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City Living: Clinton Hill

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Pure white fiber glass, shaped into a women's head, by artist Phillip Grausman on the campus of Pratt University. Explore our photo gallery below

In casual conversation, Clinton Hill is often referred to in the context of its neighbor to the west, Fort Greene. Yet this slender Brooklyn nabe has a history and character all its own.

Pratt Institute, the private art college founded by Brooklyn businessman Charles Pratt in 1887, anchors the neighborhood both geographically and creatively. In addition, Clinton Hill shares a rich cultural history with its neighbor to the east, Bedford-Stuyvesant, which has for decades been the center of Brooklyn’s African-American community.

What we now know as Clinton Hill first appeared on the map in 1832, when Clinton Avenue was added to the plans for an area known as “East Brooklyn.”

The area grew modestly until Pratt built his mansion at 232 Clinton Ave. in 1874. In subsequent years, he built homes at nos. 241, 229 and 245 Clinton Ave. for three of his sons; Pratt’s projects, coupled with the influx of prominent industrialists and businessmen, spurred a building boom between 1880 and 1915. The neighborhood remains known for its stately architecture.

Thanks to affordable rents and a mix of small businesses, neighborhood restaurants and student haunts, Clinton Hill today offers an agreeable quality of life at a cost lower than what you’ll find in nearby nabes such as Carroll Gardens or Park Slope.

And if the dedicated community activists have their way — Clinton Hill currently has three business improvement districts and is in the process of launching its own CSA — this neighborhood’s cache is going in one direction: up.

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Real Estate

Living in Clinton Hill offers quality of life at a reasonable price.

TO RENT

$2,600
2 bedroom apartment in co-op features open floor plan, large living room, lots of sunlight. Available February 2011. 201 Clinton Ave.
Contact Corcoran Realty, 212-941-2576

$2,000
Two-bedroom apartment in brownstone building with hardwood floors. Approx. 1,100 square feet.
Contact Elliman Rentals, 347-381-4146

$1,350
Studio apartment in elevator building with 24-hour doorman, hardwood floors, walk-in closet.
Contact Apts & Lofts, 347-859-9909

TO BUY

$749,000
Four-bedroom family townhome features hardwood floors, exposed brick, spiral staircase. 63 Putnam Ave.
Contact Weichert Realty, 917-692-1337

$599,000
2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment with large private terrace, floor-to-ceiling windows, modern kitchen. 609 Myrtle Ave.
Contact apts & lofts, 718-384-4402

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TO EAT

One of the boons of living in a quiet college neighborhood? Good eats that won’t break the bank.

Umi Nom
433 DeKalb Ave., 718-789-8806
When CIA grad (and native New Yorker) King Phojanakong opened his Filipino Pan-Asian restaurant on this remote block last year, foodies didn’t blink once before Hopstopping their way here. It’s that good, and nothing’s over  priced. Dishes ($8-$12) are meant to be shared.

Pilar Cuban Eatery
393 Classon Ave., 718-623-2822
You’ll only get a literary reference as clever as this one near an art school: “Pilar” was the name of the boat Hemingway owned while in Havana – and it just so happens the boat was built in Brooklyn (c. 1936). Check out the daily specials. 

Beny’s Delice
903 Fulton St., 718-622-1400
This stretch of Fulton Street is home to a number of Euro-inspired eateries including this new patisserie that’s open daily at 7 a.m. Start the day off right with La Colombe coffee and Beny’s breakfast, a Swiss cheese omelet sandwiched between rosemary bread and red pepper sauce.

Luigi Pizzeria
326 DeKalb Ave., 718-783-2430
This hole-in-the-wall joint located near Pratt’s main gates has had the local slice business locked down for more than 30 years. Just last year, they opened a sit-down restaurant, The 3 Luigis, nearby on Grand Avenue.

Le Grand Dakar
285 Grand Ave., 718-398-8900
Clinton Hill has some great African restaurants. Start your tour here, where Senegal-born chef Pierre Thiam (and award-winning cookbook author) turns out pan-African dishes with big flavors.

Choice Market
318 Lafayette Ave., 718-230-5234
In just four years this casual cafe with a boho vibe — think communal wooden tables, fair trade coffee — has become a neighborhood institution. The rosemary BLT is the way to go. Some of the day’s pastries are only $1.50 after 5 p.m.

TO PARTY

Between the newcomers and the old standbys, there’s no shortage of local spots at which to kick back and relax.

