(Yes, we've taken a long hiatus with this, but will hopefully be back on a regular schedule!)
Name: Melita Charles Clinton Hill Resident For: many years!
A few weeks ago, I met up with Melita Charles at the Polish Bar of Brooklyn to enjoy Mint Candy pedicures and chat about her history with the neighborhood.
Clinton Hill resident and general surgeon Melita Charles is making her home here for the second time. After med school and a stint upstate, Charles has come full circle.
Melita and her family originally moved to Clinton Hill from Sunset Park the summer before she began high school. She remembers being awed by the wide streets and taking long walks to downtown Brooklyn along DeKalb Avenue, or over to Pratt to buy art supplies, even though not much was open back then. She and her family lived in an apartment on Clinton and Gates, where her sister still resides.
Even though the neighborhood saw higher crime rates back then, Melita remembers feeling comfortable. "I saw somebody get mugged once, but otherwise we felt safe. The same three old people were always sitting outside in front of our building checking in on people," she explains. "My sister and I used to make fun of them for not having anything better to do, but at the same time we were glad to know someone was looking out for us."
Melita graduated from Stuyvesant High School, knowing from a very young age what she wanted to be when she grew up. "My Aunties were all nurses, but I always wanted to be a doctor," she says. Attending Ithaca College, Melita chose to pursue general surgery during medical school. To complement her surgical training, Melita completed additional training in surgical oncology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo. It was there where she met my mother, a patient at the center, more than eight years ago.
Melita enjoyed Buffalo, but missed New York City and her family. Eventually, she made her way back east, living in both Queens and on Long Island. One morning, she claims to have had an epiphany in the shower. "I should move back to Brooklyn!" she thought. Initially, she made a beeline to Park Slope, a neighborhood she thought many professionals aspired to. Once there, however, she felt the neighborhood was both too expensive and "too much." It was not the right fit. She started hunting obsessively for real estate across the borough, finding everything she saw to be too small and just not right for her. It was a fluke that she happened to check out a spacious apartment on Classon Avenue. "Why didn't I start here to begin with?" she asked herself, "It's where I've always wanted to be!"
After several years away, Melita feels like she's back in the same neighborhood she grew up in despite all the changes the area has seen. A few establishments still remain from her teenage years -- the diner on Vanderbilt and Fulton for example, and the bodegas, which she affectionately describes as "indestructible" -- but she points more to a general feeling. "Clinton Hill has always been a little enclave," she explains. "Once you cross Fulton, you know you're home."
Melita's current regular haunts include Chez Ozkar, iCi, Zaytoons and Luz. "I love Luz!" she says. "I frequently take people there for a drink or a date, because I know at least I'll have a good time," she explains with a chuckle. She, like many residents, years for a gourmet cheese shop, a store for fresh produce and a bakery (she laments the closure of a bakery from her childhood that used to sell great peach cobbler).
Melita now works as a general surgeon at Long Island College Hospital. She loves walking to work, often past the Farmer's and Artisan Markets in Fort Greene Park.
"I'm glad I ended up back here," she says. "It's really just more 'my speed.'"