Brooklyn Heights Blog » Real Estate Dispatches from America's first suburb Wed, 01 Dec 2021 00:57:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The “Mystery of Montague Street” Featured on Curbed Wed, 01 Dec 2021 00:57:05 +0000 Curbed published an interesting article on “The Mystery of Montague Street” — why does it suck? There are the usual reasons given — business owners blame the high rent, landlords blame the high taxes, the BHA and the Montague BID don’t want to blame anyone. Incoming city council member (and neighborhood son!) Lincoln Restler puts his support behind a vacancy tax. Of course, 112 Montague Street, and its totally normal, not at all out of touch with reality landlord (who may or may not be named Nathan Silverstein), are featured as well, and seem to provide a case for why a vacancy tax might not be such a bad idea:

He said he is asking $15,000 a month for the second-floor space and “more than double that for the ground floor.”

“When Starbucks first closed, I had all the restaurants call, like Armando’s. But I’m holding out for a triple-mint tenant.”

But there’s a quote I would like to highlight, from Lassen & Hennigs co-owner Thomas Calfa:

This is a bedroom community for Manhattan, and it always has been. That’s never changed. People around here will basically stay in Manhattan and do their clothing shopping and go to restaurants. It’s maybe shifting a little bit, but it’s always been like that since the 1970s.

Do Brooklyn Heights residents still feel this way about their neighborhood, 40 years later? Or do residents “stay in Manhattan” because the local options are so mediocre and bleak? And how much has that changed since the pandemic struck? Is it odd that this argument is made concerning Montague Street, but doesn’t seem to apply to more bustling “commercial” streets in the area (Henry Street, Atlantic Avenue), or Cobble Hill?

Be sure to read the Curbed article before answering!

]]> 0
Storefront Developments Around Brooklyn Heights Mon, 25 Oct 2021 03:07:17 +0000

It appears that the space formerly occupied by Nanatori, above Lichee Nut on Montague near Clinton, will be taken by another Chinese restaurant, Din; this one specializing in soup dumplings, noodle dishes, and dim sum. Thinking it might be part of a chain, I did a web search for “Din soup dumplings.” This yielded a Grub Hub page for Din Tai Soup Dumplings, located on College Point Boulevard in Flushing. It offers soup dumplings, dim sum, and Japanese dishes, and gets only a two star rating on Grub Hub. I’m guessing – hoping – the new Montague Street place is unrelated. I also found a link to Din Tai Fung, a chain based in Taiwan, but its only U.S. locations are on the West Coast and Vegas. It’s possible, then, that “Din” on Montague will be a one off, at least at first. If you’re wondering how to eat soup dumplings, Gothamist has a video.

Elsewhere on Montague, something seems to be happening at the long vacant, since well before the pandemic, former Vegetarian Ginger space, above Pinto at the corner of Henry. It’s hard to tell what, though. Many spots remain vacant. Largest are the former Loft and Pain Quotidien spaces in the same building at Montague and Henry. Others include the former B.Good space between Custom House and Grand Canyon, the former Francesca’s space, both former Café Buon Gusto spaces, the former hair salon space above Montague Street Bagels, the former Ani Sushi space, the former real estate office (before that Housing Works, which after some time was able to relocate further east on Montague) between Khiel’s and Haagen-Dazs, and one or two others that I’m sure some of you can mention (I can’t recall what previously occupied the space on the south side of Montague about halfway between Henry and Clinton where a chair sits in the sheltered entranceway that is frequently occupied by Bill, erstwhile waiter at Capulet’s on Montague (a name now taken by a hair salon) that had occupied what became the first Café Buon Gusto spot, almost directly across the street. The former Starbuck’s space, next to Lassen & Hennigs (which suffered a cracked window today in what may have been an unsuccessful attempt at a smash-and-grab cake robbery), remains unoccupied until God-knows-when.

Good news for caffeine addicts: Brooklyn Roasting Company is planning a new Brooklyn Heights location on the Clinton Street side of the new One Clinton building.

Possibly bad news for tea, scones, and Lewis Carroll addicts: as the New York Times reports (link thanks to BHB friend Andrew Porter), the owners of Alice’s Tea Cup are looking to sell the business, with locations on the Upper West and Upper East sides of Manhattan as well as at Hicks and Middagh streets in Brooklyn Heights, with hopes for a new owner who will be able to carry on the business more or less as is.

]]> 14
Latest Montague Restaurant Rumblings Mon, 30 Aug 2021 03:42:12 +0000

The scuttlebutt is that the Teresa’s site, which has been vacant since before the pandemic, will become a Korean restaurant. If so, I welcome it. My limited experiences of Korean cuisine to date have been pleasing. I’ve yet to try kimchi, which I suspect is somewhere in my wheelhouse of spicy and sour. If I do my wife, who has a very sensitive nose, may take exception. I saw lights on in the restaurant space on Friday, which indicates something may be going on, if not just a fire inspection.

Giulia has closed, but there are no signs of transition, like paper over windows or construction permits. Since the site is being taken over by a chain of Italian restaurants, perhaps all that is needed is a new sign and name on the awning.

