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Columbia Street Waterfront District

Columbia St. Waterfront

The Columbia St. Waterfront is a quaint, 22-block enclave wedged between Red Hook and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. This neighborhood, which was once a part of the same neighborhood as Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens (before the BQE came along) has a lot more to offer than proximity to Ikea. Once a forgotten part of the borough, the residents here are enjoying a recent resurge in art, real estate and culture. There’s no direct access to the actual Columbia Street waterfront as it is blocked from the public by cranes and containers coming off the Red Hook Shipping Terminal. The Waterfront is home to a mix of dockworkers, young families and artists. The neighborhood also boasts one of the highest percentages of same-sex couples in New York City.

The neighborhood was redefined following the creation of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in 1950 by Robert Moses, which left the area split completely in half, east-to-west. For Columbia Street, the post-Moses years left the area largely isolated from what had been a much larger immigrant Italian and Hispanic community. Then in 1975, a sewer line accident forced the city to demolish 33 buildings, causing many more residents and businesses to pack up. In the wake of the disaster, the city designated the Columbia Street District as an area in need of redevelopment.

These days The Columbia Street Waterfront is enjoying a cultural revival. The neighborhood is its own quirky mix of charming old-fashioned row houses on Union Street with shops and restaurants on their ground floors. Buzzing award-winning restaurants like Pok Pok, a no-reservations northern-Thai hotspot that routinely sees patrons from near and far line up for long waits. There’s Mazzat a Turkish-style Mediterranean tapas bar, and then there’s Alma, Mexican food, ground-floor bar with a year-round roof deck that offers breath-taking views of Manhattan and draws a young crowd. It also isn’t strange to see vintage Vespas parked in front of the picturesque blue-painted stucco and metal building at 65 Union St., on the corner of Van Brunt Street, which only adds to the neighborhood’s vibrancy.

Columbia Street features a mix of mostly low-rise housing— old-fashioned brick row houses new developments, and conversions of former factories and industrial buildings. Noteworthy developments include 25 Carroll Street, a former pasta manufacturing facility that was converted into 17 loft condominiums in 2010; Columbia Commons, a mix of condos and rentals; and 49-53 Summit Street, which features nine apartments ranging from 1,300 square feet to more than 2,300 square feet. According to an article by The Bklyner, a developer recently filed a zoning map amendment application requesting the area on Summit Street be rezoned for a new seven story residential building. If approved, by 2022, the three lots could be combined to create a nearly 8,000-square-foot plot with more than 23,000 square feet of residential space—allowing for approximately 34 apartments—and nearly 8,000 square feet of commercial space, according to New York YIMBY.

The area also has work underway on the first section of the Columbia Waterfront Park, part of the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, a 14-mile project to connect Greenpoint to Bay Ridge.


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