Before World War II, Crown Heights was an upscale neighborhood, filled with wealthy New Yorkers and charming homes, many of which were built along—and are still standing on— Eastern Parkway. It wasn’t until the end of the war, when the area became attractive to West Indian and Jamaican immigrants, as well as African-Americans from the South, that Crown heights began to transform from a posh bedroom community into the racially diverse neighborhood it is today.
“There is so much co-mingling among groups here,” says Jason Nobel, a local business owner. “There is a real sense of community.”
It wasn’t always the case: There was once a great deal of racial tension in Crown Heights, mostly between the large Orthodox Jewish community and the diverse black population, which came to a head during the Crown Heights Riot in 1991.
But violent crime is down, and a new wave of residents, including college students, has started moving into the area. There’s a growing fear that gentrification might overwhelm Crown Heights, but some residents aren’t too afraid.
“Gentrification has helped breathe some new life into the neighborhood,” Nobel said. “As long as we can keep a balance, Crown Heights will be fine.”
Crown Heights is bordered by Washington Avenue to the west, Atlantic Avenue to the north, Empire Boulevard to the south, and East New York Ave to the eas
Crown Heights’s eateries cater to the area’s mostly working class population, which means that many restaurants’ offerings are as affordable as they are tasty.
Dutch Boy Burger
Operating out of a former Dutch Boy paint store, this restaurant serves an astoundingly tasty burger. Toppings including beer-soaked cheddar, sautéed mushrooms, and sizzling thick cut bacon. Pair your meal with a homemade shake or foamy root beer float. There’s also beer on tap.
766 Franklin Ave., 718-230-0293
Super Wings NY
A local favorite, this Caribbean wing shop is known for its unique flavors like the Spice Island Rub, signature Trini Tamarind (a mix of tamarind fruit and habañero), or the award-winning Ginger Buff. Sides like mango salad and pineapple ginger salad are excellent as well.
1218 Union St., 718-467-8737
Joey’s Gourment Lunch Boxx
Joey’s offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and services each with an extensive menu, which includes everything from golden, fluffy pancakes to their popular, spicy Dumbo Buffalo Chicken Wrap.
707 Nostrand Ave., 718-778-5639
The influx of college students has given way to a larger and more diverse nightlife; from open mic nights to arcade games, there’s something for everyone.
With a laid-back atmosphere, arcade games, and a large outdoor patio, Franklin Park has been a popular hangout since it opened four years ago. The two bars—one indoor and one outdoor—are stocked with delicious local beers. Franklin Park is connected via a hallway to Dutch Boy Burger.
618 St. Johns Pl., 718-975-0196
Abigail Café and Wine Bar
Abigail’s extensive food and wine menu is enhanced by the restaurant’s delightful and sophisticated atmosphere, as well as the live music and weekly events: There’s jazz on Fridays and Saturdays, salsa music on Sundays, comedy nights on Tuesday, and open mic on Wednesdays.
807 Classon Ave., 718-399-3200
New Heights of New York Bar and Lounge
This party spot offers two full bars with a large dance floor and a set of rotating DJs. During the day there’s a full breakfast and lunch menu, and a 120=inch high-definition projector to broadcast sports games. They also offer party packages, including a birthday package that comes with a free bottle of sparkling wine.
137 Schenectady Ave., 718-484-3882
The retail scene in Crown Heights is mostly limited to knick-knack shops and general stores, with a few nondescript herbal and clothing shops thrown into the mix. Still, a few unique spots can be found.
Gombo’s Heimish Bakery
Named after the Hebrew word for “cozy and homely”, Gombo’s is the only kosher bakery catering to the area’s large Orthodox community. Among the daily fresh baked goods are flaky strudels, gooey cinnamon buns, and chewy bread.
328 Kingston Ave., 718-771-7701
Scarlet Ribbon Thrift Shop
Far from what one would normally classify as a thrift shop, Scarlet Ribbon focuses mainly on antiques, vintage things, and lost treasures. Check out their large selection of lamps.
796 Franklin Ave., 718-774-7784
In addition to taking in some of Crown Heights’ historic and stunning architecture, check out the libraries, museums, and coffee shops.
Breukelen Coffee House
A great little place to sit and hang out in the mornings. While the great coffee deals and ambiance is enough to draw you in, the crown jewel here is their talkative, friendly staff.
764 Franklin Ave. 718-789-7070
Brooklyn Botanic Gardens
Founded a century ago, Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, which is home to 12,000 different species of plants, is one of the most lively and beautiful places in the borough—even in the winter. There are guided tours on offer, as well as free admission on weekdays.
1000 Washington Ave., 718-623-7200
Jewish Children’s Museum
Themuseum offers children from all walks of the Jewish faith a chance to learn about their heritage and culture in a fun and interactive environment. With 50,000 square feet of space, it is the largest museum of its type in the country. It even has a full miniature golf course!
792 Eastern Parkway, 718-467-0600
Brooklyn Children’s Museum
When it opened in 1899, BCM was the first museum created just for children. Its permanent collection includes more than 30,000 pieces ranging from musical instruments to animal bones to ancient artifacts.
145 Brooklyn Ave., 718-735-4400
While it may not be considered a ritzy neighborhood anymore, Crown Heights is filled with the architecture from the era when it was. Many move to Crown Heights to take advantage of the diversity, the lower cost of property, and proximity to Manhattan.
1 bedrooom located in a brownstone on Eastern Parkway. Features hardwood floors and great natural lighting: $,1350
2 bedroom, 1 bedroom newly renovated apartment includes a new kitchen, parquet floors, and huge closets. Prospect Place and Bedford Avenue: $1800
Contact B. Belinda Realty at 718-467-6385
3 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom limestone home with high ceilings and wood floors. Within walking distance of Prospect Park: $550,000
Contact B. Belinda Realty at 718-467-6385
1 bedroom with great views of the city, exposed brick and hardwood floors at 469 Eastern Parkway: $399,000
Contact Shakira CoPenny at 718-643-0040
3 bedroom 1.5 bath with full finished basement and 3 fireplaces: 876 Sterling Place: $499,000
Contact Phillip G Graham at 718-479-0600
Q+A with Jason Nobel
Jason Nobel is a 35-year-old Crown Heights resident. He owns Abigail Wine Bar and Café with his wife, Abigail, and has lived in the community for several years.
What’s your favorite thing about living in the Crown Heights?
The diversity, by far.
What’s your least favorite?
They have taken away a few of the bus lines that used to service Crown Heights. So, right now, it’s a lot harder to get around than it was a few years ago.
What kind of changes have you noticed since moving here?
Gentrification. Right now it’s mostly just college kids. We haven’t been gentrified within an inch of our life, like some places, but it’s still there.
Is Crown Heights on the up and up?
Absolutely. Crime is not as bad as it was, and the gentrification has breathed some new life into the neighborhood. Since I’ve lived here I’ve seen a lot of new restaurants and bars open up. The racial tension has pretty much disappeared, too, from what I’ve seen.