Beautiful Brooklyn Heights

It might surprise you to learn that the first neighborhood to be protected under the 1965 Landmarks Preservation Law in New York City was not in Manhattan – it was Brooklyn Heights. I have had the pleasure of being in the area several times in the past few months, and regardless of the time of day, I find it to be an extraordinarily beautiful and gracious neighborhood. Since I love to take an unplanned walk in the city (a dérive, see my initial post about it here), one of my daughters and I took off on a beautiful warm early spring day to enjoy a walk in Brooklyn Heights.

Brooklyn Heights

Surrounded by Dumbo (see my love letter to this neighborhood here) , Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, and Downtown Brooklyn, getting to Brooklyn Heights is quite easy via public transportation. You can take the 2-3-4-5-N-R-W to Court Street-Borough Hall in downtown Brooklyn, the A-C-F-N-R-W to Jay Street-MetroTech, or the 2-3 to Clark Street.  Before setting off on our walk, we had wood fired pizza at Dellarocco’s, which I highly recommend (214 Hick’s Street, off Montague Street). On the way there we walked past block after block of beautiful townhouses.


I always find myself drawn to the water, and was unable to stay away from the gorgeous Brooklyn Heights Promenade. One of the more recent additions to Brooklyn Heights, the promenade was completed in the 1950’s.


Rows of of lovely townhouses and apartment buildings face the promenade and gaze toward lower Manhattan.


The promenade ends at the Brooklyn Bridge (for instructions of how to walk across the bridge from Brooklyn, see this post). John A. Roebling, the 19th Century engineer and designer of the Brooklyn Bridge, lived in Brooklyn Heights.


The views from the Brooklyn Heights can be incredible. Here is a view toward the Statue of Liberty at sunset.


Benches line the promenade for relaxing while strollers, both pedestrians and those containing children, move along the pathway.


The view of lower Manhattan from Brooklyn Heights is extraordinary.


The Brooklyn Heights Promenade eventually merges into Brooklyn Bridge Park.  Jane’s Carousel, dating from 1922, invites all to stop and take a ride on a hand painted wooden horse, to the sound of authentic calliope music.


Brooklyn Heights has attracted writers and artists since its inception, and walking around the neighborhood it is easy to see why. Benjamin Britten to W.H. Auden, Walt Whitman to W.E.B. DuBois, Arthur Miller to Lena Dunham – all have found inspiration in the quiet beauty of Brooklyn Heights. Truman Capote, another resident, wrote Brooklyn Heights:  A Personal Memoir, in which he famously states, “I live in Brooklyn. By choice.” More and more people have made this choice over the past two decades. which has made this one of the most expensive neighborhoods in New York City.  The average price for a two bedroom apartment is $1,712,000 (compared to $1,149,000 for Brooklyn on the whole), and for a three bedroom it is just under $4,000,000. Townhouses can go for considerably more than that, but most people who live here consider the neighborhood well worth the cost. Brooklyn Heights has come a long way from Capote’s 1950’s description of street gangs and alley cats, but the allure of the area endures.


Battery Park City

Battery Park city

A few months ago, I wrote about an unplanned walk through an urban environment (a dérive) I had taken through one of the hottest neighborhoods in Manhattan – Tribeca. Today’s derive starts where Tribeca, the Financial District, and Battery Park City intersect, at Chambers and West Streets. I often like to write about the history of the area I will be walking through, but Battery Park City, the site of today’s journey, is a newborn compared to most of New York City. Battery Park City sits on land created in large part from soil and rock excavated during the building of the original World Trade Center in the early 1970’s. One of the earliest uses of the newly created land was for seating areas to watch the “Operation Sail” flotilla during the celebration of the American Bicentennial in 1976. Construction of residential buildings began in the 1980’s and has continued since then, with 11 buildings constructed in the 2000’s and three new buildings so far in this decade.

Crossing busy West Street over the pedestrian Tribeca Bridge, you realize what spectacular views this neighborhood has of the new One World Trade Center building (recently officially declared the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, besting the Willis Tower in Chicago after a contentious ruling about  antennae versus spires). Stuyvesant High School  lies just over the west side of the bridge. This elite public high school boasts four Nobel laureates among its alumni, and only about 3% of all applicants who take the rigorous standardized admissions test are lucky enough to attend, with no tuition. The high school’s building was erected in the early 1990’s, and marks the northernmost edge of Battery Park City.

Between Stuyvesant and the Hudson River sits the entrance to Nelson Rockefeller Park, a gorgeous spacious park with views of Tribeca and sailboats to the north, and Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty to the south. This park, on the sunny summer weekend day I was there, was filled with bikers, sunbathers, families with strollers, pets walking their humans, and people playing games from basketball to chess – the area was vibrant and welcoming. All along the east side of the park, tall apartment buildings face the Hudson, with occasional views of One World Trade framed in intersections a few more blocks to the east.

Just beyond the residential buildings to the east lies the Goldman Sachs complex, and continuing south, Brookfield Place, which holds several financial companies as well as the Winter Garden, which holds free concerts and other events throughout the year. Near the Winter Garden is a yacht harbor. The businesses in the area contribute to the restaurants and shops that support the area’s residents as well. Continuing south, the bulk of the residential buildings exist in three developments, Gateway Plaza, Rector Place, and Battery Place.

One thing that is important to know is that all the buildings in Battery Park City lease their land from the city rather than knowing it outright, but your broker and attorney can  explain how that affects a particular building you might be interested in. In addition, there is no direct subway service to Battery Park City, but there are bus lines, and the subway and PATH lines servicing the financial district are only a few blocks to the east. The surprising thing about this neighborhood is how quiet and peaceful it seems, just a few blocks from the center of the financial district. Although the real estate value has rebounded in the last few years, there is still a variety of apartments available at many price points. If you are interested in potentially moving to this area, I would recommend visiting it a few times, on a busy weekend afternoon and perhaps also on a weekday evening. I wrote a few months ago about the value of an iconic city view, and if this appeals to you, it is hard to imagine a view more iconic than that of the Statue of Liberty, just one of the advantages to this new and vibrant neighborhood in Manhattan.