Brooklyn Heights was Manhattan’s first suburb. The Brooklyn Bridge is a neighborhood draw, offering some of the most beautiful views of the Manhattan skyline, as well as an easily walkable means of commuting into the City. Montague Street has been the main commercial street in Brooklyn Heights since the 1800s, but it is not overly commercialized. Smaller shops help maintain the small neighborhood feel of Brooklyn Heights.
The quaint cobblestoned side streets highlight the historic feel to this lovely, vibrant neighborhood that is filled with exciting and innovative restaurants, stores that have those perfect home decor items, that little black dress you love, and your favorite dry cleaner is right around the corner. Brooklyn Heights is your perfect city within the City.
There are apartments, condos, and co-ops that resulted from the conversion of pre-war residential hotels. The townhouses in Brooklyn Heights are often five stories, instead of the three stories found elsewhere. You’ll also find row houses and stunning single family mansions. Due to the three protected historic districts, opportunities for new construction are limited, and the appearance of the neighborhood seems frozen in the era when these buildings were originally constructed.
Renowned public and private schools make the neighborhood attractive to young families with school-age children. The neighborhood is generally “kid-friendly,” with parks, playgrounds, and quiet streets where kids can still play safely.
Brooklyn Bridge Park. The park includes the Fulton Ferry Landing and six piers. This massive park offers recreational opportunities to play basketball, beach volleyball, soccer, and bocce ball; go roller skating, rock climbing, kayaking, fishing, and sunbathing at the beach; plus playgrounds for children and a dog run for your furry friends. There are snack shops and waterfront restaurants, as well. You can take a spin on Jane’s Carousel, catch a ferry ride, watch a movie screening, and then go to Pier 5 and enjoy ice cream from Ample Hills Creamery. Enter the park at Pier 1 on the corner of Old Fulton and Water Streets.
The Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Built in 1950 to overlook New York Harbor, the nearly 5-block-long Promenade is an almost magical place at twilight, when the light takes on a certain glow, as the City settles down into evening. You’ll have a front row view of the Manhattan skyline, the Brooklyn Bridge, New York Harbor, and the Statue of Liberty. You can visit the Promenade at any time of the day or night, and the night time view of the sparkling city lights is very impressive. Stop on one of the benches and soak up the ambience. Though the Promenade is quite popular, it never seems overly crowded. Located at Montague Street and Pierrepont Place.
Bargemusic. One of the most unique musical venues you will ever visit, as it is on an old coffee barge. Although most performances are chamber music from classical European composers, there are frequent performances of Latin, jazz, blues, and the works of modern composers, as well. The venue is very intimate, seating only about 150 people, in its homey atmosphere with views of the Manhattan skyline, so plan to arrive early. If you tend to get seasick, plan accordingly. Located at the Fulton Ferry Landing under the Brooklyn Bridge.
Brooklyn Historical Society. The Brooklyn Historical Society’s museum, cultural center, and library have been preserving and studying the borough’s 400+ years of history, since its founding in 1863. Housed in a red brick building designed by George Post, it is a national architectural landmark. It hosts both short- and long-term exhibits detailing Brooklyn’s artistic and cultural influence. Admission is by suggested donation, meaning that it is free, if you need it to be. Located at 126 Pierrepont Street.
Four Chimneys. Although the only remnant of one of the most historical sites in Brooklyn Heights is a large rock with a plaque attached, the Four Chimneys house that stood on this site during the American Revolutionary War was the Brooklyn headquarters of General George Washington in 1776 during the opening weeks of the war. Knowing that his army would face certain defeat at the hands of the British forces marching toward them, he made the strategic decision to evacuate his troops from Brooklyn during the night of August 29th. Had he not made that fateful decision at Four Chimneys house, the war would have ended within weeks of starting, and America might never have come into existence. Waymarker located at the end of Montague Street, overlooking the East River.
What You Might See
There are quite a few celebrities that live in Brooklyn Heights, so keep your eyes open and you might see one of your favorites on the street or sitting at the table next to yours.
The Brooklyn Heights Promenade not only offers world-famous views of the Manhattan skyline, which is especially beautiful at sunset, but it is also a popular site for dates, anniversary celebrations, and marriage proposals. If you don’t gawk at them too publicly, you might see a rare love bird in the act of proposing to its intended mate.
If you walk over the Brooklyn Bridge towards Manhattan, you may get to see the “love locks” near the Manhattan Tower. The tradition is that a couple should place a padlock on the bridge and toss the keys into the river to declare their undying love for one another. Unfortunately, the Department of Transportation frowns on love, and periodically cuts off the locks.
What’s In The Future
The real estate market in Brooklyn Heights will continue to be stable, due to the neighborhood’s excellent location relative to Manhattan, the easy and convenient commute, and the beauty of this historic neighborhood. Property values will continue to appreciate. Historic districting will continue to impose limits on new developments, so housing stock inventory will turn over very slowly. There are some new developments being planned or under construction near the piers in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
What You Might Not Know
The Brooklyn Bridge was, and continues to be, an engineering marvel. It was the first steel-wire suspension bridge in the world. Construction on the bridge started in 1869, using over 600 workers. There were more than 30 deaths during construction, including that of John Roebling, the chief engineer. It was completed 14 years later, in 1883. Because it was the first of its kind, people didn’t trust it and were afraid to cross it, other than on foot. On opening day, 150,000 people walked across the bridge. P. T. Barnum, of circus fame, conducted a great publicity stunt in 1884, when he led 21 elephants across the Brooklyn Bridge, proving that it was stable. In an interesting note, the bridge is two feet shorter in the winter (133 feet above Mean High Water) than it is in the summer, because the steel in the bridge contracts in the cold.
The Brooklyn Bridge cables are constructed of defective wire. There are four main cables that hold up the bridge platforms. Each cable is made up of 6,289 individual wires that are thinner in diameter than the average human hair, and would measure more than 3,500 miles if they were laid out end-to-end. When the bridge was being constructed, the wire contract was given to a contractor in a politically motivated, under-the-table deal. This contractor supplied inferior-quality wire. The bridge was intended to be six times stronger than necessary to bear the weight of the platforms and traffic. Unfortunately, by the time the defective wire was discovered, it was too late to replace it. Now the bridge has been determined to be only four times stronger than necessary, but it has been standing for over 130 years.
What We Love
The extremely easy commute to Manhattan is a big plus to living in Brooklyn Heights. You can even walk right across the Brooklyn Bridge into the Financial District. Beautiful blocks of leafy, tree-lined streets with historical buildings, gorgeous views in every direction, good schools, and a location that is convenient to everything make Brooklyn Heights a great place to call home. Several main streets that offer everything you could want in terms of restaurants, bars, coffee shops, boutiques, and specialty stores add to the convenience. Brownstones in more architectural styles than you can list on one hand fill Brooklyn Heights with a tangible sense of history, so it makes perfect sense that it was the first designated historic district in NYC. There are plenty of parks offering outdoor recreational spaces and activities.