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Kimberlee Clark, 47Current Owner, Citibank Employee
Moved from: Fort Greene
When I looked in Bedford-Stuyvesant, the house next door was abandoned and the school at the corner was totally abandoned — knocked-out windows, birds flying out of it. I closed on Valentine’s Day of 2002. I was a young woman, young professional, wanted to buy a home, and this was all I could afford. In a very distraught neighborhood full of abandoned buildings. My mom down in Atlanta said, “Don’t buy over here, buy in Brooklyn Heights.” I can’t afford Brooklyn Heights! Not even back in 2002.
The limit for an FHA loan for a three-family home in Bedford-Stuyvesant was $350,000. The original seller wanted $550,000. When the Realtor came to me and said, “I want to show you a house,” I was like, “I can’t afford it.” He was like, “Well, just come by anyway, meet the seller.” And I came in and the seller just took a liking to me and she said, “You know, Kim, if the cap is $350,000, I like you enough that you can have this house at $350,000.” She took a price cut in order to let a 30-something-year-old woman have the home. My mom flew down, and they were of the same age, and I think between them, they figured that a young black woman needed an opportunity for homeownership. Sometimes I tear up thinking about the sacrifice the previous seller made. It’s a big fucking deal.
White people? Because I’ve been in corporate America all my life, it’s nothing that’s new to me, so it’s fine. I love the diversity that it’s brought in terms of stores and shopping and neighbors and interests at the block-association meetings. It’s nice to hear a different perspective: One person is interested in the block party, there’s another person who’s interested in composting, another person is interested in a cleaner Bed-Stuy. Someone else is interested in trap-and-neutering cats. That’s what diversity is really all about.
One that pisses me off is when people cross the street when I’m approaching late at night. I’m like, What the hell am I going to do? Hit you with my Gucci? But my neighbors are great, the energy is great, and Citibike is in the community — but there are no Citibikes in front of my house taking up parking spaces. There’s nothing I would change about the block. Nothing.
Natlie Johnson, 38Current Tenant, Creates Graphics for Broadcast TV, Self-Employed
History: Renting since 2013, pays $1,600 for a one-bedroom garden apartment with backyard access.
I was in a roommate situation. I felt I was too old for that. I had no idea that finding a place in NYC would be … I wasn’t used to things being that hard. I’m from St. Petersburg, the Tampa Bay area.
The broker and the landlord didn’t know each other; this wasn’t his listing. He just did some digging and found out this was open. I’m a little bit of a princess, so I liked the way it looked on the outside. And when I walked in, I was like, “I want it.” I’ve been here for two years.
I had no problem with the price of the rent; she was charging market. What I didn’t know is the original, born-and-raised, grew-up-here New Yorkers, they think it’s high. These are people that are like indigenous Brooklynites. Even people I knew from New Jersey were like, “If you’re going to pay that, you should just move to New Jersey and buy.” They were probably right.
I was impressed with this block. I said these are homeowners, so they care about where they live, they’ve been here. These aren’t in-and-out people. I didn’t want to live in an apartment building with multiple floors and multiple people. And I like the idea of Kimberlee. She is a single professional — Single. Black. Female. Professional. She owns this, this is hers.
My boyfriend doesn’t even live in this borough, and all he would do is rant and rave about my apartment. And to me, all this is, is a simple Brooklyn block. For what I pay in rent, you can only imagine the house I would have in Tampa. That’s just where my brain is at, and they’re like oohing and ahhhing. I want to love this city so much, sometimes I think to myself, I moved here too old. I visited when I was 23, I had a chance to stay here basically on a minimum-wage job, I didn’t stay. I should have stayed. New York would have made more sense to me. When I leave here, I’m leaving the city. I’m older, I’m not a 20-something, I want to stay in a place where I’m comfortable. I’m slowly getting comfortable with the neighbors. That’s what you do when you’re going through culture shock, you go to a place that has little tidbits of familiar.
Wayne Adams, 53Current Tenant
History: Friend of the house’s owner; moved to the block in 2003.
I remember back in ’93 — this was when drugs were pretty bad, and drugs were rampant in Brooklyn — I remember walking up Fulton Street and
<span class="footnote-target" data-footnote="crime">I saw a man lying in the street. He was dead.</span> I had never seen anything like that before.
And one evening I was with some friends, and we were walking down the street, and all the sudden we heard gunfire. And me, not being exposed to that, didn’t know what it was. You know, I kept on walking, and I see people running for cover. And then it dawned on me what was happening, and then I had to run and hide behind a trash can. You know how they say, you’ve got to have street smarts? I guess my smarts weren’t up to par.
I’ve been on this block since 2003. This is only the second place that I’ve lived in New York. A very good friend of mine — we’ve been friends for over 25 years — bought this home. And she wanted to know if I wanted to rent from her. So that’s how I came to this location.
Police protection around here has really taken off, so it’s gotten better. Every now and then, you still hear something, maybe somebody got mugged or robbed around here, but it’s not that often. It didn’t happen all of a sudden, but it got better over time.
The neighbors: Some speak, some don’t. That’s how life is sometimes when you live in a big city. I know some of the people who live on this block by speaking, but I never really sit down with them — other than the man next door, Tony. We talk a lot.
It’s not a year goes by that I hear someone’s left New York and gone back South. There are people now before retirement age, and they’re getting up out of New York.