Brooklyn Heights is an affluent residential neighborhood within the New York City borough of Brooklyn. Originally referred to as Brooklyn Village, it has been a prominent area of Brooklyn since 1834. The neighborhood is noted for its low-rise architecture and its many brownstone rowhouses, most of them built prior to the Civil War. It also has an abundance of notable churches and other religious institutions. Brooklyn’s first art gallery, the Brooklyn Arts Gallery, was opened in Brooklyn Heights in 1958. In 1965, a large part of Brooklyn Heights was protected from unchecked development by the creation of the Brooklyn Heights Historic District, the first such district in New York City. The district was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.
Directly across the East River from Manhattan and connected to it by subways and regular ferry service, Brooklyn Heights is also easily accessible from Downtown Brooklyn. The neighborhood stretches from Old Fulton Street near the Brooklyn Bridge south to Atlantic Avenue and from the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway to Court Street and Cadman Plaza West. Adjacent neighborhoods are Dumbo, Downtown Brooklyn, Cobble Hill, and Boerum Hill. Columbia Heights, an upscale six-block-long street next to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, is sometimes considered to be its own neighborhood.
As of 2000, Brooklyn Heights had a population of 22,594 people. The neighborhood is part of Brooklyn Community Board 2, and is served by the 84th Precinct of the New York City Police Department at 301 Gold Street in nearby Downtown Brooklyn. Fire services from the Fire Department of New York City come from Engine Company 205 and Ladder Company 118 at 74 Middagh Street, Engine Company 207 and Ladder Company 110 at 172 Tillary Street, and Engine Company 224 at 274 Hicks Street.
The completion of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883, the Brooklyn end of which was near Brooklyn Heights’ eastern boundary, began the process of making the neighborhood more accessible from places such as Manhattan. The Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT)’s Lexington Avenue subway line, which reached Brooklyn Heights in 1908, was an even more powerful catalyst in the neighborhood’s development. The resulting ease of transportation into the neighborhood and the perceived loss of the specialness and “quality” began to drive out the merchants and patricians who lived there; in time their mansions were divided to become apartment houses and boarding houses. Artists began to move in to the neighborhood, as well as writers, and a number of large hotels – the St. George (1885), the Margaret (1889), the Bossert (1909), Leverich Towers (1928), and the Pierrepont (1928), among others – were constructed. By the beginning of the Depression, most of the middle class had left the area. Boarding houses had become rooming houses, and the neighborhood began to have the appearance of a slum.
During the 1940s and ’50s, the building of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) badly affected the neighborhood, as it took away the neighborhood’s northwest corner, destroying whole rows of brownstones. At about the same time, plans began to be developed by New York’s “master builder”, Robert Moses, wielding the Housing Act of 1949, to replace brownstone row houses which were the typical building form in the neighborhood with large luxury apartment buildings. A prominent example of the intended outcome is the Cadman Plaza development of housing cooperatives in the northern part of the neighborhood, located on the site where the Brooklyn Bridge trolley terminal once stood. In 1959, the North Heights Community Group was formed to oppose destroying cheap low-rise housing in order to build the high-rise Cadman Plaza towers. Architect Percival Goodman presented an alternate plan to maintain all sound structures, which garnered 25,000 supporters. In early 1961, a compromise proposal came from City Hall calling for two 22 story towers with over 1,200 luxury and middle income units. The Brooklyn Heights Association fully supported the compromise plan despite strong opposition from the preservation community, including the North Heights Community Group. As a result, 1,200 residents were removed from their houses and apartments in late 1961/early 1962 as construction began on the modified plan.