So you've decided to raise your family in Brooklyn. Good for you. The benefits are many and the drawbacks are, well, we're going to go with "few." Of course, that all depends on where you live, doesn't it? Obviously it does. Everything depends on where you live. If it didn't we would all just go live upstate in hipsturbia or wherever. Or, like, Philadelphia. But we're not giving up on life yet, are we? No. We're staying in Brooklyn. And as long as we're doing that, we might as well figure out the best place in Brooklyn to live with a family. There are a lot of things to consider and everyone's needs are different, so these neighborhood rankings might not work for you. And if your neighborhood didn't crack the Top 5, or maybe didn't even make it on the list at all, please feel free to explain why it is a totally great place to raise a child. I mean, your comment will still only be your opinion, while this list is definitive and scientifically-based, but whatever. If you don't trust science, I guess it's well within your rights to argue with me here.
There's nothing wrong with Bushwick, of course. And it's certainly the place to be right now if you don't have children. But everything that makes it so great for young, single creatives is kind of what makes it less than ideal for young families. Namely, there isn't a lot of green space. The public schools in Bushwick have traditionally been lacking, but there are some positive signs and the elementary school PS 196 has been showing great signs of improvement in recent years. That said, most of the cultural events in the area are directed toward adults, not families. This isn't a bad thing about Bushwick exactly. No neighborhood wants to get taken over by strollers. Really. That's a very specific and horrible kind of death.
11) Red Hook
Red Hook has a lot going for it in terms of family-focused resources. There's the ballfields and the public pool and all those bike lanes. Plus, you've got the waterfront and a lot of family-friendly eateries like the Red Hook Lobster Pound and Ft Defiance and IKEA, if you're into horse meat. But (and this is a big but), because of the lack of access to public transportation, Red Hook is isolated in a way that makes getting around with kids difficult. You might have to buy a car. And that's expensive. Which, also, Red Hook is expensive. And there isn't even a lot of housing stock available. So while Red Hook is definitely a great place to visit with kids, you really might not want to live there.
10) Brooklyn Heights
Brooklyn Heights! Why are you so far down the list? Oh right, it's because not only can we not afford to live in you, but we don't even know if we'd want to anymore. You've changed, Brooklyn Heights. Raising a child with you, well, even if we could afford to do it, we might prefer to spend that money elsewhere. Like the Upper East SIde? Because there's no difference between you and the Upper East Side anymore, Brooklyn Heights. You have the same private school culture, the same population division of Patagonia-clad young families and exquisitely dressed and perfectly accessorized octogenarian women. There's no difference! Except that the UES has all those museums. And you don't. You're just not worth it anymore, Brooklyn Heights. Sorry.
So, here's what DUMBO has going for it: one of the best playgrounds not only in Brooklyn, but also of all time. And that's great! Also, there's Jane's Carousel and Grimaldi's Pizza and the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. These are all awesome things for a kid. But then, any kid who is living here is already having an amazing life because they are insanely rich. Which, I know, money doesn't buy happiness. But it buys lots of other stuff that can make life fun. However, fun as DUMBO might be for kids, it also lacks a strong community vibe. At least Brooklyn Heights still has a neighborhood-feel to it. DUMBO is full of people during the day, but at night it'd be like living in the Financial District. Which might be fine for a grown-up, but seems a little depressing for a kid.
Williamsburg has changed a lot in the last, oh, twenty years. I'm not sure if you've heard that anywhere before, but it's true. And in terms of being a place to raise a family, it's really got a lot of amazing resources, everything from excellent public schools, to wonderful local shops, and birthing centers and and and...the list goes on. Here's the main problem as I see it. The housing stock that's being developed is, well, hideously ugly. And designed to appeal to aesthetically-challenged bankers. Is that who you want to raise your kids around? I should think not. Williamsburg is probably hitting its peak in terms of being a great place to raise a kid. Unfortunately, it peaked too soon. Sorry, Williamsburg. Sorry.
