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Brooklyn Heights

Historically and geographically, Brownstone Brooklyn begins here.

Brooklyn Heights has been an established neighborhood since George Washington’s day, when the Continental Army retreated through here after the Battle of Brooklyn. This historic pedigree makes the area seem somewhat sleepy in comparison with newly arrived nabes like Boerum Hill: You won’t find a strip in the Heights as booming as Smith Street. But there are plenty of things to do if you know where to look.

It’s debatable where the Heights ends and adjacent areas like Downtown Brooklyn, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill and Dumbo begin. We canvassed parts of Cadman Plaza West and Atlantic Avenue, along with the two main drags on Montague and Henry Streets.

Check it out
One amenity offered by Brooklyn Heights is that while several subway lines serve the area, you don’t need a train to get here: Just walk or bike across the Brooklyn Bridge. Then make your way from the bridge through Cadman Plaza Park down to Borough Hall (Court St at Remsen St), where a farmers’ market sets up Tuesdays and Saturdays from 8am to 6pm. Head west along Remsen to enter the foot of the famed Brooklyn Heights Promenade, which runs north for six blocks, high above the BQE. There isn’t a better view of Lower Manhattan or the harbor anywhere else, especially as the sun goes down. Your family will see Governors Island, the Statue of Liberty and the Staten Island ferry all from one vantage point.

When the kids get bored with gawking at the skyline, the Pierrepont Playground, just off the Promenade, presents plenty of distractions. Or, if you’re at the northern end of the Promenade, try the Harry Chapin Playground (Columbia Heights between Cranberry and Middagh Sts).

Bone up on the borough’s fabled history at the stately Brooklyn Historical Society (128 Pierrepont St, 718-222-4111). Stop by the information desk to pick up a free walking-tour map of the Heights.

What local families do
For a little “when in Rome” action, Court Street and Atlantic Avenue have a lot of outposts that cater to kids. The area Barnes & Noble (106 Court St, 718-246-4996) hosts a storytime every Tuesday at 11am in its spacious children’s section. Next door, a UA movie theater (108 Court St) offers stadium seating, 12 large screens and plenty of family fare.

Farther south, the Little Gym (221 Atlantic Ave, 718-488-7744) teaches tots dance, karate and gymnastics, and hosts “no-stress” birthday parties. You can kick it old-school at the Dodge YMCA (225 Atlantic Ave, 718-625-3136), one door down. Besides tons of programs for kids, it has a full-size indoor pool and a basketball court.

Near Hicks Street, the Moxie Spot (81–83 Atlantic Ave, 718-923-9710) has become a hotbed for local parents (the beer and wine license helps). Youngsters enjoy the food and activities—games, DVDs on plasma screens, computers, art projects—served up in a steampunk environment. Check out the mini front door for toddlers.

Fun shops and services
Across from the Moxie Spot is Perfectly Polished (88 Atlantic Ave, 347-844-9034), a storefront spa offering manis and pedis for kids. If your child is in need of a new coif, the BoyLuvGirl hair salon (105 Atlantic Ave, 718-596-3868) styles small fries as well as adults. Up on Montague, Area Kids (154 Montague St, 718-243-0148) sells toys and gifts. Older siblings may want to duck into nearby St. Marks Comics (148 Montague St, 718-935-0911), the Brooklyn branch of the East Village purveyor of superhero serials and graphic novels.

Good eats
The Heights stocks plenty of kid chow. The Atlantic Chip Shop (129 Atlantic Ave, 718-855-7774) serves Brit-style fish-and-chips. Try Monty Q’s (158 Montague St, 718-935-0911) for brick-oven pizza, salads and pasta. If it’s burgers they want, Five Guys (138 Montague St, 718-797-9380) proffers fresh ground beef and fries cooked in peanut oil. At Siggy’s Good Food (76 Henry St, 718-237-3199), you’ll find healthy, delicious organic dishes, either all-veg or meatatarian. A juice bar will slake little thirsts; organic wines soothe moms and dads.

