My First Dispatch: On Moving to Brooklyn in 1996 as We Welcome September in the Best Neighborhood in NYC

Greetings neighbors—the first dispatch from me, Caroline Aiken Koster, your newest BHBlogger here.

This first post has me thinking about moving to Brooklyn Heights in Fall of 1996. Until then, my husband James and I, fresh out of graduate school and landing in Manhattan from our hometowns of Louisville and Cincinnati, rented a standard NYC starter on 23rd Street. It had one spectacular feature: a roof that Big Apple dreams are made of. A spiral staircase lead to a popped-up bedroom with a slider accessing the tar beach overlooking Park Avenue. There was a low parapet wall and railing; but no fences between neighbors. We shared that glorious turf with an urban gardener and a rotating cast of Elite models and Credit Suisse analysts cycling through the four bedroom rental next door. Plus we two Kosters! Newly married and newly minted New Yorkers.

Fast forward four years and a million tales from that aerie. I’m pregnant. Those stairs are too treacherous for an infant, the parapet, too low, the stuff, too much. My husband’s architect gang had decamped to Brooklyn Heights. “Just look there,” he urged as we considered our next home.

It seemed a bridge too far.

But after dinner in a friend’s back garden at Henry and State, I envisioned myself here. We walked into a Montague Street real estate office and an agent named Wade greeted us, gently guiding us through Brownstone floor throughs and Fruit Street walk ups and feeding us Fatoosh on Hicks, my first Middle Eastern food. Soon, I handed him his first homemade Kentucky Derby pie to celebrate our new home on Livingston Street. Three years later, pregnant again, we used a Saw-Z-All to cut a hole into the apartment next door, expanding our footprint and our family. Four Kosters, including our two sons, have called this neighborhood home ever since. After September 11, 2001, we added a golden retriever, Taxi.

“Well, said my mother, upon learning our new address would be in the 11201, “I guess if you win the lottery, you’ll move back to Manhattan.” “If I win the lottery, Mom,” I reminded her for years, “I’ll move up to the top floor of our building for the views or a setback apartment with a terrace, but that’s as far as I’m going.”


The view from the top of our building upon arrival in Brooklyn Heights 1996

The view from the top of our building upon arrival in Brooklyn Heights 1996


I never got a back garden or a roof deck. I’m still on a low floor…..all the better to keep an eye on the place we all share. But I forever delight in our neighborhood.

I’ve really traveled this summer—Bali, Singapore, New Jersey, Kentucky and Ohio, my family reunion in Appalachia, Maine, Vermont and many lazy beach days in a tiny cabana near Ft. Tilden. But when the 5 train brakes squeal at Borough Hall or the yellow cab rolls down Court Street from a late night at work, I know I am home.

I walked around our neighborhood—mine and yours–this weekend, reacquainting myself with our special corner now that I’ve taken on this (volunteer!) gig to write about it. There on Montague Street were children frolicking in a fire hydrant, P.S. 8 parents touting their school, little tykes playing big chess and strollers clogging the Open Streets cocktail corral. I saw businesses I’d barely noticed before and characters I’d forgotten about. At Borough Hall Greenmarket, Councilman Lincoln Restler offered me a September welcome back, compost and a rain barrel. Instead, I bought 99 ears of corn for the church picnic and the shiny new community fridge. Then I took my 99 year old friend Grace for a sit on the Promenade. We’ve got some work to do around here, but I marveled at our community.

On Sunday, at Plymouth Church, a perfectly timed litany reminded us to love our neighbors as we return to our routines this September. In the other churches, synagogues, mosques, schools, coffee shops, gyms, parks, gardens, groceries and quiet places where we gather, I know people are feeling that too.

I can’t wait to talk to all of you and share my Brooklyn Heights and yours. Thank you for having me, neighbors. Meanwhile, I found our old change of address card– a 1996 dispatch from a new family who crossed the Brooklyn Bridge many Septembers ago to grab a future here, in this place. One decision we’ve never regretted.


Change of Address notice for move to Brooklyn 1996

Change of Address notice for move to Brooklyn 1996


See you around soon! Let me know in the comments how you made it to this neighborhood. Start reading and posting in the Open Threads. Share your thoughts and tell your friends. There’s so much to talk about!

It’s September in Brooklyn!

Follow the Brooklyn Heights Blog and follow me at Insta: kostercaroline75 and X: @aikenkoster © 2023 Caroline Aiken Koster. All rights reserved.


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  • Karl Junkersfeld

    New York City is the greatest city in the world. Brooklyn Heights is the best neighborhood in the city hands down and trust me, I know NYC having been born here and living NYC more years than I wish to admit. Manhattan, where I grew up, is tremendous for entertainment and work but there is nothing like Brooklyn Heights to escape the frantic pace of the Big Apple. How does one match the promenade, Brooklyn Bridge Park, historic low lying landmarked buildings, great schools like PS 8, Packer Collegiate, and Saint Ann’s School and neighborhood events like the Garden Place Halloween gathering every year to name just a few.

