Ocean Hill


Brownstoner recently received this email from the pastor of a prominent church in Ocean Hill-Brownsville:

“I recently saw several notices online advertising two newly constructed homes on St. Mark’s Avenue. Both of these listings called the neighborhood Crown Heights. This neighborhood is, always has been, and always will be Ocean Hill-Brownsville. It is not Crown Heights. In fact it is a significant distance from Crown Heights. Calling it that is misleading to potential buyers and disrespectful to the people of this community. We who live and work in Brownsville are proud of our community and resent others labeling us as someplace we are not for their own personal gain.


The last traces of the arson fires that devastated this stretch of Broadway and nearby blocks in Ocean Hill and Bushwick in the 1970s are slowly being erased by new development here.

Men have been busy toiling away on the largest and most prominent of these developments under the elevated J train track here on the corner of Broadway and Decatur Street in Ocean Hill since a big public groundbreaking in March.

A vacant, City-owned lot for decades, this was once a row of stores with apartments above and will soon be so again.


MacDonough Cafe opened on the dividing line of Bed Stuy and Ocean Hill Tuesday, in a space that had been empty for years. The menu at 83 Saratoga Avenue includes light fare such as avocado toast, pasta, and cheese and fruit plates.

The space had been under renovation for more than a year, and before that was shuttered for about a decade.

It joins a handful of other recent newcomers within a few blocks of Saratoga Park in East Bed Stuy, such as Butch & CoCo and Grandchamps. It will be open from 7 to 6, the owner told us.

Renovations at Long Vacant Storefront on Saratoga Avenue [Brownstoner] GMAP
Photos by Steve Sherman


We caught the demolition of the People’s Pleasure Palace, built sometime around 1900 at 1674 Broadway in Ocean Hill, last week and over the weekend. For decades, this has been a building supply store called Henry Distributors, aka Henry’s, and an important employer in the area.

As we have detailed in previous stories, this large and strangely shaped parcel will become supportive housing, along with the very large empty lot across the street at 1696 Broadway. Owner Stan Henry is one of the developers, along with SUS and Alembic Community Development, and someday the retail space on the ground floor of this building will include another Henry’s hardware store. The two buildings will be known as the Henry Apartments.


The beginnings of a new stoop have appeared at the wood frame house under construction at 650 Decatur Street. As readers may recall, workers demo’d the old stoop last month.

When we passed by Wednesday, we could also see that a gut renovation is taking place inside. The front facade is also being redone, as the new layer of plywood shows.

Renovation activity has really picked up in east Bed Stuy recently. Not counting new buildings, some blocks have three or more renovations going on at once. Click through for another look.

Bed Stuy Wood Frame Getting New Stoop [Brownstoner] GMAP


The Henry Apartments, a huge affordable and supportive housing complex in Ocean Hill, has officially kicked off construction at 1696-1712 Broadway. City officials and pols such as Deputy Borough President Diana Reyna and local City Council Member Darlene Mealy were on hand for the groundbreaking ceremony, which took place Friday, March 20, a spokesperson for the project let us know. (Check out the press release and photos here.)

Workers have been putting up a construction fence around the very large site for several weeks, and when we peeked through yesterday we could see the ground had been cleared and a hole had appeared close to the corner of Broadway and Rockaway. The site runs along Broadway between Rockaway and Decatur. Years ago there were apartments and stores here, but the property has been an empty lot for decades.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Our Lady of the Presentation-Loreto Roman Catholic Church
Address: 1677 St. Marks Avenue
Cross Streets: Corner Rockaway Boulevard
Neighborhood: Ocean Hill
Year Built: 1910-1911
Architectural Style: Byzantine Revival
Architect: Frank J. Helmle
Other Buildings by Architect: St. Barbara’s Catholic Church in Bushwick, St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church in Crown Heights North, plus Bossert Hotel in Brooklyn Heights, Boat House in Prospect Park, Park shelters in Fulton and McGolrick parks, Greenpoint Savings Bank and Williamsburg Trust bank, and many, many more
Landmarked: No

The story: The more I find out about Frank Helmle’s work, the more I have to move him up in the pantheon of Brooklyn’s great architects. The man had incredible talent and versatility. He had an uncanny and valuable ability to take the architecture of other times, places and cultures and translate it into something modern for his time and place. He used this talent often and well, but it is perhaps most clearly shown in his church architecture.

This parish started out a long way from a corner lot at the joining of several important streets in Ocean Hill. Our Lady of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary was started in 1887 in the South Brooklyn home of the Reverend Hugh Hand. The first real mass was celebrated in Luhr’s Hall, on East New York Avenue and Osborne Street with 30 people in attendance. The congregation purchased this corner plot and had a wood-framed church built within the next year or so. That wooden church was soon too small, and it was enlarged in 1896. When the church was built, so too was the brick rectory building next door.

Rev. Hand remained the pastor here until his death in 1909. That year, Rev. James F. Flynn was made the pastor. He was in charge when the wooden church burned down in 1910. The church rallied, held mass in a large tent erected on site, and began raising money to build a new church. Rev. Flynn had a reputation for appreciating good architecture and knowing his architects, so he must have been quite happy to have Frank J. Helmle on board to design the new church. He may have even suggested him.


A long-shuttered factory and lot at 1725 St Marks Avenue, between Eastern Parkway and East New York Avenue in Ocean Hill, sold for $2,200,000 last month, according to public records. That’s about twice what we would expect.

It’s a large lot, nearly 7,000 square feet, but the property has a FAR of 1 and is only zoned for manufacturing. (The existing building is 1.39 over FAR, also.) About a year ago, small residential lots in Ocean Hill on the other side of Atlantic were trading around $180 per square foot. This sale price works out to about $314 a square foot.

Prices have been rising all across the borough, of course, and this property sits right next to the boundaries of de Blasio’s proposed East New York rezoning plan. If that goes through, it will turn nearby commercial-only spaces into mixed-use residential and possibly add as many as 7,000 apartments in the area, as we reported last month.

Signatures on the deeds show the buyer is an LLC managed by local investor Zalmen Wagschal. GMAP

Image via Google Maps