Stoop dreams: Prospect Heights offers quiet brownstone blocks at significantly lower prices than nearby Park Slope.
Richard Lazarus, an 81-year-old broker who has lived in Prospect Heights since 1956, still can't get his mind around the rise in real-estate prices over the past three years. "The jumps have been fantastic," he says. "Brownstones that sold for $400,000 to $450,000 three years ago are going for $1 million today." The revitalization of the neighborhood began in the late eighties with the restoration of abandoned apartment houses by private developers, and continued in the late nineties with city-financed conversions for middle-income tenants. The neighborhood runs from Eastern Parkway to Atlantic Avenue, and from Flatbush Avenue to Washington Avenue, with leafy blocks of brownstones on Sterling, Park, Prospect Place, and St. Marks Avenue. Farther east, toward Crown Heights, where tenements line Vanderbilt, and north toward Atlantic Avenue, values decrease. But developers are drooling over the success of recent conversions like the old Daily News building (which is already 80 percent sold) and the Spalding ball factory (100 percent sold). .
SIGNS OF THE TIMES: As housing prices have risen, the median age of the population has fallen. But Prospect Heights remains an ethnically diverse, family-oriented area where many residents have held on to their homes for decades. "People want to come to Prospect Heights now, and nobody's selling," explains Lazarus.
THE NUMBERS: Studios rent for $850 to $1,200, one-bedrooms for $1,200 to $1,600, and two-bedrooms for $1,800 to $2,300. Brownstones start at $750,000 and range as high as $1 million. Peter Baran, 39, a former art director for Saturday Night Live, and his wife, Maya, 32, who is expecting their first child, bought their three-story brownstone in 1999 for $418,000, after getting priced out of the Manhattan market. "We worried about what to expect: Is it dangerous? Will we have anything in common with our neighbors?" Peter recalls. They took the plunge anyway, because they needed the space. Now they cook in, hang out on their stoop, and talk across the fence to their neighbors. "Why do people live in Manhattan with no way of escaping the tyranny of their financial situation?" he asks. "So they can get good takeout?"
URBAN AMENITIES: Tom's Restaurant -- reputedly the Tom's Diner of Suzanne Vega's song -- is a neighborhood institution where the owner often passes out cups of coffee to patrons waiting on line. Newer to town is Tavern on Dean, an English pub-style restaurant with white oak floors and a long mahogany bar, serving New American fare for the past eighteen months (average entrée: $16).
CULTURE CLUB: Prospect Heights is home to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, the central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, and the Brooklyn Museum.
CONS: Many of the brownstones were used as rooming houses during the Depression, and are in dire need of better plumbing and modern kitchens. Schools are mixed. P.S. 9 in Prospect Heights consistently underperforms on standardized tests, while P.S. 321 and the Brooklyn New School in Park Slope have won accolades for academic excellence.
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