Greenwood Heights, Brooklyn: Open Space and Room to Breathe

By August 5, 2020 no comments Permalink
The neighborhood around the Green-Wood Cemetery is known for being ‘spacious and airy’ — an appealing quality in the age of coronavirus.

In this season of quarantine, New Yorkers have been flocking to Green-Wood Cemetery, the 478-acre green space a few blocks south of Prospect Park in Brooklyn, for socially distant excursions. Many are also discovering the qualities of its lesser-known namesake, Greenwood Heights, the neighborhood that cradles it on three sides.

“I’ve been bringing people out to Greenwood for years,” said James Kerby, a Brooklyn-based agent with Douglas Elliman Real Estate. “Now I’m here all the time. It’s so spacious and airy, so quiet, safe.”

And because buying a place there is less expensive than in surrounding neighborhoods like South Slope and Windsor Terrace, he added, “you can take people who are living in apartments and put them in homes.”

By The New York Times

Those homes include a mix of single- and multifamily dwellings, prewar apartment buildings and new developments. Few of the buildings extend above the tree line, which keeps density down and the vibe low-key and friendly.

Fred Cray, 63, a photographer, has lived in the area since 1996. “Initially, I was reluctant to move to this neighborhood, as it seemed remote. I needed more space, and it was affordable compared to elsewhere,” Mr. Cray said. “What I continue to appreciate, to this day, is the interaction and developed friendships with neighbors, as well as the low-rise neighborhood feel. As the city has changed, there remains plenty of immediate outdoor space, relative quiet and good neighborhood restaurants.”

A common refrain among real estate agents and residents is how often people move within the neighborhood. Kirstie Pendergrass, 46, a massage therapist, her husband, Keith Malvetti, 48, a technical program manager at Google, and their 7-year old son are in the process of doing just that.

“When we moved here in 2009, I remember telling people I liked the fact that there were lots of people in the neighborhood who had been here for many, many years,” Ms. Pendergrass said. “That’s part of why I want to stay.”

Another factor is the green space. “Because I’m a country girl at heart and would rather be living in open spaces, being very close to Green-Wood Cemetery is so important to me,” she said. “That space has also been a huge source of comfort to me during the pandemic.”

334 22ND STREET, No. 1B | A two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom condominium, listed for $1.65 million. 917-586-0621Credit
Karsten Moran for The New York Times

What You’ll Find

Greenwood Heights is bordered by South Slope to the north, Sunset Park to the west and south, Borough Park to the south and Windsor Terrace to the east. It is generally recognized as extending to Fourth Avenue (but not all the way to the bay) on the west, the Prospect Expressway on the north and 38th Street on the south.

Besides a few fast-food places on Fourth Avenue, there are no chain stores or restaurants; there are no Citibanks or Citi Bikes. On Fifth Avenue, the main commercial thoroughfare, many of the businesses and restaurants cater to Spanish-speaking residents. Luigi’s Pizza has been serving slices and squares since 1973, and the once-prominent Polish population is represented by Jubilat Provisions, a Polish market.

Signs of modest gentrification abound in tattoo parlors, hipster bars and restaurants like Tambour Bistro & Wine Bar, on Fifth Avenue, where live jazz and blues can once again be heard by those enjoying outdoor table service. Greenwood Grape & Still, a boutique wine shop, opened in 2016 on a busy four-lane stretch of Fourth Avenue dominated by tire shops, storefront churches and bodegas.

A more tranquil stretch of urban living can be found along the leafy blocks of Sixth Avenue, with its quartet of cozy restaurants: Giuseppina’s Brick Oven Pizza, Battle Hill Tavern, Brooklyn Pub and Lot 2, a neighborhood favorite that has been serving comfort food since 2008. All four remained open for delivery and takeout during the lockdown; they are now offering alfresco dining in one of the few areas of the city where the sidewalk cafes and parking-spot patios don’t feel entirely ad hoc. Striking sunsets and unobstructed views of New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty add to the appeal.

Near the northern border of the cemetery, on Seventh Avenue, is Greenwood Park, a 13,000-square-foot, indoor-outdoor beer garden with bocce courts and a seasonal menu. That part of the neighborhood, bordering the Prospect Expressway, is also home to an esplanade, a dog run and Open Source Gallery, a nonprofit arts organization.

But the main attraction is the cemetery, a verdant display of statues, monuments and mausoleums on acres of rolling hills, with ponds and some 7,000 trees. The resting place of such New York luminaries as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Leonard Bernstein, it offers wide lanes and cobbled paths for strolling, as well as Brooklyn’s highest natural elevation. The main entrance, marked by an elaborate Gothic archway, is at 25th Street and Fifth Avenue, directly across from one of the area’s best-kept secrets: Baked in Brooklyn, a commercial bakery with a small retail space offering baked goods and savory snacks.

