Carroll Gardens is a historically Italian area just south of Cobble Hill. Though largely gentrified, it still has colorful vestiges of the former neighborhood: old men playing bocce in Carroll Park, longtime butchers hawking sopressata, and over-the-top Christmas lights. Development has picked up in recent years--even some of the churches have been turned into condominiums--but Carroll Gardens retains a sense of community, partly because limited subway options distance it from the fray. Most blocks have three- to four-story brownstones or brick row houses, some with front gardens. The small-town vibe is laced with the borough’s signature mix of artisanal food shops, craft cocktails, and vintage decor, plus restaurants that are destinations in themselves.
Carroll Gardens is bounded by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and Gowanus Expressway to the west, 9th Street to the south, Degraw Street to the north, and Hoyt Street to the east. The area is served by the F and G trains, running along Smith Street, the B57 bus on Court and Smith Streets, and the B61 on Columbia Street. At just three miles to lower Manhattan, it's also easy to commute by bike, and in the morning there's a steady stream of cyclists heading north on Clinton and Smith Streets.
The neighborhood attracts both families drawn to quiet, friendly blocks and young professionals looking to live somewhere cool and interesting. It feels more creative and down-to-earth than the more patrician Cobble Hill and Brooklyn Heights nearby. That's partly because it was a blue-collar and immigrant area until about 25 years ago, but the commute also puts off harried corporate workers. For better subway connections, consider Brooklyn Heights, Fort Greene, and north Park Slope. Carroll Gardens is great for freelancers, though, and cafes and bars are busy with people typing on MacBooks.
Carroll Park is the local gathering place, always busy with a mix of people that reflect the neighborhood. There are nannies watching kids in the playground, old-timers chatting on benches, and yuppies eating gourmet deli sandwiches. It has pretty flower beds tended by volunteers and a greenmarket on Sundays. It's not big enough for sports, for which you have to travel two miles to Prospect Park. The sorry dog run at the edge of the neighborhood is currently under renovation, and the nearest ones are in Park Slope or Brooklyn Heights.
Carroll Gardens is a mix of single and family households. with 44% of people married and 41% not. A quarter of residents are in their 30s.
Most people have at least a half-hour commute. It's 30 to 45 minutes for 28% of residents and 45 to 60 minutes for 30% of them.
The parallel Smith and Court Streets are lined with independent shops and restaurants. There's a pleasant weekend buzz as people wait for brunch tables and wander into boutiques, with sidewalks packed with groups of stylish friends and families. In the summer, restaurant windows are open and outdoor tables full. Hip and characterful, these are the kind of places regularly written up in magazines (see Prime Meats, Dover, Buttermilk Channel), so there's often a wait for tables—this being Brooklyn, few take reservations. Food stores in the neighborhood are also excellent. Italian stalwarts include 90-year-old Esposito's, famous for its sandwiches and cured meats; D'Amico coffee, which has sold house-roasted beans for 60 years; and Caputo's bakery, founded in 1904, with its popular lard bread. Relative newcomer Stinky Bklyn is the go-to for obscure cheeses and a variety of cocktail bitters. It's fun shopping for a dinner party here.
Carroll Gardens History
A short walk from the harbor and the Gowanus canal, Carroll Gardens was long home to dock workers and immigrants. The first wave of settlers were Irish, in the early-19th century, followed by Italians from the late-19th century until the 1950s. There are still some Italian fraternal and benevolent societies here, established to help immigrants and give them a support network. But Italians today make up less than a quarter of the population. Middle-class professionals started buying up townhouses here in the 1960s and 1970s, and the median household income has doubled since 1980. [these stats from: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/16/realestate/new-roots-in-carroll-gardens.html]
The area was considered part of Red Hook until the 1960s, when the two areas were divided by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. A civic group rechristened it in honor of Charles Carroll, an Irish signer of the Declaration of Independence, and the large front gardens in front of the houses on 1st to 4th Places. Part of the area was designated a historic district in 1973 (President and Carroll Streets between Smith and Hoyt Streets), but most of it is not, which allows for more new development here than in some of the surrounding neighborhoods.
467 Court Street — St. Mary Star of the Sea, built in 1851, is where Al Capone got married.
151 Union Street — Ferdinando's Focacceria, an 100 year-old Sicilian restaurant where Martin Scorsese filmed a scene for The Departed
396 Clinton Street — The Carroll Gardens library, a Carnegie building, dates to 1905.
335 Smith Street — Brooklyn Social, the one Italian men's club that you can get into, now that it's a bar.
537 Clinton Street — where playwright Tony Kushner wrote Angels in America