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Carroll Gardens

Guess who's discovered the area celebrated in Motherless Brooklyn?

Who put the Ca in BoCoCa? Old-world shops still line Carroll Gardens’ streets, alongside stylish new cafés and boutiques—a collision famously depicted in Jonathan Lethem’s 1999 novel, Motherless Brooklyn. Once a quiet Italian-American community on the outskirts of working-class Red Hook, the area took on a middle-class identity after the BQE and Gowanus Expressway bisected South Brooklyn in the early 1960s. Residents may travel to Red Hook to visit their favorite Swedish furnishings superstore, but there’s plenty within the nabe’s borders—from DeGraw Street to Hamilton Avenue and Hoyt Street to Columbia Street—to keep your family entertained and well fed.

Check it out

The Carroll Street stop on the F and G lines conveniently lets visitors off at Carroll Park (President St between Court and Smith Sts), where they’ll find basketball hoops, an asphalt softball diamond and two playgrounds. From June through August the park hosts a popular family concert series on weekday afternoons, featuring Brooklyn-based musicians like the Deedle Deedle Dees and Randy Kaplan.

With only a small placard to indicate its whereabouts, the Brooklyn Fencing Center (62 4th St, 718-522-5822) occupies the second floor of a nondescript building near the Gowanus Canal. The facility offers children ages seven and up instruction in Olympic-style fencing, and hosts birthday parties where kids can fight it out—without getting in trouble—during a 50-minute lesson.

What local families do

Membership at the nearby Red Hook Recreation Center (155 Bay St, 718-722-3211) may be the best athletic deal in the borough. Youngsters under 17 get free access to a gym, an outdoor pool, and seasonal sports leagues like basketball and flag football (adults pay $50 per year for the gym and pool). Messy Marvin types enjoy the Painted Pot (339 Smith St, 718-222-0334); children as young as 18 months are invited to paint their own creations from a selection of pre-made crockery. Kids eight and up can try the pottery wheel.

The Fairway in Red Hook (480 Van Brunt St, 718-694-6868) is almost double the size of the Harlem branch. Introduce your tot to spoonfuls of exotic flavors at the olive oil bar, then stop by the market's caf on the way out. Besides tasty sandwiches, it offers a stunning harborside view of the Statue of Liberty.

Fun shops

The cozy store Area Play (331 Smith St, 718-624-2411) specializes in European wooden toys, while its sister, Area Kids (233 Smith St, 718-522-6455), traffics in modern playthings like street scooters. One block over you'll find Giggles & Green (369 Court St, 718-222-2444), an eco-friendly clothing and toy hub that also offers yoga and music classes and a play area. A few doors down is Ol Baby (315 Court St, 718-422-1978), which stocks all the gear that new parents need, from Argington cribs to Zutano bodysuits and Ergo baby carriers.

Good eats

At the edge of Carroll Gardens is Eton (205 Sackett St, 718-222-2999), purveyor of dumplings, hand-pulled noodles, Hawaiian shave ice and bubble tea. (It's an odd combination, to be sure, but kids will wonder why no one's thought of it before.) The house dumplings —in chicken, pork or vegetable—are fried, steamed and then fried again. Bring your own container and receive a 25 discount. In the spring, try shave ice in one of 16 flavors, including lychee, guava and watermelon. Similar to a Sno-Kone, shave ice is extra fine so the flavoring is absorbed into it rather than sinking to the bottom of the cup.

The rustic bistro Le Petit Café (502 Court St, 718-596-7060) cooks comforting fare in generous portions. Among the tot favorites are a number of egg dishes for breakfast and cornflake-crusted chicken fingers for dinner. In the back garden, a pond filled with goldfish mesmerizes young ones.

Carroll Gardens is a good place to bring an appetite for Italian. Kids can watch pizza being made to order at new brick-oven joint Luna Rossa (522 Court St, 718-875-1384). Or stop by Vinny's (295 Smith St, 718-875-5600) for chicken parm and good ol' spaghetti and meatballs.

Elementary schools

P.S. 146 Brooklyn New School
610 Henry Street. Grades K–5.
What's special: Innovative, project-based curriculum with lots of field trips.
Downside: Crowded classrooms.
Reading scores: 3/5 stars
Math scores: 4/5 stars
The success and popularity of Brooklyn New School, an alternative school that serves as a model for innovative schools throughout the region, allowed the school to expand by about 50 students, filled entirely of transfer students. Standardized test scores remain consistently high at BNS, but the school does not put the high priority on testing that many other schools do. Instead, teachers at BNS encourage project-based learning and take children on frequent field trips to enhance their studies. Students in 3rd through 5th grade go very far afield, traveling to the Poconos for an overnight environmental studies trip.

P.S. 15 Patrick F. Daly School
71 Sullivan Street. Grades K–5.
What's special: Small classes and warm, progressive teaching.
Downside: Decreasing local population, rising rents affect enrollment.
Reading scores: 4/5 stars
Math scores: 5/5 stars
PS 15, with its brand-new playground (complete with Astroturf "lawn") and inviting classrooms, offers the children of Red Hook a safe and stimulating educational haven. The energy and enthusiasm apparent in the classrooms and out whether kids are collaborating on endangered-species projects (using books, sticky notes, and teetering laptops to craft their own reports) or weeding and planting in the school's National Wildlife Habitat-certified inner courtyard makes PS 15 a cheery, busy, buzzing place, where students and teachers are well-engaged in the work of discovery and learning.

