Heights History (A Slight Return): If You’re Thinking of… Brooklyn Heights 1982

Here’s a BHB Heights History post we originally ran in January 2007:

On November 21, 1982, the New York Times published If You’re Thinking of Living in Brooklyn Heights outling the benefits of living here in the nabe.

We found a few passages to be of interest, especially this one which had us regretting selling our time machine:

Real-estate people in the Heights report that a two-bedroom apartment in a new renovation rents for $900 to $1,500 a month. For those who want to buy a brownstone, houses selling from $300,000 to $325,000 will take another $125,000 to $150,000 in renovation to make them really habitable. For a browstone in move-in condition, the price goes upward from $450,000.

Crime in the nabe has decreased significantly since the Reagan era, with the 84th Precinct reporting 209 robberies and 148 burglaries in 2006 [2012 figures are here]. In 1982, these stats were considered “improved”:

Crime has been a problem in the Heights, but the overall rate has slowed in the last year, according to Patricia McDermott, the community affairs officer of the 84th Police Precinct, which covers the area. She said robberies, at 974 in the first 10 months of this year, were down 12.3 percent from the same period of 1981, and burglaries, at 980, were down 30 percent. the 559 car thefts in the first 10 months represented a 14.3 percent gain over the same period in 1981.

Why crime goes down is hard to pinpoint, Officer McDermott says, but contributing factors in the Heights are “more police visibility and a greater willingness on the part of residents to call police when they see something happen.”

No trip back in time would be complete without a mention of shopping on Montague Street:

The main Heights shopping thorough-fare is Montague Street, which has everything form boutiques and bookstores to major supermarkets and restaurants of every kind. In a one-block stretch of Montague Street, between Henry and Clinton Streets, there are more than a dozen eating places, including Armando’s, which specializes in Italian food, at 143; Chuan Yuan, a Sichuan place at 128; Hebrew National at 139; Old Hungary at 142; Foffe, which specializes in wild game, at 155, and even a Burger King, with a tastefully restrained front to comply with landmark regulations, at 135.

And, of course, development was an issue back then too:

Until early 1980, the Hotel Margaret, with its elegant copperwork facade, stood on what is now a weed-covered plot at Orange Street and Columbia Heights. The landmark hotel, built in 1889, was destroyed by fire just as work to turn it into co-op apartments was about to be completed.

The owner, Bruce Eichner, proposed to replace the Margaret with a 15-story structure, slightly shorter than the 128-foot hotel, but that, along with a 13-floor design, was rejected by the Landmarks Preservation Commission as too large and not in keeping with the neighborhood. An 11-floor design was approved on Oct. 26.

Mr. Eichner now faces another hurdle – obtaining a variance from a zoning law that limits the height of new buildings in the neighborhood to 50 feet. Mr. Eichner, who said he expected action on his request within four months, said he was entitled to build higher because the Margaret was higher. An officer of the Brooklyn Heights Association, which opposes the new plan, called that argument ”an irrelevancy.”

Construction of the “new” Hotel Margaret was completed by the Watchtower and now serves as dorms for its members. Eichner is still very active in development with his brother Stuart, recently with 180 Montague Street.

Have vintage photos of the nabe? Send them to BHB and we’ll publish them.

Photo: via Flickr user vinceconnare

This piece originally ran on BHB in January 2007.

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  • Karl Junkersfeld

    Darn Homer, that is one of my original films. Old. Guess that is appropriate concerning the topic. One note, the 1872 picture overlooking the island of Manhattan was a rendering of what was projected to be the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge. The painting was done in 1872 but we all know the bridge was not completed until 1883. There are a couple of other small mistakes but I won’t point them out. hehe By the way, I use to love that fruit stand and the country Hick that owned it.

  • Jorale-man

    Hmm, at least the Burger King has left Montague. I wonder when that tapas bar is scheduled to open, btw?

  • HenryLoL
  • Hayseed


  • Karl Junkersfeld

    Yes, Hayseed, hick as in country folk. You know urban/rural. A dichotomy. Not a pejorative term. Me, I am a city slicker. Born and raised in NYC. Norman was as country as they get. Not much into city style. He grew some fresh organic fruit.

    Rumor has it that the term hick was derived from settlers residing in lower Manhattan calling those across the river, Brooklyn, hicks because they lived in the sticks. (wooded terrain) Back in 18th century and early nineteen the Hick’s were dominant in our area along with the Middagh’s and they supplied fruits and vegetables to our Manhattan neighbors, shipped I presume by ferry. It is no coincidence that his area has streets titled Orange, Cranberry and Pineapple. This area was farmland. Not sure if the above history is true but it has been said. Where is Jeremy when I need him?

  • harvey’s mom

    what about that citroen norman and his wife drove? a classic. how about sal’s meat market?

  • AEB

    Lovely work, Mr. Junkersfeld!

  • GrewUpHere

    Have to say I really miss Norman’s, it may have been a little shabby but he was always friendly and his produce and bread always great, much rather have him back then the wine/tapas/whatever place there now

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlsiLOnWCoI Arch Stanton

    As I remember it: Sal accidentally left a briefcase containing cash, gold & bearer bonds, worth over $400K in front of the meat market. it was found by a very honest person or someone who knew Sal’s “connections” and was smart enough not to keep it, they turned it over to the police. Sal claims ownership. However, because of the value, the police alert the IRS who call Sal down for an interview to explain? Sal shows up to the Federal Court House (where the IRS office was) packing two 9mm pistols. Oops, he didn’t realize there were those newly installed metal detectors in the lobby… Don’t pas go, don’t collect $400K, go directly to jail.

  • Karl Junkersfeld

    Yea, I miss Norman also. A real character and characters are what make a neighborhood interesting. It is always great when you know the neighborhood proprietors. Just that block alone, between Middagh and Cranberry on Henry is a perfect example. James (Cranberries), Mark (Henry’s End) and Tony (Noodle Pudding) have connected with the neighborhood at it reflects in their having successful businesses that have stood the test of time. They are part of the fabric of North Heights. Did I ever mention that I love Brooklyn Heights.

  • architrance

    Too bad with inflation a $450K brownstone in 1982 would cost $1.1M today – still hugely unaffordable.