Brooklyn Heights

Toast the skyline from your favorite Brooklyn rooftop bar

Eye on Real Estate: It’s a rite of spring

May 15, 2019 Lore Croghan
Now that spring is really here, there’s a crowd at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge’s rooftop bar before sunset. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

It’s the perfect rite of spring for a real estate nerd. It’s fun for you normal people, too.

It can involve heavy drinking — or an innocent glass of watermelon juice.

Now that spring has finally brought Brooklyn reasonably warm days, it’s time to head for a rooftop bar, stare at the scenery and toast the icons of the skyline. And there are lots of places to do so. 

I’m particularly partial to Westlight at the top of The William Vale, a hotel in Williamsburg. The Empire State Building and Midtown skyscrapers look grand from the 22nd-floor bar.

The World Trade Center is the star of lower Manhattan’s skyscraper lineup. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
The World Trade Center is the star of lower Manhattan’s skyscraper lineup. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

But my top choice of scenery is always, always, always 1 World Trade Center. It’s a symbol of the city’s will to rebuild, which is important to all of us who mourn those who died in the 9/11 Twin Towers terrorist attack or because they got sick from rescue-and-recovery work.

A great spot for an aerial view of 1 World Trade Center is the rooftop bar at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge on the shoreline side of Brooklyn Heights.

This open-air watering hole at 60 Furman St. is part of mixed-use waterfront Pierhouse, which combines condos and a hotel.  

The bar opened in 2017. Its official name is Harriet’s Rooftop, if you’re wondering.

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Pierhouse and the Cathedral of Commerce  

Everybody up here on 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge’s roof is taking photos. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
Everybody up here on 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge’s roof is taking photos. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Up on the roof at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, it doesn’t matter if the sky’s not blue.

The firmament was a pale white-gray the day I went upstairs to toast the scenery. But the bar was packed with patrons anyway. And the views were terrific.

Here’s a checklist of some of the fine sights you can see up there, starting with Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is right down below the hotel.

The landscaping is green and gorgeous. From this height, it looks like a series of architectural drawings come to life.

Brooklyn Bridge Park looks so serene and green down below. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
Brooklyn Bridge Park looks so serene and green down below. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

The 85-acre park is an outstanding place to stroll and take photos. If you haven’t been there recently, you should come to the waterfront a couple hours before you want to hit the bar.  

Anyway. When you’re up at Harriet’s Rooftop, look south and you will see the terraces on nearby Pierhouse condos. Some of the terraces have small plots planted with ornamental gardens or trees.

Lady Liberty’s off in the distance across the waters of New York Harbor, a bit too far away to be photogenic but lovely all the same.

Close by, lower Manhattan skyscrapers line up like sentinels. Various architectural icons keep company with 1 World Trade Center.

From up here on the hotel’s rooftop, you can see the plants growing on Pierhouse terraces. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
From up here on the hotel’s rooftop, you can see the plants growing on Pierhouse terraces. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

One of them is the apartment building that star architect Frank Gehry designed, which is 870 feet tall. Its address is 8 Spruce St. It has an unusual facade that looks like it’s made of giant twisted ribbons.

Behind the tower Gehry designed, the Cathedral of Commerce is partly visible. That’s what architectural-history lovers call the Woolworth Building.

A famous bridge and a fireboat station

Brooklyn Bridge is the ultimate shoreline icon. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
Brooklyn Bridge is the ultimate shoreline icon. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

The rooftop bar affords a great view of the full span of the Brooklyn Bridge from one side of the East River to the other. The Roeblings’ landmarked marvel is the most widely recognized architectural icon associated with our borough.

At random moments, boat traffic gets busy beneath the famous bridge. On the shoreline, people waiting in a long line to board the NYC Ferry look tiny as ants.

here’s a boatload of boat traffic down below. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
There’s a boatload of boat traffic down below. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

At the foot of the bridge, on Fulton Ferry Landing Pier, the Marine Fireboat Station glows bright white as twilight gathers.

The fireboat building, which was constructed in 1926, uses 1 Water St. as its address.

The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory was formerly its tenant. But recently Brooklyn Bridge Park chose Ample Hills Creamery as the new concessionaire for the space. That’s an ice-cream shop, too, as dessert lovers know.

Brooklyn Bridge Park picked Alex and Miles Pincus to operate a cafe and bar on the pier. As Brooklyn Eagle colleague Mary Frost reported in April, the Pincus brothers’ plan to construct a permanent pavilion on the pier for this purpose did not pass muster with the city Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The pier is located in the Fulton Ferry Historic District, which is why the LPC has authority over the proposed construction.  

A famous clocktower

There’s the Marine Fireboat Station at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge and the DUMBO Clocktower off in the distance. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
There’s the Marine Fireboat Station at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge and the DUMBO Clocktower off in the distance. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Behind Brooklyn Bridge, in the middle distance, Gairville’s most glamorous building stands tall. If you know what I’m talking about, you’re definitely conversant with the details of the DUMBO Historic District.

A century ago, paper-box manufacturer and real estate investor Robert Gair owned so many factory buildings in DUMBO that people called the area Gairville. The signature building is 1 Main St., aka the DUMBO Clocktower.

The landmarked building has one of the most photogenic penthouses in the city — a triplex apartment with an enormous glass clock face embedded in each of its four walls. In 2017, gallery owner/art dealer Lio Malca bought it for $15 million.

All along the Watchtower

When you face this direction on 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge’s rooftop bar, you glimpse the framework of the famous Watchtower sign, whose letters have been removed. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
When you face this direction on 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge’s rooftop, you glimpse the framework of the famous Watchtower sign, whose letters have been removed. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

If you turn your back to the shoreline and walk to the farthest edge of the roof, you’ll see a building on the opposite side of the street that was the headquarters of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

On top of the building there’s empty framework where red electric letters 15 feet high used to spell out the word “Watchtower.” The sign was well-known. It was visible to drivers on the Brooklyn Bridge and folks on the shoreline in Manhattan.

After the Jehovah’s Witnesses sold the property at 25-30 Columbia Heights a couple years ago, they removed the letters and put them in storage.

A necklace of lights appears on the cables of the Brooklyn Bridge at dusk. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
A necklace of lights appears on the cables of the Brooklyn Bridge at dusk. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Subsequently, the city Buildings Department decided the new owners of the property should not be allowed to put new letters onto the sign’s framework. This left a void in waterfront Brooklyn’s skyline.

Last year the Board of Standards and Appeals ruled that the owners, Columbia Heights Associates, do have the right to put a new name onto the sign framework.

The owners are in the process of turning the old Watchtower complex into a mixed-use campus with office and retail space and a cultural facility. The development is called Panorama.

Up on the hotel’s roof, the scenery is tinged with melancholy half-light after the sun drops below the horizon. There are purple-hued flood lights on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Lower Manhattan’s lights shine as night falls. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
Lower Manhattan’s lights shine as night falls. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan

Drink one more toast as the last light fades, a toast to fleeting spring and our stunning city, which will endure no matter what.

Follow reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.

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