What you’ll pay: $499,000
What you’ll get: A two-bedroom condo with new fixtures and a roof deck
Distance to midtown: 30 minutes on the B or Q
Boasting historic homes and a single-train commute to Manhattan, Prospect-Lefferts Gardens is one of the last affordable neighborhoods near Prospect Park. Priced out of Park Slope, scores of new families are moving to this diverse community. “We’re close to everywhere I want to go in Brooklyn,” says Sharan Ali, mom of 11-year-old Jazmin, She and her daughter moved into a newly renovated two-bedroom apartment at the end of 2006. For Ali, who is from Trinidad, the area’s Caribbean lilt was irresistible. “When I saw my block, I saw the island.”
The rectangular neighborhood just off the park runs east from Ocean to New York Avenues and south from Empire Boulevard to Clarkson Avenue. Stock includes both single-family homes and apartments. “A two-bedroom co-op ranges from $299,000 to $450,000, whereas a house can sell for between $649,000 and $1.5 million, depending on the size and location,” says broker Hakim Edwards of Prudential Douglas Elliman. Prices have gone up 8 percent in the last year, though the neighborhood still doesn’t have the same name recognition as nearby Kensington, where Ali initially looked. “I found my apartment by sheer accident,” she says. “It was the last stop of the day, but when I walked in and saw how the light spread across the living room and kitchen, I was convinced.”
Many buyers are interested in Lefferts Manor, a landmarked eight-block district with impressive late-19th- and early-20th-century neo-Federal row homes. New developments include the Lefferts South condos and a Karl Fischer building that boasts snazzy add-ons like roof decks, Jacuzzi tubs and heated floors.
Unfortunately, the hike in prices doesn’t quite reflect the neighborhood’s services as of yet. “People feel that public schools here don’t compare to those in Park Slope,” says Edwards, though schools like P.S. 92, where reading and math scores are now steadily on the rise, have improved. P.S. 181 has an excellent gifted and talented program, and the Maple Street School, a well-regarded cooperative pre-K, offers after-school music classes to local kids. Dirty streets are a common complaint among residents, along with traffic noise and graffiti. “The neighborhood needs a manicure and a pedicure,” Ali says.
Many consider easy access to Prospect Park to be one of Prospect-Lefferts Gardens’ best qualities. The Audubon Center at the Boathouse is nearby, as are the Lincoln Road Playground and the Children’s Corner, home to the carousel and the Prospect Park Zoo. Restaurants and lounges are popping up with increasing frequency: The two-year-old K-Dog & Dunebuggy (43 Lincoln Rd between Flatbush and Ocean Aves) is popular with families for its comfy atmosphere and café fare, and Ali’s Roti (589 Flatbush Ave between Midwood St and Rutland Rd) serves authentic Trinidadian street food called doubles, a curried chickpea sandwich made with fried bread.
Ultimately, Prospect-Lefferts Gardens is a good buy for families looking for a more affordable (for the moment) version of their favorite Brooklyn nabes. As families continue to move in, services are likely to improve, but even now, the changes are palpable. “I tried the suburbs and hated it,” Ali says. “Here, I feel a building sense of community. Just outside my window there are people gardening and cleaning. I’m so glad we moved here.”
Bottom line: A neighborhood in transition hugs the eastern edge of Prospect Park.