Dyker Heights, Brooklyn

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Dyker Heights
Neighborhood in Brooklyn
The Saitta House, an original Dyker Heights home
The Saitta House, an original Dyker Heights home
Nickname(s): Dyker
Motto: "The Handsomest Suburb in Greater New York"
Dyker Heights is located in New York City
Dyker Heights
Dyker Heights
Location of Dyker Heights
Coordinates: 40°37′N 74°01′W / 40.617°N 74.017°W / 40.617; -74.017
CountryUnited States
StateNew York
CityNew York City
DeveloperWalter L. Johnson
Elevation110-51 ft (33.5-15.5 m)
Population (Census 2000)[1]
 • Total141,172
Time zoneEST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST)EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code11228
Area code(s)718, 917, 347, 646
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Dyker Heights
Neighborhood in Brooklyn
The Saitta House, an original Dyker Heights home
The Saitta House, an original Dyker Heights home
Nickname(s): Dyker
Motto: "The Handsomest Suburb in Greater New York"
Dyker Heights is located in New York City
Dyker Heights
Dyker Heights
Location of Dyker Heights
Coordinates: 40°37′N 74°01′W / 40.617°N 74.017°W / 40.617; -74.017
CountryUnited States
StateNew York
CityNew York City
DeveloperWalter L. Johnson
Elevation110-51 ft (33.5-15.5 m)
Population (Census 2000)[1]
 • Total141,172
Time zoneEST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST)EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code11228
Area code(s)718, 917, 347, 646

Dyker Heights is a residential neighborhood in the southwest corner of the borough of Brooklyn in New York City, US. It is sandwiched between Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, and Gravesend Bay. Dyker Heights' ZIP code is bounded to the west by Interstate 278, to the north by Bay Ridge Avenue, to the east by Fourteenth Avenue and to the south by Fort Hamilton. The Dyker Beach Golf Course extends to the Belt Parkway.

It originated as a speculative luxury housing development in October 1895 when Walter Loveridge Johnson developed a portion of woodland into a suburban community. During the height of his development, the boundaries were primarily between Tenth Avenue and Thirteenth Avenue and from 79th Street to 86th Street. The finest homes of the development were situated along the top of the 110-foot (34 m) hill, at about Eleventh Avenue and 82nd Street. Dyker Heights is patrolled by the 68th Precinct of the NYPD.[2]


The neighborhood of Dyker Heights lies within the boundaries of the then-Dutch town of New Utrecht settled in 1657. The area that is now known as Dyker Heights was not developed in the 17th or 18th centuries because the land was too sloped for farming; it remained common woodland until the mid-19th century. The trees of this forest were used by the townsfolk as a source of firewood and construction material. When the agricultural industry of New Utrecht changed from the farming grains to the cultivation of market garden produce, the trees were cleared for tomatoes, cabbages, and potatoes, among other produce.[3]

Brigadier General René Edward De Russy

The first house built at the top of the hill (what is now 11th Avenue and 82nd Street, at about 110 feet (34 m) above sea level) was built in the late 1820s by Brigadier General René Edward De Russy of the US Army. De Russy was a military engineer who built many forts in the US – from the Canadian border and the eastern seaboard to the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific coast – including Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn.[4] Since this was the tallest natural point in southwest Brooklyn, he built his homestead here – it afforded a clear view of the harbor and its defenses, especially Fort Hamilton which was complete by November 1831.[5] De Russy died in 1865 and his wife, Helen, sold the property in 1888 to Jane Elisabeth Loveridge and Frederick Henry Johnson.[6][who?]

According to the Brooklyn Eagle, Frederick Johnson did "much toward developing the locality in which he resided. He was the author of the original New Utrecht Improvement Bill, and an ardent advocate of the annexation of the Town to this City."[7] The Town of New Utrecht was annexed to the City of Brooklyn on July 1, 1894. On January 1, 1898, the City of Brooklyn was annexed to the City of New York. Involved with real estate, Johnson was probably aware of the real estate pressures on and potential of the real estate in New Utrecht. With this in mind, he most likely purchased the De Russy estate with the intention of building an upscale residential neighborhood similar to Bensonhurst-by-the-Sea, built by James D. Lynch in 1880-1890 in the Bath Beach section of New Utrecht.[8] At that time, the Real Estate Record claimed Bensonhurst-by-the-Sea was "the most perfectly developed suburb ever laid out around New York."[9] The restrictions placed upon the property made Bensonhurst-by-the-Sea "a model settlement, where some of the most refined, intelligent and cultured of New York and Brooklyn's citizens have built their homes."[9]

