Heights History: If You’re Thinking of… Brooklyn Heights 1982

henrycranberry via flickr user vinceconnare

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. 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.

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  • beth

    Oh if only there was a fruit market where the Party Place is!!! That’s the part that really has me weeping.

  • http://www.selfabsorbedboomer.blogspot.com Claude Scales

    The lineup of restaurants on Montague between Henry and Clinton described in the Times article is exactly what I remember being there when I moved to the Heights in 1983. Old Hungary, which was in the space now occupied by Taze, was an early favorite of mine; unfortunately, the kindly old couple who ran it retired to Florida about a year after I moved here. It was succeeded by a nice, unpretentious Italian that served up great homemade gnocchi with bolognese sauce, but it was gone after another year or so. The replacement was also Italian, but had a name so offputting I was never tempted to try it: Rock Pasta. I guess their slogan could have been: “Where it’s really al dente.” I forget whatever iterations came between that and Kapadokya/Taze.

    I had also forgotten about Foffe serving wild game, which, I guess, set the stage for Henry’s End.

  • http://adsformyself.blogspot.com Tim N.

    I miss Ozzie’s. Does anyone else remember Ozzie’s on Montague?

  • babs

    Oh, wow! I moved to the Heights in 1981 — does this bring back memories! Hebrew National, Old Hungary — only Armando’s remains (although it’s been redecorated twice). Nothing could match their old decor though — I loved the spaghetti-sauce-stained flocked wallpaper and that wacky room in the back with the round table. And the precious waitress who called everyone “dear.” I still go back at least once a year just for nostalgia’s sake — their food hasn’t changed.

    On Henry St., thank goodness Fascati still survives (and still makes good pizza and great chicken and meatball parm heroes). Remember that hippie place on the corner of Cranberry and Henry (next to Cranberry’s). Can’t remember what it was called, but it was funky.

    BTW, Bruce Eichner sold 180 Montague to Archstone about 1 year ago — and the rents have gone up pretty dramatically since then. Would make a great condo conversion.

  • http://ittakesurbreathaway.com Brian Webster

    How I miss Capulets on Montague Street. And the weekly paper run by Chuck, where i wrote my column. And our parties at my place at The Margaret Hotel or On Captain John’s ship when they were in the USA.
    I miss it so………

  • nabeguy

    Great memories, one and all. The “organic” fruit market on Cranberry and Henry didn’t really have a name, but was run by Norm and his wife, a couple of urban hippie commune types. They actually come back to the area every Mother’s day to sell fresh cut lilacs and have set up a stand nearby on Henry for the past few weeks selling plants. I remember when that space was called Kennedy’s, a “super” market run by a Spanish family.
    Brian, do you remember Ron Green, one of the bartenders at Cap’s? He was like our very own Travis Bickle.

  • http://noneyet Pete

    great memories…..used to pass by Normans every day……i remember he sold day old bread at a discount………hey….don’t forget the Saloon on Montague St….The owner Eric was a real character………lots of good times over there.

  • Kakel

    I lved there for almost 2 years &I miss every cornor of Brooklyn height so much while am here in the middle of no where in cold atlantic Canada.

  • http://snipurl.com/nyprotest todd

    Does anyone know if the Jehovah’s Witness operation bought the Towers Hotel?

  • Marybeth

    I worked at Norman and Mariel’s store at the corner of Henry and Cranberry Sts. between 1979 and 1983 (5 years!). The name of the store was “Cranberry Street Trucking”, “truck” meaning “vegetables raised for the market”, 2nd definition of the word in any decent dictionary. Norman and Mariel, by the way, were BEATNIKS not HIPPIES and they were never married in the usual sense, i.e., with a marriage license. They met each other at a poetry reading way back in the day. They were intellectuals and literary and all that good stuff. The place was certainly funky, but it was fabulous and I loved working there. We had so much fun. I loved driving out to the country with Norman to pick up corn that had just been picked and eating sweet bicolor corn raw, just off the plant. Best corn in the world. Or going out to the big wholesale market in Canarsie and stopping at Riis Park for a swim. Norman had been a lifeguard at that beach in his youth and is still the best swimmer I know. The guy can go for miles in the ocean waves. Then walking barefoot through the piping hot sand back to the parking lot and a truck full of sweet watermelons. Watermelons are fantastic after a salty swim. Those are some of my favorite memories of NYC. Been living in California since ’83. Do you guys remember Minsky’s on Remsen with the bartender Vladimir? Or Sebastian’s Seafood joint? (I worked there, too) Or the Waterfront on Atlantic Ave? (I also worked there) Or Perelandra when it was on Montague St. up a flight of stairs? (another place I worked) Or St. Ann’s Episcopal School? (I substitute taught there) Or Polytechnic Institute of NY on Jay St. where I got my B.S. in mechanical engineering while working for Norman and Mariel? Good God, the Height’s was so deep into my blood. I still miss it. I loved that period of my life. I loved that particular geography and all the characters that populated it. It was a very rich and fulfilling time of my life. I would go back there in a flash if I could.