Otherwise, the Montague restaurant scene is mixed. Our two Thai restaurants, Lantern and Pinto, along with the pan-Asian and cleverly named (if you’re old enough to remember Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In) Saketumi, and the Chinese Lichee Nut, are still going strong, but two Japanese restaurants, Ani Sushi and Nanatori, are no more, and the former Vegetarian Ginger space above Pinto has been vacant for years. The Custom House treats us to memories of the Auld Sod, and the reborn Grand Canyon keeps turning out its fine burgers, as does the Happy Days Diner. Grand Canyon also does Mexican, but its across the street rival, San Blas, appears to be defunct. The Good Food spot stays vacant. Nothing can kill Chipotle. Both of the former venues of Café Buon Gusto remain empty. Monty Q’s keeps on keeping on. The former Subway sandwich place remains empty. One ice cream place, the world’s first Haagen-Dazs shop, remains open, but the former Emack & Bolio’s space is vacant, although a French patisserie may be moving in there.

]]> 16
Arrivederci, Giulia! Sun, 15 Aug 2021 17:26:37 +0000

We hardly knew you! Word is that the restaurant, formerly the Heights Café, has been sold, though we don’t yet know to whom. It opened just under three months ago, and will close at the end of this week. We’re told that Dellarocco’s, which has the same ownership as Giulia, has not been been sold and will continue to make pizza.

]]> 25
Caffe Buon Gusto Closed? It’s Probably Just Temporary Tue, 20 Jul 2021 00:48:16 +0000

Update: reader Andrew Porter has confirmed that Caffe Buon Gusto is moving to 72 Clark Street, evidently to the space previously occupied by Tazza. It seems the owner did decide that one Italian restaurant on Montague was enough.

A neighbor alerted me to paper covering the windows at Caffe Buon Gusto, so I rushed to 132 Montague Street (between Henry and Clinton) and got this photo. Note the sign that says “We’re Open” and the lack of anything thanking us for our years of patronage. Back home, I checked their website, which is up and functioning. I clicked on “Make a Reservation”, then on “Find a Table”, and got this message:

This restaurant is temporarily offline. Please contact the restaurant directly or check back shortly for availability.

I tried calling Buon Gusto’s phone number. It rang and rang, with no recorded message. For now, I can just presume that Buon Gusto is undergoing an interior makeover, and that its owner has not decided, following the opening of Giulia, formerly Heights Café, that one Italian restaurant on Montague is enough. Perhaps, though, just as the papering over of Heights Café’s windows betokened its transformation into Giulia, this papering foretells Buon Gusto’s transformation into – a Persian restaurant, or maybe an Argentinian steakhouse.

Time will tell.

]]> 13
New Owner, New Chef for Jack the Horse Space Tue, 25 May 2021 03:02:07 +0000

Our friends at the Brooklyn Heights Association have advised us that Chef Sean Rembold will be taking charge of the kitchen at the former Jack the Horse Tavern, at Hicks and Cranberry streets. Chef Rembold has twice been nominated for the James Beard Foundation award as best New York City chef. From his website:

Originally a Kentucky native, Sean moved to New York City to attend the French Culinary Institute. After cooking in the kitchens of Campagna, Osteria del Circo, and Bayard’s, Sean found his personal and professional fit in Williamsburg, the neighborhood he has called home since 1999. He lives there with his wife, designer Caron Callahan, and their daughter.

Despite his fondness for Williamsburg, the BHA website says:

Sean loves Brooklyn Heights and reached out to the BHA a few months ago about helping him find a suitable location. Of course, we were glad to help! We’ll keep you informed as plans move forward.

We checked out the websites of the three Williamsburg restaurants at which he served as chef. One, Reynard, no longer exists. Marlow and Sons (follow the Instagram link below the “Order Online” link) and Diner, have menus that look interesting, though a notch more expensive than JTH’s.

The menus at whatever the name JTH gets under its new ownership may be quite different, as may the prices. We hope that the menu will in some way reflect the spirit of the JTH menu – dare we hope that the mac & cheese appetizer will be revived? – and that the prices will be within reach of most Heights residents; not just the most affluent ones.

]]> 11
St. Francis College Leaving Brooklyn Heights for Downtown Wed, 19 May 2021 02:25:47 +0000

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reports that St. Francis College, a four year liberal arts institution that has made its home in Brooklyn Heights since 1963, will be moving to new, smaller quarters in a high rise building being built above the Macy’s store on Fulton Street in Downtown Brooklyn. Although St. Francis plans to expand its student population from its present 2,700 or so to 3,500 by 2026, the Eagle story quotes a representative of the school as saying that while the present building at 180 Remsen Street (photo by C. Scales for BHB) wasn’t “designed specifically to be a campus” the new space is, and therefore will use its square footage more efficiently.

