The goal was simple: find an apartment in leafy Fort Greene for under half a million dollars. It seemed like a no-brainer.
I searched The New York Times open house listings for under $500,000 in Fort Greene. Dozens of options presented themselves, many of them located on Clinton Avenue. Some were different apartments at the same address, but for the most part the options were sprinkled all over different addresses on the avenue. I decided to make Clinton Avenue the stomping ground for this week’s Your Open House. I planned to peruse the wide variety of Clinton Avenue apartments that were on the market and see just what the different options were.
Most of the listings funneled down into apartments at four different addresses: 185, 201, 209 and 210. The walk from the A/C subway stop down Washington Avenue was shady and tree-lined. With majestic manses, many owned by Pratt University, and ivy-deckled brownstones, the street seemed more akin to a quaint New England town than a C-train-accessible neighborhood in Brooklyn.
Turning down mid-gentrification Myrtle Avenue–corner stores now abutted Green in Brklyn homewares store and tony salon Karen’s Body Beautiful–I had high hopes for Fort Greene real estate. I turned up Clinton Avenue only to be sharply greeted by an unsettling cluster of Le Corbusier-style housing developments sheathed in dark, dull brick.
Much to my chagrin and utter confusion, I soon discovered that 185-210 Clinton Avenue were all addresses of different buildings in the Clinton Hill Apartments Complex, the Le Corbusier-inspired behemoth of a housing development. The Jenga-like maze pierced the otherwise brownstoned and low-roofed skies of the designated historic district.
A central security kiosk acted simultaneously as checking point and information center with different doors leading out to different paths toward the orbiting solar system of buildings. A bit like the Rear Window courtyard on steroids the mown grass and benches are surprisingly inviting. A middle-aged resident sat on one of the benches reading a thick hardcover with her mutt at her feet.
THE COMPLEX WAS BUILT soon after World War II, envisaged as housing for the families of men working in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It was designed along Le Corbusier’s vision of the housing development within the park by prominent contemporary architects Harrison, Foulihoux & Abromovitz who were responsible for, among others, Lincoln Center and the Time and Life Building.
Since the mid-1980s, it has been a cooperative and on this balmy Sunday about a dozen apartments were on the market, but I decided to keep my discussion to the three I think best represented the variety of living spaces available in Clinton Hill, as the apartment co-op is commonly referred. Most of the apartments are owner-occupied but about 25 percent are rented. Open-house flyers boast no board approval and owner upgrades.