Jacqui Gal

Brooklyn Heights: Heights of Living

Brooklyn nabe still a favorite

Photo by Lane Johnson

With its tree-lined streets and brownstones aplenty, it’s not difficult to see why Brooklyn Heights has long been one of New York’s choicest neighborhoods.

“It’s just far away enough from the city to relax,” explains local blogger John Loscalzo, but not so far as to make one feel isolated from the goings on in Manhattan.

Locals also cite a feeling of quiet and safety, and the beautifully maintained architecture as chief among the neighborhood’s attractions.

Brooklyn Heights is a sought-after neighborhood for prospering artists and young professionals, often with young families. It’s particularly attractive thanks to the quiet, safe streets and the beautifully maintained brownstones and old mansions that have been split into residential apartments. The neighborhood has also been a long-standing favorite with the literary set, but younger authors these days are unlikely to afford a move here.

Rich in history, Brooklyn Heights was popular even before the Brooklyn Bridge was opened in 1883, when it was the Fulton Ferry that provided transport across the East River to downtown Manhattan. Then, Brooklyn was an independent city; it was consolidated into New York City in 1898. Today, the population of Brooklyn Heights is far more cosmopolitan than it was in the 19th century.

In the 19th century, Walt Whitman worked his magic in Brooklyn Heights, as did Truman Capote and Arthur Miller during the following century. Today, Brookyln Heights is home to Norman Mailer and actor Paul Giamatti. This year, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon purchased a home in the neighborhood.

To Eat

Any local will tell you that the neighborhood’s downfall is a dearth of good restaurants. However, residents will never want for a selection of great eating spots, with Cobble Hill’s Smith Street close at hand. Neighboring DUMBO also boasts a growing number of culinary destinations. Both are a short stroll away. Nonetheless, here are a few local favorites.

Noodle Pudding
This restaurant—thanks to its popularity—can be a little squishy at times. Try their buffalo mozzarella, homemade pasta or the organic roasted half-chicken. With its moderate prices and cozy, family run atmosphere, it’s little wonder this place is a hands-down favorite with many of the locals.
38 Henry St. 718-625-3737

Heights Café
Favored above all for its proximity to the promenade, this corner cafe with big windows and outdoor seating is a popular meeting place for brunch or coffee. It serves new American fare, and regulars recommend sticking to old favorites—burgers ,meatloaf and French toast.
84 Montague St. 718-625-5555

For an authentic Lebanese meal, head to Tripoli. In addition to the mouth-watering selection of grilled and baked (predominantly lamb) dishes for less than $15, it may be a treat to see that the vegetarian members of your party are accommodated by a selection of nine meatless dishes. The menu also features a handful of steak, chicken and seafood choices. Hoping to replicate the experience at home? Buy a bottle of the Lebanese cold-pressed, unfiltered, extra virgin olive oil on sale at the restaurant and online.
156 Atlantic Ave. 718-596-5800

Authentic and inexpensive, this Polish restaurant serves up all of the national favorites—pierogies, kielbasa and four kinds of blintzes—together with plenty of American fare .Most menu items are less than $10, and with its outdoor seating and proximity to the promenade, it’s a popular spot for brunch.
80 Montague St. 718-797-3996

To Play

Aside from a few neighborhood gems, Brooklyn Heights is not known for its thriving nightlife. Although an ever-growing number of new bars opening in nearby DUMBO and Fort Greene mean there are options aplenty for nightlife refugees.

Last exit
Visit this bar on the last Tuesday of every month for poetry readings, the first and third Mondays for pub quizzes or anytime from Thursday to Saturday for a rotation of DJs. Out back there is a garden, which is open during the summer 4-9pm.

Do-it-yourselfers can call ahead and reserve a spot to grill their own produce on the bar’s barbecue, and then enjoy the spoils under the stars.
36 Atlantic Ave. 718-222-9198

Floyd, NY
What other bar could boast an indoor bocce ball court complete with a competitive bocce league, and comfy sofas out front for post-game relaxation? Floyd, NY has become something of a magnet for Brooklyn’s British expat community. Why? Maybe it’s because they screen every Premier League and World Cup soccer game, no matter what the hour, and they’re right next door to the Brit-run Chipshop.
NY 131 Atlantic Ave. 718-858-5810

Magnetic Fields
Live music, game show nights and a weekly Sunday baseball brunch keep the locals coming into this bar with a ’60s and ’70s rock vibe. Catering to the post-college crowd, this nightspot is a strong supporter of indie rock and local bands.
97 Atlantic Ave. 718-834-0069

To Do

The Promenade
Brooklyn Heights’ most-loved attraction is the Promenade, a half-mile-long waterfront esplanade that stretches from Orange Street down to Remsen Street. There are three nearby playground and benches dot the path. One can observe uninterrupted views of lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and Governors Island.

Brooklyn Historical Society
This urban history center provides neighborhood history guides, walking tours, educational and after-school programs. On exhibition until Sept. 9 is “Landmark and Legacy: Brooklyn Heights and the Preservation Movement in America.”
128 Pierrepont St. 718-222-4111

To Shop

Brooklyn Heights is the only neighborhood in Brooklyn, so far, to have attracted a full complement of major chain outlets, which are in the streets around Borough Hall and Montague Street. Alongside these, there’s a wide variety of locally owned businesses, including gourmet shops, clothing, furniture and mom-and-pop service outlets.

