Prospect Heights: It’s Not All Brownstones


I’M STILL HAPPILY DISCOVERING my new neighborhood of Prospect Heights, and haven’t even scratched the surface. It’s been too cold to walk around just for fun. I’ve seen only the blocks immediately adjacent to mine, and the main avenues, where I shop, eat, and do my errands.

I’m starting to appreciate Flatbush Avenue. Along this stretch of it, leading up to Prospect Park, there are large brick apartment buildings that must have been quite elegant in their late 19th century day. Today’s tacky stores detract from the street level, but if you look up, you see a bit of history. The date, the building’s name, and the cornice detail, top, suggest the Prospect View must have been a very desirable address.


The square turret on the late Victorian building, above, is like something out of Peter Pan, which is not atypical of the area.


The former carriage house, above, however bastardized, is a reminder that Flatbush Avenue was once the main route for horse-drawn vehicles, first carriages called omnibuses, then horsecars, which ran on tracks. They carried the residents of the developing areas around Prospect Park, which opened in 1873, down to Fulton Ferry landing where they could catch one of 1,200 boats a day to Manhattan.


Plaza Street rims Grand Army Plaza, a majestic traffic circle with an unoriginal triumphal arch and an extraordinary 1932 fountain with figures of Neptune and the Tritons (best photographed in spring, when the water’s on). On Plaza Street, pre- and post-war apartment buildings, above, alternate.


The controversy has died down over Richard Meier’s 1 Grand Army Plaza, above, a glazed behemoth that is a century newer than any other building in the area. When modern architcture is good, and this assured, subtly complex building is very good, it’s welcome in my book.


The main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, above, is apparently considered one of the most important Art Deco buildings in America. It has a concave facade designed to fit around Grand Army Plaza’s oval contours. Ground was broken in 1912 for a Beaux Arts building similar in style to the nearby Brooklyn Museum, but costs and city politics slowed construction (so what else is new?) By the time construction recommenced in 1938, styles had changed and new architects were commissioned. It opened to acclaim in 1941.

Between the grand portals, below, with gilded figures from history and myth, and the inscription

Here are enshrined the longing of great hearts and noble things that tower above the tide, the magic word that winged wonder starts, the garnered wisdom that has never died

the library is an inspiring destination on a bitter cold day.


After a day of local errands, I like to stop into Pequena, below, a colorful and high-spirited Mexican restaurant on Vanderbilt Avenue. I assume the festive lights are seasonal, but maybe they’re a year-round fixture. How should I know? I’m new in town.


5 thoughts on “Prospect Heights: It’s Not All Brownstones

  1. I agree that there’s really nice architecture to look at besides the brownstones in PH, but disagree on the Meier building, which to me is a total eyesore. Not only is construction still ongoing after three+ years, which is totally pathetic (especially while there are people actually residing in the building), I do not find it “subtly complex” at all. There is nothing subtle about it, and “complex” is too much of a compliment.

  2. Hi Sam. I guess I’m just grateful the Meier building is not as banal as most of what passes for contemporary architecture in Brooklyn these days. In comparison to something like that new skyscraper on lower Flatbush Ave with its tricked-out surface decoration, it’s subtle, and relative to utterly bland non-architecture like the new 12-stories on Fourth Avenue, it’s complex. Strangely, I can tolerate the Meier building better than the glass ‘marquee’ on the Brooklyn Museum, which I think is a travesty. Anyway, thanks for weighing in! (And I did notice the lobby of the Meier building is not finished yet – what a drag for residents who paid a fortune for the privilege of living there.)

  3. I have to agree with Sam. The Meier’s building doesn’t belong! It’s another glass building for the rich. First the ones on the west side highway in the Village, then this and the one in Cooper Square. When we will get some modern architecture in NY that is modern and original!

  4. Great choice in the carriage house on 6th Ave. I pass it every day on the way to the train — it appears to be in great shape. Another great example of tacky distracting but not diminishing is the Yummy Taco triangle building at Flatbush & Bergen – the recently updated AIA Guide to NYC gives it a surprising shout out. Lastly, while most warehouses in the area maintain their workaday appeal, I like how my my building, the Newswalk building, represents a conversion done well — especially now that our construction is coming to completion.

  5. Traveling lady, what can I say? Yes, it’s another glass building for the rich, but it’s an attractive one to my eye. Hey Craig, welcome.
    I love the Yummy Taco building, but loved it even more when it was a Chinese-owned (I think) sign-painting company called Tiger Signs. They had all their wares arrayed around the base and it was an eye-catcher. I don’t know the Newswalk building, have to check it out.

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