Walter L. Johnson, Developer of Dyker Heights

Following Johnson's death on August 15, 1893 at the age of 52, his second son, Walter Loveridge Johnson, took over the real estate business and by October 1895 started Dyker Heights on his parents' property. Johnson named his development "Dyker Heights" after the Dyker Meadow and Beach, which his development overlooks. The meadow and beach received their name from either the Van Dykes (an original New Utrecht family) who built the dykes to drain the meadow, or for the dykes that the Van Dykes built.[8] Walter L. Johnson was able to develop this portion of New Utrecht woodland into a residential community by making necessary improvements to it. In 1890, the only roads present were Kings Highway, 86th Street, Denyse's Lane, and a small unnamed road near Tenth Avenue – none of which were paved and only 86th Street was a thoroughfare specifically planned as such. The remaining land was unimproved. Johnson continued Brooklyn's street grid south with macadam pavement, graded the properties, installed gas, water, telephone, and electricity lines, and planted sugar maple trees – seven on the avenues and twenty along the streets. This opened over two hundred more building sites between Tenth and 13th Avenues as well as between 79th and 86th Streets.[10]

In 1895, Johnson, very much aware of the successful Bensonhurst-by-the-Sea, built three homes. His home was on the southwest corner of 11th Avenue and 82nd Street (across the Avenue from the home of his mother), Albert Edward Parfitt's home was on 82nd Street next to Johnson's, and the last, closest to Tenth Avenue, was the home of Arthur S. Tuttle who was Assistant Engineer of The Water Supply of The City Works Department of The City of Brooklyn. Parfitt was the architect of these three homes. Johnson's house burned down before 1900, Parfitt's was demolished by a developer in 1928 and replaced with seven, run-of-the-mill, fully detached, single-family homes, and Tuttle's house was remodeled over 10 years ago and clad in bright-white and sky-blue brick.[8]

Throughout the infancy of the development, Walter L. Johnson was able to use the print press to his advantage. He advertised his suburban homes heavily and stated that the high ground, magnificent ocean view, and careful restrictions made Dyker Heights the handsomest suburb in Greater New York. Based on the newspaper accounts, he was right. In 1896 Johnson built and sold thirty homes in Dyker Heights. By January 1897, the Brooklyn Eagle reported on his achievements. "Mr. Johnson has met with great success in the development of Dyker Heights and had probably done more business and made more sales during the past year than all the rest of the surrounding settlements combined."[11] In April 1898 sales were still very strong. "Dyker Heights still holds its lead among the suburban sections in building operations, over forty houses having been erected there during the past year... and there are fully twenty more houses about to be built."[12] One of its many advantages was the location, which according to the Brooklyn Eagle, "is one of the finest in Greater New York, commanding an extensive view of water from Sandy Hook to the New Jersey Palisades, with Staten Island and the shores of New Jersey directly in front."[13] Still more praise in February 1899, "Dyker Heights has been one of the most successful and the most rapid in growth of any of the suburban settlements, over one hundred dwellings, costing from $5,000 to $25,000 each, having been erected there within the last two years."[14]

Massive stone pier in Dyker Heights

In September 1899, the Wall Street Journal even reported on the advantages of the development, recommending it to "the busy man of Wall Street" because of "its magnificent transportation facilities... it can be reached via the Thirty-Ninth Street Brooklyn Ferry and Eighty-Sixth Street Nassau Line in 45 minutes."[15] In addition the article claimed that "the 45 minutes' trip between Dyker Heights and Wall Street by water and rail is as invigorating as the Dyker Heights climate is healthy-living. The rare opportunities afforded by Dyker Heights to the wealthy and to those in moderate circumstances are due largely to the energy, enterprise and good taste of its founder, Mr. Walter L. Johnson."[15] A month later, the Wall Street Journal published "An Ideal Spot for a Home." From that article, one can clearly see why Dyker Heights was so successful. Its location and luxurious homes were first rate, "[Dyker Heights] is without a rival as to location, situated as it is at an elevation of [110] feet above the sea level, and is directly opposite the new Dyker Meadow Park... which will be the only seaside park in Greater New York."[16] The article also explained the exclusiveness of the property, which can be seen in "its massive stone piers with heavy wrought-iron lamps and scrolls" that adorn the entrances.[16] In December 1899 the Brooklyn Eagle reported that, "work has recently been commenced upon thirty high class Houses, the demand for which runs a dead heat with the supply."[17]

