WHERE TO GO
Brooklyn Academy of Music (multiple locations)
Mark Morris Dance Center
Fort Greene Park
211 DeKalb Ave.
195 DeKalb Ave.
Lulu & Po
154 Carlton Ave.
757 Fulton St.
But it is Madiba, a South African restaurant on DeKalb Avenue between Adelphi Street and Carlton Avenue, that demonstrates that it’s the people who make the neighborhood unique. Owner Mark Henegan, a South Africa native, has been serving traditional cuisine here since 1999. It was his dream to come to New York, and he says Fort Greene “is the best place to live in the U.S. It’s one of the last few gems in New York City.”
When I meet Mark for a drink in Madiba’s bar, it is instantly clear how much he values neighborhood unity. As we sit on leather stools tasting South African wines and traditional dishes of lamb and sausage, he talks about the importance of community. “You only get back what you put out into the world,” he says. This motto has not only helped him make Madiba a social and cultural hub of Fort Greene, but has also inspired his emphatic support of area schools, churches and public programs.
Local restaurateurs and bar owners also seem to support all businesses instead of creating cutthroat neighborhood competition. Matt Hamilton, chef and owner of the new local eatery Lulu & Po, says the tight-knit network of chefs is one reason he chose Fort Greene for his venture. His small, 29-seat restaurant sits on a hidden corner of tree-lined Carlton Avenue with a stunning view of the Empire State Building, and support from the businesses around him as well as the community’s patronage have been crucial to his success. Lulu & Po’s menu offers a creative array of comforting dishes (“iron” pressed firehouse chicken) and daring plates (bone-marrow tacos or Spanish octopus).
Beyond the art and food hot spots, one place in the neighborhood always brings people together regardless of race, economics or age: Fort Greene Park. Early in the Revolutionary War, Gen. Nathanael Greene built Fort Putnam on the high ground of the park. It was a key part of the Battle of Brooklyn, and it’s the origin of the neighborhood’s name.
This historic site is now a public space, serving as an anchor for community events and outdoor activities. That includes the Fort Greene Park Summer Literary Festival, which is hosted by the New York Writers Coalition and consists of workshops and public readings that help promote creativity and literature among young writers.
On Saturdays, it seems as if the whole neighborhood stops by the farmers market at the southeast corner of Fort Greene Park, which supports growers from throughout the Northeast. Even Fort Greene’s canine contingent comes together for early morning, off-leash playtime — something I look forward to on my daily morning walk through the park.
With so many people and businesses striving to make Fort Greene a harmoniously integrated neighborhood, it’s encouraging to feel the balance. This is a true example of how New York City brings people from all walks of life together to create a stronger community. My personal haven of South Portland Avenue is beautiful, but it’s the people who keep me loyal to Fort Greene.
Annie Shustrin is a Brooklyn-based travel writer and blogger. She has visited more than 30 countries and has tasted the local wine in almost every one of them.