  • Neighborhood schools
  • Insideschools.org
Elementary school
37 Hicks Street. Grades K--6.
What's special: A dynamo principal and able staff developer are invigorating the school.
Downside:School still has a way to go, particularly in the upper grades.
Reading scores:4 stars
Math scores:5 stars
The zone for PS 8 includes the million-dollar brownstones of Brooklyn Heights, but until recently most middle class parents in the neighborhood sent their children to private schools or to better regarded public schools.... Read the full review from Insideschools.org
Middle school
283 Adams Street. Grades 6--12.
What's special: Girls-only school with strong math, science focus.
Downside: Not all students committed to theme.
Reading scores:4 stars
Math scores:5 stars
The only all-girls math and science middle school in the city, the Urban Assembly Institute of Math and Science for Young Women (UAIMSYW) is a lively and homey place. Co-directors Kiri Soares and Kelly DeMonaco always have their office door open, and students seem to have warm relationships with their teachers and administrators. We saw lots of eager student participation in classes and lots of energetic teaching. There is a nice mix of young teachers and seasoned professionals... Read the full review from Inside Schools
High school
49 Flatbush Avenue Extension. Grades 9--12.
What's special: Outstanding blend of academics and arts education.
Downside: Gritty neighborhood location.
It's easy to miss the Brooklyn International High School on a gritty, traffic-choked spur of Flatbush Avenue, within honking distance of the Manhattan Bridge. In a building first built as a torpedo factory and later used as offices for the Board of Education, it shares space with three other schools... Read the full review from Inside Schools
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  • Elementary schools
  • Insideschools.org
15 Snyder Avenue. Grades K--8.
What's special: Small class size; long school day.
Downside:Some families might not want summer schooling.
Reading scores:3 stars
Math scores:4 stars
Two years after Explore Charter School opened its doors in a converted church in downtown Brooklyn, it lost 65 percent of its students when a leasing problem forced a relocation to Flatbush. The move, disruptive at the time, has turned out to be a blessing in disguise, said the founding director, Morton Ballen, because Explore "is now a neighborhood school ... and there's a high need in this neighborhood for a good school." Fifty percent of students come from the local school district, and all of the students live in Brooklyn. The school, which opened in 2002 with kindergarten through 3rd grade, has been adding a grade each year and will go through 8th grade beginning in the fall of 2007. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
209 York Street. Grades K--5.
What's special: More arts introduced into the building.
Downside: High teacher turn-over; needy student population could benefit from more resources and extra help.
Reading scores:4 stars
Math scores:5 stars
The visual arts are becoming increasingly important at PS 307. The art room, with paint-spattered tee-shirts hanging from hooks, is full of interesting material, much of it relating to what students are learning in social studies and math: colorful strips of kente cloth reflected students' study of geometric shapes; papier mache plates and patterns were made during a study of South Africa. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
37 Hicks Street. Grades K--6.
What's special: A dynamo principal and able staff developer are invigorating the school.
Downside: School still has a way to go, particularly in the upper grades.
Reading scores:3 stars
Math scores:4 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. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
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  • Middle schools
  • Insideschools.org
284 Baltic Street. Grades 6--12.
What's special: Students do not take Regents exams.
Downside: Classes could be more challenging.
Reading scores:3 stars
Math scores:4 stars
Founded in 1995 as an alternative school, and a member of a consortium of schools permitted by the state to exempt students from taking Regents exams, the Brooklyn School for Global Studies had strayed from its progressive roots in recent years. Administrators required students to take all the Regents exams normally required of high school students and the focus shifted away from progressive teaching methods. However, the secondary school has begun bringing back its original features project-based learning, grades based not on tests but collections of work, and in-depth class discussions, and on our latest visit we met many students who are enthusiastically embracing them. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
317 Hoyt Street. Grades 6--8.
What's special: Children who are disabled and those who are not study together
Downside: Some disabled children need a smaller class
Reading scores:3 stars
Math scores:4 stars