The Eagle quotes “officials” as saying the new “space will include a 6,600-square-foot library, a 300 seat auditorium, a cafeteria, two art gallery spaces, and plenty of outdoor space, with a terrace and rooftop.” It’s interesting that there’s no mention of athletic facilities. St. Francis fields intercollegiate teams in a number of sports, including basketball, soccer, volleyball, water polo, diving, and swimming. While the soccer team has done its practice on the fields at Brooklyn Bridge Park, other sports have used the ample indoor facilities at the Generoso Pope Athletic Complex, which is part of the same 180 Remsen building which will presumably be sold to a developer to be demolished, no doubt for high rise (the building is outside the Brooklyn Heights Historic District) luxury apartments. Update: SFC Athletic Director Irma Garcia provides this information:

Because our new Wheeler building campus does not have a gymnasium or pool on site, we are making special plans for indoor teams that rely on those facilities, including aquatics, basketball and volleyball.

SFC will partner with nearby educational institutions, to use their indoor facilities in the short term after our move. SFC is developing a permanent solution for its indoor sports and other athletics facilities longer term. More information will be announced soon.

What will we Heights residents be losing because of this? An auditorium with ample space for neighborhood meetings and for cultural events, a lobby with inviting and interesting art exhibits, and a swimming pool available for community use during limited hours. Oh, yes, and for many of us, a place to vote.

]]> 24
Let’s Name the Noisy Building Tue, 06 Apr 2021 01:51:45 +0000

Update:Curbed interviews an acoustician who suggests some possible solutions. Big hat tip to reader Remsen Street Dweller for alerting us to Mary Frost’s Eagle story about 347 Henry Street, or 5 River Park (photo by your correspondent), a nearly completed high rise residential building two blocks south of Atlantic Avenue in Cobble Hill, that is “driving neighbors crazy with its ‘screeching noises’ at all hours.” According to Brownstoner the sound has been heard “as far north as Joralemon Street in Brooklyn Heights, south to Warren Street, and east to Court Street, according to residents.”

The sound is particularly noticeable during periods of high wind, of which we’ve had plenty lately. This brought to your correspondent’s mind the case of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, in Washington State, that during its short life was also susceptible to wind. The tendency of its roadway to buckle up and down in a twisting motion in even moderately brisk winds led to the nickname “Galloping Gertie.” Only a few months after it had been opened to traffic, its roadway severed and collapsed. Fortunately there were few cars on the bridge when this happened, and all of their human occupants escaped. Sadly, the one casualty was Tubby, a Cocker Spaniel, who defied efforts to free him from a doomed car.

I’m thinking, there should be a name for 347 Henry along the lines of “Galloping Gertie.” Something like “Shreiking Susie.” Does it have to be a woman’s name? Of course not. How about “Screeching Scott”? Well, that might be taken as an unfair comment on a mayoral candidate.

Surely you, our readers, can give better suggestions.

]]> 5
Will Hell Freeze Over – er – the Bossert Open Next Month? Sun, 28 Mar 2021 01:43:25 +0000

A big hat tip to reader Cassie Von Montague who alerted us on OTW to this Brownstoner story about the Bossert Hotel at 98 Montague Street (corner of Hicks), which has been undergoing renovation for some years and has had many projected opening dates come and go. The Brownstoner story refers to websites showing furnished hotel rooms and inviting reservations, starting on April 30, with prices that “range from $246 to $303 a night.” It also indicates that the Bossert has a new manager, IHG Hotels & Resorts. Brownstoner tried to contact IHG, but got no reply.

Let’s see if this finally works out.

]]> 5
“Moonstruck” House For Sale Again Mon, 01 Mar 2021 04:22:42 +0000

As reported by House Beautiful, 19 Cranberry Street, a.k.a. the “Moonstruck House” because it was the principal location for the 1987 romantic comedy Moonstruck, starring Cher and Nicholas Cage, is for sale with an asking price of $12.85 million. Our founder, John “Homer Fink” Loscalzo, noted here that the house was for sale in 2008 with an asking price of $3.95 million, down from an earlier ask of $5 million. Of course, 2008 was the year financial markets went south because of the mortgage loan market crisis.

Perhaps Cosmo’s Moon will inspire someone to buy.

Flickr photo by 24 Gotham

]]> 0
The Results Are In: BHA’s Future of Montague Street Survey Wed, 03 Feb 2021 02:39:11 +0000

The Brooklyn Heights Association recently called for community input on the future of Montague Street, and the survey results are in. BHA promises to use the 1,381 responses “to support the creation of a vibrant and successful Montague Street,” while working with community members, local real estate brokers, and the Montague Street Business Improvement District.

Some highlights from the survey:

1.  Survey respondents want a different retail mix on Montague. Specifically, 80% asked for a bookstore, followed closely by new restaurants and/or cafes. Many would also like to see new types of fresh food establishments, like a butcher, a fishmonger, and a bakery.

2.  Most survey respondents (over 60%) want a greater prioritization of pedestrians/bikes on Montague Street, with more outdoor dining, shopping and seating, along with music and events to bring a more “neighborhood feel” to the street.

3.  Many respondents noted that they currently go elsewhere (DUMBO, Cobble Hill, etc.) to shop and dine. This “retail leakage” could be addressed by bringing more unique and desirable options to Montague Street.

See the complete survey results here.

What’s your wishlist for zhuzhing up Montague Street? Comment below!



