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City Living: Boerum Hill
Boerum Hill, the brownstone Brooklyn neighborhood surrounded by Cobble Hill, Downtown Brooklyn, Park Slope and Gowanus, got its name in the ’60s.
That’s when Helen Buckler, a community activist, decided that the neighborhood needed a public relations boost to try to attract homesteaders.
The name Buckler chose refers to the family of Simon Boerum who lived on the corner of Fulton and Hoyt Streets and represented Brooklyn in the Continental Congress. The Hill that existed in Boerum’s time was razed long ago.
It is amazing to think that this slice of Brooklyn, with its stunning row houses, historic district with almost 250 homes, cafes and performance spaces, and its own piece of Atlantic Avenue lined with designer shops and Smith Street with its restaurant row, ever needed marketing help.
When asked how hot (or not) the Boerum Hill real estate market is today, Katherine Akerly of the Aguayo Team at Halstead Property Development Marketing said: “Boerum Hill is always hot. It’s small, has very little inventory and a high level of demand. The neighborhood is attractive to everyone -- the tree-lined blocks and 19th century brownstones are a perennial draw as is the proximity to Smith and Court Streets, a new Trader Joe’s, [the Brooklyn Academy of Music], the Barclays Center.”
“The average price per square foot for listings that have closed recently was $783 per square foot, but with the lack of inventory we're seeing sellers get more aggressive on their asking prices and listings are now averaging $923 per square foot,” she added.
Back in the ’60s and ’70s, folks who considered themselves urban homesteaders would buy a row house for $20,000, roll up their sleeves, renovate and then rent out a floor or two to help pay the mortgage. People who are buying now are more likely to buy their “dream house” for millions.
Still, Robert Perris, District Manager of Community Board 2 which includes Boerum Hill, thinks of it as “the most unassuming neighborhood that I’m acquainted with. It doesn’t have a commercial strip of its own and the core of the neighborhood is residential which is what contributes to its character.”
When Boerum Hill was being developed from the 1840s to 1870, it was a bastion of the middle class. Physically, the neighborhood of Italianate, Gothic Revival and Greek revival row houses has changed very little since those earliest days.
"Once our neighborhood was considered a place you walked through to get to Cobble Hill or Park Slope or Fort Greene. Not anymore. We've become a destination," says Jessica Fishkind, who moved there from the Upper West Side. Her only complaint: "We could use more sushi."
Shari Sperling, a broker at Halstead's office on Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill, is also bullish on the neighborhood.
"You can get into a lot of retail trouble along Atlantic Avenue," at stores that sell $400 bikinis to customers like Rihanna and Kate Hudson, hip designer clothing, shops, mid-century modern furniture and handmade wedding and engagement rings, she said. -MARJORIE A. COHEN
Celebrities who have lived in Boerum Hill:
Ethan Hawke, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer
Jonathan Lethem’s two books, “Motherless Brooklyn” and “The Fortress of Solitude,” are set in the neighborhood.
Although the boundaries tend to be somewhat elastic, and often folks think they are in Cobble Hill when they’re actually in Boerum Hill, we’re going with the Boerum Hill Association’s definition: South side of Schermerhorn to the north side of Warren; east side of Court Street to the west side of Fourth Avenue. More »
Trains:One of the big attractions of Boerum Hill is its proximity to so many subway lines: the F, G, N, R, 2, 3, 4, 5 and the A, C and D trains. Residents can be on Wall Street in 17 minutes, Times Square in another 12. Buses: B47, B61, B63, B65, B103 More »
The fate of the Pacific branch at 25 Fourth Ave., the first library built by Andrew Carnegie in 1903, is also uncertain. The Brooklyn Public Library has backed off from a plan to sell to a developer to raise funds for the new library that would be adjacent to the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Officials insist that they will do all it can to preserve the existing building but the needed repairs are both costly and extensive. Stay tuned. More »
The owner of the post office building, 542 Atlantic Ave., says that he will not renew the lease and will put up a seven story hotel in its place. The USPS says it will look for a new location in Boerum Hill. More »
Since the “bad old days” in the ’90s, crime in Boerum Hill, part of the 84th Precinct, dropped 84%. However, there were 13 grand larceny, or major theft, complaints in the precinct’s CompState report between March 17 and March 23, up from four in the same week in 2013. There were three car thefts that week, up from zero the year before. More »
Building on Bond
This American Bistro and bar is where locals meet to talk over coffee, lunch, dinner or drinks. It’s a welcoming space with weekly events like $1 oyster Mondays and Trivia Tuesdays plus delicious burgers, beef or veggie.
Mile End Delicatessen
One fan said if she had to choose a last meal it would be Jewish comfort food deli’s smoked meat poutine. Celebs also love this place.
This neighborhood standby is perfect for Middle Eastern food at modest prices. Don’t leave without trying the hummus and lahmajun.
Another re-purposed space in Boerum Hill, is this art deco theater in the YMCA at Atlantic Third is now what a hotbed of contemporary performance and art programming.
The Invisible Dog Art Center
A microcosm of Boerum Hill history, this 30,000-square-foot space was built in 1863 as a carriage factory. Now it’s a non-profit art center that French ex-pat Lucien Zayan has transformed into galleries and studio space for 35 resident artists.
One resident warned that Betty’s is “dangerously good.” Opened in 2006 by two award-winning bakers (their wedding cakes are gorgeous), the bakery’s biggest sellers are red velvet cupcakes and their own up-dated version of Twinkies that they call “twinks.”
Welcome to family central for Boerum Hill. You can buy a tutu, a onesie or a toy or sign up for classes in infant massage, the basics of sewing or being a new mom.
Their chocolates are handmade by a family in Colombia. Ever heard of vegan beer chocolates? A six-pack is $12. Hand-dipped salt caramels are their top seller.
An old carriage house, reconfigured by local artists, this public house is open all day and serves food, craft beer (22 tap lines of East Coast local craft brews) and wine.
On the corner of Hoyt and Bergen since the mid-1800s, this historic bar attracts people with its old Brooklyn feel, huge wooden bar (imported from Germany, they say), eclectic juke box and pool table in the back.
One regular said this bistro makes her feel like she's in Paris. Live music every night is laid back; Wednesday is usually jazz night.
Kolins is the President of the Boerum Hill Association. More »
Boerum Hill was the first Brooklyn neighborhood to get a “slow zone” and residents say that the Department of Transportation has attentively listened and responded to concerns about the traffic that regularly cuts through their community. “Some drivers are not respectful of the neighborhood context,” explained Robert Perris, District Manager of Community Board 2. Some residents would like to implement a “20 is plenty” plan that limits the speed to 20 mph. Recently, neighborhood residents met with representatives of the DOT, the 84th Precinct and Transportation Alternatives and put together a plan to explore the possibility of more crossing guards, an increase in traffic enforcement at the corner of Third and Atlantic, and more education on safety for bike riders as warmer weather approaches. More »
556 State St. #2CN Two-bedroom, two-bath with a huge outdoor deck, a doorman and a gym; 975 square feet: $945,000360 Baltic St. #2A Three-bed, two-bath condo with floor-to-ceiling windows in every room and views of Boerum Hill Park and downtown Brooklyn skyscrapers; 1,195 square feet:$1,250,000. More »
349 Atlantic Ave. Newly renovated with three bedrooms, one bath and an outdoor patio with a garden; 950 square feet: $3,600 per month.357 Dean St. Two bedrooms and two bathrooms with a 46-square-foot balcony, custom Italian cabinetry, in-unit stackable Bosch washer/dryer, and dark hardwood floors; 1,100 square feet: $4,250 per month More »