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Most of the area that is Prospect Heights was developed in the 1870s after Prospect Park was completed. By the 1890s, the neighborhood was being referred to by its current name.

Brownstones and townhouses were built on side streets and apartment buildings popped up on the avenues. 

Until World War II, the population was mostly middle-class residents, shop owners and workers in nearby factories. After the war, the neighborhood became predominantly African-American as economic troubles in the city caused long-time residents to move out. 

As the populations changed, buildings were abandoned and rioting on Washington Avenue led to arson and vandalism. Many homes were then foreclosed on and became city property in the 1970s.

To encourage redevelopment, the city began selling groups of abandoned buildings in the 1980s and over the next eight years, more than a third of the buildings were renovated, helping the middle-class presence to once again grow.

  • The plaza hosts the northern entrance to Prospect Park.
  • The Brooklyn Museum of Art on Eastern Parkway was completed in 1906 and now stands as a New York City historic landmark.
  • Brooklyn Botanic Garden with an entrance off Eastern Parkway is acclaimed internationally for its annul cherry blossom tree festival.
  • The Brooklyn Public Library stands tall off Grand Army Plaza.
  • Towering apartment buildings stand above Eastern Parkway.
  • Prospect Heights has been the location of rapid gentrification with numerous new restaurants opening and apartment buildings popping up throughout the neighborhood.
  • Public School 9 stands as a city landmark. Its construction was completed in 1868.
  • The skyscrapers of Fort Greene and Downtown Brooklyn are seen in the distance from Prospect Heights, with luxury apartment stretching into the neighborhood as well.
  • The Barclays Center arena was opened in 2012 as part of the Atlantic Yards, or Pacific Park, development project.
Photos by Paul Frangipane

How Prospect Heights Got Its Name

Before there was a Prospect Park, there was a Mount Prospect, also called Prospect Hill, just on the eastern side of Flatbush Ave.

One definition of the word “prospect” is a place offering a broad view, and Prospect Hill was surely that. It is the second highest point in Brooklyn (after Battle Hill in Green-Wood Cemetery) and it played a major role in the Revolutionary War Battle of Brooklyn when it was a lookout point for Continental Army troops.

Prospect Hill gave its name to Brooklyn’s famous park as well as the neighborhood it’s in: Prospect Heights.

Incidentally, Prospect Heights was one of several names first suggested for the neighborhood that is today Park Slope. It also once shared the name Gowanus Heights with Prospect Park, Greenwood and Bay Ridge.

Most of the neighborhood developed after Prospect Park was finished in 1873. By the 1890s, the neighborhood had the name Prospect Heights and its brownstones, town houses, and apartment buildings began going up at the turn of the century.

Today it boasts some of the city’s cultural treasures. Grand Army Plaza, where Prospect Park West, Flatbush Ave. and Eastern Parkway meet, has the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Arch honoring the troops of the Civil War, and the John F. Kennedy Memorial.

A triangular space bounded by Eastern Parkway, Washington Ave. and Flatbush Ave., is now home to the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and the Brooklyn Public Library. 

A portion of the neighborhood was developed for commercial and residential purposes, primarily over the Long Island Rail Road train yard, in the 2000s and 2010s. A key element in it is the Barclays Center sports arena, which opened in 2012. The area, adjacent to Downtown Brooklyn and Fort Greene, was originally known as Atlantic Yards but was renamed Pacific Park by the developers. It is often considered a neighborhood of its own.

Norm Goldstein

Brooklyn-born Norm Goldstein is retired, after working 44 years for the Associated Press, the global news agency, where he served as a reporter, feature writer, editor, author and administrator. He also worked for AP as director of Educational Services and editor of the AP Stylebook. He graduated from Brooklyn College and the Penn State Graduate School of Journalism. He currently lives in Brooklyn Heights.