Mon Sep 20 2010
Photograph: Antonio M. Rosario
In recent years, Prospect Heights has experienced a boom: Vanderbilt Avenue, the area's main thoroughfare, is a thriving business district, with fancy cocktail bars, restaurants and several speciality stores, including a custom-bike shop and a bookstore. The Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Public Library are also within walking distance, adding to the draw. But the invasion of the Atlantic Yards development, which is finally underway, could change all of that. There's no telling whether the new basketball stadium will have a positive or negative effect on the neighborhood.
Ross Greenberg, chef-owner, Woodwork
"I'm in my tenth year of living here, and when I looked at my neighborhood, there were [no restaurants that were] moderately priced—everything was so high or so low—so I opened this place for the neighborhood. I'm also a soccer lover, and [in soccer] Woodwork traditionally means 'off the post, off the woodwork.' I decided to open a soccer-friendly bar. You would never look inside and think it's a soccer bar, but there's soccer on the TV all the time."
, 583 Vanderbilt Ave between Dean and Pacific Sts, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (718-857-5777, woodworkbk.com)
"The neighborhood has exploded with restaurants and shops. The streets have been blocked off for almost three years now near my street, Carlton Avenue—I guess once the stadium comes, my business is a half a block from the stadium, and my house is a half a block from the stadium. I'll have prime real estate once it opens. It's going to be one of the most exciting neighborhoods in all of New York. I'm a big fan of [the commerce that Atlantic Yards will bring]. Hopefully it'll bring people over here—I just want to see what happens."
"I go to Weather Up for the atmosphere, the bartenders, the awesome drinks, the old-school-plus-new-school vibe. I like the gin fizz."
Weather Up, 589 Vanderbilt Ave between Bergen and Dean Sts (no phone).
"Cataldo's has some of the best brick-oven pizza around. It's across the street, on Dean and Vanderbilt. Their vegetable-and-fresh-ricotta pizza is excellent. And the Joyce Bakeshop—they have really good madeleines and macarons."
Cataldo's Restaurant &, 554 Vanderbilt Ave at Dean St (718-857-6700) * Joyce Bakeshop, 646 Vanderbilt Ave between Park and Prospect Pls (718-623-7470, joycebakeshop.com)
Ellen Fishman, co-owner, Amorina Cucina Rustica and Aliseo Osteria del Borgo
"Prospect Heights becomes a better and better place to live. It's a cyclical thing—new people bring in good things, and the good things that we have bring in good people. It's a really solid neighborhood—we've liked it from the start. And now you can really feel comfortable staying here; we don't have to go elsewhere for shopping and dining and all those things. Now, we're kind of a destination. It's just got a great energy about it—you have the market, the park, you can rent a bike right at Grand Army Plaza, we have a lot of stores...it's just nice to be here. And on Vanderbilt, we're proud of our little median; we've had trees planted in the center of the avenue, and it's getting greener."
"I think Atlantic Yards will affect the community, there's no question. I don't think that we'll get business, necessarily, from people going to the stadium. It's very likely that people will drive or take the train to the stadium, stay in that area, and leave. It may not siphon off business in that sense. We're also concerned that a lot of the neighborhood is just going to turn into a parking lot. Especially after all this fighting and all this discussion, [what if we] end up with a massive parking lot on Vanderbilt Avenue, a massive traffic jam and just an arena?"
"I love the park and the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket. We go to the market every weekend and my husband does a lot of shopping for the restaurants. We've always loved the market and loved building a relationship with the various farmers. We watched that market grow a lot since we've been in the neighborhood—it used to be a stepsister to the bigger markets. It's really come into its own and it's very exciting."
Grand Army Plaza, Prospect Park West and Flatbush Ave (grownyc.org/grandarmygreenmarket)
"We eat at Gen, which is a wonderful Japanese restaurant. One thing that they have is called the funky chirashi—it's their take on a chirashi box and it's really excellent. My favorite thing is homemade tofu, and sometimes they have a homemade black-sesame tofu. To me, it's one of the best things ever. And [my husband] orders this thing called an uni shot—I can't really explain what it is, but it's a drink with a quail egg in the bottom."
Gen, 659 Washington Ave at St. Marks Ave (718-398-3550, genrestaurant.biz)
"Prospect Heights has an independent bookshop now, [Unnameable Books]. They're open until 11pm, and it's a place where you can browse without feeling self-conscious. And they have readings, so it's been a really nice addition to the block."
Unnameable Books, 600 Vanderbilt Ave between Dean St and St. Marks Ave (718-789-1534)
Rick Moody, author, The Ice Storm
"My wife moved here first, before we were married, and then I moved in with her in 1998. I thought, at that time, that Prospect Heights was less secure than Park Slope was. In fact, I was right, if the murder a week before she moved in was any sign! But she had some kind of understanding of what a great neighborhood it could be, about which she was totally right. It's a little more diverse and a little more like the great cauldron of New York City that Brooklyn can be."
"I would like to see the neighborhood develop slowly, modestly and effectively into the Washington Avenue/Franklin Avenue direction without displacing a lot of African-American business. Partly because of the experience of watching that fucking basketball thing happen, my cynical attitude is that money and power wins every time. It doesn't matter what the people in the neighborhood actually want, the developers win every time. It's irritating and it makes me feel slightly hopeless. But, at the same time, I sort of feel like Prospect Heights, as it edges into Crown Heights, is not of tremendous value to the quick-buck-turnaround thinkers who generally profit from real-estate development. There's not as much for them in this direction."
"Amorina is a really good example to me of the kind of thing that works here, where it's a reasonably priced but a really good restaurant. And it's coexisting with African-American--owned businesses that are still on that block and across the street. To me, it feels like that's not the kind of gentrification that's driving away businesses and the first wave. We go there virtually twice a week—we go there so often we practically have stock ownership."
Amorina, 624 Vanderbilt Ave between Park and Prospect Pls, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (718-230-3030)
"We really love Underhill [Avenue], and Underhill Playground is like the G train: The whole of Brooklyn goes there. It's a big, sprawling chaotic, sloppy mess of a playground, and to me, that's really the heart of Prospect Heights. That's what this neighborhood is really like. That's why I like it here. Hazel, my daughter, just loves it there. The more mixture of different groups of kids careening around, the better she likes it. Writ small, that's kind of how I feel about Brooklyn."
Underhill Playground, Underhill Ave at Prospect Pl, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (nycgovparks.org)
"I do really love Beast. The mood is pretty quiet. It's a regular bar, but it's peaceful. The food is good, but not too expensive, not too greasy and ineffective."
Beast, 638 Bergen St at Vanderbilt Ave, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (718-399-6855)
"We go to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden probably every couple of weeks, and that's something really special about the neighborhood. The Cherry Esplanade in the end is probably the best spot because you can sit. I love those carp in the Japanese Garden fish pond, too."
Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 900 Washington Ave at Eastern Pkwy, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (718-623-7200, bbg.org)