Real EstateCity LivingBrooklyn Kensington: Family-friendly neighborhood with plenty of culture By Candace Cordelia Special to amNewYork Updated March 30, 2016 3:14 PM Print Share fbShare Tweet Email In the quiet, family-friendly Kensington section of Brooklyn, it’s common to see parents and nannies walking with strollers down McDonald and Church avenues. The Kensington population is diverse and includes thriving Orthodox Jewish, Bangladeshi and Ukrainian micro-communities. But due to its friendly environment and proximity to Prospect Park, the neighborhood is getting more popular — not just for new residents, but also real estate developers and business owners. Though the 585-acre park offers family-friendly fun to a large swath of Brooklyn, the attractions within walking distance for Kensington residents include a lake and horseback riding stables. The local entrance into the park also leads to the Parade Grounds, which offers soccer and baseball fields along with indoor and outdoor tennis courts. Real estate developers have caught on to Kensington’s growing popularity, and several new buildings, including luxury residences at 231 and 130 Ocean Parkway, opened their doors in 2015. Adding to Kensington’s family-oriented vibe, a new middle school, M.S. 839, opened on Caton Avenue, on the border of Windsor Terrace, to meet the demand from new residents. But while some who work and live in the area are excited about its recent changes, others fear that rising real estate prices are likely to follow. Lifelong Kensington native Rosie Ortega, 27, is concerned about getting priced out. “The apartments are really expensive now. I’m not feeling good about that,” she said. The types of homes in the area range from prewar buildings, private Victorians and town houses, to multifamily homes, co-ops and condo buildings. As far as prices go, the median rental price in Kensington rose 4% between 2014 and 2015, from $1,872 in 2014 to $1,950, according to the listings site StreetEasy. The median asking sales price rose 20%, from $312,500 in 2014 to $375,000 in 2015, the site found. Prospective renters and buyers are likely to face some competition, according to David Germaine, 39, a real estate agent with the local Rapid Realty office, on Coney Island Avenue. People who can’t afford housing in more popular Brooklyn neighborhoods are setting their sights on Kensington, he said. “The demand for property in Kensington is very high,” Germaine said. But for Luis Rojas, 30, who works at Carmelitas Flowers — which opened on Dahill Road 11 years ago — new residents mean more customers. “The neighborhood is changing in a positive way. The environment is getting way better and cleaner. We have more space, parking lots and more [people] than before,” he said. “It’s a good thing [for Carmelitas Flowers] because we have more customers coming in.” Robin Wertheimer, co-owner of Werkstatt, an Austrian restaurant that opened this past fall on Coney Island Avenue, also said the neighborhood is improving. “There are a lot of new services, restaurants and bars in the area and plenty of demand for them,” she said. “There are so many young people moving in — a lot of people in their late 20s, early 30s.” Wertheimer said Kensington’s suburban feel and close-knit neighbors make it really feel like home. “There is a great network of parents and good schools,” she said. “The people are friendly, helpful and laid back — everyone knows everyone. I love it here.” Find it: Kensington is bordered by Caton Avenue and Fort Hamilton Parkway to the north; 36th Street down to Dahill Road to the west; Coney Island Avenue to the east; and Foster Avenue to the south, according to StreetEasy. Restaurants in Kensington Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner La Loba Cantina709 Church Ave.This eatery serves a simple menu of traditional Mexican food and a mile-long list of mezcal and tequila drinks.Lalobacantina.comHot Bagels127 Church Ave.This cash-only shop dishes out hot, fresh bagels, delicious pastries and monstrous cold-cut sandwiches.718-438-5650Hamilton's2826 Fort Hamilton ParkwayThe neighborhood restaurant only uses organic eggs, grass-fed beef and all-natural chicken in its breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner options.Hamiltonsbrooklyn.com Bars and clubs in Kensington Photo Credit: Michael Neff via Church Church Bar416 Church Ave.This dive bar exudes an unpretentious vibe and a basic selection of beers, wine and cocktails.718-435-2574Shenanigans802 Caton Ave.A laidback pub for lovers of karaoke and draft beer.718-633-3689 Where to shop Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner Shopyop374 E. Second St. #5CShopyop sells a