Crown Heights tour
Historic architecture, Caribbean heritage, Hasidic enclave, gentrification target.
Pieces of Crown Heights--the larger district of Crown Heights North and the smaller Lubavitcher Hasidic district--can be visited as an extension of the Brooklyn 101 tour, or an extension of the Bedford-Stuyvesant tour. Crown Heights also can be visited on its own, part of a full 2.5-hour tour.
Once an upper middle-class district in parts, and later far more rundown, Crown Heights has gone through a notable, if hardly uniform or uncontroversial, revival (see New York Times article) in the past several years, including an extensive new historic district.
It's at the heart of some recent gentrification debates, such as in the series from WNYC/The Nation called "There Goes the Neighborhood."
Crown Heights has numerous churches, some converted from elaborate theaters, one converted from a synagogue. And it contains not one but two children's museums: the Brooklyn Children's Museum, the first such museum in the country, and the Brooklyn Jewish Children's Museum.
A walk through Crown Heights offers many options. If we visit as an extension of the Brooklyn 101 tour, we can focus on the Hasidic enclave in Crown Heights South (described further here) then, if time, extend well beyond that area. If we visit as an extension of the Bedford-Stuyvesant tour, we'll start in Crown Heights North, the area with the most spectacular architecture.
If we focus exclusively on Crown Heights, we can see both Crown Heights North and Crown Heights South, and visit multiple shopping corridors, including fast-changing Franklin Avenue, near a major subway hub and full of new stores and restaurants--yet not without some random shootings. (Here's a photographer's project to capture the neighborhood.)
We'll see the remnants of Brooklyn's old automobile row and the grandeur of Grant Square, a hub for development of major apartment buildings and civic buildings. We can stop into a fantastic Trinidadian bakery and see three segments of the recent Crown Heights North historic district. We can see the Bedford-Union Armory, site of a controversial redevelopment plan, and--from a distance--the housing complex that replaced Ebbets Field, not far from Medgar Evers College.
Crown Heights contains rich African-American and Caribbean-American history. Consider: one house was home to Carlos Lezama, the man behind the West Indian Day Parade, and commemorates his work. It previously was the home to Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman in Congress.
Distance from Midtown Manhattan: 30-40 minutes by subway
Basic tour length: 2.5 hours (see fees)
Starting place: Varies, but typically near Eastern Parkway and Kingston Avenue
Ending place: Varies, but typically on Franklin Avenue near Eastern Parkway or Atlantic Avenue
Highlights: History, architecture, Jewish Brooklyn, West Indian culture, kosher bakery
Before tour: Visit Brooklyn Jewish Children's Museum
After tour: Eat/drink at Berg'n and many other options
Potential tour extensions with me: Brooklyn 101, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Prospect Heights neighborhood
Why I like leading this tour: A huge neighborhood with several subsections, Crown Heights deserves a closer look than media shorthand.