Close-Up On: Fort Greene


Portions of this article have been updated.

“We always had a lot of artists and musicians in Fort Greene,” says Suzanne DeBrango, resident and realtor. “Now we have investment bankers in the mix.” Since 1997, the neighborhood has skyrocketed in popularity, as well as in value. Where tree-lined DeKalb Avenue and Fulton Street were once decaying and the only stores were corner bodegas, now boutiques, bookstores, and cafés flourish. DeKalb and Fulton overflow nightly with jazz sessions, gallery openings, and readings at coffeehouses and bars. Touted for its rawness and cultural diversity, Fort Greene now has prices comparable to Manhattan’s, but you get more space. Say hello, Brooklyn, to the new Park Slope.

Boundaries: Vanderbilt Avenue to the east, Atlantic Avenue to the south, Park Avenue to the north, and Flatbush Avenue to the west

Mass Transit: Fifteen to 20 minutes from Lower Manhattan on the 1, 2, 4, 5, M, N, Q, or R to the Atlantic-Pacific station; or take the A or C to Lafayette Avenue. Last, and always late, the Queens-Brooklyn G stops at Fulton Street.

Average Rents: Studio: $1200 and up ($1000); one-bedroom, $1800 and up ($1200 to $1500); two-bedroom, $2000 and up ($1700 to $2000); three-bedroom, $2200 and up ($2200 to $2600); duplex, from $2800 and up ($2500).

Average Price to Buy: one-bedroom co-op: $300,000 and up ($130,000 to $275,000); two-bedroom, $450,000 and up ($250,000 to $400,000); three-bedroom, $500,000 and up ($400,000 to $600,000); three- and four-story brownstones: $1 million and up ($700,000 to $1.25 million).

Notable Happenings: In the summer, a series of free concerts is held in Fort Greene Park, and the park conservancy hosts its annual Swing Dance on August 10. Its Halloween Festival brought out 2500 people in 2001. Atlantic Antics, featuring a bazaar, food, and festivities along Atlantic Avenue, takes place every September.

Cultural Institutions: The Brooklyn Academy of Music, at 30 Lafayette, is one of the top cultural venues in the country. It has been at its present spot since its opening performance in 1908 starring Enrico Caruso. During the summer, BAM holds free r&b concerts. In the fall, there’s the multimedia Next Wave Festival. Its Spring Festival celebrates the classics. Across the street, the Mark Morris Dance Group holds regular classes in the choreographer’s own studio.

Landmarks: Fort Greene Park, originally known as Washington Park, was Brooklyn’s first. It came into being in 1847 after prompting by Walt Whitman, who insisted that Brooklyn needed it as a “lung.” In 1864, it was redesigned by Frederick Olmsted and Calvert Vaux after their success with Central Park and before they designed Prospect Park. Poet Marianne Moore and novelist Richard Wright were both inspired by the haven (habitués insist that the grass does better here than in Manhattan parks). Much of Fort Greene is encompassed in the New York State and National Register Historic District. Between 1776 and 1782, 11,500 people died while held captive by the British on ships anchored in Wallabout Bay, the present site of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Their remains are entombed in the Prison Ship Martyr’s Monument, which rests under a tall Doric column in the Fort Greene Park.

Famous Names: Spike Lee grew up in Fort Greene, Richard Wright lived here while he was writing Native Son, and jazz matriarch Betty Carter lived here. Today Chris Rock, Cecil Taylor, Wynton Marsalis, and Rosie Perez have all called Fort Greene home.

Political Figures: Councilman Letitia James, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, assemblymen Roger Green and Joseph Lentol, and Congressman Edolphus Towns, all Democrats

Main Drags: Fulton Street above St. Felix Street and DeKalb Avenue

Night Action: Frank’s Place (660 Fulton) has great live jazz. Folks come from all over to hear the DJs and open readings at the Brooklyn Moon Café (745 Fulton). The up-and-coming 667 on Fulton is a promising scene for the dancehall set.

Eats: Night of the Cookers (767 Fulton), Loulou (222 DeKalb), and À Table (171 Lafayette) are three of the top local restaurants. Middle Eastern eats are done right at Bedouin Express (86 South Portland Street).

Quaintest Neon Sign: The glowing Eiffel Tower over French Garment Cleaners at 85 Lafayette Avenue

Crime: As of September 25, 2005 the 88th Precinct, which also covers Clinton Hill, reported 0 murders, 7 rapes, 224 robberies, 100 felonious assaults, and 140 burglaries. (As of June 16, the 88th Precinct, which also covers Clinton Hill, reported 2 homicides, compared to 3 at this time last year; 15 rapes, up from 8 last year; 151 robberies, down from 180; 81 felonious assaults, compared to 80 last year; and 87 burglaries, the same as last year).