Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ten Years Ago: "Where's Brooklyn?"

It was 10 years ago last month that I moved into my coop in Brooklyn Heights. It seems like only a blink or two ago that I was shopping for my first New York apartment—and had never been to Brooklyn.

It was 1999, and over the course of five years, I had worked my way through three apartments—on the Upper West Side, Chelsea and Tribeca—before I was ready to commit to ownership. Did I time the market right? Oh, come on, one never times the market; simply, when you're ready to buy, that's the right time. Admittedly, after five years as a New Yorker, I had never set foot in Brooklyn at that point. It wasn't until a friend suggested BK Heights that I ventured across the river... uh, all of 10 minutes from my digs at the time.

In 2000, interest rates were ghastly (8.5%), but I got a bargain in Brooklyn Heights for my two-bedroom dump. Since, I've gutted the kitchen, the second bedroom and hallway, and the bathroom. Safe to say it's twice the value of what I paid for it, so I guess I timed it right for me.

Little did I know then just how precious this locale would become to me. It's far from a primo unit, facing a brick wall on one side—albeit just steps from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and its precious view of the Manhattan skyline, and (upcoming) Brooklyn Bridge Park. The grocery and liquor store—essential—are steps away. So it might be shady indoors, but it takes all of 60 seconds to discover paradise on the outside.

And now some history, yes? (Below, 1920. Note the beautiful iron canopy: sadly, gone.)The Harbor View Apartments, later named The Arlington, was completed in 1887. It was designed by Montrose W. Morris, who designed and built his own residence in Brooklyn and opened it to the public as his office, as a means of advertising his talent.

Among the visitors was developer Louis F. Seitz, who commissioned an apartment house on property he owned on Nostrand Avenue in the BK. He was so pleased with the Alhambra that he commissioned Morris to design two additional multiple-family residences—a growing trend amid the prominent brownstones in Brooklyn Heights. In 1885, architectural firm Parfitt Brothers built the Montague, Grosvenor and Berkeley apartment buildings on Montague Street. Two years later, Morris was commissioned to design and construct the Arlington at the end of the street.Above, looking north from the bottom of Montague Street. You can see the Arlington's cornucopia on the right, one building up.Forty years before: Montague Street in 1850.1914: At the time, a trolley ran to the end of Montague Street, where a ferry took old-moneyed passengers to Wall Street.Bustling ship trade along the Brooklyn Heights waterfront. The Arlington is on the left, middle.For its first 20 years, the building was among the tallest in the Heights, at 10 stories.American playwright Arthur Miller (1915-2005) lived on the 10th floor, paying $60 a month, with his first wife Mary Grace Slattery in the early 1940s, one of four addresses he held in the Heights. Miller would later write "Death of A Salesman"—and marry Marilyn Monroe, who insisted on living in Manhattan.The Arlington originally contained 20 family apartments and 10 "bachelor"—or studio—units.In 1966, along with many of the buildings in Brooklyn Heights, 62 Montague was named a historic landmark in the city of New York. I just call it home.