Pick me a new neighborhood.
June 25, 2011 8:25 AM   Subscribe

Tell me about Crown Heights. Tell me about Prospect Lefferts Gardens.

Before I get into detail, I will mention that I am a New Yorker. I lived there for nine years and spent five of them in Brooklyn. So general things, I understand. But here is my current situation. I moved away from NYC two years ago to go to grad school in Philadelphia. I finished. My lease is up in August and barring a phone call from a job I'm waiting to hear from here, I'm moving back to New York then. With no job. I know.

(Don't try to dissuade me from moving back to New York with no job. I've already worked through every option I have. I have to move somewhere, I know more people in my industry there, and there are more companies who hire people who what I do there than there are here. I have a fairly technical masters degree and years of not-entirely-irrelevant work experience in another field, so I am confident I'll get a job. Answers like "don't move back to New York; put your stuff in storage and stay on friends' couches" will make me so upset.)

So since I have no job yet and for at least a bit will be living off savings and occasional charity from my parents, and since I need a one bedroom and do not want a studio, and since--for reasons you're just going to have to trust exist--I cannot have roommates, I can't afford to live where I lived most recently: Greenpoint. Sad.

However, this means that I get to explore a new neighborhood: yay. The ones that are popping up most that spike the most curiosity are Crown Heights and Prospect Lefferts Gardens. I know where they are. I have walked through both of them a little bit, years ago, but I wasn't paying the kind of close attention you pay when you're about to move somewhere.

Tell me what it's like to live there. Also, tell me how they are different from each other. I know they are not gentrified or trendy: Good. I don't care about that. I care about a reasonable level of safety (though my barometer for what is safe has been forever altered by Philadelphia's less-safe areas and I'm about ready to sign a lease in East New York and walk around naked and holding gold), a reasonable level of access to food, transportation, and services, and a reasonable level of aesthetic interest--not necessarily beauty, because I have much love for crumbling old industrial areas and things like that, but just an interesting environment to walk around in. I want to avoid strip-mally and chain-storey places. I know they exist, even in Brooklyn.

TL;DR So, Crown Heights. Prospect Lefferts Gardens. What is it like to live in either one? Compare and contrast?

For your reference, my demographic information: I am 29, female, white, very small in stature. Other information: I am completely willing and unafraid to walk a lot or take buses to commute.

(And if you think these neighborhoods are both a bad idea for me, I'm also considering Sunnyside/Woodside, Queens. I toy with Bushwick. Ideally, I would love to be in Red Hook, but it may be out of my price range. I'm trying to get something 1200 or under.)
posted by millipede to Travel & Transportation around Crown Heights, NY (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I lived in Crown Heights last summer, on Montgomery and Nostrand. There were plenty of bodegas around - Nostrand is a pretty busy street with lots of Commercial options. There was a grocery store around the corner, and there was - and this was the pride and joy of my summer - Gloria's Roti Shop about a block away. What more could I ask for?

I lived on a block with big apartment buildings, but there were blocks and blocks of brownstones and similar outer-borough-type small/dense houses nearby. Close to a hospital, a college and some high schools, and, also a major bonus point, really close to Prospect Park. Also convenient to some train lines. The rent was very reasonable. 1500 or thereabouts for a big 3 bedroom in a pre-war building.

I liked the neighborhood a lot. Probably the friendliest neighborhood I've ever lived in. I spent a lot of time outside walking my roommate's dog, and there would always be kids and grannies hanging out outside the building. NYC in the summer, you know, sidewalks become living rooms. I never felt unsafe. I'm a small white guy. There's not a lot of street/stranger-crime in NYC compared to other cities, I think. Particularly when I hear stories about Philly and other small cities.

The neighborhood could be loud. People love hanging out outside their cars blasting music. Whatever. Comes with the territory - by which I mean, most of NYC.

Me and my sweetheart and our roommates all ride bikes - it's a short jaunt to a BBQ in Prospect Park, or up to Prospect Heights or Bed Stuy where there were some more friends or bars for hangin' out at. I might have probably felt a bit trapped in the neighborhood if I didn't use my bike to get around so much.

Anyhoo, those are my thoughts.
posted by entropone at 8:40 AM on June 25, 2011

The general rule of thumb about Crown Heights is that the further you are away from Brownsville, the safer you are. At least this was true in the 80s.

I have a friend who fits your description who recently moved to Crown Heights and she loves it there.
posted by cazoo at 8:53 AM on June 25, 2011

I'm also a 29 year-old white female very small in stature. I can't tell you much about the Brooklyn neighborhoods you mentioned, but since you mentioned Sunnyside/Woodside, I would say those are great neighborhoods to live in if you like to cook interesting foods and if you like the idea of exploring eastern Queens. Lots of cheap and good grocers to get exotic food ingredients. Lots of interesting little restaurants that don't get nearly as crowded as similar places do in the cool areas of Manhattan. I LOVE Queens, it's so interesting to me.

