Fort Greene, NYC: A Country Within a City

Acclaimed for its namesake park, Fort Greene is a little country within a city. Only a 10-minute subway ride from Manhattan, it offers a nice time-out from the New York hysteria without boring you in the process.

 

 

Sandwiched between Downtown Brooklyn and Clinton Hill, Fort Greene has always been adored for its eclectic environment made up of people of all different ages, races and income levels. While a steady flow of Manhattan deserters has marked the latest decade of the area’s history, it has luckily managed to dodge the homogenization that characterizes Brooklyn neighborhoods such as Williamsburg.

It’s Fort Greene’s balance of old and new community bonds that gives this place something special – a feeling of being lovingly worn-in

Strolling down Fulton Street you may feel like you’re in – yeah, I’m going to say it – Notting Hill; but with some added flavor. Afro-American music blasts from a push-cart stand where an elderly man in dreadlocks flips meat on a grill; a group of Latinos sip Corona on a tattered sofa on the street corner; screaming kids flip cartwheels and chase an ice cream truck; strollers dot the street lined with residents relaxing on their stoops as the day winds down. You pass the local bookshop, the fresh food market, the family-owned butchery and Frank’s Cocktail Lounge that sells mixed drinks for seven bucks. And while you can find all this in other tucked away pockets of New York, it’s Fort Greene’s balance of old and new community bonds that gives this place something special – a feeling of being lovingly worn-in.

Habana Outpost, Fort Greene, Brooklyn, NYC

Habana Outpost in Fort Greene,
Brooklyn

It was in the 1850’s that Fort Greene became known as the home of prosperous professionals. The pre-Civil War framed houses were replaced by the characteristic Italianate brick and brownstone buildings. But the majority of homes were still owned by middle-income Afro-Americans and the neighborhood owes much of its cultural heritage to them.

Some 20 years after New York State outlawed slavery in 1827, Brooklyn’s first school for Afro-Americans opened. And after the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s, black cultural groups in the performing arts, music and film scene have gathered in Fort Greene. The area was the stomping ground for such writers as Walt Whitman and John Steinbeck and is now the home of influential institutions like The Brooklyn Academy of Music and MoCADA. Today, the artistic curiosity is continued on by newcomers in the creative profession who appreciate the picturesque construction and the mellow ambiance.

So why then, given so much praise of the neighborhood, has it not already become an amusement park for tourists, or a dreadful hipster mecca?

Fort Greeners railed against makeover plans for the Fort Greene Park, making it clear that any renovation must include perks for the community

Well, things have no doubt already changed: the area has moved from the city guides’ “If you can find the time” section to the “Must do” list. New office and housing property are being built and prices are slowly climbing. But the tight-knit community has been effective at holding off complete gentrification.

As recent as May this year, Fort Greeners railed against makeover plans for the Fort Greene Park, making it clear that any renovation must include perks for the community: not just a fancy façade to attract gentrifiers, as the Brooklyn Paper reported. The sprawling 30-acre park stands as the neighborhood’s centerpiece and serves as a backyard for those living in its surrounding public housing apartments. More greenery, more intimate spaces, and not more pavement, was the message of the residents.

Soul summit Festival in Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn

Soul summit Festival in Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn

There are also external factors that may have slowed down tourism and a flood of new residents – like the absence of a late-night party scene. While Fort Greene doesn’t have an exactly suburban vibe, it’s not the place for ravers and club goers. It’s rather the low-key restaurant and affordable cocktail lounges that attract the crowds.

The area also has a lower number of Airbnb housing in comparison to other popular Brooklyn neighborhoods. Places directly connected to the L-train, like Williamsburg and Bushwick, are jam-packed with hosts renting out their space, just like the most popular Manhattan areas: but Fort Greene’s Airbnb scene is starting to catch up.

Despite the remarkable resistance this place has shown to gentrification, some Fort Greeners fear that the battle may soon be lost. As the L-train is scheduled to shut down in less than two years, hundreds of thousands of commuters will be affected, and many of those living in areas with few subway alternatives are likely to pack their bags. While the renovations will probably trigger a reverse migration – pushing people to move back to Lower Manhattan from across the bridge – many will look to other Brooklyn areas and, as for Fort Greene, we can only hope that the atmosphere can sustain another wind of change.

Pizza Loves Emily,

Pizza Loves Emily, 919 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11238

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Café Paulette

Café Paulette, South Elliott Place, Brooklyn, État de New York, États-Unis

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LaRina

LaRina Pastificio & Vino, Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn, État de New York, États-Unis

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Walter's

Walter's, 166 Dekalb Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, État de New York 11217, États-Unis

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Habana Outpost

Habana Outpost, 757 Fulton St, Brooklyn, New York, État de New York 11217, États-Unis

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Prospect

Prospect, 773 Fulton St, Brooklyn, New York, État de New York 11217, États-Unis

Frank's Cocktail Lounge

Frank's Cocktail Lounge, 660 Fulton St, Brooklyn, New York, État de New York 11217, États-Unis

Dick and Jane's

Dick and Jane’s, Adelphi Street, Brooklyn, État de New York, États-Unis

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Baby Jane

Baby Jane, Fulton Street, Brooklyn, État de New York, États-Unis

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Greenlight Bookstore

Greenlight Bookstore, 686 Fulton St, Brooklyn, New York, État de New York 11217, États-Unis

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Greene Grape Wine & Spirits

Greene Grape Wine & Spirits, 765 Fulton St, Brooklyn, New York, État de New York 11217, États-Unis

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Moshood Creations

Moshood Creations, 698 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11217

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To Eat

Pizza Loves Emily
919 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11238
 


 
Small gourmet eatery serving wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas and a famous burger; one of the best in the Tri-State area.
www.pizzalovesemily.com

Café Paulette
1 S Elliott Pl, Brooklyn, NY 11217
 


 
Charming bistro serving traditional French cuisine and organic wines.
cafepaulette.com

LaRina
387 Myrtle Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11205
 


 
Italian tavern with patio serving traditional handmade pastas, cocktails and beers.
larinabk.com

Walter’s
166 Dekalb Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217
 


 
Trendy American eatery, spun off from the Williamsburg original.
walterfoods.com

Habana Outpost
757 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11217
 


 
This cozy outdoor eatery serves Cuban-Mexican cuisine, but is closed in the winter
www.habanaoutpost.com

Prospect
773 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11217
 


 
Classy New American restaurant with a refined wine and cocktail list.

To Drink

Frank’s Cocktail Lounge
660 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11217
 


 
Retro joint serving up affordable drinks alongside DJs, dancing and live jazz.

Dick and Jane’s Bar
266 Adelphi St, Brooklyn, NY 11205
Baby Jane
899 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11238
 


 
Hidden tile-lined bar serving top notch cocktails.
dickandjanes.nyc

To Shop

Greenlight Bookstore
686 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11217
 


 
Community-funded gathering spot with poetry readings, sing a longs and book talks by local authors.
www.greenlightbookstore.com

Greene Grape Wine & Spirits
765 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11217
 


 
One-stop food market with wine, cheese and prepared foods – a good deal is Brooklyn made.
www.greenegrape.com

Moshood Creations
698 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11217
 


 
African apparel store opened in the ´90s. If it’s not your style, then just go for the ambiance.
afrikanspirit.com

Video directed and edited by Tony Lin

Carl-Johan Karlsson is a freelancer writer based in New York but made in Stockholm. He is also a decent bartender and an excellent chess player.
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