Twenty years ago, the Brooklyn Academy of Music was covered with graffiti and the once-gracious neighborhood surrounding it was overshadowed by the nearby housing projects. These days, Fort Greene seems in danger of being overshadowed by the ever-expanding BAM, which now has an art-house multiplex, a café, a trail of related developments (including studios for Mark Morris and Twyla Tharp), and a half-dozen Francophile restaurants close enough for preconcert dining. It was a long time coming. “It took a lot of years to screw up the area and it took a lot of years to bring it back,” says resident Jerry Minsky from Corcoran’s new Fort Greene office. “But history has repeated itself commercially, residentially, and, finally, on a cultural front.”
MIGRATIONS: Even though its biggest booster, Spike Lee, decamped for the Upper East Side last year (Chris Rock, Rosie Perez, and Wesley Snipes are still here) Fort Greene’s self-image as a cultural hotbed hasn’t suffered. Certainly many new homeowners still choose Fort Greene because of its racial diversity, not in spite of it. That said, the neighborhood has definitely gotten whiter. Last year, Clinton Hill’s first million-dollar brownstone was sold. “I have sold a lot of nicer ones for a lot less,” says Minsky, who bought his own eleven years ago, on Vanderbilt Avenue for $350,000. “Now I get doctors from Cobble Hill bidding $975,000 on the same blocks people used to tell me I was a nut for living on.”
CREATURE COMFORTS: Three years ago, there were few sit-down restaurants along De Kalb’s commercial strip; today, there are nearly a dozen. Schools remain spotty, forcing parents to seek out private schools in Brooklyn Heights; and the area still lacks the bakers, butchers, smaller retailers, and quality takeout options most New Yorkers take for granted.
WHAT’S NEW: In 1996, Atlantic Commons replaced rat-infested lots with row after row of neo-brownstones that sold for $336,000 apiece. In Clinton Hill, a terra-cotta mansion at 315 Clinton Avenue, an empty shell three years ago, became full-floor co-ops ($400,000 for a four-bedroom). And the barely standing Graham Home for Old Ladies on Washington Avenue will soon be luxury condos.
PROGNOSIS: The area has gentrified northward, all the way to the Navy Yards and the BQE, and eastward, claiming the western edges of Bed-Stuy. “In a boom, people lose sight of the inconvenience of changing from the G to the A,” says Minsky. Will they still?
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