Welcome to Brooklyn Heights, the prettiest neighborhood in Brooklyn. There's historic architecture, expansive skyline views and a new, vibrant waterside park. Though just across the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan, its leafy, peaceful streets feel like a world apart. The city's first historic district, Brooklyn Heights is well-maintained and has a sense of community. Energetic and creative kids play catch and make chalk drawings on side streets, while the more enterprising ones sell lemonade to tourists on the harbor-front Promenade. The area draws affluent families and young professionals, who, once here, tend to stay a while.
Transportation and Livability
Brooklyn Heights is located along the East River, west of Cadman Plaza and north of Atlantic Avenue, adjacent to Downtown Brooklyn. The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway runs along the west side of the neighborhood. To lower Manhattan, it's just over a mile by bridge or one stop by subway. The area is very well-connected, served by eight subway lines.
For urban family life, Brooklyn Heights is hard to beat. Children are spoiled with choice playgrounds (with views of the Statue of Liberty from the swings), like the slick new one at Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 6 playground, which has a giant sandbox and water jets. Residents run with their dogs along the waterfront or take them to the large dog park on north Columbia Heights. In the summer, people hang out on their stoops and have block parties. To have all this within a quick commute to Manhattan makes the neighborhood that much more desirable.
If you crave excitement after dark, take note: You don't move here for the nightlife. The north Heights, especially, is sleepy once the sun sets; those closer to Atlantic Avenue have better nighttime venue options. But there are plenty of cool bars and restaurants in Cobble Hill and Boerum Hill, within a 15-minute walk away. Young people looking for more buzz might prefer those neighborhoods or Carroll Gardens, especially near Smith Street.
According to the 2000 census, over 22,000 people live in Brooklyn Heights. They are predominantly white, with about 15% over age 65. More than half of the housing units are rental units, and 49% of residents have lived in the neighborhood over five years.
Whether you're going to the East Side or the West, you rarely have to change trains. From the transport hub at Borough Hall, you can take the #2/3 express to Times Square or #4/5 express to Grand Central, both about a 20-minute ride away.
Residents now also have the option of riding the CitiBike system, the bike-share service that launched last year. There are plenty of stations in the neighborhood.
Montague Street — the main drag —runs through the center of Brooklyn Heights and is lined with diners, grocers and chain stores. There's a more interesting mix of businesses along Henry Street, including an independent movie theater, and Atlantic Avenue, which has antique shops and hip bars. Borough Hall is home to government offices, and its square on Cadman Plaza hosts a busy farmers market three times a week. Atlantic Avenue has a small cluster of Middle Eastern restaurants and grocery stores, and sometimes it feels like the whole neighborhood is shopping at once for olives and hummus at Sahadi's. The newest addition to the Heights is the Brooklyn Bridge Park. Located along the waterfront, it's an urban nirvana of outdoor grills, soccer fields, swings and landscaped paths. Still partly under construction, it's opening in phases. In the summer, you can take a ferry from its southernmost pier to Governors Island.
Brooklyn Heights History
Though settled in the 1600s, at the same time as lower Manhattan, Brooklyn Heights grew at a much slower pace. Like the rest of the borough, it was mostly farmland until the early 1800s. Its oldest houses date from the 1820s, when the area was developed and promoted as a sort of early suburb, complete with fresh air and trees. In the 1840s and 1850s, the neighborhood became a major junction of the Underground Railroad, due to its proximity to the harbor (where escaped slaves arrived under cover) and a famous local abolitionist preacher, Henry Ward Beecher. The opening of the Brooklyn Bridge and subways made Brooklyn Heights grow exponentially, as it became possible to commute easily into Manhattan. The decline of shipping and waterfront industry led to Robert Moses' construction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE), which destroyed homes along its borders. But unlike Red Hook and Cobble Hill, bisected by the highway, Brooklyn Heights had the clout to negotiate a more attractive plan. Thus, the BQE led to one of the neighborhood's greatest attributes, the Brooklyn Heights Promenade — a walkway and garden that overlooks the harbor and covers the highway. Moses also spurred New York's historic preservation movement, as residents fought to protect neighborhoods from future development. In 1965, Brooklyn Heights became the city's first historic district. Such appreciation for history and local pride still distinguish it today.
Brooklyn Heights has long drawn writers and intellectuals.
70 Willow Street - Truman Capote wrote Breakfast at Tiffany's here, and immortalized Brooklyn in one of his many essays, A House on the Heights.
142 Columbia Heights - Norman Mailer lived in the top-floor apartment.
75 Hicks Street - Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims, where Henry Ward Beecher's sermons drew the likes of Charles Dickens, Mark Twain and Abraham Lincoln.
31 Grace Court - The one-time home of both Arthur Miller and W.E.B. DuBois.
153 State Street - Norton Juster and Jules Pfeiffer lived here while writing The Phantom Tollbooth.
128 Pierrepont Street - The Brooklyn Historical Society, built in 1881, is a National Historic Landmark with a beautiful wood-and-iron reading room.