    Welcome Caroline to the BHB and thank you for this wonderful post and looking forward to future contributions.

  • burrell

    love it caroline

  • gc

    Welcome to the Heights Blog. Love your story. No Place like Brooklyn Heights!! I arrived here in 1958 from the Colorado rocky mountains. I had a wonderful penthouse studio apartment on Pineapple Street. My rent was $90 dollars a month plus telephone and utilities. 1976 I was married in the wonderful Plymouth Church. My husband and I bought a coop on Columbia Heights and had our wedding reception there overlooking the New York City skyline. Where we still live !!

  • Mary Kim

    Thank you for this wonderful first dispatch, Caroline! As requested, sharing my story.

    I grew up in the tippy top of Manhattan, but every Sunday I found myself in Brooklyn Heights. My family would pack into the Buick LeSabre and take the FDR to First Presbyterian, where we attended the Korean service that followed the English service. The St. George was scary and seedy then, but compared to our neighborhood, Brooklyn Heights seemed pretty fancy.

    I loved Sundays! My dad would give me a dollar or two, and I would get candy at the Penny Bridge across the street. If I had some extra bucks, I would go to Waldenbooks on Montague St. and get the latest YA bestseller. And if I was really lucky, I would have a late lunch with a few friends at Clark St. Diner, while our parents gossiped in the church community room.

    As an adult, I lived for many more years in Manhattan, but Brooklyn Heights always called to me. My first apartment here was a studio at 75 Henry St., on the 27th Floor, with a terrace and stunning views of both bridges, the Chrysler Building, and the Empire State Building. Sadly, after marriage and a kid on the way, we had to move out of the apartment we loved so much. We sold it to the sweetest, semi-retired couple from Nebraska, Steve and Becky. When our kid leaves the nest for good, we may buy it back from them! Thank you to Madeline Williamson, who many of you know, for showing me that apartment in 2005 and making sure I passed board approval. (It’s one of the toughest board approval process in the neighborhood.)

    I must add: I’ve been reading the Blog since 2006, and I may be biased, but it’s one of the many best things about living here. Thank you, John Loscalzo a/k/a Homer Fink, and all of the writers, past and present, and our readers!

  • Claude Scales

    Caroline, what a delight! Thank you so much for joining our little crew.

    In 1973 I left the Army and returned to New York (I had lived and worked here for one year – 1970-71 – before going on active duty) and found an apartment where I wanted to be, Greenwich Village. I worked downtown, and for a time had an office on a high floor looking eastward. where I could see the East River and beyond it, Brooklyn Heights. I was intrigued by seeing a residential neighborhood overlooking what were then working piers for cargo ships. Having crossed the Atlantic four times by sea during my childhood (a story for another time) I had become a ship buff, and had always longed to live in a place with a view of active docks. In 1983 I decided to check it out. One of the things that impressed me as I walked the streets was how many children I saw. I was single, but hoped to soon find a lasting relationship that could provide my parents with the grandchild they longed for.

  • nomcebo manzini

    I wish I had an “origin story” as fascinating as the 3 that are up here as I write…. Or maybe, it’s just that the 3 who shared theirs are simply much better writers.

    I note, however, the irony of the graphic with its “(just) 10 stops” message. I’m not sure if “Homer” had “America’s First Suburb” up on day 1 as a slogan, but the longer I live in the Heights – we, too, immigrated from Manhattan – the more I relate to suburban friends who speak of “coming in to the City.” … Or is it aging? Or the subways taking a couple of steps back toward scary at times these days?

  • nomcebo manzini

    It is a beautiful video – excellent choice of slides and music, well-written, Marty Schneider’s narration crystal clear AND “tony.”

    A tiny image – even on a large desktop screen does NOT do it justice. Here’s the YT link:

    Put what’s below after a youtube dot com slash:


    And here’s what I think is the best quote (in a crowded field):

    Walt Whitman thought its [Brooklyn Heights’] housing was just right for the comfort and lifestyle of middle class people. He said “It couldn’t be matched anywhere.”

  • gc

    Loved this wonderful video and thank you for sharing So many changes since my arrival in Brooklyn Heights in 1958. Refer to my original text .Never see mentioned the nice movie theater located in Pineapple Walk. Also the quiet Heights has been replaced by all the young families small children nannies and dogs everywhere!; !! There was a wonderful orchestra and dance floor in the St George Hotel. The conductor lived in my building where I lived i on Pineapple for 15 years before marrying and moving to A coop on Columbia Heights where we continue to enjoy the fabulous view and walks. on the promonade. The cargo ships where still docking there when I moved here. A small gay bar was located in Pineapple St just off Henry St. Only open very late at night.

  • Claude Scales

    I’m always amused when a fellow Brooklynite says, “I’m going to Long Island.” I’m tempted to say, “You’re a;ready there.”

  • Andrew Porter

    And I hate all the times people say, “I’m going to the city,” for the same reason!