Brooklyn Heights

Saving Montague Street: BHA survey seeks plan for revitalization of Brooklyn Heights’ ‘Main Street’

One-fifth of Montague storefronts empty amid COVID crisis

December 11, 2020 Mary Frost

Montague Street is a unique commercial strip, with a civic center at one end and the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, a popular tourist attraction, at the other.

Erika Belsey Worth, president of the Brooklyn Heights Association. Photo courtesy of BHA

The unofficial “Main Street” of New York’s first historic district should be a dream location for popular retail stores and restaurants, but the street has been plagued by vacancies for decades. Now, amid COVID-19, the bottom is falling out.

“I will not easily forget those early weeks of the COVID shutdown when we were going out once a week, and Montague Street was completely deserted,” Erika Belsey Worth, president of  the Brooklyn Heights Association, told the Brooklyn Eagle recently. Worth, an architect, moved to Montague Street with her husband and their two sons in 2001.

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“As I walk down the street now, the many darkened storefronts are a reminder of that emptiness, and a warning,” Worth said. “A flourishing Montague Street is important to Brooklyn Heights, and now is a critical time to focus on both bringing it back and making it better.”

Peerless Shoe Service, at 113 Montague St. since 1991, has shut its doors. Photo: Mary Frost/Brooklyn Eagle

BHA has been grappling with the issue of Montague Street for years. Now the organization, in cooperation with the Montague Street Business Improvement District and others, is using this down time to develop a comprehensive plan to revitalize the neighborhood’s commercial streets once the city reopens for business.

To help, residents are asked to complete a survey by Dec. 18. BHA will share the data gathered with the community, the BID, landlords, business owners and elected officials. (The owners of the The Heights Cafe and Dellarocco’s have donated a $50 gift card as an incentive. The winner will be drawn at random from the responses.)

One of many empty storefronts on Brooklyn Heights’ Montague Street. Photo: Mary Frost/Brooklyn Eagle

As a service to help readers understand the issue, the Eagle has undertaken an in-depth study of the ailing shopping strip, speaking with Montague Street business owners, landlords and shoppers. In our report, we remember the Montague Street of the past and some of its unique shops, the problems large crowds of shoppers brought to the street in the ’70s and ’80s, and the protests that broke out as rents increased and beloved businesses were forced to close. We shine a spotlight on the reasons behind the street’s long-vacant storefronts, and discuss solutions brainstormed by urban planners, landlords, business owners and shoppers.

The Eagle invites readers to join in this vital discussion. Take the BHA Montague Street survey here.

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One prime retail space at 112 Montague St. has been unoccupied since 2012, when Starbucks moved to another location. Photo: Mary Frost/Brooklyn Eagle

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