7) Park Slope
Oh crap. Park Slope. Where to put Park Slope? I mean, there's so much green space. All of Prospect Park is right there. And there are so many amazing public schools that you can move almost anywhere and be assured of a spot in a high-achieving, overcrowded, much-beloved institution. But. But! Rumor has it that when you move to Park Slope and breed, you are forced to buy a pair of Dansko clogs and one of those puffy caterpillar down coats and you are never allowed to wear anything else ever again. Don't make that deal with the devil, you guys. Nothing's worth that. Not even playdates with the Gyllenhaal-Saarsgard children. Not even that.
6) Bay Ridge
The Daily News said that Bay Ridge was the best place in Brooklyn to raise a child. We understand where the News was coming from, but we respectfully disagree. Not because we don't think it's an amazing place to live or to grow up. It's pretty great! You've got Owl's Head Park, which is insanely nice, and you've got the Norwegian Day Parade, so that's cool. And there's a good amount of affordable housing stock. So what's missing? Well. Doesn't it seem just a little too nice? A little too much like a suburb or something? If that's how you want to raise your kids, that's great. I mean that. It's great. Probably very healthy. But maybe I'm just not the biggest fan of healthy. Sorry, Bay Ridge, this is as far as you go this time
5) Windsor Terrace
Windsor Terrace is like the Canada to Park Slope's America, except its residents don't spend all day eating donuts and crying to Joni Mitchell songs. But things for Park Slope Jr are looking pretty good. The elementary schools in this hood are great. It's located next to the lake end of Prospect Park. Housing is still relatively affordable and home ownership rates are high. So what's the problem? Well, I don't know. It just kind of has an identity crisis, I think. And do you really want to raise your kids in a neighborhood with an identity crisis? Maybe you do. I don't know. I don't know you.
4) Fort Greene/Clinton Hill
Here's where things just start to get easy and it's like, whoa, these are the perfect neighborhoods to raise your kids. I mean, Ft. Greene and Clinton Hill are amazing places to start a family. They have diverse populations, a lot of green space, beautiful housing stock, many excellent schools, and great cultural institutions nearby like BAM and Pratt. Plus, another benefit of living near Pratt is that you can probably find a college-age babysitter which, score! They're great because they're slightly more affordable and they probably live near you so you don't have to pay for cab fare. What I'm saying is, move here now, even if you're only thinking of having kids. It'll be worth it.
3) South Brooklyn
And again! What a great place to raise a family. South Brooklyn has all that Ft. Greene/Clinton Hill does, but it puts its own spin on it. The schools here are exemplary. The neighborhoods are really parent-friendly, and there are far fewer Dansko sightings. There are tons of little parks and playgrounds and interesting and accessible art space like The Invisible Dog if you want to expose your kids to some culture. It's really great here. It's pretty fucking expensive but, oh right, after Manhattan, Brooklyn is the most expensive place to live in America. Fuck.
2) Ditmas Park
There's nowhere else in Brooklyn like Ditmas Park. The Victorian mansions that line the streets are stately and almost magical in their ability to pin you in a certain place. When you see one, you know exactly where you are. That's a nice gift to be able to give to your children. Add in access to parks, good schools, a great local library, getting to live near the Q train (which takes you everywhere fast) and you have a great place to bring up a family.
1) Prospect Heights
So, what makes Prospect Heights the perfect place to raise kids in Brooklyn? Well, everything! It's right by Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. It's bordered by both BAM and the Brooklyn Museum. It's chock full of restaurants and has the bustling commercial scene that reminds you that you're living in a city, not a suburb. There are solid schools and lots of preschool options. The neighborhood might not be as cheap as it once was, but it's still a diverse and vibrant place to live. It's easily accessible from all over the borough, and the city at large. In short, it doesn't get any better than this.
[Note: I know—I KNOW—that this is not an exhaustive list and that there are easily twelve neighborhoods that are not mentioned at all. But this is it, this is the list. Do with it what you will.]
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen