Brooklyn Heights is a culturally diverse neighborhood that has been a prominent part of Brooklyn since 1834. It stretches from Old Fulton Street near the Brooklyn Bridge south to Atlantic Avenue and from the East River east to Court Street and Cadman Plaza. It lies directly across the East River from Manhattan. It is largely composed of beautiful rowhouses and a few mansions. It is architecturally diverse, with structures ranging from Federal-style houses from the early 19th century, Greek and Gothic Revival houses to Italian brownstones. Brooklyn Heights was the first neighborhood protected by the 1965 Landmarks Preservation Law of New York City. Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims and Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Cathedral are both must see stops located in Brooklyn Heights.
Brooklyn Heights occupies a bluff that rises sharply from the river’s edge and gradually recedes on the landward side. Before the Dutch settled on Long Island in the middle of the seventeenth century, this promontory was called Ihpetonga (“the high sandy bank”) by the native Lenape Native Americans. Since it has been developed in the past few hundred years it has been a picturesque addition to the Brooklyn landscape.
The Promenade, actually an esplanade, is cantilevered over the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and is a favorite spot among locals. This beautiful park offers breathtaking views of the Statue of Liberty, the Manhattan Skyline across the East River, as well as incredible views of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. Robert Moses originally proposed to build the BQE through the heart of Brooklyn Heights. Opposition to this plan led to the re-routing of the expressway to the side of the bluff, allowing creation of the Promenade. It is a popular tourist destination and a fine termination point with its spectacular views after a lovely walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.
Brooklyn Heights became New York’s first commuter town in the early 19th century when a new steam ferry service provided reliable service to Wall Street. The executive offices of the Brooklyn Dodgers were, for many years, located in the Heights, near the intersection of Montague and Court Streets. A plaque on the office building that replaced the Dodgers’ old headquarters at 215 Montague Street identifies it as the site where Jackie Robinson signed his major league contract. On July 20, 1891 the cable cars connecting Brooklyn City Hall (now Borough Hall) and the Wall Street Ferry started running on Montague Street. The line was designed by Robert Gillham who was known for his work on the Kansas City Cable Railway. It ran until 1924, twelve years after the Wall Street Ferry stopped running.
Considered to be the first suburb in America, the Brooklyn Heights of today is much more than a suburb. It has become one of the most desirable neighborhoods for Manhattanites ready to raise a family. It is essentially a Manhattan neighborhood, located on the other side of the river. With a five minute commute to the Stock Exchange via subway, many of today’s residents are Wall Street workers looking for more space and neighborhoods with old New York character which is found in abundance in the Heights.
By the mid-1950′s a new generation of property owners began moving into the Heights. They pioneered the so-called Brownstone Revival by buying and renovating pre-civil war period houses. The new population and their consolidated opposition to a Robert Moses slum clearance plan for luxury rental housing led to the development of a major middle income cooperative known as Cadman Plaza. Brooklyn Heights has a very charming feel due to the fact that it has so many rowhouses and brownstones and so few high-rises.