Renting as a Competitive Sport: Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

11 Mar

A beautiful, wide, tree-lined block in Clinton Hill (on Washington Ave. where it meets Dekalb Ave.).

First, to anyone who subscribes to this blog, I apologize for my recent absence. My job, which I’m thankful to say I totally love, can occasionally be highly demanding, and over the past two weeks, it has required my full attention.

With that said, I was able to do a little neighborhood exploration as intended—and as promised in my earlier post—to kick off my “Renting as a Competitive Sport” series. I just didn’t have the time to write about the experience. But, I’m back now. So, here we go…..

First stop: Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. Let me begin by saying that I am completely aware that Clinton Hill is neither a new discovery nor an area that is new to gentrification (more on that loaded word and its meaning another time). I was able to find articles dating back to 1987 that talk about Clinton Hill’s steady progress from “abandonment and decay” to renewal “by an integrated mix of middle-income New Yorkers.” The presence of the Pratt Institute has always kept a stable stream of students and faculty in the area, lending some reliable commerce to the shops and restaurants in the vicinity. And, it contains some stunning brownstones, elegant mansions, and Victorian houses, which have been painstakingly returned to their full beauty by local property owners.

The incredibly LOVEly Pratt campus as seen through its Dekalb Avenue gate — too bad that I’ll never set foot on its pampered green lawns.

I also appreciate the apparent diversity of the neighborhood, which is something that has drawn people to the area over the past couple decades. The area seems to still maintain a vibrant mix of ethnicities, cultures, and personalities–even as the demographics are changing. For example, the 2010 Census shows a significant increase in Asians moving to Clinton Hill and the neighboring area of Fort Greene, which feels equally diverse.

Its desirable parameters have also grown (desirability being defined in this case by cleanliness, safety, and access to resources, such as grocery stores, laundry mats, etc.) as the neighborhoods next to it have also improved. While according to police statistics for the 88th Precinct, the crime rate is still a bit higher than one (“one” being me) might like, it has dropped by a staggering 77.41 percent since 1990. I’ll also say that this rate is only slightly higher than my current neighborhood in Manhattan: Chelsea. There were only 79 more crimes in Clinton Hill than in my home ‘hood in 2011–although both neighborhoods are considerably less safe than say Park Slope, Brooklyn, which had 246 less crimes than Clinton Hill and 167 less than Chelsea in 2011. There is also a notable presence of new restaurants and shops. Pratt itself is very pretty—not that you will have the opportunity to enjoy its grounds if you’re not a student or faculty member. The entire campus is bordered by black iron fencing, and to get through its gates, you need a key card.

Image Credit: Google Map of Clinton Hill. The purple lines indicate the borders of Clinton Hill, and the little tan rectangle you see is Pratt’s campus.

It’s also important to note that anything to the extreme north (from the Brooklyn Expressway up) or to the extreme southwest (where Clinton Hill meets Prospect Heights) is pretty gritty and more remote. The border of Clinton Hill and Bed-Stuy, which is to the east, is quite nice in some places and much less so in others, but where Clinton Hill and Fort Greene meet, the nexus of the two areas seems reliably nice.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t pockets of streets here and there throughout the neighborhood that feel a little too remote or rundown for me as a woman to comfortably traverse alone after dark. Here is a quick crib sheet for Clinton Hill:

Borders: Clemont Ave. (west) to Classon Ave. (east) and Flushing Ave. (north) to Atlantic Ave. (south)
Rental Price Range for 1 Bedrooms on as of 3/11/12: $1,550 – $3,990
Rental Price Range for 2 Bedrooms on as of 3/11/12: $1,800 – $7,000
Total Crimes in 2011: 1,116
Violent Crimes in 2011: 170
Amount of Greenery: 8* (tree-lined streets and concrete parks, but few large, open green spaces that are available to all)
Beautiful Architecture: 9* (some of the most striking landmarked properties in the five boroughs)
Commute: A, C, and G at Clinton-Washington Avs. (12-minute ride to lower Manhattan and easy street parking for cars)
Locals: Pratt students and faculty and a diverse mix of middle-class families, peppered with some individuals on the much higher and much lower end of the income spectrum (living in restored mansions, carved into apartments–particularly along Washington–and housing projects–specifically the Lafayette Garden Houses on the corner of Classon and Dekalb, just across the street from the 88th Precinct); celebrities living in the area include Rosie Perez and Mos Def
Hot Eateries: Choice Market; Clinton Park CafeLocanda Vini e Olii; LuzMaggie Brown
My Favorite Block: Washington Ave. from Greene Ave. to Lafayette Ave.
My Least Favorite Blocks: Atlantic Ave. from Vanderbilt Ave. to Washington Ave.; and Irving Place from Putnam Ave. to Fulton St.

Again, this is just my take as an outsider, not a resident of the area. If you live in Clinton Hill and have something to add about the neighborhod or want to correct something that you feel I’ve gotten wrong, please speak up. I don’t claim to be an expert here. These are just my personal observations combined with the statistics I was able to dig up.

*personal rating on a scale of 1-10

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