Portions of this article have been updated.
Step out of the Beverley Road stop off the Q line and you will probably wonder whether you’re in Brooklyn or the Virginia suburbs. With nary a graffitied hydrant or brownstone stoop in sight, Ditmas Park is comprised of towering elms and ramshackle Victorian houses with the kind of porch swings that will make you want to lie on them for hours with a sweating pitcher of mint julep and an old, buttery-paged paperback. Although quaintly residential, the neighborhood possesses none of the Wonder Bread homogeneity that New Yorkers so fear. On a warm spring day, a Hasidic kid waited for his mother while holding a tangerine-frosted cake, cabbies from Bangalore shuffled cards, and post-grad hipsters lugged home a rickety bookshelf. To seek the familiar territory of 99-cent stores and KFC derivative chains (“Kantacky” services this nabe) all you need to do is walk a block or two down to Cortelyou Road.
Boundaries: Currently drawn at Church Avenue to the north, Avenue H to the south, Bedford Avenue to the east, and Coney Island Avenue to the west
Population: The neighborhood is mostly middle-class and features a diverse array of ethnicities. One realtor quipped, “It’s so mixed, we have Republicans” and, “Pakistanis, Greeks, Chinese. I’d have to get a geography book to tell them all to you.” Inevitably, there’s also a wide presence of young, recently married hipsters. As one friend put it, “It’s where indie rockers retire.”
Public Transportation: Take the Q train to Beverley Road, the F train to Church Avenue, or the B35 bus to Church Avenue; about 40 minutes by train from Union Square.
Main Drags: Cortelyou Road, Coney Island Avenue, Church Avenue, Ditmas Avenue, Beverley Road
Average Price to Rent: These aren’t your average apartment buildings. Tenants usually rent a part or all of two-family frame houses. One-bedroom, $1,000 to $1,200 ($750 to $1,500); two-bedroom, $1,700 ($1,500 to $1,600); three-bedroom, $2,000 ($2,200 to $3,000).
Average Price to Buy: One-bedroom house, $100,000 to $120,000; two-bedroom house, $250,000 to $295,000
Best Restaurants: Cinco de Mayo (1202 Cortelyou Road) is a charming little taqueria that, according to resident Christine Lee, has the best verde sauce; Los Mariachis Mexican Restaurant (805 Coney Island Avenue) serves great cocktails and provides Mariachi music on Friday nights; Rug-B (1310 Cortelyou Road) boasts “upscale peasant. A fusion of Caribbean, Thai, and Continental.”
Best Bars: Cortelyou Lounge (752 Coney Island Avenue) is pleasantly divey with a promising neon sign featuring a highball, though one resident claims the cocktails are weak. 773 (773 Coney Island Avenue), another neighborhood watering hole, boasts a dart league.
Community Organizations: Community Board 14 (810 East 16th Street) reviews zoning and land-use changes, monitors projects such as street reconstruction and bridges, and follows up on complaints. Several neighborhood associations, including Ditmas Park West, Beverly Square, and Fiske Terrace actively monitor Ditmas Park’s quality of life and safety issues.
Famous People: Silent-silver-screen diva Mary Pickford and Charlie Ebbets, the first owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, lived in the Ditmas Park area. Contemporary films that capture Flatbush homes include Sophie’s Choice, Malcolm X, and Reversal of Fortune.
Landmarks: All 175 homes of Ditmas Park received “Historic District” status from the New York City Landmarks Commission in 1987. Neighboring landmark district Prospect Park South (which covers Church Avenue to Beverley Road) was the first planned community in New York.
Local Shops:Newkirk Plaza is reputed to be America’s first shopping mall but it’s basically a strip mall over the Newkirk subway station. Flatbush Food Co-op (1318 Cortelyou Road) may be the organic alternative to the Associated Supermarket, although don’t expect 20 different kinds of soy milk inside the modest space.
Green Space: The southern section of Prospect Park is a few blocks away, offering soccer fields, baseball fields, and horse stables.
Politicians: Assembly Members James F. Brennan and Rhoda Jacobs, City Councilmembers Simcha Felder and Yvette D. Clarke, Congressman Major Owens, and State Senators Carl Andrews and Carl Kruger—all Democrats
Crime Stats: The 70th Precinct covers Ditmas Park. As of September 25, 2005 it reported 7 murders, 17 rapes, 561 robberies, 300 felonious assaults, and 384 burglaries. (As of May 25, 2003, it reported 10 murders, up six from last year; 19 rapes, up three; 281 robberies, down 15; 276 burglaries, down 87; and 156 felonious assaults, down 12).