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Newcomers stir Crown Heights melting pot

Craig Judelman, left, owner of the Cool Pony

Craig Judelman, left, owner of the Cool Pony boutique on Franklin Avenue in Brooklyn's Crown Heights section, helps Shannon Tyler look for an album. (Oct. 25, 2013) Credit: Linda Rosier

The north-central Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights, once associated with high crime and racial tension, has transformed into a hot spot for young artists, entrepreneurs and foodies.

Known for its large Caribbean community, which thrives alongside a large population of Hasidic Jews, Crown Heights is mainly a melting pot of the two cultures with a few others sprinkled in.

On the main streets, restaurants, bakeries and coffee shops reflect its diversity and changing demographics as younger people move in.

The neighborhood suffered strife as tensions between the Caribbean and Hasidic community flared up and erupted into three days of riots in 1991. But today most of that tension has dissolved.

The area is famous for its annual West Indian Day Parade, held on Eastern Parkway on Labor Day. But lately other events have been popping up and taking hold, including the Crown Heights Film Festival and the Franklin Avenue Reading Series.

As Crown Heights continues to change it retains its neighborhood feel.


Gloria's Caribbean Cuisine, 764 Nostrand Ave.

Gloria's is well-known for its authentic Caribbean dishes, ranging from curry chicken with roti to stewed oxtails, and for traditional drinks such as ginger beer and sorrel. 718-773-3476

Barboncino, 781 Franklin Ave.

No corner of Brooklyn is untouched by the New York City pizza renaissance, and Crown Heights boasts this rustic spot with classic Neapolitan pies. Toppings include clams, sopressata picante or artichoke and smoked pancetta. 718-483-8834,

Breukelen Coffee House, 764 Franklin Ave.

Part of the growing cafe scene in Crown Heights, Breukelen boasts a laid-back atmosphere perfect for people-watching. There's drip coffee, espresso drinks and Stumptown cold brew on tap, plus pastries by Balthazar. 718-789-7070,

The Crown Inn, 724 Franklin Ave.

An array of affordable drinks (all cocktails $9) and a friendly atmosphere make this a neighborhood hot spot. 347-915-1131,


Brooklyn Children's Museum, 145 Brooklyn Ave.

Reportedly the first museum in the world created for children (in 1899), it features interactive exhibits and events such as Try It Tuesdays! when kids can explore science, art and language. 718-735-4400,

FiveMyles Gallery, 558 St. Johns Place

This exhibition and performance space features many emerging artists from the Caribbean to East Africa. 718-783-4438,

Cool Pony, 733 Franklin Ave.

This boutique offers vintage clothing and records. It also doubles as a performance space for folk music and open mic sessions. 347-927-4718

Franklin Park, 618 St. Johns Place

This popular beer hall and garden hosts a monthly reading series; the short fiction night on Monday brings out authors Ben Marcus, Chinelo Okparanta and others. Admission is free, and pints are $4. 718-975-0196,

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