The New Horizons School is a middle school that serves as a continuation of the Children's School, the city's most ambitious experiment in integrating disabled children with general education children side by side, in the same classes, all day, every day. Each middle school class has 28 children, eight who receive special education services and 20 who do not. Two teachers -- one certified in special education and one in a subject such as math or science-- oversee every class,  a "collaborative team-teaching" approach that allows kids to get more attention than they would in a conventional setting. Most classes have other grown-ups, too -- aides assigned to help particular children concentrate. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
209 York Street. Grades 6--8.
What's special: Small, safe school for kids eager to do well
Downside: Few arts or sports
Reading scores:3 stars
Math scores:4 stars
One of several "satellite" middle schools in Brooklyn's District 13, known as such because they share space with elementary schools, Satellite West, or MS 313, provides a small, safe environment for adolescents from the surrounding Fort Greene Farragut housing projects. Originally designed as a selective program, since 2005 MS 313 has accepted students of all abilities, although students and their parents must be interviewed to make sure they understand the mission of the school. Housed on the third floor of PS 307, MS 313 has pleasant classrooms and a relatively small class size. Kids dress in white shirts, blue pants and black shoes, adhering willingly to the dress code. In this school of fewer than 300 students, everyone knows everyone and children caught wandering the halls can usually be taken under someone's wing. Students welcome the one-on-one attention. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
284 Baltic Street. Grades 6--12.
What's special: Dedicated, dynamic teachers; culinary program
Downside: Few advanced courses
Reading scores:3 stars
Math scores:4 stars
For the first couple of years after the School for International Studies, observers wondered whether it would succeed or end up resembling the chaotic middle school it replaced. During our visit, we saw dynamic teachers, engaged students, and a mature school whose sense of identity seemed larger than its size. Bright young teachers are comfortable employing technology and current teaching practices in their classrooms. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
283 Adams Street. Grades 6--12.
What's special: Girls-only school with strong math, science focus.
Downside: Not all students committed to theme.
Reading scores:3 stars
Math scores:4 stars
The only all-girls math and science middle school in the city, the Urban Assembly Institute of Math and Science for Young Women (UAIMSYW) is a lively and homey place. Co-directors Kiri Soares and Kelly DeMonaco always have their office door open, and students seem to have warm relationships with their teachers and administrators. We saw lots of eager student participation in classes and lots of energetic teaching. There is a nice mix of young teachers and seasoned professionals. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
Insideschools.org. All Rights Reserved.
  • High schools
  • Insideschools.org
105 Tech Place. Grades 9--12.
At the City Polytechnic High School of Engineering, Architecture and Technology, which opens in September 2009 in the George Westinghouse High School building, students will have the opportunity to earn an associate's degree from the nearby New York City College of Technology as well as Career and Technical Education (CTE) certification with their high school diplomas. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
347 Baltic Street. Grades K--12.
What's special: Attractive building and happy, engaged students.
Downside: Many students struggle academically; school still recovering from rocky few years.
Cobble Hill High School, a mid-sized school located in the heart of brownstone Brooklyn, has faced its share of struggles, but seems to be evolving into a close-knit community of educators and administrators focused on a single goal: preparing kids for college. On our visit, we saw students who seemed happy and engaged, and a calm atmosphere. Security staff have cordial, personal relationships with many students, judging by the good-natured banter and affection we observed on our visit. The faculty and students have a shared sense of purpose, and, after a rocky couple of years, this struggling school appears to be on the upswing. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
116 Nassau Street. Grades 9--12.
What's special: Safe, small school with a course of study in law.
Downside: Lots of dropouts; few science classes & no science lab
Housed in the top three floors of a privately-owned building in downtown Brooklyn, Freedom Academy High School provides a safe, small-school learning environment with an emphasis on law and English. However, students would like to see more course options, and the school's significant dropout rate and low test scores pose serious obstacles to its success. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
49 Flatbush Avenue Extension. Grades 9--12.
What's special: Robotics team and dance program; partnerships with local colleges.
Downside:Overcrowding; low attendance.
