Close Up On: Carroll Gardens


Portions of this article have been updated.

Front yards in Brooklyn? Whole blocks in bloom? Love ’em, water ’em as the yuppies in Carroll Gardens have for the past five years. The neighborhood’s even been puffed by Vogue, and Smith Street is the heart of Brooklyn’s très fabulous Bococa district. But Carroll Gardens, a part of Red Hook until the ’60s, was once a gritty waterfront neighborhood, with over 10,000 longshoremen. The Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn’s solution to marshlands, runs along the neighborhood’s eastern edge. The surrounding area was called the “Gas House District,” with boats hauling up to 20,000 tons of coal daily. Social clubs, like Toresse and Pozzallo, dotted the neighborhood. Its new shops smell like Soho, but Carroll Gardens remains predominantly Italian, with many old-time residents from the southeastern town of Mola di Bari. “We get these old longshoremen who stay up waiting for what they call a little slip of a girl because she doesn’t have any family,” says longtime resident Buddy Scotto. “It’s an expression of concern and care that’s a Southern European characteristic.”

Borders: Degraw Street to the north, Hoyt Street to the east, 9th Street to the south, and the BQE and Gowanus Expressway to the west

Mass Transit: F train from 14th Street; 20 minutes to Carroll Street

Average Apartment Rents: Studio, $1000 to $1300 ($1000); one-bedroom, $1700 and up ($1200 to $1600); two-bedroom, $2500 and up ($1800 to $2400).

Average Price to Buy: Two-story condominium, $600,000 to $800,000 ($275,000 to $300,000); three-story brownstone, $1.5 million and up ($800,000 to $1,000,000).

Main Drags: Smith Street’s the new pulse, while Court and Henry streets are home to older businesses.

Notable Events: The Procession of Santa Maria Addolorata, a funereal event originating in the town of Mola di Bari, takes place the first Sunday of September. Carroll Gardens artists annual open studio tour is held in the beginning of June. Bastille Day is celebrated on Smith Street in association with the numerous Francophile restaurants that have sprouted up with a nascent French community.

Landmarks: The blocks of Smith and Hoyt streets, between President and Carroll, were landmarked in 1970. Some of the 160-plus brownstones date back to 1860, and demonstrate popular late-19th-century Italianate, neo-Grec, and Victorian Gothic design.

Community Organizations: The nonprofit South Brooklyn Local Development Corporation (SBLDC) promotes commercial growth on Smith Street. In 1984, SBLDC was integral in obtaining a 12-year, $12 million grant that kick-started Smith Street’s upswing. In the last year, Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation obtained two $200,000-plus grants for canal cleanup and street reconstruction. Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway is working to construct an off-street bike path from Red Hook’s Beard Street piers to the Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Parks: Carroll Park has two jungle gyms for the kids, basketball courts, and boccie for the old-timers. The tiny Mother Cabrini Park is at President Street and Van Brunt and there’s a community garden at Carroll Street and Columbia.

Famous Residents: Mae Coughlin, Al Capone’s nice Irish gal, was from the area and married Capone at St. Mary’s of the Sea Church in 1918. The alleged Albert Anastasia killers, Crazy Joe Gallo and his gang, were raised on President Street. Tribeca Grill executive chef Don Pintabona lives in the neighborhood.

Restaurants: The prosciutto and mozzarella at Caputo’s Imported Foods, 460 Court Street, made me forget kashrut. Ferdinando’s, 151 Union Street, the neighborhood’s most famous restaurant besides the long gone Cafiro’s—where DiMaggio dined with Marilyn—is the standard. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly likes the pasta con sarde, Luciano Pavarotti goes for the trippa, and Sinatra once ordered 100 plates of arancina for a Southampton party. D’Amico Foods, 309 Court Street, does great coffee.

Bars: The Gowanus Yacht Club and Beer Garden, open June through Halloween at 323 Smith Street, is the outdoor spot for dollar beers and dogs, while the hyperlit yuppie haven Quench (282 Smith Street) is a taste of what’s hopping toward Atlantic Avenue.

Local Politicians: Councilman Bill De Blasio, Assemblywoman Joan Millman, State Senator and Minority Leader Martin Connor, and Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez—all Democrats

Crime Stats: The 76th Precinct patrols Carroll Gardens and Red Hook. As of September 25, 2005 they reported 2 murders, 2 rapes, 113 robberies, 82 felonious assaults, and 122 burglaries. (As of September 8, they reported 1 murder, compared to 2 last year at this time; 7 rapes, compared to 4; 77 robberies, down from 95; 84 felonious assaults, down from 98; and 133 burglaries, up from 125).

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