Dozens of young children ran around Carroll Park on a recent, crisp fall Sunday afternoon. Their yelling and laughing voices are often thought of as the symphony of Carroll Gardens, a small enclave of brownstone Brooklyn where several blocks are landmarked, the rent is high, and neighborhood amenities match.
Carroll Gardens was once a stronghold of Italian immigrants, and while that is still visible with some old-school restaurants and other businesses, its proximity to Manhattan, family-friendly vibe, and abundance of new shops and eateries are making it more popular among other newcomers.
Italian staples like the big plate restaurant Vinny’s of Carroll Gardens, at 295 Smith St. since 1997, and Caputo Bakery, at 320 Court St. since 1904, are as popular with locals as kitschy places like the chicken eatery Purbird, which opened at 502 Henry St. in July, and the farm-focused spot Buttermilk Channel, which opened in 2008 at 524 Court St.
“It’s fascinating and frustrating at the same time to watch the old and new cultures mix,” said Craig Hammerman, district manager for Community Board 6, which includes Carroll Gardens.
“There’s an old guard who often is very preservation-minded when it comes to neighborhood customs and traditions,” like maintaining Italian heritage, which is less of a focus for newcomers, he explained. “The parallel to that is that a lot of the newer settlers are the ones who are pushing the notion that the Carroll Gardens historic district ought to be expanded.”
Several blocks — from Smith Street to just past Hoyt Street and between President and First streets — were given a historic designation by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1973.
But, he said, “there’s almost an expectation when you move [to Carroll Gardens], you’re joining a community. And when you join a community that means that you’re going to be immersed in a place where people say ‘Hello’ to one another and stop and chat, and where you get to know your neighbors.”
This homey vibe doesn’t come cheap. In 2015, the median recorded sales price for the neighborhood was $1.65 million, according to the listings site StreetEasy. Rentals fetched a median $2,913 per month last year, the site found.
In Brooklyn overall, the median price last year was $648,750 in the sales market and $2,500 on the rental side.
So far this year, however, sales prices have dipped slightly in Carroll Gardens, making it a good time to buy “before the demand gets high again,” said Anthony DelleCave, a real-estate sales broker with Citi Habitats and lifelong neighborhood resident.
The median sales price in Carroll Gardens was $1.52 million as of Sept. 19, according to StreetEasy.
You won’t find large high-rise buildings in Carroll Gardens, with most of the inventory brownstone row-homes, or apartments above shops on the main commercial strips of Court or Smith streets. But a few low-rise apartment buildings have been built on those commercial strips in recent years.
“The market overall is slowing down there because now there are so many neighborhoods outside of Carroll Gardens that have just as good a reputation,” DelleCave explained.
Longtime resident Wanda Lucibello, 60, said she loves the area’s access to arts, like its proximity to the Brooklyn Academy of Music in nearby Fort Greene, and fresh food, which she finds at the Carroll Gardens Greenmarket on Sundays. But she laments the area’s rising housing costs.
“I don’t love the fact that it’s become very expensive for families,” said Lucibello, who has lived in Carroll Gardens for 32 years. “It’s become so pricey that it’s not affordable.”
Families are still moving here, though.
For example, Mary McDonough, 34, moved to the neighborhood four years ago and now has a 2-year-old son and a 1-year-old daughter.
“It’s really perfect,” said McDonough, a writer and producer who moved from the East Village and is renting in the neighborhood. “I love that it’s busy — it still feels busy and energetic and fun as if we were in the city.”
Carroll Gardens is a diamond-shaped neighborhood, bordered to the southwest by Hamilton Avenue, the northwest by Hicks Street, the northeast by Degraw Street, and the southeast by Bond Street above Fourth Street and Smith Street below it. (Credit: Google Maps )
192 Union St.
Classic Italian cookies and their famous lard bread help make this neighborhood staple special.
Frankies 457 Spuntino
457 Court St.
Simple Italian food done well is the philosophy here -- think sandwiches and pasta dishes like cavatelli with hot sausage and brown sage butter. The owners (the Frank's) also own Prime Meats down the block.
Court Street Grocers
485 Court St.
Before this sandwich mecca was famous city-wide, it was a small neighborhood grocery store. Stop by for a fluffy egg sandwich with arugula or an Italian combo or any one of their other 20-plus options.
320 Court St.
Order a beer at this European-style tavern and sit by the window to people-watch. If you're hungry, order a slice from neighboring South Brooklyn Pizza from the bar.
282 Smith St.
This dimly-lit cocktail bar features hand-crafted cocktails like the Campfire Comrade (tequila, amaro chocolate mole bitters and campfire smoke sea salt).
