburg, Brooklyn’s most fashionable address. The title is weirdly not ironic at all—just ignoring what the term actually means.

Drinks were provided by Peak Organic Brewing and the two model apartments were furnished with “cutting edge ‘green’ decor curated by Chip Cordelli and Chris Kraig.” I should probably know who they are. Please hold while I Google... one’s a set designer and the other an interior designer, looks like. They furnished the apartments (or, sure, 'curated', that’s fine) with made-in-NYC products such as this lovely hand-made credeza by 4korners or a George Gilpin string chair, and an art installation covered the bare hallways.

This officially seems to be the new trend: real estate open house as cultural event, catered and with DJs and many attractive individuals milling about. It’s the meshing of the art world with real estate, two arenas where folks like me are rendered mere gawkers, all of the unattainable paraphernalia paraded under one roof. Later, the model apartments will hold cooking demos (steamed kabocha squash with balsamic and fresh grated parmesan with a side of quinoa and fried onions) and a preview of “this season’s organic fashions.”

The hype and the decor, the DJ, the free organic shish kebabs all distract from the reality of the apartments: they don’t look like much. Sure, clean lines, an emphasis on the horizontal—all that stuff we think of as modern design is at the height of chic, but clean lines are also the cheapest for developers to create. Ornamentation is expensive (hence the Bauhaus’s decision to eradicate ornament from buildings, thereby, in theory, erasing class lines), and these look like really nice dorms with great decks and Hakatai tile. They’ll have you know these are Brooklyn’s first LEED residences.

Sorry folks, I’m sticking in my lead paint-clad apartment with the moldy plaster, the parquet floors and crumbling detail—not that I wouldn’t be interested if I could swing it.

Although these apartments are priced at $599,000 to $815,000, a relative bargain for Brooklyn, I am, as always, troubled by the preservation of green building for the wealthy, that the physical health they promise should be the domain of those who can afford to pay for it. Oh well. At least the beer was free.