]]> 13
Brooklyn Heights Association’s Survey for the Future of Montague Street Sat, 12 Dec 2020 15:14:51 +0000

Dear Neighbors – Two things you need to do this weekend:

1.  Fill out Brooklyn Heights Association’s community survey to add your voice for the future of Montague Street.

2.  Read Mary Frost’s (as always) rich and fascinating report in the Eagle on the history of Montague Street retail, and the many reasons for its past and current struggles. Mary digs deep to uncover the issues that go far beyond the obvious, and interviews longtime retailers who offer their frank assessments. A notable quote from Tony Bates, owner of Bentley’s Shoes: “Shopping online is destroying the small businesses. If you want to get an idea of what’s going on on the street, take a look at the UPS store. Take a picture of the people lined up with their returns. This is not Brooklyn Heights, this is Amazon Heights.” A must read.


]]> 22
Comings and Goings on Montague Street Wed, 02 Dec 2020 04:00:43 +0000

This afternoon your correspondent had to walk from his residence to the bank, which entailed going the length of Montague Street. Along the way, he snapped some photos of storefronts either emptied, about to be emptied, or, in one instance, newly occupied, since the outbreak of COVID-19. This doesn’t purport to be an exhaustive survey, but should give a feel for the extent of the pandemic’s effect. Word has it that the Ann Taylor Loft store, at the corner of Montague and Hicks, is soon to be closed.

IMG_4278LPQ, which sits next to Loft, has been empty for some time. As Eater reported in May, the Belgian chain sold its U.S. locations to an American company, Aurify, that operates a number of fast food locations under various brands. Of the 98 LPQ locations Aurify bought, the Eater article says they plan to open “at least 35.” Whether the Montague Street location will be one of them remains to be seen. At least there’s no “For Lease” sign yet.

IMG_4274The site between Henry and Hicks previously occupied by an urgent care facility will, early in 2021, be the home of Oula, “[t]he modern maternity center” that looks forward to “[d]elivering new possibilities.”

IMG_4280B. Good be gone a long time, with no replacement in sight. Upstairs, Choo Choo Cuts has rebranded itself as Capulet’s, thereby claiming the name of what those living here before the mid 1980s may recall as a great bar, located where Cafe Buon Gusto later was until it moved, and which featured Bluegrass sessions every Friday night. The former Capulets/Cafe Buon Gusto location has papered over windows, indicating something new may be going in there.

IMG_4281Ani Sushi? Not ani more.

IMG_4284One new opening! According to Wikipedia, “In the Zen Buddhist tradition, ‘satori’ refers to the tradition of ‘kensho’ [which means] ‘seeing into one’s true nature.'” I suppose hair removal, which the lasers do here, could lead to such a revelation.

IMG_4285Francesca’s appears to be on the way out. Arrivederci!

]]> 4
Brooklyn Townhouses are Hot; Small Apartments Not? Wed, 25 Nov 2020 03:29:26 +0000

The publication Mansions Global, which I discovered only because I have a Google alert for anything mentioning Brooklyn Heights (which, along with stuff about our neighborhood, gives me info about a suburb of Cleveland, a poor neighborhood in Nashville, a pizza parlor in Austin, a drag queen popular in the D.C. area, and a race horse), has an article by Michele Lerner with the title “Are Brooklyn Brownstones the New Manhattan Co-op?”

The premise is that COVID-19 has made the wealthy squeamish about having to share building common spaces with potentially contagious fellow residents, guests, and staff. This has made the single family town house (perhaps with a ground level apartment that can be leased at a rental that might be sufficient to pay the mortgage) an attractive proposition. As Ms. Lerner begins her piece:

The allure of owning a condo or co-op in Manhattan, an icon of success for many people, may be fading in favor of something once considered a little mundane: a townhouse in Brooklyn. While the increase in Brooklyn’s desirability has been happening for well over a decade, the pandemic has pushed more people to look for a home with extra indoor and outdoor space and less interaction with neighbors and staff.

She quotes Gerard Splendore, a broker with Warburg Realty, on the attraction of Brooklyn Heights:

Townhouses in Brooklyn Heights are particularly sought-after and tend to have higher prices than some other Brooklyn neighborhoods, said Mr. Splendore, because of their proximity to Manhattan and views of the Manhattan skyline. Williamsburg and Greenpoint also have an easy commute to Manhattan, and Ditmas Park, close to Prospect Park, has freestanding houses as well as townhouses, he said.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has a story by Kim Velsey about the effect of the pandemic on the less affluent. It tells of a couple – James Casey, an associate director of a biology lab at Barnard College, and Erin Boyle, a writer with a blog, Reading My Tea Leaves – who lived happily with their three children, now ranging in age from six years to nine months, in a 500 square foot one bedroom apartment here in Brooklyn Heights. Before the pandemic hit, this was tolerable, because they weren’t almost always all at home at the same time. COVID changed this, and they needed more space, so they’ve now moved to an 800 square foot two bedroom floor-through in Carroll Gardens.

