Victorian Flatbush is latest for gentrification

Victorian Flatbush is latest for gentrification
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Sleek and cheeky, fresh-faced as the young urban professionals and artists who are its target market, Café Madeline, on Cortelyou Road near E. 16th Street, symbolizes the new Victorian Flatbush.

The six-week-old coffee bar is in the heart of the neighborhood, which is roughly bounded by the Parade Grounds, the Long Island Rail Road tracks and Coney Island and Bedford avenues.

It serves coffee for $2.50 per cup — and it is bustling with laptop-tapping customers.

“I love it here,” said newcomer Rachel Sherman, who is feeding her young daughter chunks of waffle. “It’s wonderful. There are so many moms.”

The café’s patrons, for the most part, live nearby, and many have moved in recently, drawn by the neighborhood’s housing stock, affordable prices and proximity to public transportation, as well as the neighborhood’s diversity.

How diverse? In 2000, the Census tract that includes Cortelyou Road was the most varied in the entire nation. But as Manhattanites and refugees from Brownstone Brooklyn move in, housing prices have soared — and diversity is threatened.

Between 2000 and 2009, according to the Census, the number of white residents increased 21.8 percent and the number of Asian residents increased 18.3 percent, as the percent of black residents dropped 15.3 and Hispanic residents declined by five percent.

A major ingredient in the shift is the rising cost of shelter. In Caton Park, the area’s northernmost enclave, house values soared 171 percent in nine years. One Ditmas Park house that sold in 2002 for $775,000 was re-sold last year for $1.125 million.

It’s the co-ops that are bringing in new residents, said real estate broker Jan Rosenberg. “They’re more affordable for first-time homeowners.”

The shift, which is happening slowly, has begun to make long-time residents a little nervous.

“I grew up in the neighborhood — and even though I’m the clientele that all the new stores are catering to, I don’t want the neighborhood to become all me,” said Miriam Aranoff, who was having coffee at Qathra, another new coffeehouse on Cortelyou Road. “I want the diversity to be preserved.”

Braves? Braves?! Ben Dicks moved to the area from Atlanta eight months ago.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini