Brooklyn Heights

The 10 best routes for spring strolls in Brooklyn

Eye on Real Estate: How well do you know our borough?

May 8, 2019 Lore Croghan
Welcome to Brooklyn, which has a thousand and one fine places to take spring strolls. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

It ain’t all brownstones. But it’s all beautiful.

Brooklyn’s housing stock is blessed with infinite variety, which is of course a phrase I borrowed from Shakespeare.

Some stunning neighborhoods look wildly different from other equally fabulous spots. If Brooklyn is a mosaic, the tiles that comprise it are in highly contrasting colors.

Spring’s the ideal season to get out and see these fascinating contrasts in the built environment.

There’s infinite variety in Brooklyn’s housing stock. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan
There’s infinite variety in Brooklyn’s housing stock. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

This time of year, the weather can vary wildly in the course of a single stroll, which adds to the visual intrigue. The scenery changes dramatically when fog suddenly rolls in, as it’s doing while I write this story. When blue skies return, it’s like walking through in a Technicolor movie.

Here are 10 terrific spring strolls you can take to see for yourself.

Highland Park and Cypress Hills

There’s a mini-neighborhood within Cypress Hills that’s full of must-see, stand-alone mansions with lawns. It is called Highland Park.

Its key artery, Highland Boulevard, leads to a lovely recreation area that’s also called Highland Park.

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Inside its precincts you’ll find the picturesque Ridgewood Reservoir. The rest of Cypress Hills is pretty great, too.

Highland Boulevard runs through Highland Park, which is a mini-neighborhood within Cypress Hills. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan
Highland Boulevard runs through Highland Park, which is a mini-neighborhood within Cypress Hills. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

And you’ll want to drop by Cypress Hills Cemetery to pay your respects to the legendary Brooklyn Dodgers superstar and civil rights advocate Jackie Robinson. His grave is there.

Carroll Gardens

You can become intensely immersed in brownstone architecture by strolling around the Carroll Gardens Historic District.

There are brownstones galore in the Carroll Gardens Historic District. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan
There are brownstones galore in the Carroll Gardens Historic District. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

This 160-plus-building area is populated by dignified, understated brownstones built mostly in the late 1860s through the early 1880s. A 19th-century surveyor named Richard Butts laid out the lots in this area with 33.5-foot-deep front yards. Wow.

Be sure to stroll around the non-landmarked parts of Carroll Gardens, too.

Carroll Gardens’ unlandmarked blocks are full of architectural treasures such as Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and St. Stephen Roman Catholic Church. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan
Carroll Gardens’ unlandmarked blocks are full of architectural treasures such as Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and St. Stephen Roman Catholic Church. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

One must-see building is Gothic-style Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and St. Stephen Roman Catholic Church. It was designed by Patrick Charles Keely, aka the Prince of American Catholic Architects.

Gerritsen Beach

This bungalow neighborhood looks like a vacation getaway spot.

Many of Gerritsen Beach’s picturesque houses are on or near waterfront of some sort. You see boats everywhere. The neighborhood is located on a peninsula that’s bisected by Shell Bank Canal.

Gerritsen Beach’s waters are filled with boats. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan
Gerritsen Beach’s waters are filled with boats. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

Superstorm Sandy did grievous harm to Gerritsen Beach. Residents have fought back hard.

Some have elevated their houses above the floodplain. Others had to tear down houses that were beyond repair and construct completely new ones.

Bedford-Stuyvesant

Montrose Morris is a god. If you love late 19th-century Brooklyn architecture, you’ll know what I mean.

A stroll through Bedford-Stuyvesant will offer you an eyeful of his designs, including an apartment building that looks like a French Renaissance chateau.

All hail architect Montrose Morris, whose Bed-Stuy apartment designs look like castles. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan
All hail architect Montrose Morris, whose Bed-Stuy apartment designs look like castles. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

You can find these by walking along Nostrand Avenue from one end of the neighborhood to the other. Keep this story open on your phone while you walk, so you can find out which 19th-century architects designed which buildings.

