The Lameness of Montague Street Garners Attention


Via Curbed, the NY Observer asks "Montague Street R.I.P.?":

If not for the iconic promenade overlooking the East River at Montague Street’s westernmost end, the average visitor strolling past Chipotle, Banana Republic, Häagen-Dazs, Nine West and Starbucks wouldn’t know these hallowed Heights from, say, Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Even on the relatively warm Saturday night of March 10, when diners packed many of nearby Smith Street’s eclectic eateries, the less fashionable joints on Montague offered plenty of empty tables. After 10 p.m., as Smith Street’s youthful masses barhopped among its hotspots, Montague’s more mature (yet far less numerous) loiterers merely window-shopped, browsing the posted real-estate listings among the many brokerage offices lining its four blocks. 

It seems that Montague Street is a victim of its own success; As it became popular for being an eclectic mix of locally-owned places, landlords decided to capitalize on this fame by jacking up the rent and actively looking for national-level businesses that can afford such prices. It's a short-sighted decision though, since they inadvertently pushed out what made the street special in the first place. Montague Street should serve as a warning to such areas as Smith Street and Park Slope: That is your fate if you give in to temptation.

So what's to be done? According to the NY Observer article:

[Judy Stanton, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association] said that her organization is presently lobbying city officials in the hopes of enacting tax incentives or zoning changes to counter the chronic loss of locally owned businesses on Montague and to avoid more banks, real-estate agencies and national chains. (“If we wanted the sameness of malls, we’d move to the suburbs,” mused the so-called First Suburb’s organization newsletter last fall, however ironically.) 

What do you think? Is there any hope such tax incentives and zoning changes will be implemented? Would it be enough? Is there anything your average resident can do to help?

One other thing interesting to note from the article — the utter lack of nightlife on Montague:

“The thing I miss the most—I would say the biggest change in all of my time on Montague Street, which is approaching 20 years—is the tragic end of the nightlife on Montague Street,” said Mitch Cutler, owner of St. Marks Comics, which has occupied two different addresses along the corridor.

“When we first started there, we had much later hours, because there were people in the bars all night,” he said. “We were making money all the way up until 11 o’clock. But when there’s no bars, there’s no nightlife, there’s no foot traffic; there’s nobody to buy comics, either. So we shortened our hours.”

I never understood the aversion to drinking establishments some folks, including the BHA, seem to have. They don't have to be sources of degeneracy. Look at Floyd on Atlantic Avenue — not only do they host a bocce league, but people consider it such an upstanding establishment they frequently bring their parents, children, and dogs with them. 

Flickr photo by pijus

Share this Story:


  • BH Guy

    Agreed…wholeheartedly. Montague Street is lined with VERY mediocre restaurants and no apparent nightlife. It’s basically the Upper East now transplanted in Brooklyn.

  • CMC

    It so sad. I am 26, live in the Heights and on a regular basis travel to other areas in the burrough to go out. I would love to have a thriving nightlife on Montague! Sometimes I can talk people into coming to BH to go to the Henry St. Ale House but that is only one place. I have tried to talk myself into going down to Atlantic but I realize ot takes about the same effort to get to other Brooklyn areas. I say it is time to revive it!

  • wayne

    CMC, i’m 27 and i feel the same way…Love coming home to BH, but Montague’s def a little too dead for my taste.
    Would love to have a new restaurant/lounge, non-irish bar, place open up on Montague…with great happy hours, and open beyond that lame 1am close of Heights Cafe.

  • rata

    I saw it all coming when they closed the only “different” place on Montague St, Centro (same owner as Hgts Cafe, btw) and a Sleepys opened instead, then came LOFT. We need to de-gentrify the nabe and slowly gentrify it again, or move to Cobble Hill.

  • Teddy

    Long-time BH residents like myself know that in the Heights you sleep and in Manhattan you work, shop and play. We’re a “suburb” of Manhattan after all. I think some of the younger people who have moved here recently didn’t realize that (I’m young myself). Montague St. was always kind of mediocre, even 20 years ago when I was a kid. What about people who live on Montague St ? Do they need drunks screaming outside their windows at 2 AM or worse. As for Smith St, I’ve noticed that some mediocre restaurants have opened up, no doubt trying to cash in on Smith St’s cool factor (what’s left of it).