Bar Great Harry
280 Smith St.
A lively bar with 21 beers on tap and more options in bottles, guaranteed to please even the most discerning Brooklyn beer snob.
Shop Our Closet
319 Court St.
Looking for a discounted Chanel bag or barely-worn Louboutins? Try your luck at this cornucopia of designer duds on the cheap.
331 Smith St.
This kid's toy store has been around since 2003 and has everything from books to DIY crafting projects.
Olive's Very Vintage
434 Court St.
Scour the racks at this stylish vintage shop for items like a black velvet YSL skirt to unique accessories. Not in the area? Check out the OliveandOlafs Etsy page.
President to Carroll streets between Court and Smith streets
This neighborhood gem functions as a gathering place for kids and families, a summer stage for Shakespeare, and a quiet place to hang out on off hours. The park itself was originally planned as a private garden in the late 1840s, according to city records. It was named for Charles Carroll, who signed the Declaration of Independence.
The Painted Pot
339 Smith St.
Kids and adults can come to create, paint and glaze pottery. There are adult classes (with wine) and kids' parties, along with glass fusion and canvas painting.
Carroll Gardens Greenmarket
Carroll Street between Court and Smith streets
A year-round Sunday greenmarket that spans half a block and is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Pick up cheese, produce, breads, meat and seafood.
F, G to Smith-Ninth streets and Carroll Street
B57, B61(Credit: Linda Rosier)
The neighborhood is a popular filming location and has served as the backdrop to shows like "The Americans" and "Blue Bloods," and the 1987 movie "Moonstruck" starring Cher and Nicholas Cage.(Credit: CBS)
Median sales price: $1,650,000
Number of units on market: 185
Median rental price: $2,913
Number of rentals on market: 1,256
(Source: StreetEasy)(Credit: Linda Rosier)
There's not much spookier, or more Brooklyn, than a kid-friendly Halloween haunted house in a family-run funeral home.
That's why John Heyer, co-owner and director of Scotto Funeral Home at 106 First Place, dresses up as Dracula each year to pass out candy to the swarms of neighborhood kids who stop by.
Heyer started the tradition about a decade ago, but it's been getting bigger and bigger each year. Now, he extends the festivities from the front yard into the funeral home itself.
"We have fun with it," Heyer said. "We use the tagline 'We put the fun in funeral.'"
And he gets the whole family on board: His mother-in-law dresses as a ghost inside a coffin, his aunt wears a costume and hides, and the staff dress up as werewolves. Music and strobe lights help set the mood.
Attendees can enter the haunted house, from about 3:30-6:30 p.m. on Halloween, through the entrance to the funeral home and exit through its side courtyard. Entry is free of charge.
Heyer's family gives out about 95 pounds of candy in the three hours.
"We're just trying to build that relationship in the community," he said. "It gives us the opportunity as funeral directors to experience the community on a more joyous occasion. It's really nice and fun. They definitely gravitate toward it, and it's something different."
For more info on the Scotto Funeral Home haunted house, visit the Halloween@ScottoFuneralHome Facebook page.(Credit: Courtesy of Scotto Funeral Home)
Katy Grogan Ivanfy opened her home-decor and gifts boutique Wanderlustre, at 419 Court St., in September 2015 after she moved back to New York from South Africa. Having gotten her start in the fashion world, Ivanfy knew she wanted to own a small business in a city where mom-and-pop shops are disappearing. We chatted with her about her experience running one in Carroll Gardens.
Why did you pick this kind of retail?
I always wanted to open a boutique. I've always been an avid traveler. When I was in South Africa, I just found some amazing products and resources. I just thought now is the time.
Is a lot of your inventory imported from South Africa?
The concept is just global, it's from all over, but I do have a little bit of a focus on South Africa. I was married there, and my husband grew up there.
What impact do you want to have on customers?
I just hope that they find something that they haven't seen before and something that would brighten up their home and make them smile.
How does your store fit into Carroll Gardens?
This is my home and I live just two blocks from the store, I just love the neighborhood. I feel like all of Brooklyn is kind of happening right now, but Carroll Gardens has such a good community vibe. We get a lot of foot traffic just from people heading to the great restaurants that are down past us [on Court Street]. I think a lot of people like to wander and poke around in interesting boutiques. Small retail is not as prevalent as it once was. I think people find the story very charming because it's very unusual. Carroll Gardens has a strong commitment to small businesses. The neighborhood has been very supportive.(Credit: Courtesy of Wanderlustre)