Johnson set very high standards for the community: the Wall Street Journal explained "the property is carefully restricted against all nuisances and no building can be erected upon a plot of less than 60 feet (18 m) in width by 100 feet (30 m) in depth, and each building must cost at least $4,000 and stand well back from the street."[16] These regulations, which were similar to those of Bensonhurst-by-the-Sea, were active until 1915. However, the most desirable feature of the area was still the "uninterrupted view of the lower bay from The Narrows to Sandy Hook and Atlantic Ocean, [which] is one of the most magnificent in the country, and nowhere else in the consolidated city is there anything to compare it with. From here can be seen a marine panorama hard to beat."[16] Dyker Heights was so desirous that important members of society flocked to it. The Brooklyn Eagle reported in December 1899 that this "drain" on the more established social neighborhoods such as Brooklyn Heights and those in Manhattan, "almost threatens to lower the social tone of the neighborhoods where this universal exodus is effecting a gradual change in the character of the population."[17]

Dyker Heights Home for Blind Babies of the International Sunshine Society (circa 1908)

Property on 84th Street near 13th Avenue was made available to the International Sunshine Society in 1906 by lawyer, financier, and promoter George E. Crater, Jr.[18] The society was able to acquire the house for $11,000, roughly half the market value, and opened the Dyker Heights Home for Blind Babies on 1 November 1906. Cynthia W. Alden, Mary C. Seward, and other society officers worked with the New York City Board of Education to establish the first public kindergarten for blind children at the home in 1907.[19] The original building is gone, but the work begun in Dyker Heights provided a legacy of significant reforms in the public education of blind children within New York and other regions of the United States.

Constatine Schubert's home in Dyker Heights
Dyker Heights Club House

One of the many focal points of the neighborhood was the Dyker Heights Club, which started in October 1896.[8] By spring of 1898 the Club had a $30,000 club house designed by Albert Edward Parfitt on an $8,500 lot, measuring 200 × 200, located on the northeast corner of 13th Avenue and 86th Street. Johnson moved his real estate office into the club house and hired a full-time architect, Constantine Schubert, who was also a Dyker Heights homeowner. This grand, neo-classical building was demolished in 1929 by the Archbishop John Hughes Knights of Columbus Club, when they acquired the property for $60,000.[20]

Early in the history of Dyker Heights, Walter L. Johnson continually purchased consecutive tracts of land until the boundaries of Dyker Heights stretched from 79th Street in the north, roughly 86th Street in the south, Tenth Avenue to the west, and about 300 feet (90 m) east of 13th Avenue to the east. However, the boundaries of the Neighborhood of Dyker Heights are now defined by the Dyker Heights Post Office on the northwest corner of 13th and 84th Streets; along its northeast edge runs Bay Ridge Avenue; 16th Avenue is its southeast boundary; Fort Hamilton makes its southwest border; and Interstate 278 is the northwest limit.[21]


Original inhabitants[edit]

St. Phillips Church in Dyker Heights

The original inhabitants of Dyker Heights were mainly of Anglican background; in fact they established Saint Phillip’s Episcopal Church, which still functions today. The residents were either local government officials or wealthy professionals. For instance, I. M. De Varona was Engineer of the Water Bureau, Clarence Barrow was Ex-Fire Commissioner, William C. Bryant was current Fire Commissioner, George W. Dickinson was a cotton-goods merchant, W. Bennett Wardell was a retired Judge, Richard Perry Chittenden was Assistant of the Corporation Counsel, Freeland Willcox was Secretary of the Cheeseborough Vaseline Company, and Eugene Boucher was longshoreman and insurance broker.[8]

Dr. Lorenzo Ullo's home in Dyker Heights

Italian-American homeowners in Dyker Heights were originally small in number and included Dr. Lorenzo Ullo, Counselor to the General Company of Italian Navigation, and Simone Saitta, a Manhattan wholesale fruit dealer. However, Walter L. Johnson did not care much for Italians, especially poor Italians. The Brooklyn Eagle explained a problem Johnson had with a particular Italian family in Dyker Heights "… [The property] which at the time was owned by Walter L. Johnson, was occupied by an Italian family, to whom Mr. Johnson paid $600 to vacate it in order that the neighborhood of Dyker Heights, which is very carefully restricted, might have no objectionable features about it."[22] By 1940 Dyker Heights was inhabited by a majority of people of Italian descent many of whom helped establish the Roman Catholic Shrine Church of Saint Bernadette (ca. 1935) on 13th Avenue between 82nd and 83rd streets.

