Cobble Hill is an enviable place to live. Its shady blocks are lined with pear and oak trees, beautiful 19th-century townhouses, and candlelit corner restaurants. Once considered the poor-man's Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill feels less grand and more approachable than its neighbor, though price tags now negate any real distinction. Just a few subway stops from Manhattan, it draws well-heeled families and young professionals. Here, you'll find the standard Brooklyn accoutrements of craft beer, independent bookstores, sunny cafés and stoop sales. Nearly the whole neighborhood is a historic district, guaranteeing the survival of its top attribute: a strong sense of place.
Cobble Hill is roughly bounded by Atlantic Avenue to the north, Degraw Street to the south, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway to the west, and Smith Street to the east. The area is served by the F and G trains, running along Smith Street, and the B57 bus on Court and Smith Streets. For those on the northern end of the neighborhood, it's also an easy walk to Borough Hall and the 2, 3, 4, 5 and R trains. Depending on where in the neighborhood you live, the walk to the subway can take up to 10 minutes.
Cobble Hill is very comfortable, offering residents a life that's as close to small-town as one can get in a big city. Streets are quiet and there's rarely much traffic. It's a great place for kids, who make a killing on Halloween at homes bedecked with spider webs and elaborately carved pumpkins. Children also benefit from the new Brooklyn Bridge Park a short walk away. Pier 6 playground is a popular park attraction. Also, the summer ferry to Governors Island leaves from Pier 6..
At the center of the neighborhood is Cobble Hill Park, a friendly gathering place with shaded benches, bursting flower beds, and a busy little playground. Sports lovers can go to Brooklyn Bridge Park, which has soccer fields and skating, or Prospect Park, which is larger but three miles away. To play a good game of fetch with your dog, you'll have to make your way to north Brooklyn Heights or Prospect Park.
The neighborhood is a mix of single (41%) and married (49%) households, with a median household income of $65,628. Folks in their 20s and 30s make up 43% of residents. Only 21% of those living in Cobble Hill have children (but that might be hard to believe if you're in the neighborhood at 3pm on school days).
Two-thirds of residents travel at least 30 minutes to get to work. For 30% of residents, the commute is 45-60 minutes. For instance, Grand Central and Penn Station are about a half hour away, but closer to Central Park or the far west side will take more like 45 minutes. Wall Street is about 20 minutes away, and Union Square is about a 30-minute trek.
Activity centers on Atlantic Avenue, Court Street, and Smith Street. Court Street is the main drag, lined with grocery stores, boutiques and cafés. Until recently, these were all independent businesses, but some chain stores —Trader Joe's, Rag & Bone, and Chipotle —have gradually moved in. Still, the street has a cozy charm thanks to the smaller shops that remain. Key players are BookCourt, always on the pulse of literary Brooklyn, and Cobble Hill Cinemas, where tickets are $8 on Tuesday and Thursday. You can food shop as you would in Europe, going from one specialized store to another: Fish Tales, Staubitz Market for meat, Brooklyn Wine Exchange for a bottle of red to go with dinner, and Bien Cuit bakery on Smith Street for dessert. The trendy bars and restaurants center on Smith Street (which is arguably part of Boerum Hill), though Henry Street has a cool little cluster of watering holes around Atlantic Avenue. Stop by the recently-opened Long Island Bar on the corner to have a look at the authentic retro decor that harks back to the area's longshoreman days. Its $12 cocktails are just a clear sign of the times. Unless you're looking for a hipster scene, Cobble Hill has pretty much all you need for a perfect Saturday.
Cobble Hill History
Cobble Hill's history goes back to the Dutch settlement of Brooklyn in the 17th century, when the area was farmland. Though now flat, there was once a hill called Cobbleshill at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Court Street. During the Revolutionary War, the Americans built a fort on the site, but the British captured the fort and cut off the top of the hill to eliminate the vantage point. Like Brooklyn Heights, the area remained rural into the 19th century. Improved transportation across the East River by ferry, bridge and (later) train eased the commute to Manhattan and spurred the borough's growth. Many of the houses here today date from 1840 to 1880. One notable 19th-century development is at Hicks and Warren Streets, where philanthropist Alfred T. White built working- and middle-class housing. With small houses along a private courtyard, the development looks as though it was transplanted from an English village. But this quaintness doesn't come cheap; these 12-feet-wide "workingmen's cottages" now fetch upwards of $1 million each.
Virtually the entire neighborhood was designated a historic district in 1969. At that time, the Landmarks Preservation Commission noted that upon entering the district one is aware of "a neighborhood set apart and of the consistent quality of certain styles of architecture," including Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate and Queen Anne style. That richness is apparent to anyone passing through Cobble Hill today.
197 Amity Street — Jennie Jerome, who grew up to become Lady Randolph Churchill, mother of Winston, was born here in 1854. She eventually earned more spacious digs at Blenheim Palace.
296 Clinton Street — Home of architect Richard Upjohn, famous for his Gothic Revival churches, including some nearby.
186 Warren Street — One of Spike Lee's boyhood homes.
40 Verandah Place — Onetime home of writer Thomas Wolfe.
236 Kane Street — Kane Street Synagogue, the oldest Jewish congregation in Brooklyn.
339 Hicks Street — The large Long Island College Hospital is currently under threat by developers and is the subject of heated governmental debates. It will likely shrink or be entirely redeveloped in the coming years.