Carroll Gardens: Best of the old and new

Houses along President Street between Smith and Hoyt

Houses along President Street between Smith and Hoyt streets. (Linda Rosier) (Credit: Houses along President Street between Smith and Hoyt streets. (Linda Rosier))

If you want to live in Carroll Gardens, you'd better hurry. This Brownstone Brooklyn neighborhood is filling up fast.

Broker David Taylor reports that "Listings in Carroll Gardens don't stay on the market long. With great new cafes, restaurants and a beautiful park, it's a big draw. People come to walk around on a weekend and I get a call on Monday asking me to find them an apartment there."

What's so special about Carroll Gardens?

Jen Schwartz, who moved there two years ago from Manhattan, thinks it's the feeling you get of being in a "protected little gem outside the big city limits," while Craig Hammerman, district manager of Community Board 6, thinks it's "the refreshing honesty, the 'no-hidden-agenda' aspect of the public discourse in the neighborhood."

Chris DiChiaro, who owns a maternity and kids clothing store, is convinced it's the "good reputation of the nearby public schools."

The neighborhood has its own two-block historic district between President and Carroll, Smith and Hoyt streets.

These blocks are lined with much-coveted Neo-Grec and Italianate townhouses built in the 1860s and 1880s with distinctive 30-foot front gardens.

Carroll Gardens is a neighborhood steeped in history with a network of outspoken community groups who value its past and vigilantly oversee its present.

A walk down Court or Smith streets tells the story: a shoemaker's shop with a dusty window display of umbrellas stuffed into an old wooden lard container sitting next to Seersucker, an uber-trendy cafe serving a sandwich of house-made pimento cheese with country ham on multigrain bread.

In the beginning of the 20th century, the neighborhood was populated mainly by the families of Italian immigrants (and some Irish) who came to New York to work as longshoremen on the nearby waterfront. Many of these families still remain.

"Back when these families first arrived, neighbor to neighbor communication was mostly over the backyard clothes lines," explains Hammerman.

"From there it went stoop to stoop and now it's in the neighborhood cafes."

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Find it: The north, west and south boundaries of the neighborhood are easy enough to define--DeGraw Street, Hicks Street and Hamilton Avenue. It's the eastern boundary between Gowanus and Carroll Gardens that's a bit fuzzy --- Is it Bond, Hoyt, Smith? Depends on whom you ask.

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REAL ESTATE
Houses and apartments don't stay on the market for long in Carroll Gardens. When you see one you like, grab it. Expect to pay about $2,400 for a one-bedroom and $3,600 for a two-bedroom rental, and about $525,000 to buy a one-bedroom and just under $1 million for a two-bedroom condo or coop.

TO BUY
-- 376 President St., a condo in what was once a jute mill, a "lofty duplex" configured as a two-bedroom with a 200-square-foot deck off the master bedroom, $859,000.

-- 158 W. 9th St., three-unit row-house with a duplex for the owner, garden, $1,300,000.

-- 333 Carroll St., not yet completed condos coming on the market later this year in a converted copper warehouse. One-, two- and three-bedroom loft spaces with roof deck. Plan is to sell at about $800 per square foot.

TO RENT
-- 30 Cheever Pl., two-bedroom, quiet. tree-lined street, two bathrooms, working fire place, gut renovation with tons of light, private roof terrace with a 360 degree view, $4,200.

-- 321 Smith St., floor through three-bedroom with two fireplaces, 12-foot ceilings, $2,950.

-- 114 Fourth Pl., $1,050,000 for a two bedroom with terrace, glass walled and open-concept design, 1096 square feet, $5,975.

Looking for a home in Carroll Gardens? DSA Realty, dsarealty.com and Brownstone Real Estate, brownstonelistings.com

THE BASICS

Transportation
F and G lines have a Carroll Street stop and the walk from the subway hub at Borough Hall is about 10 minutes. Buses crisscross the neighborhood; you can hail a yellow taxi on Clinton Street and bicycles are popular with bike lanes on Court, Clinton Smith and Ninth streets.

Library
The popular Carroll Gardens branch, 396 Clinton Street, has its own fan club--Friends of the Carroll Gardens Library--which is ramping up the programming and events at the branch. Readings by Brooklyn authors are a favorite.

Safety
Part of the 76th Precinct, Carroll Gardens is consistently one of the lowest-crime neighborhoods in the borough. According to CompStat, the method used by the NYPD to measure crime, the crime rate in the 76th is down 77% from 1990 figures.

Post Office
Residents need to go to the Red Hook P.O.

WHERE TO EAT
Foodies love Carroll Gardens. Old school Italian salumerias and pasticerrias are perfect for take-out, and hot new restaurants offer lots of choices for a sit-down lunch, brunch or dinner.

Take Out
Caputo's
, 460 Court St.
One of the old-school favorites - homemade specialties like gnocchi and soup and no-frills pastries - perfect for a picnic put-together.

D'Amico's, 309 Court St.
Family owned since the 40's and a beloved neighborhood favorite. Over 100 types of coffee by the pound ("Red Hook blend is our most popular") deli meats and cheeses in the front and a few tables in the back where you can drink coffee and talk to the old-timers.