Science Skills Center High School for Science, Technology and the Creative Arts strikes a nice balance. It is smaller than the huge neighborhood high schools in Brooklyn, but larger than the tiny, new, themed high schools springing up throughout the city. When the school was founded in 1993 with grant money from the National Science Foundation and the New Visions for Public Schools education reform group, it was called the Science Skills Center High School. It has since considerably expanded its offerings and its name. Kids call it "Skills" for short. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
49 Flatbush Avenue Extension. Grades 9--12.
What's special: Outstanding blend of academics and arts education.
Downside: Gritty neighborhood location.
It's easy to miss the Brooklyn International High School on a gritty, traffic-choked spur of Flatbush Avenue, within honking distance of the Manhattan Bridge. In a building first built as a torpedo factory and later used as offices for the Board of Education, it shares space with three other schools, Science Skills High School, City-As-School High School, and the Urban Assembly School of Music and Art. Brooklyn International High School, one of the most established of a network of schools designed to serve new immigrants, teaches students English while engaging them in creative interdisciplinary projects and a strong arts curriculum. Academic standards are high, and students graduate well prepared for college. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
112 Schermerhorn Street. Grades 10--12.
What's special: Small classes.
Downside: Small facilities
Students who've done poorly in others schools come to Pacific High School for the small classes and individual attention. It's a friendly atmosphere, where teachers are addressed by their first names. The teachers seem happy to be here and some of the classes are lively. The most experienced teachers create an environment in which students feel free to ask questions or even leave the room, as in an English class that was reading a translation of the Odyssey. Many kids are engaged in classroom discussion and seem to be trying - even if they sometimes skip classes, show up late, or fail do their homework. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
105 Tech Place. Grades 9--12.
What's special: Students make eyeglasses, maintain computers and design websites; championship robotics team
Downside: Metal detectors; few students earn Regents diplomas
George Westinghouse High School in downtown Brooklyn has a warm, accessible faculty and challenging Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes that lead to jobs in optometry, computer maintenance, or Web design. It has two gleaming state-of-the-art science labs and up-to-date computers. Attendance is up and the graduation rate has nearly doubled, to 72%, since 2003. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
284 Baltic Street. Grades 6--12.
Reading scores:3 stars
Math scores:4 stars
Founded in 1995 as an alternative school, and a member of a consortium of schools permitted by the state to exempt students from taking Regents exams, the Brooklyn School for Global Studies had strayed from its progressive roots in recent years. Administrators required students to take all the Regents exams normally required of high school students and the focus shifted away from progressive teaching methods. However, the secondary school has begun bringing back its original features project-based learning, grades based not on tests but collections of work, and in-depth class discussions, and on our latest visit we met many students who are enthusiastically embracing them. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
283 Adams Street. Grades 9--12.
What's special: Law theme is integrated into the curriculum.
Downside: Many kids enter with low levels of skills.
Assembly School for Law and Justice's (SLJ) founding principal, Elana Karopkin, stepped down at the end of the 2007-2008 school year. Karopkin told Insideschools she is taking an assistant superintendent position with the Achievement First charter network. According to Karopkin, the school's first graduation rate was 93 percent, with all of those students accepted to a list of colleges including Amherst, Bates, Wheaton, Hamilton, Colby, DePauw, Union and Skidmore. "I'm excited about seeing what we've accomplished here at SLJ," she said. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
49 Flatbush Avenue Extension. Grades 9--12.
What's special: The first Urban Academy school with an arts focus;stylish headquarters in DUMBO.
Downside: Student achievement levels vary dramatically; some new school challenges.
Urban Assembly School of Music and Art (UAMA) shares a building with other schools (including Science Skills, Brooklyn International, City as School but was able to carve out and create a distinctive space by opening day in September 2005. Step off the 8th floor elevator in the renovated records' warehouse overlooking the Manhattan Bridge, into a bright loft-like space. Geometric designs on floor tiles in hues of red, yellow and a soft blue, are repeated throughout the two floors. The school has an internal stairway connecting two floors, so students rarely interact with others in the building. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
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