Downtown Brooklyn’s central location and excellent transportation connections have long attracted businesses. But in recent years, it has also expanded into a residential hub, with glassy apartments towering over its older office buildings and dense retail strips. The neighborhood’s deep roots as a business district go back to the 1800s: When Brooklyn Heights started growing into “Manhattan’s first suburb,” this adjacent area became the commercial center. Cadman Plaza West and Court Street define the border between Downtown Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights; the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway separates it from DUMBO; Boerum Hill begins at Schermerhorn Street; and Ashland Place is the cutoff before Fort Greene.
At the heart of Downtown Brooklyn is the outdoor Fulton Street Mall, 17 blocks on either side of Fulton Street between Boerum Place and Flatbush Avenue. Its mix of storefronts — including cell phone retailers, fast-food restaurants, clothing chains like Armani Exchange and a large Macy’s — is marked by New York chaos. Shoppers dodge one another as hawkers sell their wares on the sidewalk. Music, playing loudly out of stores, is drowned out by the thrum of buses running regularly down Fulton. At the western end of the mall, a Shake Shack is perpetually packed.
The frenzy of Fulton Street carries throughout the neighborhood. The Brooklyn court system is headquartered here, so lawyers in suits and weary jurors spill outside at lunchtime on weekdays. Brooklyn politicians commute to the white marble, Greek Revival–style Borough Hall, just west of the Fulton Mall. There’s a visitors’ center on its first floor, under a marble-columned, two-story rotunda. At the base of Borough Hall’s marble staircase, Cadman Plaza provides public seating, but the space is mostly concrete — no grass or playground areas to be seen. A modest Greenmarket operates here year-round on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Cadman Plaza continues north toward DUMBO; past Tillary Street, there’s a grassy lawn better suited to a picnic or soccer game.
Downtown Brooklyn is just as convenient for out-of-town visitors as it is for Brooklynites. Subway lines crisscross the neighborhood: Several stop near Borough Hall, including the 2, 3, 4 and 5 at Borough Hall, the N and R at Court Street and the A, C or F at Jay St – MetroTech. Taxis are easy to access along Court and Jay Streets. A recent rash of hotel development offers a variety of places to stay. The Brooklyn Marriott is located across the street from Borough Hall and the court house; a Sheraton Hotel, an Aloft Hotel and a Hotel Indigo are all neighbors on Duffield Street, right off the Fulton Street Mall. Downtown Brooklyn is not a nightlife neighborhood — it mostly quiets at nighttime — but the convenient location makes it an easy place to return to after a night out elsewhere.