]]> 7
Permanently Closed: Brooklyn Heights Businesses Lost To The Pandemic Mon, 12 Oct 2020 01:49:31 +0000

Seven months into the pandemic, most of our local small businesses are hanging on. With pure grit and ingenuity, restaurants turned parking spots into dining spaces, and retail stores went online until their doors could open again. Tragically, not all of the businesses survived the long shutdown, not to mention the loss of tourists and nearly half of the residents who left town for months. Here, we memorialize the Brooklyn Heights businesses that permanently closed since March 2020.

Jack the Horse Tavern (66 Hicks St.)

Jack the Horse Tavern (66 Hicks St.)

JtH Next Door (66 Hicks St.)

JtH Next Door (66 Hicks St.)

Five Guys (138 Montague St.)

Five Guys (138 Montague St.)

Amy's Bread and East & West Wellness

Amy’s Bread (72 Clark St.)

Chocolate Works (110 Montague St.)

Chocolate Works (110 Montague St.)

The Heights Salon of Brooklyn (136 Montague St.)

The Heights Salon of Brooklyn (136 Montague St.)

Scott J Aveda Salon (119 Montague St.)

Scott J Aveda Salon (119 Montague St.)

B.GOOD (141 Montague St.)

B.GOOD (141 Montague St.)

Heights Nail Salon (60 Henry St.)

Heights Nail Salon (60 Henry St.)

Le Pain Quotidien (121 Montague St.)

Le Pain Quotidien (121 Montague St.)

WMA Karate (67 Atlantic Ave.) (Classes moved online and outdoors -

WMA Karate (67 Atlantic Ave.) (Classes moved online and outdoors –

Blossom Poke Bowl (153 Remsen St.)

Blossom Poke Bowl (153 Remsen St.)

Cafecito (Clark St. Station)

Cafecito (Clark St. Station)

Emack & Bolio (115 Montague St.) (To close permanently on 10/31/20.) (Photo courtesy of BHB reader.)

Emack & Bolio (115 Montague St.) (To close permanently on 10/31/20.) (Photo courtesy of BHB reader.)

The loss of these small businesses is a blow to the community. Some are simply irreplaceable. What could possibly fill the void that Cranberry’s or Jack the Horse left behind? But we can find hope in knowing that there are already small signs of recovery and renewal. Here are three businesses that opened in the midst of the pandemic and by all indications, are fast becoming favorites of the neighborhood.

Cardinal Mkt (44 Henry St.)

Cardinal Mkt (44 Henry St.)

Vineapple (71 Pineapple St.)

Vineapple (71 Pineapple St.)

Ella Crown Bakehouse (149 Atlantic Ave.)

Ella Crown Bakehouse (149 Atlantic Ave.)

Support our local economy. Support our small businesses.

]]> 37
Montague BID Head Tapped to Lead Atlantic Avenue BID; Will Have Both Roles Mon, 31 Aug 2020 02:44:09 +0000

The Eagle has reported that Kate Chura has been named the new Executive Director of the Atlantic Avenue Business Improvement District (“BID”), of which she has been serving as interim Executive Director for some time. She has also served as Executive Director of the Montague Street BID for almost five years, and will continue to hold that post concurrently with that at Atlantic Avenue.

The Eagle story quotes Greg Markman, board chair of the Montague Street BID, praising Ms. Chura for her “marketing efforts”; her help in getting a “greenest commercial block” award, and her promotion of “events that brought foot traffic to Montague Street ….” He added that

“Over the past six months, the efforts of Kate and her team have helped some of our businesses remain open during the pandemic. I’m confident that she will help the businesses on Montague Street and Atlantic Avenue continue to navigate the new business landscape and thrive as best as they can.”

The only fly we can see in this ointment is: suppose, after the pandemic fades, there are (as we think there are likely to be) many vacant commercial spaces on both Montague and Atlantic. If rivalry develops over who gets new tenants, can she remain neutral?

]]> 4
Artist, Philanthropist, Carousel Namesake, Jane Walentas Dies at 76 Sat, 11 Jul 2020 02:56:40 +0000

As reported by Brooklyn Daily Eagle and Brooklyn Paper, Philanthropist, Artist, Real Estate Developer, and “First Lady of Dumbo,” Jane Walentas passed away July 5th after a brief battle with cancer. She was 76 years old.

The Walentas Family and their management company, Two Trees, is synonymous with DUMBO as we now know it. And the carousel, which has delighted children and adults alike since September 2011, is inseparable from Jane.

A New York Times article from 2011 traces the journey of the Philadelphia Toboggan Company carousel, originally installed in Youngstown, OH in 1922, to Brooklyn. Purchased by the Walentas’ in 1984, much of the tedious scraping away of decades of paint was carried out by Jane herself with an Exacto blade. She told WNYC in 2011, “It’s not a labor of love, it’s an obsession.”

In November 2012 Hurricane Sandy threatened to wash the carousel away. Fortunately, it endured, as will Jane’s legacy of creativity and generosity. We at the blog send our deepest condolences to the entire Walentas family.

