Fruit Street Sitting Area
Fruit Street Sitting Area
This small park which connects Columbia Heights to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade was named for of its proximity to Orange, Cranberry, and Pineapple Streets, which were in turn named by neighborhood resident Lady Middagh. Prior to her nomenclatures the streets were named for the aristocratic families of the neighborhood. She found this pretentious and so removed the street signs and put up those of her own fruity design. Eventually, the City made her choices official, but ironically, named a street after her own family, which remains today.
The idea of a promenade at this location has a long history, dating back to a proposal in 1827 by Hezekiah Pierrepont (1768-1838), a real estate rival of the Hicks brothers. The wealthy Brooklyn Heights resident imagined a place where the elite of Brooklyn could be seen, a place that would rival Manhattan’s Battery. One of Pierrepont’s friends and neighbors vehemently opposed the plan, however, and Pierrepont backed down out of respect for the friendship. It is written, nonetheless, in a 19th century history of Brooklyn, that Pierrepont “lived and died in the belief and desire, that the Heights some day be made a public promenade.” Nearby Pierrepont Street, Place, and Plaza are all named for the landowner and civic leader.
Though it would be more than a century before the promenade was completed, Pierrepont’s plan was realized after long negotiations between New York City and Brooklyn Heights. In 1941, Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (1888-1981) and the New York City Planning Commission proposed the construction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) right through the middle of Brooklyn Heights. Not surprisingly, the community opposed this plan. Four years later, the Commission returned with another proposal: a six-lane highway level with the present promenade. Again, there was community opposition. One resident, whose private garden would have been destroyed by the arterial highway, suggested a double-decker highway be constructed with a “cover” protecting the gardeners’ plots from smog and noise. Moses liked this idea, but to the residents’ chagrin made the cover a public promenade. The walkway with majestic views of Lower Manhattan, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island was dedicated on October 7, 1950.
In 1944, the Board of Estimate first acquired this property as part of the construction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, or BQE. Built between 1946 and 1964, the BQE cost $137 million to complete. Federal, state, and municipal funds were all necessary for the construction of this 11.7 mile-long expressway. The BQE was intended not only to relieve congestion on local streets, but also to aid industry and business by shortening transportation time between the boroughs. After repeated rehabilitation attempts in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, the BQE will receive a $240 million comprehensive reconstruction from the New York State Department of Transportation, beginning this year and scheduled to be completed in 2004.
In 1965, Brooklyn Heights became the first officially designated Historic District in New York City. Two original early 19th century frame houses still stand at Nos. 54 and 69 Orange Street, though both were later given mansard roofs and gingerbread details. A prime example of the 1820s Federal style can be found at 24 Middagh Street. Designed by architect Frank Freeman, the stone, brick, terra-cotta, and copper structure was built in 1889 in the Romanesque Revival style.
This park features benches, a fenced-off section of plants and locust trees, and a cobblestone and paved walkway. A renovation of the sidewalks, paths, and pavement was completed in 1997 with $171,562 in mayoral funds, allowing for continued enjoyment of the outstanding views from the park and the connecting promenade.