Stroll down Bergen Street from Boerum Hill to Brownsville | Part Two
Eye on Real Estate: You can walk from Boerum Hill to Brownsville. What a splendid slice of Brooklyn’s built environment.
If you move at a normal pace, you can complete this stroll in a single outing. It took me two days. I blame my slow speed on the fact that I photographed buildings on almost every block. A zookeeper I recently interviewed suggested my spirit animal is a sloth. (I’d always assumed it’s a tiger, which is my college’s mascot.)
Previously published Part One of my Bergen Street walk included Boerum Hill, Park Slope and Prospect Heights. Today’s story is Part Two, which is about Crown Heights and the Ocean Hill section of Brownsville.
The M-Crown district
I started at the intersection of Bergen Street and Grand Avenue in Crown Heights. Between Grand and Franklin avenues, the north side of Bergen Street is a border of the proposed M-Crown district. Residents of Community Board 8 have been trying to get the area upzoned for several years.
Though the M-Crown district is currently zoned for manufacturing, there are handsome rowhouses in some spots, for instance 793 to 797 Bergen St. Other spots are vacant lots or low-rise industrial buildings that would be attractive development sites if their zoning were changed.
Advocates of the grassroots M-Crown rezoning initiative want space for light manufacturing, artisanal makers or community facilities to be included in new residential developments. They also want the majority of the affordable housing that’s built to be priced for tenants whose earnings are at or below the neighborhood’s Area Median Income.
Some bits of Bergen Street are not part of the M-Crown district because they’re already zoned for residential uses, for instance, the rowhouses with storefronts at 661, 663 and 665 Classon Ave. on the corner of Bergen Street.
By the way, the falafel is really good at Pasha Pizza Pita at 665 Classon Ave. They bake their own pita bread.
If you need caffeine to fuel your walk, there’s a coffee bar inside Berg’n, a beer hall and event space at 899 Bergen St. The front of this building, whose address is 1000 Dean St., was a Studebaker service station many decades ago. The former owners of Brownstoner and their investment partners converted it into a complex with offices for small businesses, designers and artists.
You’ll pass eye-catching 925 Bergen St., a red-brick industrial building that belonged to Nassau Brewery Co., which went out of business a century ago. Architect John Platte designed the building, which was constructed in 1885. Artists are among its current tenants.
On the northeast side of the intersection of Franklin Avenue and Bergen Street, which is outside the M-Crown district, old-fashioned rowhouses are eye-pleasers.
An eye-catching statue
Near the southeast corner of Franklin Avenue and Bergen Street, there’s a pair of skinny four-story buildings whose facades are partly brick and partly pressed metal which is elaborately decorated. Their addresses are 950 and 952 Bergen St.
An architect and developer named William Conway constructed these Renaissance-Revival apartment buildings in 1892, architectural history expert Suzanne Spellen wrote for Brownstoner.
According to city Finance Department records, Black Veterans for Social Justice owned the buildings for more than two decades. Last year, the nonprofit sold them for $2.4 million to Michael Khodadadian and Aaron Kamel’s Bergen Towers LLC.
Between Franklin and Bedford avenues, Bergen Street’s got lovely brownstones, some of them with painted façades.
At the intersection of Bergen Street and Bedford Avenue, there’s a “gore,” in other words a tiny triangular piece of land, with Rogers Avenue as its third boundary.
This pocket park, which is named Grant Gore, is graced with a bronze equestrian statue of Civil War general and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant. The monumental artwork by sculptor William Ordway Partridge has stood tall — and I do mean tall; it’s on a pedestal — since 1896.
In the 1930s, during the Great Depression, artists paid by federal Works Progress Administration funds restored Grant’s statue. The job was part of the city Parks Department’s Monument Restoration Project.
When you stand on Bergen Street, you see the back of the statue. You have to walk up Rogers Avenue for a view of Grant’s face, which is shaded by his hat brim.
Bergen Street passes into the landmarked part of Crown Heights North to the east of the intersection of Nostrand Avenue.
When you stand at that corner and look left up Nostrand Avenue, you’ll notice beautiful Bedford Central Presbyterian Church.
The congregation’s origins date back to the early 1850s. The religious group affiliated with the Presbyterians in 1894, the church’s website says.
The brick and terra-cotta church building is Romanesque Revival in its architectural style. The original portion of the building was constructed around 1897 and an enlargement was constructed around 1906, a city Landmarks Preservation Commission historic-district designation report says.
When you keep walking, you’ll see Neo-Grec brownstones built in the 1870s and Romanesque-Revival rowhouses built in the 1880s.
One of the prettiest clusters of Romanesque Revival homes on this stroll can be found on the corner of Bergen Street and New York Avenue. An architect named Charles Infanger designed and built the row of five buildings, whose addresses are 124 to 132 New York Ave., a designation report notes.
(I’m not being specific about which designation report is which because there are three of them about different sections of Crown Heights North.)
On another Bergen Street and New York Avenue corner, you’ll see lovely brick-and-sandstone Union United Methodist Church and its school and parsonage. The complex has multiple addresses including 121 New York Ave. It was constructed between 1889 and 1891.
