I recently moved from Hell's Kitchen back to Crown Heights, where I lived from 2008 to 2010.
I liked Hell's Kitchen--especially the fact that it has lots of great restaurants. You could eat food of a different nationality every night of the week. We used to eat at Totto Ramen and 5 Napkin Burger a lot. I also really enjoyed the convenience of Hell's Kitchen--mostly because I could walk to work.
It was also nice to be near the Theater District. Of course, the proximity to that neighborhood and to Times Square meant there were tons of tourists walking (slowly) everywhere, so that could be annoying.
My pre-war doorman building on West 49th and Eighth Avenue had a lot of tenants who had been there for a while, including young professionals and a smattering of theater folks.
Our apartment was a two-bedroom and the rent was $2,900 a month. It was pretty cheap because it hadn't been renovated and the kitchen was falling apart. Sometimes you'd open a cabinet door and it would just fall off.
After seven months, I left for personal reasons and came back to Crown Heights, where there have been huge changes since I lived there several years ago.
It used to be this neighborhood that a lot of my friends hadn't heard of. Gentrification hadn’t started at all, the way it already had in Prospect Heights. Now they’re calling my area Prospect Heights (though I'd argue the boundary stops at Washington Avenue to the East and Eastern Parkway to the South).
There used to be one bar in my neighborhood--Franklin Park--and just when I was leaving, Washington Commons opened. Now all of Franklin Avenue from my apartment to Eastern Parkway is restaurants, bars and yoga places. It has a Bedford Avenue feel to it, but the infrastructure is so much more beautiful than in Williamsburg. The brownstones are really beautiful.
Transportation is the best part about the neighborhood--the 2,3,4,5,C,E and Q are all really close. It takes me about 45 minutes door-to-door to get to work in Midtown (the train's about 40 minutes).
The neighborhood could feel quite dangeous last time I lived here. I remember walking down Franklin Avenue alone and it was intimidating, but I don't feel that way anymore. I think that feeling is a welcome change for people in the neighborhood.
My new apartment, on Franklin Avenue and Park Place, is a renovated four-bedroom which is $4,000 a month. It's on the first-floor of a walk-up building and we have a backyard. Plus we're close to Prospect Park and there are a lot of little community gardens everywhere so we have a lot of access to outdoor space. It's also nice to be near all established bars and hang-out spots in Prospect Heights.
Prices are definitely going up here, but there are still good deals to be found on real estate.
When people tell me they're looking to move to Williamsburg or East Williamsburg I always tell them to try Crown Heights too. I really like living here. It's still a bit edgy, but also homey. It's also fun to watch it change.