Inside Borough Hall

Writing about Brooklyn Heights is like writing about the subway. If you think of a good angle, someone has probably already covered it. So instead of spending part of an afternoon walking the streets, I chose to look for untapped ideas in Borough Hall.

You enter the building through the basement, on Joralemon Street. (Yes, I tried every door on the grand portico – but I did get to see some kids dancing.) Two police officers ensure you have a valid reason to be inside. Just behind them is the Brooklyn tourism center and gift shop.

My friend Michael is a volunteer at the tourism center, and is learning how to give the tour of the building. He joined me as Jane, a more-seasoned guide, showed us around.

The first stop was the second floor. Jane expressed delight and surprise that a certain door was open. In we went to the Victorian Parlor. Its walls are adorned with portraits of former Mayors. (Jane was excited to inform me that Brooklyn used to be its own city.)

Across the hall is an ornate two-story room with a domed ceiling. Originally a ballroom, it later served as a city council chamber until Brooklyn was absorbed in 1898. The Second Appellate Court had a stint there for around 30 years. Now it’s used for official events.

Brooklyn Heights visit - 49

Fun fact: the dome is only internal. The roof above is flat.

There are other rooms upstairs, but are used either for storage or for offices.

The main foyer has huge marble pillars to mimic those out front. Rainbow streamers spilled from the balcony for Pride Month. Up top are portraits of Henry Clay and George Washington; Clay has no relation to Brooklyn, but happened to be in a portrait the same size as Washington’s.

On the main floor are a fancy meeting room and the Borough President’s office. Michael opened a side door in the meeting room to an off-limits room; he claimed to see Marty Markowitz, but an officer downstairs told us he was out for the day.

Finally, back to the basement. (There’s a third floor, but it’s all office space, so we didn’t go up). What’s now the boiler room used to be a jail. It must have been no fun for tall guys like me to get into the cells. There’s also a crypt-like storage space under the large outdoor staircase.

Our tour over, I mounted a Citi Bike down to Siggy’s Good Food on Henry Street. If you have “good food” in your name, you are raising the bar. Siggy’s cleared it with room to spare. I highly recommend the baby artichoke salad, which has red peppers, kalamata olives, and Parmesan. I walked it off for a little bit before cycling home to beat the approaching rain.

This entry was posted in Visit recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Inside Borough Hall

  1. Harley N says:

    Thank you for an inside view; I do not believe anyone ever covered it so well. Bravo!

    The photo of the St George Hotel (as we knew it) brought back memories of a fancy swimming pool open to the unwashed masses for a fee. The other one was the Brownsville Boys Club (Abe Stark helped create it) on Linden Blvd, far cheaper and more my speed.
    Wikpedia: “The hotel was the subject of a song by The Hassles (featuring Billy Joel), written by Billy Joel and recorded in 1968. The song can be heard on The Hassles album, ‘Hour of the Wolf’, and on the bootleg Billy Joel compilation, entitled Billy Joel Sings.”

    • Keith says:

      Thanks as always, Harley! I’m excited for pool season to begin again; seeing hundreds of kids splashing around Betsy Head in Brownsville on opening day last year is a fond memory.

  2. very nice article and well written. thanks for the inside view. t makes me wanna go visit.

Leave a Reply