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Downtown Brooklyn: Commercial Center to Neighborhood

Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times
New York Times - Dan Shaw


Downtown Brooklyn: Commercial Center to Neighborhood

Living In


Downtown Brooklyn, the civic and commercial center of the borough, is becoming a full-fledged residential community with its own identity, if not attitude.

“In five years, people will be calling it DoBro,” said Paul Travis, a developer who has worked on projects in the area for nearly 30 years.

In the last decade, 6,758 apartments (roughly two-thirds rentals and one-third condominiums) have been built there, and 5,997 are under construction, according to a market report released in September by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, a nonprofit development corporation. Many are in luxury high-rises that attract young professionals like Elisabeth Conroy, 30, an arts lawyer who works in Manhattan. In August, she and her husband, who works in finance, rented a 39th-floor one-bedroom for $3,400 a month in the new 440-unit City Tower.

“I’d been living in an old building in the West Village, and I was tired of things not working,” she said.

City Tower’s amenities — including a gym and a 10,000-square-foot terrace with barbecue stations — make her feel as if she were living in a resort. And living above the entrance to the DeKalb Avenue subway station, with the Q, R and other trains, “is super convenient,” she added.

Ann Campbell, 37, a nurse practitioner who works on the Upper East Side, moved two years ago from Park Slope to the 40-story Bklyn Air on Gold Street, where monthly rents recently ranged from about $2,600 for a studio to about $5,060 for a three-bedroom. “I wanted to have a view,” said Ms. Campbell, who can see up the East River to the Queensboro Bridge from her 36th-floor three-bedroom.

She has an 11-month-old son and said she was happy to find that “we have a community of young mothers” in the building.

Amanda Catrini, 29, who works in the test kitchen of the Food Network in Chelsea, moved six months ago to a $1,500-a-month studio above a nail salon at Livingston and Nevins Streets. The main reason was the geography — ”It’s easy to get anywhere in Manhattan or Brooklyn,” she said. But she has found good reasons to stay close to home: Brooklyn Fare, “a pretty awesome grocery store,” and Livingston Manor, which is “my go-to local bar,” she said.

When office workers and shoppers go home, a lull settles over the area — except for the bridge traffic on Flatbush Avenue Extension and Brooklyn Bridge Boulevard.

“I sometimes feel skeptical walking down Fulton Street at night,” Ms. Catrini said. Still, she enjoys living in a neighborhood in transition: “I could feel the change in the air. I wanted to be part of that change.” 


The Vibe

Residents walk to the Brooklyn Academy of Music for performances, films and talks and to the Barclays Center to see the Brooklyn Nets play basketball and the New York Islanders hockey, as well as concerts.

On weekdays, streets teem with workers, including 22,000 people at MetroTech Center’s 11 buildings, and some 60,000 college students attending 11institutions.

The neighborhood’s historic anchors include the mid-19th century Greek Revival Borough Hall (where there is a farmers market on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays) and 66-year-old Junior’s, a sprawling restaurant famous for its cheesecake.

The pedestrian-oriented blocks known as Fulton Mall have stores ranging from old-style cosmetics-and-wig shops to Macy’s and a new Century 21department store. DeKalb Market Hall, set to open nearby in March, will have 40 vendors; the Gotham Market at the Ashland, scheduled to open in January, eight places to drink and dine.

The Schools

Public School 287 Bailey K. Ashford has about 200 students in prekindergarten through Grade 5; the city’s 2015-16 School Quality Snapshot says 12 percent met state standards in English, versus 39 percent citywide, and 16 percent in math, compared with 40 percent. P.S. 20 Clinton Hill has about 410 students in pre-K through Grade 5; 39 percent met state standards in English and 39 percent in math.

P.S. 261 Philip Livingston has about 780 students in pre-K through fifth grade; 53 percent met state standards in English and 57 percent in math. P.S. 38 the Pacific has about 545 students in pre-K through fifth grade; 49 percent met state standards in English and 48 percent in math.

P.S. 8 Robert Fulton: The Magnet School for Exploration, Research and Design has about 950 students from kindergarten to eighth grades at two locations; 70 percent met state standards in English, versus 38 percent citywide, and 64 percent in math, versus 36 percent.

The Commute

With 13 subway lines, the neighborhood has easy access to all of Manhattan. It’s only two stops on the 2 or 3 train from Borough Hall to Wall Street, for instance.

The History

Before Brooklyn became part of New York City in 1898, Borough Hall was Brooklyn’s City Hall and home to the offices of the mayor and the City Council as well as a courtroom and a jail. Built between 1846 and 1851, it was restored in the 1980s.

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