As far as Brooklyn neighborhoods go, Brooklyn Heights is tiny, a wedge bordered by Cadman Plaza and its busy series of parks, walkways, and municipal buildings to the east, the Brooklyn Bridge to the north, Atlantic Avenue to the south, and the East River to the west. It’s just about 15 blocks tall and five blocks wide. The role it plays in Brooklyn’s history, and in the popular imagination, looms much larger. Its lovely, tree-lined streets and spectacular homes have been the setting for television series and movies as varied as The Patty Duke Show, The Cosby Show, and Moonstruck.
Over the years Brooklyn Heights has been home to more than its fair share of artists and writers, including Salvador Dali, Richard Wright, H.P. Lovecraft, and Truman Capote. Bob Dylan paid tribute to the neighborhood’s then-bohemian character when he wrote “Tangled Up in Blue” in 1975, singing, “I lived with them on Montague Street / in a basement down the stairs. / There was music in the cafés at night / And revolution in the air.”
Flatbush Avenue is one of the longest streets in Brooklyn. It runs from the Manhattan Bridge all the way to the Rockaways. It’s a very old route that started as a Native American path and became a road in Colonial times — even becoming the target of a strategic roadblock during the Revolutionary War.
Flatbush today is no quaint colonial trail. Recently, Flatbush has been undergoing a sea change, thanks to an influx of luxury high-rises in Downtown Brooklyn and the seismic impact of the new Barclays Center at Flatbush and Atlantic.
Downtown Soaring Upward
Crossing the Manhattan Bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn used to mean leaving skyscrapers behind, driving down a Flatbush flanked by low-slung retail and residential buildings of little distinction. No more. Now the visitor to Brooklyn is greeted at the gate by the new additions to Brooklyn’s once modest skyline, residential and commercial skyscrapers built over the past decade that tower over their neighbors and offer magnificent views of Manhattan and the southern half of Brooklyn.
When you think of brownstone Brooklyn, those quintessential tree-lined blocks, beautiful stoops and the urban pastoral aesthetic, well, that's prime Park Slope. Forget the punchlines about strollers, obsessive co-op shoppers, and hovering parents -- that's all secondary to the fact that this is one the most beautiful neighborhoods in the city, and, tucked next to Prospect Park, it offers plenty of open green space, sorely lacking in many other parts of Brooklyn.
Over the past 20 years, Brooklyn has gone through a shocking transformation. Where once it was nearly impossible to get your Manhattan friends to come visit you in Brooklyn, now they’re moving in next door. This is especially true of particular parts of the borough, places that started out rough around the edges, only to become the hottest destinations in the city. It’s true of Williamsburg, of course. It’s true of Smith Street. And it is certainly true of Park Slope’s 5th Avenue.
Longtime Park Slopers remember a time when 5th Avenue’s crime rates made it, for some, a “no-go zone.” While 7th Avenue was the main street for young families, 5th Avenue had trouble attracting businesses other than bodegas, 99-cent stores, hardware stores, and dive bars. Now, after seismic changes in crime rates, real estate prices, and demographics, 5th avenue has become the new main street, attracting high-end boutiques, inventive restaurants, and…dive bars. We’ve come a long way, baby.
So take a walk with us down 5th Avenue! We hope you’re ready to shop, eat, play, drink and eat some more.
Court Street in Brooklyn is full of extreme contrasts. Trendy new stores and restaurants abut family-run establishments that have been in business for over half a century. The meshing of quintessential Brooklyn and the rapidly gentrifying city only adds to the appeal of Court Street, and has led to a unique gastronomic scene with a penchant for international flavors.
One of the great things about Atlantic Avenue is the variety of businesses, from antique shops and high end clothing boutiques to perfumeries and Islamic bookstores. Whether you’re shopping for something specific or want to spend a leisurely afternoon popping in and out of stores, it offers a dizzying range of options.
One of the longest streets in Brooklyn, Atlantic Avenue goes all the way from Brooklyn Heights to the Long Island Railroad Station in Jamaica, Queens, but today we will be focusing on the section between Atlantic Terminal and the Brooklyn waterfront. Every autumn, this stretch of Atlantic Avenue is the home of The Atlantic Antic, an immensely popular street fair with live bands, children’s attractions, shopping, and a variety of food and beer that puts all other New York street fairs to shame. The Antic has been going strong since 1974, even earning a mention in a Beastie Boys track.
To wander up Smith Street is to take a journey through a Brooklyn you can see changing before your eyes. On its southern end, in Red Hook, Smith Street is undergoing a rebirth from an industrial center to the newest residential frontier. On the northern end, it enters the historical core of Brooklyn, punctuated by the architecturally notable Borough Hall and its neighboring courthouses. And in between, Smith Street boasts an eclectic mix of hip bars, restaurants and boutiques, along with remnants of the pre-gentrification, working class neighborhoods that would become what Carroll Gardens and Boerum Hill are today.
Since the 1820s, Smith Street has been home to mixed-use buildings, with shops on the ground floor and living space above, while its cross streets were lined with row houses and brownstones.
Like many famous thoroughfares, Bedford Avenue and what it conjures in our cultural consciousness belies its more complex and unique history. While today we often think of hipster culture, small local boutiques and trendy restaurants, there’s a lot that went into transforming the avenue in Williamsburg into what it is today. The area around the L train stop is the most well-trod, but Bedford Avenue is in fact Brooklyn’s longest street, stretching from Greenpoint all the way to Sheepshead Bay.
Looked at in its entirety, Bedford Avenue speaks to many aspects of Brooklyn’s history–a transformation from rural to urban in some areas, a bustling commercial corridor with architecture to match its future prospects in others. Today, we’ll be taking a look at the portion from Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint to Broadway in Williamsburg.
Greenpoint and McCarren Park
Bedford Avenue begins without much fanfare in Greenpoint, just off the intersection of Manhattan Avenue and Nassau Avenue. The businesses along the triangular block that is created from the junction reflects the shifting demographics of the neighborhood. Neighborhood establishments like a Polish restaurant, a locksmith and laundromat give way to Five Leaves, the popular corner establishment planned by Heath Ledger before his untimely death. On balmy days (even in winter) you can find Brooklynites sitting outside sipping a cocktail and taking in locally sourced, organic fare. But don’t miss the Film Noir Video Store just next door, a holdout of the disappearing neighborhood video rental spot. Owner Will Malitek says that Film Noir is “dedicated to classic and obscure music and movies” and when you chat with him in person, it’s clear he’s equally versed in both.