Photo credit: SongBirdNYC

]]> 5
Promenade’s Montague Street Entrance Being Cleared Mon, 11 May 2020 15:08:21 +0000

This morning a crew from Everest Scaffolding has been busy removing planks from atop the sidewalk bridge covering the Montague Street entrance to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. The bridge is there to protect pedestrians from possible falling debris caused by inspection and repointing of Two Montague Terrace’s facade. Our surmise is that the work on the north facing facade been completed.  It appears they are leaving the bridge covering the sidewalk on the Montague Terrace side.

]]> 1
Sorry, Brooklyn Heights Did Not Set a Property Value Record Sat, 18 Apr 2020 02:23:08 +0000

There’s been a lot of excitement in various forums since Curbed reported that a “Brooklyn Heights penthouse” sold for $20 million, a record for any residential property in the Borough of Brooklyn. Oddly, the New York Post story Curbed cites gives the correct location of the penthouse: Brooklyn Bridge Park. The Penthouse sits atop Quay Tower, seen in your correspondent’s photo, taken from the Promenade, looming over One Brooklyn Bridge Park. It’s what’s just below that brownish structure enclosing the building’s mechanicals. To be fair, the penthouse is higher than Brooklyn Heights, but only because it’s on top of a high rise building built on a littoral plain.

Perhaps, though, we should be grateful that this geographical misattribution might boost property values in the Heights.

]]> 11
BHA Annual Meeting: BQE, Clark Street Station, Empty Storefronts, and More Sat, 29 Feb 2020 22:27:01 +0000

Wednesday’s Brooklyn Heights Association annual meeting began with a summary, by BHA President Martha Bakos Dietz, of BHA’s accomplishments during the previous year.  First among these was the apparent elimination of the city Department of Transportation’s plan to demolish the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and replace it with a temporary six lane highway. Both the expert panel appointed by Mayor de Blasio and the City Council have now rejected that plan. Still, Ms. Bakos Dietz said, there is work to be done. The BHA has joined with A Better Way NYC and the Cobble Hill Association to form the Coalition for the BQE Transformation which, in conjunction with other affected community groups, will strive to assure a plan for the future of the BQE that respects the needs of these communities and realistically reflects future transportation needs. In the photo above (by and © Andrew Porter) Ms. Bakos Dietz is shown holding the new poster designed for the Coalition, which she said can now replace the “No Highway to Hell” posters.

The planned eight month closure of the Clark Street subway station to replace its three decrepit elevators will, Ms. Bakos Dietz said, begin sometime in 2021. The Transit Authority has given assurances that it will take steps to help the merchants whose shops line the arcade outside the turnstiles by putting up signs that inform the public that the arcade, and the shops, are open during the construction.  During the later question and answer session, someone noted that during an earlier and shorter closure of the station about twenty years ago, the merchants had been given rent abatements.

The Brooklyn House of Detention is outside but close to the Heights, and plans for its expansion, in conjunction with the City’s planned closure of Rikers Island, are a concern for Heights residents. Ms. Bakos Dietz said the existing House of Detention is now closed and will be demolished. Its replacement, scheduled to be completed in 2026, will, thanks to advocacy by the BHA and other community groups, be much lower than the City’s original plan.

Rats have been a problem on the Promenade. Ms. Bakos Dietz said the City Parks Department will provide twenty rat-proof trash receptacles, and increase extermination efforts. During the Q&A period, a Heights resident said the area below the circle at the north end of the Promenade and the walkway paralleling Columbia Heights is a dumping ground for trash and an ideal rat habitat. Andrew Porter pointed out that this area, which is adjacent to the BQE, is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation. Ms. Bakos Dietz said, “We have lots of experience dealing with them.”

Finally, Ms. Bakos Dietz said there is a six month moratorium in effect on film shoots in the North Heights; when it expires a six month moratorium for the South Heights will become effective.


Ms. Bakos Dietz was recognized for her three years of service as the BHA’s President. Following her report, WNET-13 host and Heights resident Tom Stewart (in red tie in the photo above by C. Scales for BHB; at left in the photo is BHA Executive Director Lara Birnback) presented awards for community service. The first was to architect, urban planner, and Heights resident Marc Wouters (at right in photo above) for his work with the BHA in designing alternative routes for the BQE.


The other was to a group of local residents who formed the Promenade Gardens Mapping Project to map the locations of plantings in the Promenade Gardens. The map will be a useful resource should BQE work cause damage to the Gardens. Members of the group are in the photo above (by and © Andrew Porter), with Mr. Stewart standing behind them.


Following the community awards there was a panel discussion on the topic “Empty Storefronts and Our Commercial Corridors: How Can We Help Great Local Businesses Survive and Thrive?” The panelists were (left to right in the photo above, by and © Andrew Porter): Randy Peers, President and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of CommerceDeborah Marton, Executive Director of the Van Alen Institute and a Heights resident; and Nur Asri, Senior Research Analyst at Streetsense. The moderator, at right, was New York Times reporter and Heights resident Eliza Shapiro.  It quickly became evident that the panelists didn’t think there was any primary cause of the proliferation of vacant commercial properties, or any single or easy solution. High rents have been an important contributing factor, but they have recently been declining. On line shopping has disrupted retail for items like clothing, and even groceries, but it hasn’t affected the demand for restaurants or for services like barber shops and hair stylists, nail salons, and urgent care facilities. Some traditional stores survive because they provide good value and service, and because of a loyal customer base. In some neighborhoods, like Williamsburg, new construction has increased the supply of available commercial space while in others, like Brownsville, spaces that become vacant find few takers. High property taxes, regulations and bureaucratic inefficiency, an example being the long waiting time for liquor licenses, are an impediment to new business formations.

