Brooklyn Boro

Walk to Queens from Downtown Brooklyn, part one

Eye on Real Estate: See Willoughby Street skyscrapers and photogenic Fort Greene Park

October 24, 2018 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The first steps of this walk to Queens start at the Willoughby Street plaza in Downtown Brooklyn, next to Shake Shack. Eagle photos by Lore Croghan
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Wanna walk to Queens from Downtown Brooklyn?

Willoughby’s one fine way to go.

For part of your stroll, you’ll notice this photogenic thoroughfare is called Willoughby Street. On the far side of Fort Greene Park, it becomes Willoughby Avenue.

The street is lined with eye-catching new apartment towers and old-fashioned rowhouses.

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It passes by Pratt Institute, whose landscaped grounds, decorated with sculptures, are open to the public. It slices through Clinton Hill, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick.

If you’re an obsessive photo taker, you’ll need to spend more than one day on this trek.

We’re splitting up our story about this walk into installments to maximize the number of pictures we can show you. This is Part One.


Maybe an early lunch before you start strolling?

How can you resist a street that starts with a Shake Shack and a Greek restaurant?

The Downtown Brooklyn public plaza where Willoughby Street begins is flanked by a property that houses the first Shake Shack that opened in Brooklyn and a Renaissance Revival-style building where Greek/Mediterranean restaurant CAVA is under construction.

By the way, the Willoughby Street plaza is bordered by that mammoth multi-lane highway called Adams Street.

Shake Shack’s Brooklyn debut took place in December 2011. Restaurant maven Danny Meyer’s high-end burger joint has been going strong ever since at this address, which is 409 Fulton St.

Michael Chera’s Allied Property Group owns the two-story building, city Finance Department records indicate.  

A sign in a window at 345 Adams St., the building on the other side of the Willoughby Street plaza, says CAVA is now hiring workers.

CAVA, which childhood friends Ike Grigoropoulos, Dimitri Moshovitis and Ted Xenohristos founded, is expected to have 75 locations by the end of this year, the company’s website says.

Thirteen-story 345 Adams St. has frontage on Willoughby and Pearl streets. It’s divided into two commercial condominiums with different owners.

The office unit belongs to the City of New York.

The ground- and second-floor retail unit belongs to Muss Development, which bought it from the city  Economic Development Corp. for $5.77 million in 2008, Finance Department records show.

Muss Development’s property portfolio includes the nearby Brooklyn Renaissance Plaza and New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge. The real estate firm built Oceana Condominium & Club in Brighton Beach.

The fire station and phone-company building are so fine   

Near the intersection of Willoughby and Jay streets, you’ll find the Old Brooklyn Fire Headquarters.

The Roman brick, sandstone and terra cotta building at 365 Jay St. is adorned with arches and turrets — and has a pyramid-topped watchtower that fire-spotters used.

The Romanesque Revival-style building was constructed in 1892. Prominent architect Frank Freeman designed this individual city landmark, which has been converted into a residential building where all the apartments are affordable-housing units.

Another individual city landmark is located a block away. It’s the New York and New Jersey Telephone and Telegraph Building.

This Beaux-Arts beauty was constructed in 1897 and 1898.

The light-tan brick, limestone and terra cotta building has a curved edge on its corner at the intersection of Lawrence and Willoughby streets. The name “Telephone Building” is carved into the cornice over an entrance door, which is surrounded by molding decorated with depictions of old-fashioned phones.

The designer of  81 Willoughby St. was Mexican-born architect Rudolphe Laurence Daus, who studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris.

The phone company departed eons ago. ASA College and various office tenants now occupy the building.


A hot spot for apartment construction

There are lots of other terrific old-fashioned buildings on these Willoughby Street blocks, such as the Oratory Church of St. Boniface.

But expect to see numerous high-rise residential towers. The 2004 rezoning of Downtown Brooklyn turned the area into a development hotbed.

For instance, AvalonBay Communities constructed a market-rate rental-apartment building on the corner of Willoughby and Duffield streets. Tenants started moving in there in 2015.