Then swing around onto Marcy Avenue and stroll there, too. There’s an eye-catching Morris design at 232 Hancock St. on the corner of Marcy Avenue.

Red Hook

I’ve got a weakness for shorelines and Key lime pie. Red Hook has both.

There are a number of ways to organize a walk in Red Hook.

One is to start at Pioneer Works, an art space where cool people hang out. Stroll down commercial corridor Van Brunt Street, sample the goods at Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies and stand on Valentino Pier to see the Statue of Liberty and the setting sun.

Lehigh Valley Barge #79, aka the Waterfront Museum, is one of Red Hook’s many shoreline icons. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan
Lehigh Valley Barge #79, aka the Waterfront Museum, is one of Red Hook’s many shoreline icons. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

If you have time, you should also see the remnants of Todd Shipyard, which IKEA turned into a park.

It’s important to enjoy Red Hook in the good times. After Superstorm Sandy, things were bad.

I will always remember the nuns who run Visitation Residence. They worked and worked to put a flooded, damaged Red Hook group home for developmentally disabled adults back in order. For five months, the residents had to live in temporary quarters in another neighborhood.

Brooklyn Heights

The Promenade is located inside the Brooklyn Heights Historic District. Landmarking law is supposed to protect it.

That is all I’m going to say about the famous recreation area above the BQE. The Promenade either will or won’t be demolished, depending on what a blue-ribbon panel decides about highway repairs.

Long live the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan
Long live the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

So. Walk along the Promenade. Take in the iconic views of the Statue of Liberty and the World Trade Center. Then stroll around Brooklyn Heights’ streets.

One great route involves walking down Willow Street — where Cher’s house in the film “Moonstruck” and the home where Truman Capote wrote “In Cold Blood” are located — and then Willow Place, which is an entirely different road.

Greenpoint

Here’s the shorthand version of how to spend a great day in waterfront Greenpoint: Eat Polish food on Manhattan Avenue. Sit outdoors at a Franklin Street bar. Shop at Word Bookstore, also on Franklin Street. See the sunset at WNYC Transmitter Park.

Eat, drink and be merry on Franklin Street in Greenpoint. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan
Eat, drink and be merry on Franklin Street in Greenpoint. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

Last year, I devised a route that will enable you to take care of everything on this to-do list.

Victorian Flatbush

Brooklyn has the largest concentration of Victorian wood-frame houses in America. Strolling around Victorian Flatbush to see them is the next best thing to owning one of them.

Over the years, I have devised walks that take you through numerous Victorian Flatbush micro-neighborhoods. One great walk wends around Ditmas Park West.

Ditmas Park West is a lovely micro-neighborhood in Victorian Flatbush. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan
Ditmas Park West is a lovely micro-neighborhood in Victorian Flatbush. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

Silent-film star and movie-industry pioneer Mary Pickford was going to live there at 1320 Ditmas Ave. and work at a nearby studio called Vitagraph.

At the last minute, so the story goes, Pickford decided not to sign a contract with Vitagraph. She didn’t move into the neighborhood.

Sheepshead Bay

Bait shops, boats and swans a-swimming.

Sheepshead Bay’s Emmons Avenue is full of aquatic eye candy. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan
Sheepshead Bay’s Emmons Avenue is full of aquatic eye candy. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

If you walk down Emmons Avenue in Sheepshead Bay, this is what you’ll see.

The inland streets of Sheepshead Bay are intriguing, too.

Clinton Hill

Clinton Hill is a mecca for mansions — landmarked 19th-century mansions with distinctive designs.

Walk the full length of Washington Avenue in this neighborhood and you’ll get an eyeful of them. Turn onto Clinton Avenue for more.

The buildings in the Clinton Hill Historic District are so fine. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan
The buildings in the Clinton Hill Historic District are so fine. Eagle file photo by Lore Croghan

Back in the day, Clinton Avenue was called the Gold Coast.

Follow reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.

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