Carroll Gardens is primarily a residential community steeped in traditional working class values. It derives a rich heritage from a wave of Italian immigration that occurred in the earlier part of the twentieth century. The Carroll Gardens Historic District so designated on September 25, 1973 is one of the smallest historic districts in the city; it is notable for its atypical setbacks that create deep front yards for the Neo-Grec and Italianite style brownstone rowhouses. The neighborhood is situated between Cobble Hill to the north, the Gowanus Canal to the east and major regional transportation thoroughfares to the south and west, including Hamilton Avenue, the Gowanus Expressway, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, and the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. Much to the chagrin of local residents, the major north-south local streets (viz: Smith, Court, Clinton, Henry and Hicks Streets) are heavily used corridors for commuter traffic traveling to and from Downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan. The ongoing repair work and much-needed reconstruction of the Gowanus Expressway, are of primary concern to the neighborhoods of Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill and Columbia Street District. Spillover traffic effects are anticipated and experienced as far to the east as Park Slope. The booming development of Downtown Brooklyn coupled with Gowanus Expressway related lane closures, traffic restrictions and other diversions are spilling record numbers of vehicles onto these local residential/commercial streets. Traffic volumes and congestion translates to attendant reductions in ambient air quality, increases in noise and vibrations particularly to our older housing stock, and negatively contributes to the neighborhood’s perception of public safety and quality of life.
As with so many other neighborhoods in the city, publicly available open space is sparse and lightly sprinkled throughout the area. Carroll Park is a bustling oasis and center for civic life in the heart of the neighborhood. It is used for both active and passive recreation, and caters to adults and children of all ages. Organized softball and bocci leagues, community events and programs for children can be found there. The neighborhood hosts Brooklyn's first official dog run at what was previously an underutilized tract of land at Hamilton Avenue and Hicks Street. The City also recently completed construction of a new grassy ballfield at DiMattina Park at Hicks and Woodhull Streets. For the past few years the community has been planning the construction of a community garden to be located on New York City Transit property at the southwest corner of Smith Street and Second Place, funding for which has been provided by the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President.
The completed reconstruction of Smith Street has had a huge positive impact on the local economy. This commercial strip is heavily trafficked by local residents, the majority of whom travel by foot. Occupancy rates are up and property values in the area have skyrocketed in the last decade. Owners are investing and reinvesting in their properties as evidenced by enhancements to storefronts and building facades and the construction of new buildings throughout the corridor. It is critical that the same amenities included on Smith Street be applied to a similar sought-after reconstruction of Court Street project as its deteriorating street, sidewalks and curbs would justify. Smith and Court Streets possess both the traditional smaller “Mom and Pop” stores and more specialized businesses that reflect a combination of the old flavor of European tastes with the newly settled elements of young urban professionals that continue to flock to the neighborhood. Smith Street especially has developed a reputation as “restaurant row” hosting an eclectic mix of international gourmet cuisine. Nightlife on Smith Street continues to grow with more bars, clubs, performance and social gathering spaces opening up attracting even more people to the area.