The church’s designer was J.C. Cady & Co., a firm that was considered a leader in the use of Romanesque-Revival architectural style back in the day, an LPC designation report says.
Among the eye-catching homes you’ll see in landmarked Crown Heights North, there’s an unusual cluster from 1187 to 1199 Bergen St., between New York and Brooklyn avenues.
This row is unusual because the bricks that the houses are made of are the color of limestone, and they’re paired with bands of actual limestone. The pale hues are pretty together, especially since the roofs are made of contrasting red-clay tiles. Architectural details like Juliet balconies and curved window bays are interspersed among the houses.
Albert E. White was the architect of this Romanesque-Revival grouping; John A. Bliss was the developer and original owner, a designation report says. The handsome row was constructed in 1894.
If I described every Bergen Street house in Crown Heights North that pleased my eye, the story I would write would take you a year to read.
On the block between Brooklyn and Kingston avenues, flowers are still growing outside 1282 Bergen St. In 1898, F.K. Taylor designed and built the row next to it, which extends from 1284 to 1298 Bergen St.
The facade of one house is vanilla-hued, another is strawberry-colored and a third is a deep shade of chocolate, a combination that calls to mind Neapolitan ice cream.
The Bergen block between Kingston and Albany avenues has a nice surprise to offer. Partway down the block, on the north side of the street, you find the entrance to Revere Place. This is a landmarked street that runs for a single block between Bergen and Dean streets.
There are 24 houses on Revere Place. The developer of all the homes was John A. Bliss, whom I just mentioned. He built them in 1896 and 1897. Once again, he teamed up with architect Albert E. White.
The houses’ style is a combination of Romanesque Revival and Renaissance Revival.
The landmarked part of Crown Heights North ends before the intersection of Albany Avenue.
Weeksville Heritage Center
After you cross Troy Avenue, you’ll pass FDNY’s Rescue Company Number 2 firehouse at 1472 Bergen St. It stands beside a section of St. John’s Park called Buddy Keaton Fields.
Past the intersection of Schenectady Avenue, Tamra Teahouse at 1524 Bergen St. is a good spot to take a break. Eater NY calls the restaurant an “under-the-radar Crown Heights Asian-Afro gem.” The butternut squash curry is great, by the way.
After you pass the intersection of Rochester Avenue, you will find Weeksville Heritage Center.
Through a fence, you can see historic wood-frame houses from a community that James Weeks established in 1838 for free, landowning African Americans. The houses stand on a gravel path that’s a remnant of Hunterfly Road, which was a Native American trail and later a street in Weeksville.
You should plan a visit to Weeksville Heritage Center if you haven’t been there lately. I had the privilege of touring the houses last spring. It’s an extraordinary experience.
At that time, Weeksville Heritage Center was raising money through a CrowdRise donations campaign to avoid closing. The fund-raising effort was successful.
Thanks to elected officials’ advocacy, the city in June designated Weeksville Heritage Center as a member of its Cultural Institutions Group. This means the museum will receive unrestricted operating grants from the city Department of Cultural Affairs, which also will pay the heat, light and power bills.
On the far side of Buffalo Avenue, there’s one more Bergen Street block within the boundaries of Crown Heights. The barrel-vaulted rowhouses on this block are eye-pleasers.
Ralph Avenue is the border of Crown Heights.
When you reach the intersection, you might think this is the end of Bergen Street because you encounter a fenced-in compound.
The New York City Children’s Center is located behind the fence. It’s a State Office of Mental Health facility for children and teens, with an outpatient clinic, day-treatment programs and other helpful things.
If you swing around the block to Howard Avenue, you will find that Bergen Street becomes accessible to the public once again. The block that begins here is full of beautiful, old-fashioned rowhouses.
“The Neighborhoods of Brooklyn,” a book edited by historians Kenneth Jackson and John Manbeck, identifies the neighborhood you’re now walking through as the Ocean Hill section of Brownsville.
At the next Bergen Street intersection, there’s a handsome 80-unit apartment complex that uses 331 Saratoga Ave. as its address. It was built a couple years ago.
Half the units are for very-low income and low-income tenants; the other half are studios for formerly homeless people.
Beyond the new apartment building, the rest of the Bergen Street block is filled with eye-pleasing rowhouses.
As Bergen Street proceeds towards Eastern Parkway Extension, the terrain becomes hilly, which makes sense given the neighborhood’s name.
Bergen Street ends nearby at East New York Avenue.
There, a new, 33-unit rental-apartment building is being developed. Seven of the apartments are affordable units for people who earn 40 percent of Area Median Income. This puts them in the category of very-low income tenants.
When you’ve finished your stroll, if you need a subway to get home, Broadway Junction is a few blocks away. The A, C, J, Z and L trains stop there.
Follow reporter Lore Croghan on Twitter.
Eye on Real Estate is veteran reporter Lore Croghan’s weekly column on Brooklyn’s built environment. Whether it’s old as Abraham Lincoln or so new it hasn’t topped out yet, if a building is eye-catching, Eye will show it to you.
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