The demographics of that area are really wide ranging and so you get tons of variety in the kinds of shops around, and a lot of them are cheap because the area is full of immigrants. If that appeals to you, you may like those neighborhoods. Rent-wise I'm not sure how they compare to Crown Heights, but you could probably get an unimpressive 1BR in Sunnyside or Woodside for $1200.
posted by wondermouse at 8:54 AM on June 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

Oh and if you find yourself missing anything in Greenpoint, the G train as well as a bus that goes straight through Greenpoint both stop at Queens Plaza.
posted by wondermouse at 9:01 AM on June 25, 2011

I lived in Crown Heights for about a year and a half -- corner of Franklin Ave and Park Pl -- and I liked it quite a lot. One huge advantage of Crown Heights is transportation: the Franklin Ave subway stop, which was four blocks from my apartment, had the 2/3/4 trains. As a former New Yorker, I'm sure you can understand how convenient it is to have the both the East and West Side express trains right at your proverbial fingertips. Also, as a runner, I found it incredibly convenient to be within walking distance of Prospect Park, although this becomes less true the farther out you go in Crown Heights.

As much as I love Bushwick (I have many, many friends in the art scene there), I think its transportation options would keep me from ever living there -- I don't think I could live in a place where I was tethered to the L train. It's just too much of a pain in the ass on weekends, or when it breaks down (which is frequently).

As for safety, I never felt unsafe, and I came home at 4 in the morning all the time. That said, I'm also male and relatively stocky -- I don't think I would have been comfortable sending one of my female friends home alone at that time. Where in Philly were you living, though -- North Philly or West Philly (I mean legit West -- past 42nd st)? I'd reckon that Crown Heights is safer than either of those -- there was a palpable racial tension in Philly that is much, much more muted in Crown Heights.
posted by TheRoach at 9:08 AM on June 25, 2011

Have lived in Crown Heights for seven years; enjoy it more every year.

You want Brooklynian.

Best transportation (2 3 4 5) is clustered around Franklin Ave; new shops are popping up every week.

Five favorite things:
• Olympic size swimming for $75 a year at St. Johns Recreation Center ($150 as of 1 July in all NYC rec centers)
• Lily & Fig and Chavella's
• Reading Series at Franklin Park
• Dogs in Brower Park
• Walking down Eastern Parkway to the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the main branch of Brooklyn Public Library, and Prospect Park all in proximity.
posted by vautrin at 9:09 AM on June 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: @TheRoach: West, but along Baltimore Avenue, which has become extremely Penn-ified out as far as about 45th. I spent years tethered to the L train, but I also didn't mind taking buses to other trains.
posted by millipede at 9:14 AM on June 25, 2011

I've lived in Lefferts Gardens for four years. It's fantastic, and I don't plan on leaving as long as I'm in New York. The neighborhood is definitely getting more gentrified; but not so quickly that it's lost its character. The sections of Flatbush and Nostrand that run through the area have an improbable number of hair salons, but also a lot of really good greengrocers that actually sell fruit and vegetables and stuff, not just canned veggies and junk food. There's a considerable presence of people from the West Indies, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic, so the stores are stocked with foods of all kinds, and music of all kinds is playing. A hundred or so years ago, the neighborhood was very fashionable, and so the streets are wide and have some beautiful houses and brownstones (and a few of the apartment buildings are quite nice, as well). Most were built between 1890 and 1920, so they're sturdy and not made of sheetrock,

I've had roommates of varying gender identities, none of whom have ever felt unsafe walking home at night. Down further south in around Parkside and Clarkson, things get dicier; there are a bunch of buildings that are section 8, but whose unscrupulous landlords are also renting to paying tenants as well (while still collecting the money from the government on those apartments) and they aren't well maintained and sometimes have drug dealers chilling out in the lobby and catcalling everyone who goes by. However, in general neighbors are very friendly, and people usually say hi to anyone walking down the street. Lots of folks have dogs, and my one complaint is that people don't do a good job curbing them, but that's pretty minor in the scale of things.

Prospect Park is the most beautiful park in the city. Hands Down. Central Park was the first landscape F.L. Olmstead ever designed, but Prospect park was designed at the peak of his career, and it's amazing. There's not a whole lot of nightlife options. Cafe Enduro and Lincoln Park Tavern (on Lincoln) cater to gentrifiers and serve bad, overpriced food and drinks, and their owner is one of the sleaziest, unpleasant individuals I've ever dealt with, but there's a nice "everybody knows your name" feeling to it (as long as you're white or hipster looking, as the owner keeps finding ways to discourage the "urban" residents from frequenting the place).

