What it’s really like to live in

Ditmas Park, Brooklyn

New York, USA

A small town in a big city

The first time I stepped off the subway and walked into Ditmas Park…I was so confused. Where was I? Where had the city gone? I had no idea that Brooklyn had charming Victorian houses and the quintessential main street of a small town.

 

Ditmas Park in brief

If you don’t feel quite at home in New York City, but still want easy access to the opportunities it provides, Ditmas Park is for you.

You can have the Wall Street career, the glamorous parties, and the hip restaurant scene and still come home to a large home on a quiet, tree lined street.

  • Things to do
  • Affordability
  • Transit
  • Walkability

Downtown

Ditmas Park has several commercial strips, but the heart is Cortelyou between East 17th and Coney Island Avenue. Flatbush, Church, and Newkirk Ave are all lined with shops. Everything you need is within walking distance, which is a rarity in Brooklyn.

Things to do

Ditmas Park is home to the recently restored Kings Theatre. Before that, people likely knew the neighborhood because they’d gone to an event at Sycamore. Several neighborhood spots are foodie destinations, which makes it easy to get friends to visit but also means your neighborhood spot probably has a wait for a table.

Don’t forget about Prospect Park and Greenwood Cemetery. The neighborhood draws plenty of visitors to see the historic homes of Prospect Park South and the Dutch Reform Church.

Affordability

Affordability all depends on what you’re comparing it to. The price of a 1-bedroom in Ditmas Park will get you a nice house in most of America or a parking spot in Chelsea.

Safety

Ditmas Park is a safe neighborhood, on par with the rest of New York. I wouldn’t leave my bike unlocked or my door open, but I also felt safe walking around late at night. Other neighborhoods have issues with catcalling and street harassment.

There is considerable animosity regarding shifting demographics as housing prices in the neighborhood rise. If someone cuts you in line at a shop or bumps into you on the subway platform, expect them to mutter something about gentrification (to paraphrase it in polite terms) while they do it.

Transportation

The B/Q runs through Ditmas Park. The 2/5 and F/G flank the neighborhood, providing backup options. The B and Q have few stops, so the trip into Manhattan is considerably faster than the express 4/5 from Crown Heights.

There is also frequent bus service along several lines, although bunching means a bus that’s scheduled every five minutes is actually five busses every 25 minutes.

Driving

Lots of neighborhood residents have cars, although it seems like more hassle than its worth unless you’re commuting to Long Island or Queens. Street parking is generally available.

Weather

The neighborhood looks beautiful when it snows, thanks to lots of open space and greenery. Unfortunately, many homeowners (and even shops!) don’t bother to shovel the sidewalks. The city often fails to clear Newkirk Plaza, the sidewalks outside of subway stations, and the subway platforms themselves. Because the subway is open to the elements, service can be disrupted because of slick leaves, ice, or too much snow.

Ditmas Park is a great place to be in the summer. It’s one of the greenest neighborhoods in New York and often feels significantly cooler than the rest of the city. Plus, you’re so close to the beach and Prospect Park!

Housing

Ditmas Park is best known for the mansions of Prospect Park South, but the housing stock is actually quite diverse. Besides Victorian mansions, there are many more modest homes, a wide variety of townhouses, pre-war rentals and co-ops, and modern condos.

While there are quite a few rental buildings, the neighborhood has a much higher than average rate of homeowners than the rest of the city. If you rent in a co-op building you’ll need to get board approval and many buildings restrict the length of rentals to two-years out of every five.

Jobs

The neighborhood provides employment in retail, food & beverage, and light industry along Coney Island. Most residents commute into Manhattan (or occasionally downtown Brooklyn).

Education

New York has a complicated school system, I’m not even going to try to explain it. WNYC has a guide for you.

Brooklyn College is within walking distance, but of course there are dozens of other universities within commuting distance.

Living in Prospect Park South & downtown Flatbush

Prospect Park South and downtown Flatbush are divided by the subway tracks. They are two very different neighborhoods that share a subway stop.

Church Ave has a typical Brooklyn strip of bodegas and takeout spots, with scattered bits of retail and restaurants that tend to turn over annually. The intersection of Church and Flatbush is dotted with historic buildings from a time when Flatbush was an independent city. It became part of Brooklyn and eventually part of New York.

Prospect Park South is a planned community preserved as a historic district. People of color were banned from living in homes here, aside from as servants, until those sorts of laws were outlawed at the national level.

While the homes of downtown Flatbush are less…mansiony…they are a mix of once grand single family homes and pre-war apartment buildings. There’s the occasional 1960s building (or unfortunate renovation) thrown in the mix, but most of the buildings are stately and beautiful.

 

Living in Newkirk & Midwood

There are fewer apartment buildings south of Cortelyou. Newkirk Plaza and Midwood are quieter than the neighborhood to the north and it gets quieter as you approach Foster.

While it seems like there’s less going on as you get farther from the park, you have easy access to Brooklyn College and the many events it hosts. It also places you within easy reach of the Target and other big box stores at the end of the 2/5. If you’re in the mood for the beach, you can catch the Q35 to Fort Tilden and Riis Beach outside of Target.

Best of Brooklyn

Find the best places to explore, eat, drink, and work in Brookyn in our guides

My obsessions

Destinations

I skip the guidebooks in favor of urbex, talking to locals, and dumpster diving.

Living abroad

You don’t need luck, a sham marriage, or a career your parents brag about in order to live abroad.

Moving to Canada

Everything you need to know to move to Canada, from someone who's actually done it.

Adulting

Learn how to travel the world while making sure you stay out of jail and save for retirement.

History

I dig into the stories behind the cities I love.

As seen in