The panelists were unenthusiastic about the efficacy, or desirability, of a “vacancy tax.” During the Q&A, an audience member noted that an owner of a vacant property could, assuming they had another property or properties generating income, get a tax write off for the vacant property.  One panelist suggested that property owners should be encouraged to allow temporary “pop-up” users of vacant spaces.  Perhaps most important was the advice to be loyal to any local business that you love.

For more detail on the BHA Annual Meeting, see  Mary Frost’s Eagle story.

Addendum: an item I should have added to the original post was that, during the Q&A, one audience member raised a perennial issue; that of helicopter noise. He asked if there was any reason helicopters had been hovering above Remsen Street. Another person suggested that an increase in helicopter use of the Downtown Manhattan Heliport might lead to hovering while waiting for landing space. Someone else mentioned the Uber helicopter service from downtown to JFK. Ms. Bakos Dietz said the BHA is aware of the problem, and has contacted the organizers of Stop the Chop to plan a response.


]]> 3
Brooklyn Heights Association Annual Meeting Wednesday Evening, February 26 Thu, 20 Feb 2020 04:01:21 +0000

The Brooklyn Heights Association will have its 2020 Annual Meeting this coming Wednesday evening, February 26 at Founders Hall, St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street (between Clinton and Court).  The meeting starts at 7:00, but you’re advised to come early. Last year’s meeting was standing room only for later arrivals. All are invited; you need not be a BHA member to attend.

This year’s meeting will feature a panel discussion, followed by Q&A from the audience, on the problem of empty storefronts and how to keep commercial corridors like Henry and Montague streets “alive and thriving.” The BHA will present an update on its work on local issues, including an update on the BQE repair.  Community service awards will be presented to the volunteers who mapped the plantings in the Promenade Gardens to facilitate replacement of anything lost because of the BQE repair, and to architect and urban planner Marc Wouters for his work with the BHA to show there are alternatives to the Department of Transportation’s plan to place a temporary highway at the location of the Promenade.

]]> 1
What’s in the Crystal Ball for Brooklyn? Wed, 01 Jan 2020 17:20:06 +0000

The Eagle’s Mary Frost interviewed prominent Brooklynites, asking for their views on Brooklyn’s future. Carlo Scissura, head of the Mayor’s panel studying the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, predicts that “the BQE will get some much-needed love and attention.” Love? He also thinks the Nets will make the playoffs. Karen Johnson, owner of DUMBO’s Olympia Wine Bar, thinks the BQE will continue to be an issue, along with subway overcrowding (that’s what happens when your only convenient subway is the F train). Both Lara Birnback, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, and Regina Myer, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, believe the re-opening of the historic Gage & Tollner restaurant on Fulton Street will have a major effect. Ms. Birnback predicts it “will become the hottest reservation in town.” Cobble Hill Association president Amy Breedlove says “NYU will break ground and begin construction at 70 Atlantic Ave. on the former LICH campus.” Borough President Eric Adams thinks there will be “new and innovative” ways to deal with the problem of homelessness.

The boldest prediction comes from Brooklyn Brewery co-founder and chairperson Steve Hindy, who thinks “Brooklyn will annex Queens and the Bronx” and secede from New York City.

There’s lots more in Mary’s Eagle story; well worth a read.

]]> 0
Inside the Hotel Bossert with Montague BID Sat, 30 Nov 2019 20:21:01 +0000

You may recall earlier this week, Claude reminded us that today is Small Business Saturday and the Montague BID would be hosting a “selfies with elves” event at none other than the lobby of the storied Hotel Bossert. We won’t get into the 7+ years longat times heart-warming, always intriguing, and unendingly mysterious saga of the Bossert. It’s a holiday weekend afterall. Let us just feast our eyes on these photos of the stunning lobby. (For best results, click on photos to enlarge.)










Radiator Grill with Hotel Logo Inscriptions

Radiator Grill with Hotel Logo Inscriptions

Outside the Bossert, a WPIX van was parked, presumably to report on the event. Inside was a security guard who, to the question, “when is the hotel opening,” replied with all sincerity, “I have no idea.” And let’s not forget the sprightly elf who greeted every shopper with an abundance of holiday cheer.


This holiday season, shop local, shop small, shop early and don’t stress.


]]> 2
Bossert Blues Fri, 25 Oct 2019 00:33:18 +0000

Like the refugees in Casablanca, those eagerly awaiting the re-opening of the Hotel Bossert must wait…and wait…and wait…

As Brooklyn Eagle reported last week, the scheduled soft opening last month didn’t happen (again). Reporter Lore Crohan couldn’t track down anyone willing to offer any explanations, trying to contact a variety of people associated with the Chetrit Group, which owns the property, to no avail: messages and phone calls yielded no response.

