I was on my way to work recently when I noticed Park Place in Prospect Heights totally shut down to cars. Only one remained: a purple mini cooper on the block between Flatbush and Vanderbilt. A tow truck scooped it up and made way for huge trucks to rip up the pavement. For a few weeks, it was difficult to cross the street. Small pebbles would wedge themselves into the soles of my shoes. Wind kicked up dust on Vanderbilt. I held my breath.
A lot of people have been holding their breath in Prospect Heights and Crown Heights lately, waiting for the potential onslaught of new residents. Brand new buildings at various stages of being finished sit mostly empty along Washington Avenue between Eastern Parkway and Fulton Streets. Last Sunday I noticed the first open house sign, for a typical floor-to-ceiling glass palace between Dean and Bergen Streets. The sign says prices start at $379K. The building, conveniently, has a two-car garage.
On my roof last weekend, I noticed the first of my new neighbors was also enjoying the outdoors, from a penthouse terrace at Grand Avenue and Bergen Street. Storefronts are readying for the transformation. One block alone has two Caribbean-themed eateries and a coffee joint on the way. The small natural market on Washington and St. Mark’s resides next to Kinky Krowns, a barber shop. Now that spring is upon us, the farmer’s market in Grand Army Plaza is bringing more fresh fruit and vegetables so buying fresh food in the neighborhood is far more appealing.
With Vanderbilt Avenue nearby for nightlife and three major train lines surrounding it – the Q/B, C and 2/3 – Washington Avenue is just on the verge of become one of Brooklyn’s most appealing strips. But to whom? Hopefully that appeal will be more tasteful than Williamsburg’s high rises, and less snotty then Park Slope’s refurbished Brownstones. For now, at least, the neighborhood stands as an example of diversity and hopefully will stay that way.
One could argue that the poor state of the credit market could make it difficult to secure financing for these futuristic looking condos, but at least a few people have done just that, as evidenced by the curtains appearing in windows.
Much of the notable tension that you encounter as you round any of the side streets that deposit onto Washington Avenue is a result of what everyone in the neighborhood knows is going to happen, but will only talk about in hushed tones. The newly paved streets, the brownstone makeovers and the glass houses that dot many of Brooklyn’s neighborhoods these days are a tremendous improvement on the long-neglected infrastructure of the borough. Yet, it remains to be seen if boom or bust will prove to be the fortune of those who invested so heavily in its future, and who will benefit most coasting down our brand new sparkling asphalt.