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As Another Condo Rises, Crown Heights Makes Last Stand Against Gentrification

Crown Heights is starting to look very different. Gentrification changes the face of yet another neighborhood.

By Jeff Vasishta October 6, 2016
564 St. John Place. Photo courtesy of Karl&Fischer Architect

Franklin Avenue has become the Rodeo Drive of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Instead of just some surgically altered features, the whole neighborhood is getting a facelift. Chopped up multi-family brownstones are being restored to their resplendent single family glory and restaurants are covering more corners of the globe than a bring a dish to work day at the United Nations.

Related: As Crown Height Gentrifies, A Vicious Gang-War Plays Out

Crown Heights is best known for its landmarked leafy townhouses between Nostrand Avenue and the Children’s Museum on Brooklyn Ave. But in the blocks between Washington and Nostrand, multi-unit buildings are rising like a candidate’s blood pressure. The latest is an eight story, 193-unit building at 564 St. John’s Place. The project, which just secured a $163 million loan to ensure its completion, will sit on the previous site of a parking facility. The Hasidic Rabsky Group (currently transforming Bushwick), are the surgeons responsible for slicing and dicing much the old Brooklyn into something shiny and expensive. Although they are not the developers, like Don Corleone’s hand on the puppeteer’s strings, they seem to control the area and reportedly sold the controlling equity in the project to Heritage Equity Partners, now valued at $30 million.

With construction well under way and the project topped off, framing work has begun on the lower floors.  “We’re pleased to provide capital that will help one of our repeat borrowers complete this well-located, high quality residential asset,” Josh Zegen, co-founder and managing principal of Madison Realty Capital, which provided the financing, according to globest.com.

608 Franklin Avenue, rendering by ODA Architecture
608 Franklin Avenue, rendering by ODA Architecture

“Crown Heights is increasingly attractive to many new residents who are drawn to the close proximity of Prospect Park and reasonable housing prices—compared to Park Slope and Williamsburg. Construction of the building is far along, and we expect the project to be well-received when it hits the market.”

The rapid transformation of Crown Heights is a contentious issue, especially as it sweeps down to Nostrand Avenue. Some champion the change. Ramshackle boarded up houses are being sprinkled in developer’s golden pixie dust and being sold for top dollar. Previously vacant storefronts are hosting newly opened restaurants. But longtime residents who can’t keep up with the rising tide of rent increases are being pushed out and while broker’s celebrate the recent spate of near $2 million priced townhouse sales, many lament the loss of Crown Heights’ soul.

“It’s infinitely safer, but a lot of people here can’t afford gourmet delis and $20 pizzas,” Frank Esquilin, president of the Crow Hill Community Association told the Wall Street Journal.

Bailey McCaan, a writer who has lived in the neighborhood for the last decade, welcomes the change. “I think it’s great that the neighborhood is getting more restaurant options on Nostrand. Early on, going out often meant the same two places or traveling to a neighborhood nearby.”

New residents swarm into Crown Heights like hordes of an invading army, albeit ones with who may have first visited the borough during the Book Fair, grabbing an artisanal coffee along the way. There’s a slew of new multi-unit projects planned for the area including a 119 unit building at 1040 Dean St., 110 units at 1515 Bedford Avenue, 133 units at 1535 Bedford Avenue and 147 units at 505 Saint Marks Avenue. As a certain Robert Zimmerman once pronounced, “The times they are a changin’. But the changes aren’t to everyone’s liking.

“Williamsburg and Bushwick, to me, are gone—forget it,” Ayanna Prescod told the Guardian. Ayanna is a longtime resident and third generation Crown Heights resident and founder of the blog OurBKSocial . “The neighborhood is totally gone. At least with Crown Heights, we still have the neighborhood feel. I hope it doesn’t go away.”

Alas, it may already be on its way out. Next time you get a chance, pour out a little for our fallen brownstones.

Jeff Vasishta

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jeff Vasishta

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jeff Vasishta

Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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