Transportation is great, with the B/Q and the 2/5 giving quick access to the city or Atlantic Terminal, and the S going to Franklin Ave and the Museum. It's also pretty centrally located in Brooklyn, so having a bike is a huge bonus. You can bike to Bushwick or Williamsburg in like 15 minutes, and going to Coney Island or the Rockaways is an easy and pretty ride.

Anyway, shoot me a MeMail if you have any other questions.
posted by Jon_Evil at 10:44 AM on June 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

I live near to both those neighborhoods, in Ditmas Park, which may be too gentrified for your purposes but which I adore. Based on anecdotal evidence/walking around (which I do a lot), I feel like Prospect Lefferts Gardens is a bit safer—my friend's apartment was broken into in Crown Heights—and also is a bit better transportationwise. I am a similar size to you, it sounds like, and have walked around PLG late at night and felt totally safe. Haven't walked around Crown Heights late as much 'cause it's a bit farther from where I live. And (I'm sure you know this since you've lived in both places) this whole area reminds me so much of West Philly, where I also spend a fair amount of time, so I'm sure you will find yourself settled in no time.
posted by mlle valentine at 8:09 PM on June 25, 2011

Crown Heights really depends. It's a huge neighborhood.

I live in the gentrifying part of Crown Heights which borders Prospect Heights. This part of the neighborhood is often advertised in apartment listings as Prospect Heights or "Crow Hill", and earlier this year real estate developers trying to coin the name ProCro got laughed out of the neighborhood (well, that idea did, unfortunately the developers are still here).

As a 30 year old single person, I lovelovelove this part of the neighborhood. There's great coffee and new bars and restaurants are starting to pop up all over the place. Franklin Avenue between Eastern Parkway and roughly St. Marks is becoming a commercial hot spot. The neighborhood is starting to get a lot better, in general - drug and gang activity is being driven out and people are planting gardens in their front yards. We finally got a real supermarket east of Washington Avenue. For better or worse, the neighborhood is getting a lot whiter.

It's very close to Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Museum, and the central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.

I also like that it's a quick walk over to either Prospect Heights proper (Blue Marble ice cream! Stoop Sales! A Duane Reade!) or even all the way into the Slope. I can walk to Union Hall to see a band, do some shopping along Fifth Ave, and have considered joining the Food Co-op.

All of this may mean that it's out of your price range for a one bedroom. But it's pretty great if you can swing it.

The rest of Crown Heights, though? Crown Heights proper? Meh. It comes across to me as sort of unsavory and depressing. Crime is pretty bad, though shootings seem to happen only in isolated incidents (seriously, though, if "you're not that likely to get shot" is a good point, you have to ask yourself whether this is really the neighborhood for you). It's also a food desert. And unless you live very close to the 2/3/4/5 line, it doesn't seem particularly well served by transit. But I only know the area from occasional visits, so maybe I haven't seen the good part of Crown Heights. I'm also not that familiar with the Hasidic part of the neighborhood below Eastern Parkway, which might be perfectly great for all I know.
posted by Sara C. at 7:49 AM on June 26, 2011

We should have a neighborhood meetup!

I live at the western edge of Crown Heights, but south of Eastern Parkway so it's still less gentrified/cheaper than the north side. I love it. Very convenient to so many things, the botanic garden is practically my backyard, and express trains everywhere. I've walked to friends' places in most directions and generally felt fine.

Looking at Craigslist recently though, it seems like the really cheap places may be further east, where there are definitely less choices for transit. I guess that proximity to a train station will be the most important things.

The hasidic area of Crown Heights is its own whole fascinating thing. No idea what the prices are like but it's families everywhere and I think it's got to be quite safe.
posted by Salamandrous at 11:19 AM on June 27, 2011

To clarify, my "depressing/unsavory" opinion of Crown Heights comes from the area along Utica Ave from Eastern Parkway back to the 77th precinct (forget exactly which street that is - Bergen?). Which is much further east than anyone else has chimed in on so far. And, again, it's a huge neighborhood that somehow manages to encompass hipster bars, nightclubs where you risk getting caught in the crossfire of a shooting, families bonding on front stoops, and a Hasidic-owned kosher Neapolitan-style pizzeria.
posted by Sara C. at 4:26 PM on June 27, 2011

« Older Food of the gods: BACON WAFFLES!   |   My Dad's dream car! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.