Dyker Heights Community Information
Dyker Heights may not be as famous as Brooklyn neighborhoods like Flatbush, Brooklyn Heights or Williamsburg, but it is a prime example of what makes Brooklyn “The Borough of Homes and Churches.”
People from outside the area may know Dyker Heights for two reasons, each with its own seasonal flavor. In the warmer months, golfers from all over the city head for Dyker Beach Golf Course, part of Dyker Beach Park, which hosts some 70,000 rounds of golf in its eight-month season. When Christmas approaches, the area becomes a hub of holiday lighting, with residents going to great lengths and great expense to install elaborate seasonal displays. Since the 1980s, the Dyker Heights lights have been something of a tourist attraction, distinctive enough to be the subject of a PBS documentary in 2001 and always earning a mention in descriptions of the area.
At its heart, though, Dyker Heights is a residential neighborhood of approximately 40,000 people, an old-fashioned combination of one- and two-family homes and mom-and-pop stores. It has a relatively low crime rate and students in its public schools receive test scores above the city’s averages. It has escaped the frantic development that has affected many other neighborhoods, in part because it is insulated by the absence of subway service and in part because of zoning regulations that discourage high-rise construction. Those regulations were strongly supported by the Dyker Heights Civic Association, an organization that is a strong presence in the community.
Although it has avoided overbuilding, the history of Dyker Heights is itself very much a story of real estate development. When first settled in the 17th century, it was part of New Utrecht, a Dutch settlement, and the area was woodland until it began to be farmed in the mid-1800s. Dyker Heights became part of what was then the City of Brooklyn in 1894. Beginning in 1895, Walter Loveridge Johnson began to build and sell luxury homes in the area, reportedly naming it Dyker Heights in order to borrow some of the upscale cachet of Brooklyn Heights.
Many of those homes still survive, especially along the mansion row of 11th Avenue. While those luxury homes tend to be found along the avenues, the side streets are home to less imposing detached and semi-detached properties, along with a few apartment buildings. Much of the neighborhood’s housing stock dates to the 1920s.
Dyker Heights has proven to be an unusually stable neighborhood through the years. The original Dutch settlers were succeeded by Scandinavian immigrants, Irish immigrants and, most recently, Italian immigrants, but the area was never subject to a wholesale flight from the city. Today, Italian-Americans are the area’s dominant ethnic group.
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