P.S. 32 Samuel Mills Sprole School
317 Hoyt Street. Grades K–5.
What's special: Small class size and extraordinary special education
Downside: Portable classrooms in the schoolyard.
Reading scores: 3/5 stars
Math scores: 4/5 stars
PS 32 is a small school with an unusual emphasis on integrating children who have disabilities including high functioning children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with children who don't. Focused and energetic, the faculty offers a personal touch in very small classes, and the stimulating curriculum is supported by an abundance of amenities.

P.S. 58 Carroll School
330 Smith Street. Grades K–5.
What's special: Lots of involved parents.
Downside: Families looking for lots of test prep won't find it here.
Reading scores: 3/5 stars
Math scores: 4/5 stars
PS 58 will be adding a dual-language French and English kindergarten class in the fall of 2007. The class, part of an initiative by the organization French Education in New York, will be conducted half in French and half in English, and some students will be native French speakers.

P.S./M.S. 27 The Agnes Y. Humphrey School for Leadership
27 Huntington Street. Grades K–12.
What's special: A real sense of community.
Downside: Serious lack of space.
Reading scores: 3/5 stars
Math scores: 4/5 stars
Like the historic Red Hook neighborhood where it's located, PS 27 went largely unnoticed for many years. Now, thanks to new investment, new attention, and a major expansion of grade levels, it is experiencing a renaissance. The school has grown from being an elementary-only school to include middle and high school grades, rechristening itself the Agnes Humphrey School for Leadership, one of the few pre-K-12 programs in the city.

Middle schools

P.S./M.S. 27 The Agnes Y. Humphrey School for Leadership
27 Huntington Street. Grades K–12.
What's special: A real sense of community.
Downside: Serious lack of space.
Reading scores: 3/5 stars
Math scores: 4/5 stars
Like the historic Red Hook neighborhood where it's located, PS 27 went largely unnoticed for many years. Now, thanks to new investment, new attention, and a major expansion of grade levels, it is experiencing a renaissance. The school has grown from being an elementary-only school to include middle and high school grades, rechristening itself the Agnes Humphrey School for Leadership, one of the few pre-K-12 programs in the city.

Summit Academy Charter School
347 242-6710. Grades 6–12.
Summit Academy Charter School is one of two charter schools opening in Brooklyn's District 15 in September 2009 to serve students in grades 6-12. (Brooklyn Prospect is the other.) Summit Academy will open with a class of 100 6th-graders in Red Hook where the school's founding executive director, Natasha Campbell, was director of a youth center run by the Police Athletic League.

MS 448 Brooklyn Secondary School for Collaborative Studies
610 Henry Street. Grades 6–12.
What's special: A racially mixed school where kids and adults seem happy
Downside: High school is still a work in progress
Reading scores: 3/5 stars
Math scores: 4/5 stars
The Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies was founded in 2001 as the upper school for Brooklyn New School, and it shares a large century old building with that popular progressive elementary school. BCS added high school grades in 2005 and graduates its first high school class in 2009. The school has a nice racial balance, and children from different races seem to get along.

High schools

South Brooklyn Community High School for Leadership
173 Conover Street. Grades 9–12.
What's special: Lots of attention from teachers and counselors
Downside:A difficult commute for some students
For students who have dropped out of school or are on a path heading there, South Brooklyn Community High School could lead, instead, to graduation and greater focus in life. The program, which opened in 2002, combines small classes, individualized programs, and extensive counseling for both students and their families provided through the school's partner, Good Shepherd Services, a community organization with decades of experience in the neighborhood.

P.S./M.S. 27 The Agnes Y. Humphrey School for Leadership
27 Huntington Street. Grades K–12.
What's special: A real sense of community.
Downside: Serious lack of space.
Reading scores: 3/5 stars
Math scores: 4/5 stars
Like the historic Red Hook neighborhood where it's located, PS 27 went largely unnoticed for many years. Now, thanks to new investment, new attention, and a major expansion of grade levels, it is experiencing a renaissance. The school has grown from being an elementary-only school to include middle and high school grades, rechristening itself the Agnes Humphrey School for Leadership, one of the few pre-K-12 programs in the city.

Summit Academy Charter School
347 242-6710. Grades 6–12.
Summit Academy Charter School is one of two charter schools opening in Brooklyn's District 15 in September 2009 to serve students in grades 6-12. (Brooklyn Prospect is the other.) Summit Academy will open with a class of 100 6th-graders in Red Hook where the school's founding executive director, Natasha Campbell, was director of a youth center run by the Police Athletic League.

MS 448 Brooklyn Secondary School for Collaborative Studies
610 Henry Street. Grades 6–12.
What's special: A racially mixed school where kids and adults seem happy
Downside: High school is still a work in progress
Reading scores: 3/5 stars
Math scores: 4/5 stars
The Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies was founded in 2001 as the upper school for Brooklyn New School, and it shares a large century old building with that popular progressive elementary school. BCS added high school grades in 2005 and graduates its first high school class in 2009. The school has a nice racial balance, and children from different races seem to get along.

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