By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Crown Heights has evolved into one of the most integrated, vibrant, and culturally diverse neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Its vitality is reflected in its residents, who stem from all nationalities. Large Caribbean, African American, and Jewish communities call Crown Heights home, as well as many Asians, Hispanics, and Africans. Depending on where you choose to live, you can achieve either a suburban or a high-energy city feelingone where you learn to sleep through the sound of fire engines or that guy blasting Beres Hammond and Crossfire from his small $5 CD shop across the street. Not to mention the intense smells of curry, jerk chicken, smoked barbecue, and other highly seasoned dishes from the many West Indian restaurants below your apartment. An array of storefronts, from bargain centers to record stores, line Nostrand and Utica avenues, where fast-food chains seem to collide with each other, and the Asian markets have imported that well-missed Jamaican or Bajan cheese just so you can feel at home. And don't forget the sweet Dominican and Haitian mangoes that make your summer worthwhile. In a community where businesses thrive and competition seems to be one of the driving forces, everything here is at your fingertips.
Boundaries: Atlantic Avenue to the north, Empire Boulevard to the south, Ralph Avenue to the east, and Flatbush Avenue to the west
Transportation: Take the 3, 4, A, or C train to Franklin, Nostrand, Kingston, or Utica avenues; 50 to 55 minutes from Grand Central and Penn stations. Due to track work, express trains occasionally run local, which can throw you off if you're already running late. Many buses also run through the area, including the 14, 17, 35, 45, and 46.
Main Drags: Utica and Nostrand avenues
Average Price to Rent: Studio, $600 to $700; one-bedroom, $750 to $800; two-bedroom, $850 to $900
Average Price to Buy: Studio co-op: $150,000; one-bedroom co-op, $185,000; two-bedroom co-op, $265,000; brownstones, $325,000 and up
Landmarks: The Studebaker Building (1469 Bedford Avenue) is a neo-Gothic architectural treasure built in 1920 and designed by Manhattan-based architects Tooker and Marsh. It's one of the few automobile showrooms remaining on Brooklyn's once thriving Automobile Row. The Ebbets Field housing projects occupy the site the Brooklyn Dodgers called home until 1957.
Cultural Institutions: Check out "Exposed: The Victorian Nude" at the Brooklyn Museum of Art (200 Eastern Parkway) through January 5, which features some 150 works ranging from painting and sculpture to cartoons, photography, and movies. The Chassidic Art Institute (375 Kingston Avenue) is the world's first organization to exclusively promote and exhibit the inspired work of Hasidic artists.
Green Space: Escape to the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (1000 Washington Avenue), which features shrines, waterfalls, and ponds. Try looking at your reflection in the Lily Pool, where two large, rectangular pools bloom with a variety of tropical water lilies all summer long. Crown Heights also borders on Prospect Park, a green, idyllic open space that's a favorite for joggers, sunbathers, and summer barbecuers.
Community Events: The West Indian Day Parade is a three-day, jammed session of partying that you won't want to miss. The first Monday of every September, Eastern Parkway is transformed into a kaleidoscope of dazzling colors from costumes, flags, and floats representing every Caribbean island. Masqueraders can be seen dancing to the invigorating sounds of steel pans, soca, calypso, and reggae music.
Best Restaurants: Gloria's In and Out Restaurant (745 Nostrand Avenue) offers tasty rotis, while McKenzie's Café (361 Utica Avenue) has finger-licking jerk chicken available in bucket sizes, as well as refreshing smoothies.
Best Bar: The plush Monoco Lounge (154 Utica Avenue) is big with locals, and bartender Jennifer serves up a slamming apple martini.
Local Politicians: Councilwoman Yvette Clarke and councilmen James E. Davis and Albert Vann; Assemblyman Clarence Norman Jr.; state senators John Sampson, Velmanette Montgomery, and Carl Andrews; and Congressman Major R. Owens. All are Democrats.
Crime Stats: The 77th Precinct serves Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, and Weeksville. As of December 1, it reported 14 murders, down five from last year; 40 rapes, same as last year; 463 robberies, up eight; 448 burglaries, down 84; and 443 felonious assaults, down 24.