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BHA History

The BHA can now look back on a century of service, with many milestones along the way. The chronology found below highlights just some of the organization's accomplishments, good deeds and neighborhood campaigns carried out on behalf of Brooklyn Heights. We invite you to read  this impressive history and to become active in the BHA's future efforts to care for the neighborhood and improve your quality of life.  

A Boisterous Beginning
Where did it all begin?   A New York Times article from Feb. 6, 1910, sets the scene: At a boisterous community meeting at what was then called the Long Island Historical Hall (now the Brooklyn Historical Society), Heights residents "arose in their might and, to some extent, their wrath... and succeeded in giving a very forcible object lesson of their demands for better transit facilities."  One of the newly elected vice presidents of the new BHA was Rev. Newell Dwight Hillis, who "expressed the prevailing sentiment that the Heights had been dormant long enough in the matter of looking after its own interests, and that it is now high time to 'get busy.' "

As Brooklyn's transportation infrastructure was developing, Heights residents had been active in supporting improvements that benefited other neighborhoods — and potentially detracted from Brooklyn Heights and its appeal. "We have helped everyone but ourselves," Hillis declared. "But I say to you that not even the Bible requires us to love Flatbush more than the Heights... Our creed has been that everybody is better than ourselves... We have also been too dignified and too respectable. Let us now get up and do some shouting." 

The "shouting" subsided long ago, but the spirit of vigorous advocacy for Brooklyn Heights lives on, as strongly as ever.  As we begin our second hundred years, here are some highlights of our accomplishments during our first century of service:

2012 BHA proposal for creation of Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District comes to fruition with designation by the NYC Landmarks Commission. 

2011 BHA wins lawsuits in federal and state courts to protect the public's interest in parks and prevent privatization of  the Tobacco Warehouse.

2010 BHA commemorates its centennial with an events series called  "Celebrating A Century" .  

2009  BHA launches a Public-Private Partnership for the Promenade Gardens. It's called The Promenade Garden Conservancy.

2008  BHA leads the campaign to save the garden behind the Riverside Houses. BHA rallies community support to keep OBGYN and Pediatric Units open at Long Island College Hospital.

2007  BHA Plants 27 new trees in Brooklyn Heights (at a cost of $27,000). BHA is honored by PS 8 for its support of the school.

2006  BHA advocacy leads to award-winning restoration of 135 Joralemon Street.

2005  BHA proposes creation of the Borough Hall Skyscraper Historic District. BHA leads the plan to renovate Cadman Park (it opens with the new field turf in 2006).

2004  Vigorous opposition by BHA defeats a view-blocking high-rise proposed for a site next to the Brooklyn Bridge.

2004  BHA organizes a community coalition to monitor and critique the City's massive development plans for Downtown Brooklyn.

2003  We succeed in the public battle to significantly scale back the City's Office of Emergency Management headquarters in Cadman Park.

2002  BHA helps focus attention on PS 8, rallies neighborhood parents and brings financial help to the school.

2000  BHA advocacy leads to an agreement with the City for a Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Program.

1999  We sponsor plans and line up wide support for an improved Cadman Plaza Park. 

1998 BHA provides a grant to the Parks Department to pay for an irrigation system in the Promenade Gardens.

1995/96 BHA lays the groundwork for a Montague Street Business Improvement District.

1994 We inaugurate and seed Project Sweep, employing the developmentally disabled to keep Montague Street clean.

1989 BHA organizes a community coalition of neighborhoods to preserve the downtown Brooklyn waterfront for the whole Borough.

1988 We block a 30-story building, planned by the Watchtower Society, at the foot of Columbia Heights.

1986 BHA hires planning firm to set guidelines for redevelopment of Piers 1-5 below the Promenade.

1985 We launch our first House Tour, now an annual event.

1982  We launch the Civilian Observation Patrol, later sponsored by the 84th Precint Community Council.

1978  A campaign started by the BHA ends in passage of the "Pooper Scooper" Law.

1975/76  BHA plans the conversion of the Pierrepont Hotel into housing for the elderly.

1971  We defeat the Atlantic Authority bill, preventing destruction of the south Heights by a multi-lane expressway.

1967  BHA wins the 50-foot building height limit for Brooklyn Heights.

1965  Our advocacy efforts lead to passage of the NYC Landmarks Law and Brooklyn Heights is designated as the City's first Historic District.

1960  BHA takes a stand on the Cadman Plaza urban renewal plan, persuading Robert Moses to build larger, family-size apartments.

1945  We block Robert Moses' plan to build the BQE through the Heights. The alternate route results in our world-famous Promenade.

1940  BHA plants 1,081 trees in the Heights.

1935  BHA helps create Cadman Plaza Park.

1923  Three key committees are formed: Traffic, Zoning and Parks. Today these same committees continue the fight for traffic calming, well-maintained parks and intelligent land use.

1910  The Brooklyn Heights Association ("BHA") is founded, making it now the oldest, ongoing neighborhood association in the City.