The Eagle story offers context of the building’s history and links galore to previous stories about the hotel’s redevelopment…none of which, sadly, offer much encouragement about what might happen next.

So, like those of us pining for the late, great Squibb Bridge…we wait.

As always, support local journalism and the people who did the work: click here for the full story.




]]> 13
Housing Works Thrift Shops Coming Back to Montague St.! Fri, 04 Oct 2019 23:39:43 +0000

Who says there’s no good news anymore? The tip came from a friend and neighbor via text tonight.

Housing Works is coming back to Montague St.!

You may recall, to the dismay of the entire neighborhood, Housing Works closed shop at the location on Montague off Henry St. in March 2017, and was replaced by Halstead Real Estate. Housing Works will now move into the location that Halstead vacated at 150 Montague St., next to Francesca’s. The best switcheroo imaginable!

We no longer have to trek to Park Slope to donate gently-used items to help fund Housing Works’ invaluable support of the homeless and people living with HIV. Or to find that like-new, stunning, mid-century sofa you never thought you needed, but really do need.

Our little friend Arie says “thumbs up!”

Housing Works 2

]]> 14
Goodbye, Teresa’s? Fri, 06 Sep 2019 02:42:07 +0000

Thanks to reader AbbeyK we have a link to a real estate ad that lists 80 Montague Street, Teresa’s Restaurant, as for lease. If it is leased to a new tenant, your correspondent may have to go far afield – Greenpoint?; East Village? – to get his tripe soup and kielbasa fix. Moreover, Brooklyn’s elite will have to find a new power breakfast spot. And what could afford the $18K/month rent the ad asks? Applebee’s? The Cheesecake Factory? The Olive Garden? God help us.

Say it ain’t so!

]]> 18
Chip Shop Space To Go Italian, With “Natural Wines” Wed, 04 Sep 2019 02:04:03 +0000

The New York Times, in today’s Restaurant Review by Florence Fabricant, reveals that the space next door to Colonie, on Atlantic Avenue, previously occupied by your correspondent’s beloved Chip Shop, will become Ping, a “natural wine” bar – that is, one serving “wines that are made with minimal intervention, like chemical additives or commercial yeast.” It will be owned by the owners of Colonie, and

will have mostly bar seating for a list of [these] ‘low-intervention wines’ and Italian-style aperitifs. The food, by Jared Braithwaite, the chef in both places, will be inspired by coastal Italy.

While I still mourn the Chip Shop, I’m looking forward to trying Ping’s wines and fare.

]]> 4
Latest Montague Street Restaurant Closure and Relocation Sat, 24 Aug 2019 21:57:43 +0000

Walking past Cafe Buon Gusto this afternoon, I saw this sign in a window: “To all our customers we are moving to a new location 132 Montague starting Sept. 3.” Of course I had to find 132 Montague. It wasn’t hard; it’s on the same block, between Clinton and Henry, on the opposite (north) side. IMG_2309Yes, it’s the site occupied by Dariush, offering “Persian Cuisine” for what seems like just a few months. The sign in the window says “We are temporary [sic] closed!! We will reopen on September 3rd.” If the sign at Cafe Buon Gusto is to be believed, the place will reopen September 3, but as Cafe Buon Gusto, not Dariush.

The downstairs space at 132 Montague has not been a happy one for restaurants of late; it may be the worst in Brooklyn Heights. Before Dariush, it was briefly a Mexican/Spanish place that had very good and inexpensive fish tacos. Before that, also and in my opinion unfortunately briefly, it was an Argentinian steak place that served excellent steaks at reasonable prices. Before that, and for I think several years, it was a Spanish tapas place. Someone with a better memory than mine will have to fill in its earlier incarnations.

]]> 15
Eagle’s Mary Frost Goes Deep With New BHA Exec Director Mon, 22 Jul 2019 02:21:18 +0000

The Eagle’s Mary Frost interviewed in depth the new Brooklyn Heights Association Executive Director Lara Birnback. Ms. Birnback is a California native, but has lived in the Heights for many years. Her husband grew up here. She has extensive experience in community development in the U.S. and abroad.

As a Heights resident she is aware of the major issues affecting the community: the BQE reconstruction: development around the Heights; and the proposed new jail on Atlantic Avenue. She also wants to focus on “micro” issues, like broken tree pits and rat infestations. She has a special affinity for small businesses and their problems. Education is another of her priorities. She also wants to create closer relationships with our neighbors in Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, DUMBO, and others to deal with issues affecting all these neighborhoods.

]]> 0
Landmarks Approves Plan for Hotel at 186 Remsen Thu, 20 Jun 2019 02:27:40 +0000

Lore Croghan reports in the Eagle that the Landmarks Preservation Commission has approved the design for the Remsen Manor Hotel, which will use as its base the historic Franklin Building at 186 Remsen Street (between Clinton and Court), including restoration of its top two stories, which were destroyed in a fire. There will be a six story addition in a modern style, set back 52 feet from the street facing wall. The LPC’s only condition was that the architects replace the almost white terra cotta panels on the facade of the addition with something that will look less institutional.

]]> 2