I’m always up for giving tours of random parts of Brooklyn. I often fill that role when I run with others, saving enough breath to point out items of interest (sometimes only of interest to me, surely, but whatever). I try to work in Quarters A and the Martyr Monument whenever possible.
Now I’m thinking I should take this to the next level: helping house-hunters find their ideal neighborhood. (Once I’ve narrowed their focus, my clients can find a realtor.) With my breadth of Brooklyn knowledge, I can take them to great spots that fit both their needs and their budget.
While I’m not totally serious about it, I did just give this idea a dry run. My friend Pete introduced me to his business partner, Ben, who plans to move to our fair borough, but doesn’t yet know where. Who better to take him for a walk around potential stomping grounds than the “nabe ninja” (apparently, Pete’s nickname for me)?
When someone asks me where I would buy if I had the money, I say Bed-Stuy. I love the community atmosphere, the history, the diversity. Its Biggie-era reputation scares me not at all.
But not every person shares my tastes and goals. So Ben and I had coffee to chart our strategy. We met at Van Leeuwen in Boerum Hill, which I figured had sufficient transit options to take us anywhere quickly. The options in my head ranged from Sunset Park to Farragut to Bushwick - a huge blast radius.
Ben lives in Philadelphia. He owns a house with three bedrooms, two of which are occupied by renters. He’d like to mimic that cost-neutral approach here.
Renters throw in an additional variable, since you have to attract them to make the purchase feasible. They typically like safe neighborhoods with good transit options. (Having a bike, I’m somewhat less picky on the latter, and feel I’m smart enough to mitigate sketchy situations, if necessary.)
Obviously, he’d also like maximal return on his investment over the coming years.
We decided to focus on two areas where I foresee big growth in the next decade: western Crown Heights North and Ditmas Park. (The New York Times agrees with my assessment.) The neighborhood game was afoot. And I play to win.
And since I’m now on Instagram - and the rainy weather was causing lighting problems - I decided to try out weak filters on today’s photos.
Crown Heights North, west of New York Avenue
Why I like it: safer than it was 20 years ago; dining options on Franklin Avenue; express trains to Manhattan (4/5, A); lots of multi-unit housing; close to Prospect Park, Brooklyn Museum, Botanic Gardens.
Crown Heights has a variety of beautiful buildings, from brownstones to row houses to standalones. Most we saw were well-kept, and would be perfect for an owner and several tenants. The home to the right (on New York Avenue, the farthest east we went) is known as “The Mansion”.
After we walked down Franklin Avenue – particularly the really gentrified block with Chavela’s, the (possibly now closed?) fancy candy store, TasteBuds, etc. – we made our way up to Bed-Stuy, catching a glimpse of the bright yellow Children’s Museum from afar. A deranged man yelled at the clouds as we crossed Atlantic Avenue. “That happens everywhere in the city,” I assured Ben.
Fulton Street is a fun study. Near Franklin Avenue, it looks like a miniature Flatbush Avenue in Flatbush proper: signs galore hawking nails, hair, travel, cell phones. There are also cultural treasures, like the long-closed Slave Theater.
We rode the Shuttle end to end and picked up the B train one stop to Church Avenue. En route, I regaled Ben with the grisly tale of the Malbone Street Wreck.
Why I like it: safe; good diversity; great food; beautiful houses; close to Prospect Park; easy access to Manhattan via B/Q.
I have two go-tos when visitors are in town: the High Line and Ditmas Park. The High Line’s appeal is self-explanatory (go away, “Jeremiah Moss“), while Ditmas Park is also best experienced by a walk. Where else in Brooklyn – nay, New York City – are you going to see houses like this?
The varied complexion of the neighborhood was evident on Rugby Street, even in the rain. Seeing children and their parents walking home from school was a cute sight. One kid even said “hi” to me. I consider such an effort the mark of a good community.
We had lunch at The Farm on Adderley, a restaurant I’ve been meaning to visit for ages. I took the Dine in Brooklyn prix-fixe menu: Jerusalem artichoke crostini (divine), quinoa with trevisano, pickled carrots, hazelnuts, and sunnyside egg (surprisingly spicy), and a pear upside-down cake (terrific, like everything else). Ben went à la carte, opting for the kale & lentil soup and the French dip.
Happy with our efforts – and perhaps our newfound friendship – we caught the Q back into the heart of Brooklyn. But first, a great omen - what would one of my trips be without seeing shoes on a street sign?
Will Ben find true love in Crown Heights or Ditmas Park? Or somewhere completely different? Stay tuned.