great variety of designer clothing.917-414-6267Flatbush Optical743 Church Ave.The Kensington branch of Flatbush Optical, which has four different Brooklyn stores, offers eye exams, contact lenses and fashionable eyeglasses.Flatbushoptical.comBismillah Fabrics791 Coney Island Ave.Local seamstresses head here for cloths of all kinds.718-434-4049 Things to do in Kensington Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner Brooklyn Banya602 Coney Island Ave.Massages, platza leaf body treatments and delectable Russian delicacies can be found at this bathhouse spa and restaurant.Brooklynbanya.comBuzz-A-Rama69 Church Ave.Known as "the only place to race in Brooklyn, New York," the 51-year-old slot car raceway is a favorite among kids.Buzz-a-rama.comProspect ParkConey Island Avenue at Park CircleKensington residents can take a stroll, have a picnic or play a sport in the nearby park.Prospectpark.org Transit basics Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner TransportationTrains:F to Church Avenue, Ditmas Avenue and 18th AvenueG to Church AvenueBuses:B8, B16, B67, B68, B69, B103, BM1, BM2, BM3, BM4 Kensington real estate data Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner Median sales price: $375,000 Number of units on market: 241 Median rental price: $1,950 Number of units on market: 859 (Source: StreetEasy) The buzz Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner Kensington residents are getting a lesson in bureaucracy while trying to build a dog run in Prospect Park.To fund its construction, the community needs to raise $405,000 to cover the cost of everything from grass removal to drainage materials, permits and fencing.Whether they will get the money depends in part on votes from Kensington residents during a current community budget election.Sal Garro, president of the Kensington Dog Run Association, the nonprofit that's leading the cause, said the Central Brooklyn area is lacking in space for residents to let their pooches run free."Without the existence of a dog run, our community will continue to lack a much-needed resource for dog owners living in the neighborhood," he said.So far, the project has the support of Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams, City Council members Brad Lander and Mathieu Eugene, the city Parks Department and the Prospect Park Alliance.Lander, Eugene and Adams agreed to contribute some funds for the project, but only if the proposal gains a substantial number of votes from Brooklyn residents in Districts 39 and 40 through the city's Participatory Budgeting process -- which gives New Yorkers the power to vote on how to spend an allotted amount of tax money on projects in their communities.But even if the Kensington Dog Run Association gets all its funding, that will be just the beginning of a year-long process of further negotiations and planning.According to the Parks Department, a community input meeting would be the first point of business for the Kensington Dog Run Association if it receives funding in April.The voting process is now through April 3. For more info and polling locations, visit Kensingtondogrun.com. Q&A Jonathan Johnson, general manager at Lea restaurant Photo Credit: Caitlin Davis Jonathan Johnson, 27, is the General Manager of Lea, an Italian restaurant at 1022 Cortelyou Road that serves many Kensington residents.What does Lea contribute to the neighborhood?The biggest thing that keeps people coming back to Lea is that we try to foster a family atmosphere. We want anyone that comes through our doors to feel at home; to feel that their grandma is cooking for them. Nice, tidy and comfortable is our focus. We want our customers to feel as if they are experiencing something new, with a classic twist.How would you describe Kensington?There are a lot of changes going on, a lot of construction happening. There are a lot of new buildings going up, and old buildings being renovated. It's a really nice place for young families and older folks. It's also one of Brooklyn's smaller communities. You walk down the street and see people that you know and stop to talk to them. [Transplants] are able to build a community here for themselves.What are the changes that you have witnessed in Kensington in the past few years?There are all sorts of different things, as far as developments. I'm seeing buildings that have been sold and are being repurposed. However, businesses aren't popping up as frequently now as they were about two years ago. They are starting to slow, but there is more housing now. By Candace Cordelia Special to amNewYork Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Comments We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.