THE ULTIMATE PARKWAY BUILDING
Turner Towers was the brainchild of the Turner Brothers Building
Company, whose president was Samuel Turner. Previously, the firm
was responsible for modest apartment buildings in East New York,
Brownsville, and Flatbush. Turner was “moving on up” himself. The
complex was built in 1927, a relative latecomer, and was designed by
Morris Henry Sugarman and Albert Berger, both born in Eastern
Europe. They also designed the Plaza Lane and Park Lane Apartments
While Turner Towers didn’t have a posh name draw, it certainly
became one. It was huge at fifteen stories with four wings. It initially
had 181 apartments ranging from three rooms to nine rooms,
the latter with five bathrooms and thirteen closets! It was touted in
newspaper headlines as “Bringing Park Avenue Ideals to Brooklyn
Turner explained, “While in Manhattan there is also an adequate
supply of the truly luxurious kind of apartments such as you see
on Park Avenue, there are none such in Brooklyn…The people who
come to us…are people who seek a degree of luxury, an amount of
space, and the kind of service which, until our building opens, will
have been unknown in the history of Brooklyn.”
He thought his building would draw not only Manhattanites
but Brooklynites as well. He was right. Some of the
first new tenants were wealthy people from Park Slope who
abandoned their townhouses for apartment living. The society
pages announced every new arrival. They also printed
sketches of the lobby and entrance and ran stories about
some of the more colorful residents.
The story of the battle between Turner and residents Mr.
and Mrs. James W. Samuels ran in several papers in 1928.
They couple had a pampered Pomeranian named Peggy.
Building policy said dogs were not allowed in the passenger
elevators because of complaints from other tenants.
The Samuels, who lived on a high floor, refused to use the
service elevators like other dog owners and sued Turner.
Mrs. Samuels, who told reporters that she was a countess
and a member of the Romanov family, and her husband,
who bragged of being the nephew of a British peer, were
apoplectic. “I won’t ride in the service elevator,” he said. “I
am not a servant.”
The case finally went to a judge, who told the Samuels that
the dog could ride in the passenger elevator with them only
if they held her. Her feet could not touch the ground. The
papers ate it up.
Eastern Parkway apartment living may have arrived late,
but it certainly did arrive. Today, Turner Towers is still one
of the most desirable addresses on Eastern Parkway on a
street of desirable addresses.
As the twentieth century advanced, many of these same
Eastern Parkway addresses changed demographics, as the
post-World War II mass exodus to the suburbs left a lot of
vacancies along the parkway. The Martinique became a
popular striver’s row-type destination for immigrants from
Martinique, coincidentally, and other Caribbean countries.
The parkway’s annual Labor Day weekend West Indian
Day Parade is a reflection of the large Caribbean American
presence in Crown Heights and beyond.
The Lubavitch Hasidic community is centered around its
world headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway, near Kingston
Avenue. That community has expanded along the parkway
and the adjacent streets, and in addition to apartment
buildings and homes, includes the modern Jewish Children’s
Museum and several large yeshivas and meeting halls
on Eastern Parkway.
In 2017, Prospect Heights residents proposed the Prospect
Heights Apartment House District, whose southern border
includes blocks on Eastern Parkway. The parkway itself
was designated one of New York’s few scenic landmarks
in 1978. Today, the thoroughfare Olmsted described as a
“shaded green ribbon,” despite automobile traffic, remains
an elegant and bucolic approach to the heart of Brooklyn’s
cultural institutions and Prospect Park.
Whimsical Venetian-inflected details complete
Turner Towers’ upper stories.