Esposito's, 357 Court St.
In the family since 1922, the huge ceramic pig outside tells the story. The brothers Esposito are famous for their handmade sopressata and prosciutto rice balls that make Yelp reviewers swoon.

Eat in
Frankies
, 457 Court St.
This homey restaurant serves food that an Italian grandmother might cook, but with a lighter touch. The two Frankies, owners Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli, use only high-quality local and artisanal ingredients. A foodie favorite is the extra-virgin olive oil that they bring back with them from Sicily every year

Vinny's, 295 Smith St.
"Makes me feel like I'm in the 'old neighborhood'" says one 30- something who just moved to Carroll Gardens. The pizza and veal parm in a laid back atmosphere is a favorite of firemen, locals and tourists.

Buttermilk Channel, 524 Court St. One of the hot new spots in Carroll Gardens, this restaurant with a serene, pale yellow interior has a $25 prix fixe menu on Mondays. Named for the mile-long tidal strait that runs between Brooklyn and Governor's Island, its chef, Ryan Angulo has Picholine, davidburke & donatella and the LES Stanton Social on his resume.

TO PARTY

Brooklyn Social, 335 Smith St.
From the outside it looks like an old-time Brooklyn members- only social club but the sign out front makes it clear that non members are welcome. Perfect for old style cocktails in a speakeasy setting.

Bar Great Harry, 280 Smith St.
Incredible selection of beers, a back room with pinball machines and you can bring your dog inside. Happy hour specials start at 4 p.m.

Zombie Hut, 273 Smith St.
Just as you'd expect from the name, tall drinks with umbrella swizzle sticks abound. The tiki theme extends out to the backyard garden. Not surprisingly, most popular with a younger crowd.

TO SHOP

Smith and Vine, 268 Smith St.
Owned by the same folks who own Stinky Brooklyn (215 Smith) where you can get the cheese to go with your wine. On Mondays from 6 to 9 they have a "happy hour" - 10% off special on all still wines.

Shen, 315 Court St.
In their shop named after an Egyptian hieroglyph that means "protect the planet," Jessica Richards (she lives in the neighborhood) and Jules Stringer offer cosmetics from mainstream and niche brands. How's this for niche: creams made by an English woman who grows, picks, blends and labels her own product at her home on the Yorkshire moors.

Madison Rose, 313 Court St.
Chris and Jillian DiChiaro started their new and consignment maternity and kids' clothing business out of their home when they moved to Carroll Gardens six years ago. Now they have a storefront and business is popular with the local families and soon-to-be families.

Yesterdays News, 482 Court St.
The antiques and collectibles spill out of this crowded shop onto the sidewalk to the corner of the block. Recently spotted: a few mid-century couches and chairs and some beat-up stools with potential.

TO DO

Carroll Park
This public park, dedicated in 1853, is the heart and soul of the neighborhood. Here's where you'll find concerts for kids and grown ups, movie nights, and a bocce court. Since there are lots of veterans who live in the neighborhood, Memorial Day and Veterans Day are always commemorated in the park.

Farmers' Market
A relatively new and very popular feature just outside the Park every Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Everything you'd expect from goat cheese to grass fed beef, bread, fruits and vegetables, cooking demonstrations by local restaurants and a textile recycling booth.

The Buzz:
The Gowanus Canal Cleanup:
Carroll Garden residents are hugely interested in what is happening with the Gowanus Canal. The two neighborhoods are side-by-side and whatever happens in one influences the other. Now that the superfund cleanup of this once notoriously foul waterway has begun, the debate has changed from "will it be cleaned?" to "how clean will it be?" Federal, state and city agencies are all clamoring to convince the community that they're doing the most they can do.

The possible closure of Long Island College Hospital: Just about anyone born in Carroll Gardens was born at LICH, in Cobble Hill. The hospital employs up to 2,000 people and is the base for medical care for much of Brownstone Brooklyn. Besides loss of medical services, residents worry about the economic impact of a closure and the future of the vacated properties.

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Q and A with Joan D'Amico
Joanie D'Amico married into the D'Amico family 20 years ago and now helps run D'Amico's Foods, a business founded by her husband Frank's grandfather Emanuel in 1948. The store is a microcosm of the world of Carroll Gardens--an old business with a modern twist. Although the deli in the front and the cafe tables in the back of the store have a mid-century look, the on-line mail order and wholesale coffee business that Joanie runs out of the back of the space is up to date and thriving.

Q: What makes Carroll Gardens unique?
A: The fact that it's kept a lot of its old traditions. I grew up here and I can still say that it is a family-oriented neighborhood where neighbors stay connected, just like it was back then.

Q: What's the best thing about living here?
A: Probably being able to go out the door and know almost everyone on the street; to go into stores where they know your name, they know your family. And the restaurants and stores are great - I do all my shopping here, I eat in all the local restaurants. It's all here.

Q: What do you think is the future of the neighborhood?
A: It's going to stay like it is. We have a pretty loud voice--people here will fight for what they believe in. When plans were presented to build a 12-story residential building down the street, the community mobilized and now the building that is going up in that space is six stories high.

Tags: CITY LIVING

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