Mauricio Lorence has lived in Clinton Hill more than half his life. Photo: Gabrielle Sierra
Though we’re fans (and publishers) of neighborhood guides and lists of where to eat right now, we also recognize that they tend to follow trends and overlook neighborhood gems. To that end, we’ve started a new series called Neighborhood Expert in which we chat with a longtime local for the scoop on their favorite spots and their take on how the area has changed.
Name: Mauricio Lorence
Neighborhood: Clinton Hill
How long have you been in Clinton Hill?
It is going to be 41 years—it has been a long time. When my family first immigrated to New York from Panama, we lived in Bed-Stuy for two years. And I spent about 20 years in Park Slope. But I moved to Clinton Hill when I was about 29–30 years old. My mother, brother, sister-in-law—we bought a brownstone.
For how much?
Oh, about $40,000. You could have gotten two houses for $20,000 at that time depending on the block; people were giving them away. Now people come by the house or call us up, ask if we are selling. I tell them, if you want it give me $90 million. But the thing is, black and Hispanics in the neighborhood have been encouraged to say no. Otherwise we would all be getting pushed out of the neighborhood. But of course, when we first moved in, it was different times. I remember Myrtle Avenue when no one wanted to walk on it.
Do you think people feel safer now?
They do. The thing is, they feel safer because of the renovations, the changes that have taken place, the fact that there is security around. But the neighborhood declined because people had moved to the suburbs to live. There wasn’t a variety of restaurants and things like that, that you have now around Clinton Hill and Fort Greene.
It has always been a family place though, very family oriented. Before I moved here, I used to come because I had a friend here. We used to go party, it was the 1960s, we would cross over the park and party. There was a church, St. Edwards, and they had dances, and we used to go dancing. I used to walk a lot on Fulton Street, check everything out. I had a job as a proof reader at one point, and we had the late shift which ended at 2am, and when people were leaving, everyone was trying to get taxis back home because there was nothing going on in Clinton Hill and no way to get home.
What about the subway system?
The train stop was there, but it would close. When John Lindsay was mayor the subway stations remained open. But after that they started closing them earlier, and the Clinton/Washington stop would close at about 10–11pm. Everyone knew it was about the neighborhood around the stations. It wasn’t a trendy place so the MTA would do it, close the gates. But once the area started coming back up the subway exits would be open. I remember when the G was not a good train, coming from Queens, that was a bad train.
Do you ever see tension between the old residents and the new? (more…)