2000 census[edit]

As the 2000 Census, there were 41,172 people living in Dyker Heights. The demographics were 81.8% White, 0.3% Black or African American, 0.1% Native American, 12.6% Asian and 6.6% Hispanic or Latino. The five most common ancestries were Italian (67.0%), Chinese (15.6%), Irish (8.9%), Arab (4.2%) and Greek (3.9%).

Notable residents[edit]

Notable current and former residents of Dyker Heights include:



Time-lapse of a residence: seen in 2008 (left) and 1901 (right)
The demolition of the Chittensen House and the homes which replaced it

In December 1899, the Brooklyn Eagle wrote a very detailed description of the homes in Dyker Heights:

The typical Dyker Heights residences have five rooms each on the first and second floors and four rooms on the third. Upon entrance, the inmate or visitor is ushered into a hall twelve feet wide which runs back to the butler’s pantry. To the right of this hall is the parlor and library and to the left the reception and dining rooms. The rear space is taken up by the kitchen, butler’s pantry and washrooms with tiled floors. Birdseye maple is used in the finishing of the parlor and quartered oak in that of the library, one with mantles of the same wood in fancy tile finish. A large fireplace with ornamental andirons completes the mural decoration. The ceilings are ten feet high on the first floor, while nine feet is the elevation of the second and eight feet that of the third floor. Usually the dining room is fifteen feet square and finished off in quartered sycamore. Like the hall, the reception room is done off in quartered oak, but is circular in form and has a diameter of ten feet. In the kitchen is a glazed fireplace, while below stairs, speaking from a first floor level, are the cellar and laundry, with a depth of eight feet, and an asphalt double concrete floor.[17]

Of the five rooms on the second floor, one is a sitting room and the remainder sleeping apartments, all of which are finished in quartered oak and sycamore. A large bathroom with tiled floors takes up the remaining space of the second story. Rising to the third floor we find plain cypress as the invariable finish of the apartments, which comprise two servants’ rooms, a card or sitting room and a billiard parlor wainscoted on the sides and provided with seats for the players and onlookers. It may be noted further that the reception room and dining room are also wainscoted six feet high.[17]

Of the approximately 150 homes initially built by Walter L. Johnson, about half remain; while the others have been razed and replaced by large Mediterranean villas, condos, as well as semi and fully attached homes. Very few of the newer homes fit into the historic context of Dyker Heights, and many of the original surviving homes have been extensively renovated and remodeled.[29]

Christmas decorations[edit]

Tourists viewing the lights

Dyker Heights is now most famous for its Christmas lights and decorations erected each year by its residents. It’s been called "Con Ed's warmest heartthrob,"[30] the "undisputed capital of Christmas pageantry,"[31] and the “king of the Christmas lights."[32] Christmas lights are now the core of the Dyker Heights identity as not just one home, or one block, but rather the entire community participates.[31]

Although in which December the lights began is unclear, newspaper reports and tours of the area suggest it started sometime in the 1980s. In 1985 one Lou Singer began running tours (Singer's Brooklyn) through the most elaborately light parts of Bensonhurst, Canarsie, Bay Ridge, and Dyker Heights where one could find "designer lighting."[33][34][35][36]

Since those initial 1980 reports, the lights of Dyker Heights have become increasing more popular with New Yorkers as countless newspaper articles, news programs, documentaries, and remotes were created. Early on, the two most noted homes were on 84th Street, between 11th and 12th avenues, directly across from one another. The home of Lucy Spata with her Santa theme at 1152 84th St and that of Alfred Polizzotto with his Nutcracker motif at 1145 84th St.[36][37]

Spata’s home is covered in lights, illuminated soldiers and choirboys, and other Christmas figures. The inside is decorated with 50 motorized dolls, miniature villages and many gifts. Outside Santa, played by her nephew, greets children and others who pass by.[38]

