I lived in Prospect Heights for two years before moving a few miles away, to Cobble Hill, late last fall.
I had been asking myself, in a perfect world, where I’d live and I kept coming back to Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill and Boerum Hill. Each neighborhood features such an appealing mix of mom-and-pop storefronts and beautiful brownstone blocks that are the very definition of Brooklyn.
I went to see a local broker, and they told me that an apartment had just opened up on Tompkins Place, and a lightbulb went off in my head.
A former colleague had lived on that street, and I remember visiting her house for a Christmas party years ago and being completely charmed by the snow-covered block. I said if I ever live in Brooklyn, I want to live on this street. Four years later, the realtor told me about this place. I practically wanted to take it without looking at it.
Tompkins Place is a genuine slice of brownstone Brooklyn. It’s a small street and everywhere you look you see brownstones — it’s almost sensory overload for those of us who love that kind of architecture.
The apartment is a large floor-through one-bedroom with three rooms (and a small, extra room off of the bedroom) that’s on the top floor of a brownstone built in 1854 (with original floorboards!).
The stairs have a nice little incline, so I can skip the machines at the gym now. But the fact that it’s two flights up is mitigated by the fact that the apartment is spacious and the layout is flexible -- I don’t worry about closet space or work space, I have room for both.
I’m paying in the $2,000 range, a couple of hundred dollars a month more than my place in Prospect Heights, but it’s worth it.
I’m a brisk five-minute walk from the F and G trains and a 15-minute walk to Borough Hall, where you can get a lot more trains. My only big gripe is with the F — when it works it’s great, but it messes with you. In the morning, it’s a disaster, practically inhumane, it’s so chock-a-block with people.
I work near Grand Central, and transfer from the F to the 6 at Broadway-Lafayette (hurray for the new uptown connection) — the whole thing takes about a half an hour.
Cobble Hill is a more mature neighborhood in terms of amenities like restaurants and shops. And there is such variety: You have amazing specialty shops for whatever, you name it: meats, cheese or wine. There’s even your very own movie theater, and I’m a block from it.
And it’s truly a great neighborhood for celebrating mom-and-pop shops. One of the things I like about it is that you still see can traces of the strong Italian community, so there’s great food and classic restaurants on top of some of the newer restaurants and boutiques.
I particularly like Moo Burger and Watty & Meg and Sam’s an old-school Italian place that’s been there since 1930s, but there are many more, and so many places I have yet to try. My neighbors run Layla Jones, a yummy pizza joint on Court Street.
The neighborhood has lots of young families. If my life goes that way, I’d love to keep living here too. My building’s residents sort of tell the story of the neighborhood -- there's me -- the single guy -- a young couple with a child on the way, another couple with two kids, and a wonderful Italian family that’s been here forever and made me feel right at home.
When I lived in Prospect Heights, I felt more like my life was in Manhattan. I lived on the same block as the 2 and 3 train, so I’d often hop on the train and go into the city. But now both my neighborhood and my apartment are really comfortable, and I often get lazy and spend my whole weekend in the neighborhood.
Where I lived in Prospect Heights — on Eastern Parkway — was beautiful, but it was fairly removed from Vanderbilt and the other streets with stores and restaurants. But now I live a block from Court Street, so I’m closer to a lot of the good stuff.
I do miss Prospect Park, and Cobble Hill doesn’t have anything comparable. But I lived across the street from the park for two years and honestly didn’t use it that much; I think I liked knowing it was there more than I actually used it.
From my apartment window now I can see beautiful sunsets, and I have a view of the gleaming new World Trade Center site from my kitchen. It’s an overused word, but my apartment really is a gem.