152 18TH STREET | A three-family house built in 1910, listed for $1.45 million. 917-921-7180
Karsten Moran for The New York Times

What You’ll Pay

As of early August, there were 38 properties on the market in the neighborhood, at a median listing price of $945,034 — from a one-bedroom, one-bathroom condominium listed for $499,000 to a two-family house with four bedrooms and four bathrooms listed for $2.4 million.

According to a recent report by the Corcoran Group, at the same time last year there were 68 properties listed, at a median price of $993,195 — a decrease of 4 percent in price and 44 percent in the number of listings. So far in 2020, 69 listings had sold at a median price of $867,730, down from 76 sales at median price of $1,004,198 during the same period in 2019.

But even with the decreases in prices and volume, Mr. Kerby at Douglas Elliman is still bullish on the area, particularly for its housing stock. “I think there will be a shift toward townhouses,” he said. “Condo/co-op owners are looking for more realistic work-at-home situations, private yards, more space, less restrictions on lobby and amenity space and no elevators. Townhouses are also more sellable in the Covid environment, where there have been restrictions on access for buyers, appraisers, inspectors, etc.”

As for rental units, according to StreetEasy the median monthly rent in Greenwood Heights is currently $2,500, up slightly from $2,450 during the same period last year.

289 23RD STREET | A two-bedroom, two-bathroom house, built in 1901 on 932 square feet, listed for $1.25 million. 917-679-8189
Karsten Moran for The New York Times

The Vibe

Like the cemetery, which was founded in 1838 (about 30 years before Prospect Park) as a rural escape from the crowded city, the neighborhood offers plenty of room to breathe.

“Greenwood is my city-girl version of the suburbs,” said Sephrah Towbin, 46, an agent with the Corcoran Group, who moved to Greenwood Heights in 2008 from Manhattan and lives with her husband, Bill Reilly, 50, the beverage director at the restaurant Claro, and their 9-year old daughter. “I can walk everywhere, access the subway, but most important, I have space, trees, light, community and parking.”

She added: “All of these things, of course, are even more important now, as people are looking to work from home and have space to live, and there’s that for almost everyone in the market right now.”

St. John’s Condominium on 21st Street is housed in a building that was once home to St. John the Evangelist School.
Karsten Moran for The New York Times

The Schools

There are four public elementary schools and one charter school in the area.

P.S. 295, the Studio School of Arts and Culture, enrolls almost 400 students in prekindergarten through fifth grade, with a student body that’s 40 percent Hispanic, 37 percent white, 10 percent Asian, and 8 percent Black). On 2018-19 state tests, 59 percent of students met standards in English, versus 47.7 percent citywide; 68 percent met standards in math, versus 45.6 percent citywide.

P.S. 10, the Magnet School of Math, Science and Design Technology, enrolls more than 950 students in kindergarten through fifth grade (50 percent white, 27 percent Hispanic, 9 percent Asian and 9 percent Black). On 2018-19 state tests, 72 percent of students met standards in English and 71 percent met standards in math.

P.S. 107, John W. Kimball, enrolls more than 550 students in kindergarten through fifth grade (74 percent white, 11 percent Hispanic, 9 percent Asian and 4 percent Black. On 2018-19 state tests, 82 percent of students met standards in English and 89 percent met standards in math.

P.S. 172, the Beacon School of Excellence, enrolls 538 students in kindergarten through fifth grade (73 percent Hispanic, 14 percent white, 8 percent Asian and 4 percent Black). On 2018-19 state tests, 88 percent of students met standards in English and 97 percent met standards in math.

The Hellenic Classical Charter School enrolls 480 students in kindergarten through eighth grade (46 percent Hispanic, 31 percent white, 4 percent Asian and 15 percent Black). On 2018-19 state tests, 67 percent of students met standards in English and 87 percent met standards in math.

Battle Hill, in Green-Wood Cemetery, the highest natural elevation in the borough, was the site of the Battle of Brooklyn in the Revolutionary War.
Karsten Moran for The New York Times

The Commute

The N, D and R trains stop at 36th Street and Fourth Avenue. The R also stops at 25th Street and Prospect Avenue, with transfers to many major lines a few stops away at Barclays Center. The F line stop at 15th Street, near Prospect Park, is within walking distance of the neighborhood’s northern reaches.

The B63 bus, running from Bay Ridge to Brooklyn Bridge Park, stops along Fifth Avenue.

The History

The Battle of Brooklyn was fought on the highest elevation in what is now Green-Wood Cemetery. On Aug. 27, 1776, some 50,000 British and American troops clashed in open battle. Had it not been for a timely nor’easter that kept British ships from entering the East River, the Revolution might have ended when General Washington’s troops were outmatched. The site, with its sweeping views, is marked by monuments and plaques.

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