This developer markets the units in the 58-story building under two different brand names with two different price points— AVA DoBro and Avalon Willoughby Square.

The apartments on the tower’s top 27 floors are included in Avalon Willoughby Square, which has an entrance at 214 Duffield St. The apartments in the rest of the building comprise AVA DoBro, which has an entrance at 100 Willoughby St.


Brooklyn Point is rising high

A couple blocks away, another tower is rising skyward.

The construction site is at 138 Willoughby St. This condo development is called Brooklyn Point.

When completed, it will be 720 feet tall, which will make it a skyscraper to be reckoned with although not the borough’s tallest. The tower that’s being built at nearby 9 DeKalb Ave. alongside landmarked Dime Savings Bank will be 1,066 feet tall.

But back to Brooklyn Point, which Gary Barnett’s Extell Development is building.

This under-construction tower is part of City Point, a 1.8 million-square-foot mixed-use project with commercial space occupied by Trader Joe’s, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, retailers Century 21 and Target and a popular food hall where Katz’s Deli has an outpost.

Architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates designed Brooklyn Point. It will have 458 apartments and more than 40,000 square feet of amenities — including an indoor saltwater swimming pool, its marketing website says.

The last time we checked the website, asking prices for available condos ranged from $847,620 for a studio to $3,081,330 for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom unit.

After you walk past Brooklyn Point, you’ll cross Flatbush Avenue Extension, which is a multi-lane highway.

Out on its median strip, there’s a bench where you can sit and take in your surroundings. There’s a good view of 4 MetroTech Center, an office building with frontage on Willoughby Street, and the Toren residential tower at 150 Myrtle Ave.


Right this way to St. Edwards Street

On the far side of Flatbush Avenue Extension, you’ll walk past LIU Brooklyn’s green lawn where people take their dogs out to frolic.

A couple blocks away, Willoughby Street comes to an end at St. Edwards Street — which is one of the boundaries of Fort Greene Park. The 33-acre park has no streets in it, so you follow winding footpaths through it.

There’s a 100-foot-wide granite staircase that leads to the top of a hill. The Prison Ship Martyrs Monument is located at its summit.

The monument is a 149-foot-tall Doric column designed by distinguished architecture firm McKim, Mead and White. President William Howard Taft dedicated it in 1908.

It stands above a crypt containing the remains of more than 11,500 Patriots who died while imprisoned on British ships anchored in Wallabout Bay during the Revolutionary War.


Walt Whitman championed Fort Greene Park’s creation

By the way, McKim, Mead and White also designed the park’s comfort station, which is shaped like a Classical temple with lots of columns.

The park is part of the Fort Greene Historic District, which was designated in 1978.

The city Landmarks Preservation Commission’s designation report, written that year, says the park was created thanks largely to relentless campaigning by Walt Whitman in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in the 1840s. The renowned poet was the paper’s editor at that time.

Park construction was completed in 1850 “after it had been fully established that the residents of the neighborhood could no longer keep their hogs on the premises,” the designation report says. Wow.

Initially, it was called Washington Park — which is why the street that serves as the park’s eastern border now has that name.

Here’s another fun fact about Fort Greene Park: Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux redesigned it in the 1860s. The famous landscape architects, as of course you know, designed Central Park and Prospect Park.

Landmarked houses at the park’s edge

On the far side of Fort Greene Park, Willoughby reappears. But now it’s called Willoughby Avenue.

The homes along this edge of the park are part of the landmarked district.

T.B. Jackson built the Italianate rowhouse at 1-9 Willoughby Ave., which is also known as 176 Washington Park, around 1868, the Fort Greene Historic District designation report says.

The report also says Joseph H. Townsend constructed 2-10 Willoughby Ave., aka 179 Washington Park, around 1866.

It’s part of an eye-pleasing row of seven French Second Empire-style brownstones.

The first block of Willoughby Avenue ends at the intersection of Carlton Avenue.

The homes on all four corners of this intersection are picturesque.

Handsome houses line this corner of Willoughby and Carlton avenues.

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