The white mansion, owned by Alfred Polizzotto, is adorned with a pair of 29-foot (8.8 m) high wooden soldiers which stand guard and wave their arms. The front lawn has rearing horses and a quartet of dancers. In 1988, Polizzotto was diagnosed with lymphoma, which was successfully treated the following year. To celebrate his triumph, Polizzotto mounted the display the following year and ever since. In 2001 Mr. Polizzotto died, however his family has continued the tradition in his honor.[39]

In 1996, the Casos, who moved to Dyker Heights in 1995 (they have since relocated) had Midwood artist Carl Oliveri design Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," which included 29 life-size figures on their front lawn at 1062 84th St.[40]

In 2000, Conan O'Brien filmed a remote for Late Night with Conan O'Brien in Dyker Heights.[41] A PBS televised documentary "Dyker Lights" was produced in 2001 as an insight into the neighborhood with stories involving the Christmas celebration lights.[42]

Dyker Heights has been referred to as an "an epicenter of professionally hung Christmas lights," and as such most holiday decorations in the area are not erected by homeowners, but by local decorating companies, including B&R Christmas Decorators, Mechanical Displays, DiMeglio Christmas Decorators, Creative Christmas Decorators and others. The cost of hiring professional decorators can vary greatly, from $1,000 to $20,000 or more, depending on the scale of the display, and many companies also offer additional services, including the option to take down and store decorations.[43]


Ladder Company 149 in action on 85th Street

Politicians, community board, and groups[edit]

Civic services[edit]


According to the CompStat (COMPuter STATistics) database of the NYPD for the 68th Precinct, Dyker Heights is one of the safest neighborhoods in all of New York City, with an 86.01% reduction in all crimes since 1990.[57] Most notably, murder is down 74% since 1990 with one case in 2014 and none in 2008.[58][59]

There were 11 reported cases of rape in 2014, consistent with a 57.7% drop since 1993. There were 79 robberies and 147 burglaries in 2014, down 83.1% and 83.9%, respectively, since 1993. Felony assault charges have decreased by 55.9% since 1990, with 105 cases in 2014. Grand larceny, having a total of 346 cases in 2014, and grand larcenies for automobiles (G.L.A), with 94 reports in 2014, have also dropped, 9.2% and 94% respectively.


The center of Dyker Heights is not served by subway, but its neighboring communities are. Bay Ridge is served by the BMT Fourth Avenue Line (R train), with stations at Bay Ridge Avenue, 77th Street, 86th Street and 95th Street.[60] The far south end of Boro Park is served by the BMT Sea Beach Line (N train), with stations at Fort Hamilton Parkway and New Utrecht Avenue.[61] Bensonhurst is served by the BMT West End Line (D train), with stations at 79th Street, 71st Street and 62nd Street.[62]

MTA's X28 as seen on 86th Street in Dyker Heights

Several local New York City Bus routes and one express route serve Dyker Heights; the routes are B1, B4, B16, B64, B70, and X28.[63]

Dyker Heights is accessible by car via the Belt Parkway, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to Staten Island, and Gowanus Expressway (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway).

Named streets[edit]




Poly Prep as seen in 1919




Early childhood education

Parks and recreation[edit]


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  2. ^ 68th Precinct, NYPD.
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  25. ^ Bay Ridge Accidents Kill Three Victims, Including Man, 104 Brooklyn Eagle by Raanan Geberer Monday, January 11th 2010
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  27. ^ Rosanna Scotto
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  30. ^ So Bright You Might Say It Glows “New York Times” By Douglas Martin: December 18, 1998
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  32. ^ All Is Bright Silent Night, But Lots Of Lights “NY Daily News” Joyce Shelby, December 22nd 1996
  33. ^ The Spirit of Christmas Reigns On the Sidewalks of New York "New York Times" By Andrew L. Yarrow: December 25, 1987
  34. ^ Neighborhoods Santa Has No Trouble Finding "New York Times" By Andrew L. Yarrow: December 22, 1989
  35. ^ Holiday Sights "New York Times" December 15, 1991
  36. ^ a b Calendar: Holiday Scenes, All Around "New York Times" December 17, 1992
  37. ^ Let There Be Lights... “Newsday” By Margalit Fox: December 20, 1991
  38. ^ The Lights Before Christmas The Holidays Are Always High-Voltage In This B'klyn Nabe "NY Daily News" By Sheila Anne Feeney, November 29th 1998
  39. ^ Highlight Of Dyker Heights "NY Daily News" By Stephen Mcfarland, June 4th 1995
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