Greetings neighbors—the first dispatch from me, Caroline Aiken Koster, your newest BHBlogger here.
This first post has me thinking about moving to Brooklyn Heights in Fall of 1996. Until then, my husband James and I, fresh out of graduate school and landing in Manhattan from our hometowns of Louisville and Cincinnati, rented a standard NYC starter on 23rd Street. It had one spectacular feature: a roof that Big Apple dreams are made of. A spiral staircase lead to a popped-up bedroom with a slider accessing the tar beach overlooking Park Avenue. There was a low parapet wall and railing; but no fences between neighbors. We shared that glorious turf with an urban gardener and a rotating cast of Elite models and Credit Suisse analysts cycling through the four bedroom rental next door. Plus we two Kosters! Newly married and newly minted New Yorkers.
Fast forward four years and a million tales from that aerie. I’m pregnant. Those stairs are too treacherous for an infant, the parapet, too low, the stuff, too much. My husband’s architect gang had decamped to Brooklyn Heights. “Just look there,” he urged as we considered our next home.
It seemed a bridge too far.
But after dinner in a friend’s back garden at Henry and State, I envisioned myself here. We walked into a Montague Street real estate office and an agent named Wade greeted us, gently guiding us through Brownstone floor throughs and Fruit Street walk ups and feeding us Fatoosh on Hicks, my first Middle Eastern food. Soon, I handed him his first homemade Kentucky Derby pie to celebrate our new home on Livingston Street. Three years later, pregnant again, we used a Saw-Z-All to cut a hole into the apartment next door, expanding our footprint and our family. Four Kosters, including our two sons, have called this neighborhood home ever since. After September 11, 2001, we added a golden retriever, Taxi.
“Well, said my mother, upon learning our new address would be in the 11201, “I guess if you win the lottery, you’ll move back to Manhattan.” “If I win the lottery, Mom,” I reminded her for years, “I’ll move up to the top floor of our building for the views or a setback apartment with a terrace, but that’s as far as I’m going.”
I never got a back garden or a roof deck. I’m still on a low floor…..all the better to keep an eye on the place we all share. But I forever delight in our neighborhood.
I’ve really traveled this summer—Bali, Singapore, New Jersey, Kentucky and Ohio, my family reunion in Appalachia, Maine, Vermont and many lazy beach days in a tiny cabana near Ft. Tilden. But when the 5 train brakes squeal at Borough Hall or the yellow cab rolls down Court Street from a late night at work, I know I am home.
I walked around our neighborhood—mine and yours–this weekend, reacquainting myself with our special corner now that I’ve taken on this (volunteer!) gig to write about it. There on Montague Street were children frolicking in a fire hydrant, P.S. 8 parents touting their school, little tykes playing big chess and strollers clogging the Open Streets cocktail corral. I saw businesses I’d barely noticed before and characters I’d forgotten about. At Borough Hall Greenmarket, Councilman Lincoln Restler offered me a September welcome back, compost and a rain barrel. Instead, I bought 99 ears of corn for the church picnic and the shiny new community fridge. Then I took my 99 year old friend Grace for a sit on the Promenade. We’ve got some work to do around here, but I marveled at our community.
On Sunday, at Plymouth Church, a perfectly timed litany reminded us to love our neighbors as we return to our routines this September. In the other churches, synagogues, mosques, schools, coffee shops, gyms, parks, gardens, groceries and quiet places where we gather, I know people are feeling that too.
I can’t wait to talk to all of you and share my Brooklyn Heights and yours. Thank you for having me, neighbors. Meanwhile, I found our old change of address card– a 1996 dispatch from a new family who crossed the Brooklyn Bridge many Septembers ago to grab a future here, in this place. One decision we’ve never regretted.
See you around soon! Let me know in the comments how you made it to this neighborhood. Start reading and posting in the Open Threads. Share your thoughts and tell your friends. There’s so much to talk about!
It’s September in Brooklyn!
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