The neighborhood now known as Cobble Hill was originally settled by Dutch farmers in the mid-1600s. Tucked along the East River, in the heart of Brooklyn, Cobble Hill is known for its welcoming, leafy streets, independent mom-and-pop shops, and 19th century brownstones.
Most of Cobble Hill lies within an historic landmark district, and building heights are restricted to 50 feet, which helps maintain its 19th century atmosphere. Building owners will often split the use of their four- or five-story buildings, occupying several of the top floors and renting out the ground floor as apartments or, conversely, occupying one or more of the lower floors and renting out the top floors. New construction and alterations to existing buildings in the historic district require approval by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, which helps maintain the historic character of the Cobble Hill neighborhood.
Although most housing in Cobble Hill consists of traditional brownstones and brick townhouses,, you will also find churches that have been converted to condos, carriage houses that have become luxury apartments and Victorian school houses that have been converted into lofts.
Court Street and Atlantic Avenue are the main commercial streets in the neighborhood. You will find popular Middle Eastern restaurants on Atlantic Avenue. Court Street is home to casual restaurants, many with outdoor seating, relaxed cafes and hip bars.
Many young professionals and families live in the brownstones, townhouses, and single-family homes that line the leafy streets. Cobble Hill is a great place to live if you work on Wall Street, as you can walk over the Brooklyn Bridge to work.
Cobble Hill Park. Although only pocket-sized, this tiny, half-acre, city park is beautiful and gives you a peaceful setting to take a leisurely lunch break or just to catch your breath and spend some time in nature. There are benches where you could sit and read a book, or just appreciate the beautiful architecture of the 19th century brownstones and brick townhouses that surround it. There is a small playground for children, but you’ll have to leave your furry friends at home. The park features lovely wrought-iron enclosed gardens and a summer concert series. Located on Clinton Street, between Verandah Place and Congress Street.
Cobble Hill Cinemas. With only five screens, you might not think Cobble Hill Cinemas has a lot to offer. That’s where you’d be wrong! This unique cinema serves up a diverse range of films, from quaint classics and cutting edge indie films to the latest blockbusters. You can get discounted tickets on Tuesdays and Thursdays, too. Located at 265 Court Street.
Henry Public. Stop by this bistro and indulge in one of their mouthwatering turkey sandwiches. They also offer salads, beer, and innovative cocktails. Brunch is available on the weekends and late-night dining is their specialty. The atmosphere is relaxed and the staff is very attentive. But bring your cash - they don’t accept cards of any kind. Located at 329 Henry Street.
Blossom Ice Cream. Looking for a sweet feast for your eyes and your tastebuds? Drop in at Blossom Ice Cream and treat yourself to one of their unique flavors of Thai rolled ice cream, which they create right in front of you. They prepare your ice cream base to order, add in your special ingredients and then spread it out thinly onto a frozen metal pan and roll up sections, which are served in a cup, garnished with your favorite toppings. Explore exotic flavors such as Dream of Hawaii (made with vanilla and coconut flakes) or Virgin Mojito (pairing lime and fresh mint). They offer soy-based options for those that cannot tolerate dairy or who desire vegan alternatives. Located at 196 Court Street.
The Long Island Bar. A throwback to the 1950s with its deco-style bar and red leather booths, this bar was originally a favorite hangout of the longshoremen who worked the docks and stopped in after work for a beer and a bite to eat. They offer classic cocktails, beer, and small plates of typical American bar food. Located at 110 Atlantic Avenue.
What You Might See
There are large expat communities of both French and Italian natives in the Cobble Hill area, so you are likely to see heated contests of two popular, and similar, lawn games: bocce (Italian) and petanque (French).
Bocce is similar to American bowling, in that players take several steps before releasing the bocce ball in an underhanded motion, trying to get closest to an object ball - the pallino (jack) ball - to score points.
Petanque is more akin to horseshoes, as the players stand still in a small circle and throw hollow metal balls (boules), using an overhand motion to create backspin, in an attempt to get closest to the small wooden target ball (the cochonnet or jack), or to knock their opponents boules away from the jack. Petanque play reaches a fever pitch in Cobble Hill on Bastille Day, July 14th, when the French celebrate the start of the French Revolution, by commemorating the date in 1789 when revolutionaries stormed the Bastille prison, looking for gunpowder, and freed many political prisoners.
What’s In The Future
Development continues the transformation of the Long Island College Hospital complex into its new incarnation as River Park. Some of the planned seven buildings are now selling units and tenants are arriving, while construction continues on other buildings. The complex is being developed along the Brooklyn waterfront and will offer unprecedented, state-of-the-art amenities housed in two restored landmark hospital buildings, mid- and high-rise towers and contemporary townhouses. The development is being done in two phases, with each building being designed by a different architect. Included in this development are a medical facility and a refurbishment of Van Voorhees Park. Phase 2 of this development will include two full-block developments, one a new building and the other a conversion from hospital to residences, that will span between Henry and Hicks Streets. All buildings are expected to be completed by 2020.
Meanwhile, in other areas of Cobble Hill, homeowners are buying and restoring brownstones, choosing to restore the front porches and building facades to their former glory, as well as restoring and upgrading the interiors of these historic homes.
What You Might Not Know
If you appreciate the beautiful tree-lined streets of Cobble Hill, you have one man to thank: George Polimeros. Prior to the 1960s, Cobble Hill was, essentially, devoid of trees. Polimeros, who was a tree-loving engineer, decided he wanted to have a green, leafy neighborhood, taking it upon himself to single-handedly plant more than 2,000 trees throughout Cobble Hill, including Norway Maples, Red Oaks, and London Plane trees. Polimeros went door-to-door in the neighborhood, soliciting funds from his neighbors to buy and plant young trees. Today, the Cobble Hill Tree Fund carries on this work.
Zebras used to sleep on Pacific Street! Yes, it’s true. Between 1915 and 1920, whenever the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus came to town, the zebras were stabled at 173 Pacific Street, while the elephants bunked next door. The circus animals would arrive by train at the Flatbush Terminal and walk up Atlantic Avenue. The stable eventually became a carriage house, and now boasts luxury apartments.
In the northeast corner of the neighborhood, near where Atlantic Avenue and Court Street intersect, and where Trader Joe’s now stands, there was once a steep hill, the original “Cobbleshill,” according to a 1767 survey of Brooklyn. During the Battle of Brooklyn in the Revolutionary War, this hill became Cobble Hill Fort, and was used by General George Washington to view the ﬁghting taking place at nearby Gowanus Creek.
What We Love
Cobble Hill is a tiny, self-contained neighborhood that carries a sense of old-style Brooklyn charm forward into a new era. There are tree-lined streets, that exist largely through the efforts of one man. The 19th century brownstones and brick townhouses, where neighbors congregate on their stoops and children can play freely, together with good public schools, make this an attractive neighborhood in which to raise your family. The large number of mom-and-pop shops provide everything you need, especially along Court Street. The neighborhood is very walkable and larger, family-sized apartments and some single-family homes are available.