When Brooklyn Properties broker Hal Lehrman drives
clients to the Ditmas Park area, their faces invariably
drop as he turns off Prospect Park West and heads
down to Coney Island Avenue, a grim commercial
street lined with storefronts like Magic Touch
Auto and Mr. Tires & Garage. At that moment,
Lehrman pops the pre-cued soundtrack to 2001:
A Space Odyssey into his cassette deck. With
Strauss's "Thus Spake Zarathustra" blaring, he
turns off the avenue into Ditmas Park and watches
the prospective house hunters' eyes light up at
the sight of block after leafy block of century-old
Victorians with large lots, manicured lawns, and
tree-lined streets with pedigreed English names
like Argyle, Rugby, and Marlborough.
Thanks to Park Slope's explosive growth in the
past decade, and because of an aging population
that is gradually selling out to younger home
buyers, the Ditmas Park area is back on the map
for bargain-hunting Manhattan exiles. Alison Bagnall,
36, moved to Prospect Park South last year from
the East Village. She and her husband split the
cost of a $675,000 1910 Victorian with her parents,
who live on the first floor but travel frequently.
It sounds expensive until you consider the number
of bedrooms: nine. The extra rooms double as home
offices since she and her husband are freelancers
(she co-wrote the 1998 hit indie film Buffalo
'66). She marvels that their half of the house
cost about the same as their one-bedroom condo
in the East Village. "All of these houses here
were built for wealthy people," she says, citing
former area residents like the Guggenheims. "But
now you don't have to be really wealthy to live
522 RUGBY ROAD. Five-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath
Victorian on a spacious 40-by-100-foot lot.
Parquet floors and large eat-in kitchen. Sold
in August for $562,000
Once upon a time The area was farmland
until just over a century ago, when Brooklyn was
incorporated into New York City and the subway
arrived. Developers descended, and some of the
city's ruling class (like the Guggenheims and
Gillettes) made their homes here. But real-estate
values declined along with Flatbush's reputation
in the seventies and eighties.
Prime area The Victorian homes in Prospect
Park South are by far the grandest in the area.
(Lots can run up to 200 feet deep.) Colonial Revivals,
Tudors, Federal-style, Japanese, and even Swiss
Chalet-style homes add to the architectural diversity.
The cons What's missing is desirable restaurants
and a wide selection of retail services. Most residents
drive into nearby Park Slope to drop off their dry
cleaning or get takeout dinners. Some residents
are taking matters into their own hands and pooling
money (for a loan) to lure an established restaurateur
to Ditmas Park.
The commute Thirty to 40 minutes to midtown
on the Q line (or, once service is restored, the
Schools P.S. 139 is a highly regarded, highly
diverse grammar school. One of the few in the area
that is not overcrowded. Nearby Midwood High School
is considered one of the city's best and can be
very difficult to get into.
Best brokers Hal Lehrman at Brooklyn
Properties of 7th Avenue (718-788-3888), and Mary
Kay Gallagher and Joanne Oplustil (718-282-3141).
the September 17, 2001 issue of New York Magazine.
by Sean Hemmerle. Maps by BRM.