  • BH girl

    I’m also young and living in BH. I love to shop and go to restaurants and Montague St. isn’t of any interest to me. The best restaurant is Heights Cafe and it’s not good food. I’m a firm believer in if you build it they will come. We want good restaurants and shopping! The street has soooo much potential!

  • Chris

    You know what Montague Street really needs? More real estate agencies – or wait, maybe more stores that sell eyeglass frames…but definitely real estate agencies:):) I do live in BH, and I’m amazed how they manage to outnumber everything on the block…..and definitely not a good sign when the storefronts of the MS DVD and video and the Florist below remain empty…also the space above LOFT and across the street….

  • BP

    The space formerly known as the “Montague St. Mews” was going for $40/ft when I last checked. That is actually decent, but they didn’t really want to divide it, which means only someone big can afford it, if they wanted 2nd floor space.

    The former storefront for MS DVD and video is looking for upwards of $10k/mo. and preferably not a restaurant (not that I would ever consider a restaurant).
    I think they are still paying over $6k/mo in their new space across the street, or something close to that (don’t quote me). (Video rental brings in that much revenue? Still? With Netflix and OnDemand, etc? Who woulda thunk it?)

    I can only surmise that the florist space rent would be similar.

    The former home of Sleepy’s (above Starbucks) I believe is asking $80/ft as a gross lease.

    And how much do you think formerly Bolton’s is asking?

    Last check the daylight basement space under the St. George Hotel on Henry St. was asking $120k/year. Don’t know about the new space by the dorms (what happened to the boutique hotel?) on Clark.

    These are ENORMOUS rents, especially when you consider the build-out costs associated with making them suitable for any business other than what was previously occupying the space.

    No wonder they are sitting vacant or only being taken by franchises, banks and realty.

  • spm

    Montague Street has never been that hopping of a place – oh, maybe way back when during Truman Capote’s time but then it was at its seediest. Frankly, it’s bad enough during the warmer months when drunken, screaming people head towards the Promenade and leave it looking like a trash dump on Saturday and Sunday mornings. There are places to go – especially for you “younger people.” You can walk a few blocks to the Ale House, Floyd’s or venture to Smith Street. Leave Montague Street alone – it is what it is. Yes, it’s boring, but it’s liveable for us residents there.

    Now if we can only get rid of that neon sign for the fortuneteller I’d be REALLY happy.

  • Park Sloper

    Basically, the evolution of Montague Street is similar to what has happened to Broadway on the Upper West Side: the chain stores have taken over. But it has never been a terribly interesting street, at least not in the 20+ years that I have lived in Brooklyn. Residents enjoy it for the quiet streets and lovely homes, and close proximity to Manhattan. It’s a shame there are so few mom-and-pop stores left, but as for nightlife and good shopping, Smith Street is a short stroll away, and Fifth Avenue in Park Slope and De Kalb in Fort Greene are worth the trip. The real danger is, that like Seventh Avenue in Park Slope, there will be more and more boarded up spaces as landlords decline to lower their rents, and merchants decline to pay it. That’s not good for anyone involved.

  • montague street resident

    It is now 4:50am and this piercing alarm-like sound has been going on since 2am. We’ve noticed it has been going on for the last month – mostly late at night but a few times during the day but the police said no one has complained about it. Have you heard the piercing sound?

  • David

    Montague St ALWAYS stunk…its not gentrification (BH has been gentrified for 40+yrs BTW), its not national retailers, its not a lack of local merchants…its the fact that the Courts/Offices nearby offer far more $ to prospective merchants then the typical ‘always working’, ‘eat out in Manhattan’, ‘away for the summer’ Heights resident.

  • Chris

    I’m with you Wayne and CMC. 26 and no descent place to go around here. For God’s sake just give us a bar to go to! Ever since Blue Moon closed there is nothing except down on Atlantic. Whenever I see a place close on Montague I say a silent prayer that a restaurant or bar will open.

    There are a few vacancies now. Let’s hope no more laundromats, real estate agencies, eyeglass frame stores or cell phone stores. The lowest was when Centro closed and Sleepy’s moved downstairs. Do we really need 2 mattress stores on Montague street?

    Lantern is the only cool place we have here and with the way things have been going it will close within a year. I’m hoping a nice little tiki bar joint opens in that greek place that just closed near St. Anthony’s. It’s got that patio that I just think an outdoor tiki bar would be awesome on.

    It’s sad when your excited about a “5 guys famous burgers and fries” just because it’s not a realtor.