The New York Times Replica Edition

Waterfront Community Sits Minutes From Manhattan


Deborah Hallen first visited Brooklyn Heights as a member of an amateur chamber music group. A year later, she moved there. A year after that, after a performance on Staten Island, she met Paul O. Zelinsky, a children’s books illustrator, who lived in his art studio in Brooklyn Heights.

“I fell in love at first sight,” said Ms. Hallen, 79, of the man she soon married.

That was back in the 1970s. She and Mr. Zelinsky, 70, are now grandparents, but they still live and work in this waterfront community.

Ms. Hallen taught at P.S. 8, the local public school on Hicks Street, from which she is now retired. She is vice president of Friends of the Brooklyn Heights Branch Library. Mr. Zelinsky, who won the Caldecott Medal in 1998 and has sold millions of copies of his most popular book, “Wheels on the Bus,” is part of a circle of illustrators who meet regularly in the neighborhood.

In 1998, the couple and their two daughters left their one-bedroom rental and moved into a two-bedroom, two-bath co-op apartment with views of the harbor and the Brooklyn Bridge, a wood-burning fireplace and a roof deck. They paid $320,000. “It’s worth over a million dollars now,” Ms. Hallen said. “We have no desire to leave. It’s beautiful and quiet here.”

Brooklyn Heights has long been known as “New York’s first suburb,” said Gerard Splendore, an associate broker with Coldwell Banker Warburg, who has lived in three places in Brooklyn Heights.

Among the residents in that area is Doc Dean, 38, a managing director in the corporate investment banking division at Citibank. He and his wife, Amie Dean, 44, a retired fashion industry executive, were among the first to move into the Quay condominium in 2020, paying about $3 million for a three-bedroom, three-bath apartment. The couple now have a 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son.

“We wanted to be close to my work, and the neighborhood is awesome,” Mr. Dean said.

Tom and Kate Gunton, both 33, have been renting on Hicks Street for five years, starting with a one-bedroom and then a two-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath apartment in the same building, where they now pay about $3,000 a month and live with their 5-monthold daughter and an 85-pound yellow lab.

When they met, Ms. Gunton, who works in health care, was living on the Lower East Side; Mr. Gunton, who works at a software company, had been living abroad. They considered staying on the Lower East Side but wanted “a bit more space and more amenities,” Mr. Gunton said.

“This is not a transient neighborhood,” he said. “People want to stay forever.”

What You’ll Find

Robert A. Levine, a developer, remembers driving past the deteriorating piers and sheds along the Brooklyn Heights waterfront for many years. “They were screaming to me,” he said, but no one had been able to develop what he saw as “a hidden gem.”

Around 2003, he said, he began working with the city and state to build or convert a few new residential buildings that would contribute some of the funds for the transformation of the piers that has made Brooklyn Bridge Park into a thriving recreational area.

The new construction represents a small portion of the neighborhood’s overall space. The community’s northern boundary is Old Fulton Street; its southern boundary is Atlantic Avenue. To the east, Cadman Plaza West curves around, and then Court Street takes over for a short distance. Overlooking the park and the East River, on the west, is the Promenade, a public space that delineates the Heights part of the neighborhood’s name.

What You’ll Pay

The median price of the 221 homes that sold this year through September was $1.19 million, said John Walkup, a founder of UrbanDigs, a real estate data-analytics company. That was close to the median sale price of $1.2 million during the same period in 2020, when about the same number of homes sold.

But during the first couple of years of the pandemic, when people wanted more space than Manhattan could offer, “we were off to the races,” Mr. Walkup said. In 2021, sales more than doubled, to 485, with a median price of $1.45 million; in 2022, there were 408 sales at a median price of $1.3 million.

Since then the market has slowed, in part because of higher interest rates. As of mid-November, there were 126 homes for sale on StreetEasy, from a one-bedroom, one-bath co-op on the third floor of a 1950 elevator building at 100 Remsen Street, listed for $370,000, to a three-family brownstone built in 1899 at 126 Pierrepont Street, listed for $15 million. About 130 rentals were available, from a studio in a walk-up building on State Street, listed for $2,195 a month, to a five-bedroom, five-and-a-halfbath townhouse on Remsen Street listed for $27,500 a month.

The Vibe

“Community members care a great deal about their history,” said Lara Birnback, the executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association. “But at the same time, this is a very vibrant and striving community.”

She added, “People are excited that our main street, Montague, has a new energy,” with new restaurants, bakeries and other stores.

The Schools

P.S. 8 the Emily Warren Roebling School, at 37 Hicks Street, is the only public school in Brooklyn Heights. It serves students in kindergarten through fifth grade, and had an enrollment of 575 in the school year 2021-22. In 2018-19 (the last year for which ratings are available because of the pandemic), when it was known as the Robert Fulton School and included seventh and eighth grades, 76 percent of students met state standards on the English test, compared with 47 percent citywide, and 71 percent met state standards in math, compared with 46 percent citywide.

In the fall of 2019, students in sixth through eighth grades were moved to Bridges MS 915 in Downtown Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Heights is also home to several highly rated private schools, including St. Ann’s School, the Packer Collegiate Institute and Brooklyn Heights Montessori School.

The Commute

The 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C and R subway lines all run through the neighborhood. Ferries shuttle people to Manhattan, and many ride bicycles — or walk — across the Brooklyn Bridge.

The History

The Brooklyn Heights Association, founded in 1910, is the city’s oldest neighborhood association, according to its website. In 1935, the group’s advocacy led to the creation of Cadman Plaza Park. In 1960, the association helped defeat Robert Moses’s urban renewal plan to build luxury onebedroom rentals on Cadman Plaza. Instead, narrower buildings and affordable, familysize co-ops took their place.





New York Times