The Outpost
1014 Fulton St., 718-636-1260
This venue — with great food, nighttime beer specials and a laid-back, West Coast kind of vibe — is the kind of local spot that will make you want to move closer. ’Nuf said.

Tip Top Bar & Grill
432 Franklin Ave., 718-857-9744
Every nabe needs a good dive bar and for locals, this joint on the fringes of Bed-Stuy is it. Juke box, stiff drinks, personable bar staff, they’ve got the whole nine yards.

Fulton Grand Bar
1011 Fulton St., 718-399-2240
A relative newcomer to the neighborhood, this narrow bar on a quirky triangle corner has large panoramic windows and an old-timey feel: think vintage beer ads and tin ceilings. It’s the latest from the folks behind Washington Commons in Prospect Heights and 4th Avenue Pub in Park Slope.

TO SEE

Clinton Hill’s public art is a true reflection of the neighborhood’s diverse roots.
Pratt Sculpture Park

Pratt Institute’s manicured grounds are the backdrop to a rotating selection of contemporary works. The campus is open to the public during the day.
(Enter via the gate at Hall Street and DeKalb Avenue.)

Ol’ Dirty Bastard mural
On the corner of Putnam and Franklin Streets
The family of the former Wu-Tang Clan member (and Bed-Stuy local) commissioned this mural by Victor Goldfeld as a memorial after the rapper’s death.

Corridor Gallery
334 Grand Ave.,
718-230-5002
Run by the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation — founded by brothers Russell, Danny and Joseph Simmons — the gallery features contemporary, often experimental, works by emerging  artists. Call in advance as they’re mostly open by appointment.

Rubelle and Norman Schafler Gallery
200 Willoughby Ave.,
Chemistry Building, 1st Fl., 718-636-3517
This on-campus gallery is an exhibition space for students, faculty and alumni. The current show, “Schalfer@25,” revisiting six influential shows from the past 25 years, including “9/11: Pratt Artists Respond.” It’s up through Jan. 21.

TO SHOP

The neighborhood’s main commercial drags are Myrtle Avenue and Fulton Street, but you’ll find gems tucked away on the side streets, too.

Green in Bklyn
432 Myrtle Ave.,
718-855-4383
This eco-conscious boutique stocks everything from locally made greeting cards to sustainable housewares. More often than not, owner Elissa Olin is on hand to answer questions — or give your pooch a treat.

Brooklyn Victory Garden
920 Fulton St.,
718-398-9100
This so-called urban general store stocks only locally and sustainably sourced food and gift items such as Brooklyn Slate cheese plates, Blue Stove pies, handmade jewelry and local meats and cheeses. Currently, we’re  loving their “Avant Gardener” tees.

Grady’s
Collective Market
923 Fulton St.,
no phone
An innovative adaptation turns this deep storefront into a mini bazaar featuring such gems as vintage-looking Brooklyn photography, vegan handbags, an antiques booth and a custom framing shop. FYI: They’re looking for interns.

Prattstore
550 Myrtle Ave.,
718-789-1105
Pratt Institute’s official store is a sprawling, 15,000-square-foot space and houses Brooklyn’s largest art supply store.  For bookworms, the selection of art books isn’t too shabby, either.

Q&A

Growing up in Clinton Hill, Emily Hazelwood never imagined that one day she and her sister, Elizabeth, would become local entrepreneurs. Yet just this past spring, the sisters, 23 and 26 respectively, opened Urban Vintage, a charming cafe and vintage boutique on Grand Avenue.

You’ve lived here your entire life. What makes Clinton Hill unique?

It’s very diverse in terms of where everyone comes from … [and] Pratt’s in the area which means that there are always a lot of creative minds around. … It has a really good vibe, which comes from the people and the atmosphere.

What do you think the neighborhood will look like in five or 10 years?

It will inherently look kind of similar. A lot of what I like about it is the history that it has, that sort of permanence about it. With all of the new construction and new residents and minds coming in, a lot of vibrancy comes with it. Things will be only more new and interesting.

So you’re seeing a lot of innovation in the neighborhood?

There are definitely spaces that I grew up seeing that you would have never seen the potential residential and commercial use. My sister and I grew up across the street and [Urban Vintage] was a bodega. … I had been in here 100 times before we even thought of opening the store. It’s just completely new.

Pure white fiber glass, shaped into a women's head, by artist Phillip Grausman on the campus of Pratt University.

 

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