People living in the swath of land between Washington and Bedford avenues greeted news of the – “Pro-Cro” – with a scoff or perhaps a derisive laugh.
But one area pol is not amused.
Prospect Heights Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries is planning to introduce legislation that would prevent brokers from making up new neighborhood names and changing the boundaries.
“Currently real estate brokers are permitted to create neighborhoods out of thin air and change boundaries without regard to a community’s history culture or tradition,” Jeffries said.
Corcoran, for example, has jettisoned Prospect Height's traditional eastern boundary of Washington in favor of Bedford Avenue.
“I think there is festering dismay at neighborhoods and their boundaries being wiped off the map simply because some in the real estate community decide that original name is undesirable,” he said.
Name and boundary changes artificially raise rents, push established residents out and fool the newcomers, who might think they’re in a better school district or police precinct then they actually are, he said.
Although Jeffries, who grew up in Crown Heights on Rogers and now lives on Underhill, is most concerned about Pro-Cro, he’s got a beef about other nabe name changes too, such as Little Italy to Nolita and Greenwood Heights carved out of Sunset Park.
The legislation, which he plans to introduce next week, would apply across the city (but not statewide) and would require the city council to create a process of public hearings and approval for those interested in changing or creating a neighborhood name.
Councilwoman Letitia James, who said she grew up on 10th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues and said she understood the sentiment.
“I grew up in south Brooklyn and it’s now Park Slope,” she said.
She called the practice of changing boundaries “an insult for people who have lived there for generations and generations.”
But, she added, “I don’t know how you can enforce it.”
A Corcoran spokeswoman declined to comment on the legislation, but Peggy Aguayo, of Aguayo Realty Group, and who has been selling real estate in Prospect Heights since the 1980s, said she tries to call a neighborhood “what it is."
She doesn’t think the law is necessary and would rather see legislators worry about fixing the schools or other issues.
“But,” she added, if someone is truly “troubled” about the issue, she has no problem with the legislation going forward.
Many area residents were similarly mixed on the proposal.
While all of those interviewed scoffed at the name “Pro-Cro,” and agreed that the area was indeed Crown, not Prospect Heights, they were split on whether legislating is a good idea.
Isaac Morgan, a 50-year-old super in a Crown Heights building, was all for it.
He lived on Sterling between Franklin and Bedford for 26 years but said last year his landlord “forced him out” and re-rented his $1,000-a-month two-bedroom for $2,600 a month. Morgan now lives in Staten Island.
“I couldn’t afford anything around here,” he said.
Rick Morrison, a 41-year-old resident who is studying to be an X-ray technician, was mixed.
“When you change a name you’re trying to wipe the slate clean. What about the people who have stayed (throughout the bad times) and changed the neighborhood?” he said.
“If I have to stand up for Crown Heights I’ll stand up for Crown Heights,” he said.
“But," he added, "if I have to sell a property based on the name, then I’ll sell it based on the name.”
He agreed that gentrification has brought a sting of upscale restaurants to the area. But, he said, “we can’t even eat at one of these places, the fries are like $5.”
Lily Johnson-Dibia, who opened the upscale Franklin Avenue bakery Lily and Fig three years ago (and who makes a point of having cookies starting at 50 cents to fit all income levels), said she thinks the name should remain Crown Heights.
“I understand wanting to change the neighborhood but that can happen with the name Crown Heights,” she said.
However, she said, "I don’t think legislation is required. I don’t get the sense that people who live here are very upset about the name changes."
Several people who have moved to the neighborhood in the last year or so said they didn’t think about its name when searching for an apartment, but chose the area for its proximity to subway lines and the city. Most of them said they thought of it as Crown Heights.
“I understand neighborhoods are changing, but I live in Crown Heights and I say I live in Crown Heights,” said James Beard (no relation to the foodie), a 28-year-old who works at a restaurant and moved to Sterling Place between Franklin and Bedford this past fall.
Katy Walker, a 28-year-old doctoral student in history at NYU, said she thought renters were savvy enough to read between the Craig’s List lines.
“I can’t imagine someone getting to their apartment and two weeks later saying, ‘Son of a (gun), ‘ I’m living in Crown Heights!’” she said.
Plus, she added, “What is the enforcement mechanism going to be? Why pass something you can’t even enforce?”