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Moving, be it from out of state or while you’re already living here, can be a real pain. What makes Brooklyn’s neighborhoods different from each other, aside from different levels of being expensive? We’ve got people who’ve lived all over this borough and are more than happy to share their insider neighborhood knowledge with you. Today we take a trip to Cobble Hill and Boerum Hill, land of grown person things.
Neighborhood Boundaries (take it up with Google Maps)
Cobble Hill: Atlantic Avenue to Degraw Street and Court Street to Brooklyn Queens Expressway
Boerum Hill: Schermerhorn Street to Baltic Street and Court Street to 4th Avenue
F/G Bergen Street
Describe the neighborhood to someone new
Cobble Hill and Boerum Hill are where many of Brooklyn’s writers who actually get paid for writing live and work (big names include Martin Amis and Jonathan Ames. But sit in the Starbucks at Smith and Wyckoff on a weekday afternoon and you’ll see journos, children’s book authors, and many many screenplays being laboriously born). One of Brooklyn’s historic districts, this area has serious curb appeal with elegant, classy, and haunted rows of brownstones and carriage houses dating back to the early 18oos. The grand brownstones along Clinton Street and lining Cobble Hill Park make for some of the best apartment voyeurism in all of Brooklyn. There are some big apartments in Cobble Hill, so if you’re down for a few roommates, it is worth exploring since this is likely the nicest neighborhood you’ll ever live in and you might just live next door to your future literary mentor. Expand the apartment search west of Smith Street into Boerum Hill and you’ll likely see a slight dip in rent. But with Trader Joe’s nearby and rock bottom happy hours, it’s possible to balance out higher rent.
Because the literati live here, there are loads of cultural offerings to partake in, often designed to welcome aspiring (and broke) young talents. BookCourt (163 Court Street) hosts free workshops, readings and talks with authors and is a hub for the (vibrant) local writing community (including the Sackett Street Writer’s Workshop). Cobble Hill Cinema (265 Court Street) makes up for its tiny theaters with (slightly) cheaper ticket price and a ’90s throwback “don’t forget to silence your pagers” opening montage complete with lasers and anthropomorphic popcorn.
The Brooklyn Inn (148 Hoyt Street) is a lovely 19th century tap room with a “classics” jukebox, low-key, neighborhoody vibe, reasonably priced, no-pretension, stiff drinks, and has been the setting for many on-screen Brooklyn bar scenes (Friends With Kids, Bored to Death) and regular Jonathan Ames sightings.
All your fit neighbors who can’t afford $30 per class yoga are sweatin’ it out at Dodge YMCA (225 Atlantic Ave.). Not that cheap at $67/month, but their pool is pretty nice and they often run free sign up promotions. The people love their Zumba.
For a last minute outfit (ladies), Teddy’s (216 Court St.) and Goldie + Mac (195 Court St.) are reasonably priced (for tiny Brooklyn boutiques) especially their sale racks. For the more cash flush, fashion forward, there’s an outpost of Barneys Co-Op on Atlantic around the corner from Trader Joe’s that has envy-inducing windows (never actually been inside).
Also, Trader Joe’s (130 Court St.). While all other people of Brooklyn make pilgrimage from the nether regions of the borough on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, residents of Cobble Hill/Boerum Hill can pop in to stock up on potstickers and various varieties of nut butter any time they want (sadly, no Two Buck Chuck at the Brooklyn location).
Best cheap things to do
Walk or run outside, especially along Clinton Street with a gawking lap around Carroll Park. For a cheap nosh, stop by Damascus Bakery (195 Atlantic Ave.) for $2 stuffed pastry pockets (spinach+feta, meat, potato, etc.) or fresh pitas and falafel. Layla Jones (Court & Warren) has daily lunch specials (2 slices for $5 or salad and panini or pasta for $8.95) and lovely little garden and is (bonus) BYOB. Before there was Pok Pok, Joya (Court at Warren) was the hot Thai joint and remains a reliably tasty (if Americanized) and cheap meal with a cute yard (cash only). To drown your sorrows and/or celebrate another day of survival, Boat (Smith and Baltic) is one of our favorite dive bars with happy hour 5-8 on weekdays ($3 domestic drafts, bottles & well drinks) and $3 High Life and Genny Cream anytime. Double down on Wednesdays with 2 for 1 PBRs at Last Exit (Atlantic b/t Clinton & Henry) or the monthly drunken spelling competition, the Slurring Bee. Learn something and maybe meet a bookish cutie at daily free events at BookCourt. Browse vendors while drinking outside without fear of open container laws at one of the many annual street fairs (Atlantic Antic, Bastille Day, Smith Street Festival).
The Community Bookstore (212 Court St.): Yes, you will certainly get a good deal on any book you can imagine ($1 bin of romance novels and pulp fiction, 20-30% off new titles), but the draw is that it’s like shopping in the Junk Lady’s treasure pile in Labyrinth, only the whole pile is made up of millions of precariously stacked books. The proprietor of this place will definitely die in an avalanche. Of books. Not advised for those allergic to dust.
While there’s not nearly as much stroller traffic as Park Slope, this neighborhood is definitely not for the immediately post-college, Girls demographic. Consider this area if you are late 20- to 30-something, coupled or single, with steady, if meager, income. Also, some of the bars can get somewhat (br)overrun with know-it-all Brooklyn Law Schoolers.
Safety (1 being a crime-ridden Hellhole, 10 being Mayberry)
8.5. You hear of an occasional iPhone snatching and car break-in, but by and large it’s well lit and quiet. Use reasonable caution when walking alone at night near the BQE (Hicks Street) or east of Smith Street.
What do people say when you tell them you live there?
“Grown up Brooklyn,” either enviously or disgusted—depending on the speaker.
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