Heights Books
In an age of soaring Internet book sales, there’s satisfaction in the knowledge that people still like to peruse old shelves. This store offers out-of-print books, obscure manuscripts and vintage pulp fiction titles, coupled with a friendly staff, who are only too happy to hear customers’ preferences and make recommendations.
109 Montague St. 718-624 4876

Fashionistas should head straight to this emporium for high-end merchandise from designers such as Max Mara, Tahari, Theory, Vince, Velvet and 15 kinds of designer jeans.
145 Montague St. 718-625-7518

Nova Zembla
Rugs, fabrics, pillows and throws provide colorful accents for the solid wood furniture and custom-designed upholstery on sale here. Dressers, armoires and end tables are crafted in India from solid rosewood and reclaimed teak, while create-your-own lamps are sourced from Ohio. Sofas, ottomans and armchairs are made to order and shipped from California.
117 Atlantic Ave. 718-222-5705

Step into a Middle Eastern gourmet wonderland and choose from more than 100 kinds of cheese, or peruse the open sacks of grains and spices. Locals like to shop for the homemade hummus and salads, dried fruit, olives, coffee, nuts, pita bread and marinated mozzarella balls. Prices are kept low thanks to the store’s status as a wholesaler and retailer. But it’s no secret gem, so prepare to take a number and wait patiently during peak times.
187 Atlantic Ave. 718-624-4550

Heights Chateau
An acclaimed wine store and destination for wine lovers from all over the city, Heights Chateau has a robust collection, knowledgeable staff and good prices. What else could you ask for?
123 Atlantic Ave. 718-330-0963

The Buzz

Residents of Brooklyn Heights were the first in New York City to push for the preservation of architectural landmarks in the 1960s (which then sparked a much wider preservation movement). It is no surprise then that locals today are still concerned over the style and location (think waterfront) of new developments.

Parking (or lack thereof) is always a hot issue here too. Whether it’s about handicapped permit abuse or complaints of over-ticketing to fill parking violation quotas, residents find the issue frustrating to the extreme.

According to Brooklyn Heights blogger John Loscalzo, “There could be a nuclear explosion in the neighborhood and people would want to know how parking was affected.” This month the Love Lane parking garage was closed to make way for a new condo development by Sterling Equities, which would see an already congested neighborhood lose 375 highly coveted parking spaces.

Q&A with John Lolscalzo

John Loscalzo blogs about all things Brooklyn Heights (with the help of a few friends) on brooklynheightsblog.com. During the day, he is a vice president at MTV .

What’s great about the area?
I grew up in Queens (Forest Hills, Woodside), so it’s nice to live in a neighborhood with great tree-lined streets and neighbors I actually like to have a conversation with.

What’s not so great?
The restaurants, but that’s becoming a cliche.

Why do you live there?
It’s just far away enough from the city to relax, but not far enough away so I freak out that we live out in the sticks.

What type of person would like the area?
You should be over 30, or else you might just lose your mind.

Do you see any big changes on the horizon for the area?
Change? Hopefully not, however the “contemporary” designs planned for 20 Henry St. and 73 Pineapple might.

How has the neighborhood changed over the past few years?
We just moved here in 2005, but we’ve already seen plenty of retail turnover. With a Ricky’s opening on Montague Street in September the character of the neighborhood might loosen up.

Can you name a hidden neighborhood gem in Brooklyn Heights?
Columbia Place. It’s a small side street off of Joralemon that was saved from Robert Moses’ wrecking ball when the BQE was built. Number 20 is a really cool building with some interesting storefronts. The other side of the street is a collection of interesting townhouses. The entire street makes you feel like you’re somewhere else in time and place.

Real Estate

Brooklyn Heights garners great appeal thanks to the abundance of brownstones, townhouses, pre-war co-ops and a number of converted mansions along the waterfront and on Pierrepont Street.

What’s renting

To buy

Recently sold A three-bedroom, two-bathroom co-op apartment near the promenade: $1,295,000 A restored three-story townhouse $5,200,000

What’s selling A brownstone at 256 Henry St. with seven apartments (three two-bedrooms, two one-bedrooms and two studios): $3,000,000. Three of the apartments are rent stabilized. A one-bedroom condominium at 55 Poplar St., with one bathroom and views of the Brooklyn Bridge and East River: $985,000. The condo has a mezzanine floor and a washer-dryer inside the apartment. Two-bedroom co-op at 75 Livingston St., a doorman building with unobstructed views of the East River and Manhattan. It has three walls of windows: $1,295,000 Four-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom condominium at 360 Furman St: $2,725,000. It boasts views of the East River, Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge, as well as a doorman, valet and concierge.
Source: M. Helena Alvarez, Halstead Property, Brooklyn

The Basics

Transportation: Subways: 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, M, R
Schools: PS 008, 37 Hicks St.; Packer Collegiate Institute, 170 Joralemon St.; St. Ann’s School, 129 Pierrepont St.
Libraries: Brooklyn Public Library, 280 Cadman Plaza West
Firehouses: 74 Middagh St.; 274 Hicks St.
Post office: 271 Cadman Plaza East; 210 Joralemon St.
Crime: The 84th Precinct, which covers Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill, Vinegar Hill, DUMBO and Downtown, had one murder, two rapes and 128 robberies so far this year, compared to no murders, two rapes and 113 robberies for the same period last year.