After 50 Years, Heights Veterinary Hospital Closes

After more than 50 years, the Heights Veterinary Hospital on Hicks Street in Brooklyn Heights has closed. The veterinary hospital has been a fixture of Brooklyn Heights since Dr. Bernard Wasserman bought and renovated the building in 1957. Eagle photo by Henrik Krogius.

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — Pet owners in Brooklyn Heights were surprised to learn over the weekend that the Heights Veterinary Hospital at 59 Hicks St. (at Cranberry Street) has closed. A sign posted in the window refers patients to Dr. Greenberg at Atlantic Animal Care, 85 Atlantic Ave. (between Henry and Hicks streets), (718) 797-0070.

An employee at Atlantic Animal Care told this paper that Dr. Richard Turoff, owner of the Heights Veterinary Hospital, had decided to retire. All patient records have been transported to Dr. Greenberg’s practice. Dr. Christine Norton, an associate of Dr. Turoff, left the practice more than a year ago to work independently.

“It’s definitely a surprise,” said Andrea Demetropoulos, owner of the Rocco and Jezebel pet shop on Pineapple Walk in Brooklyn Heights. “There was no warning.”

Demetropoulos said that she often recommended Dr. Turoff to her customers. “He was like the last holdout for the old-fashioned vet. If he didn’t know something, he’d recommend someone else. You could go in for one thing and not walk out with an enormous list. And he wasn’t expensive. He was very good to me. “Once some owners dropped off a 15- or 16-year-old dying dog for boarding. He helped me hydrate her and answered a lot of my questions. He was an enormous help.”

A Long History in the Heights

The veterinary hospital has been a fixture of Brooklyn Heights since Dr. Bernard Wasserman bought and renovated the building in 1957. In the decades following, the clinic served generations of Brooklyn Heights pets. Dr. Turoff worked with Dr. Wasserman for four-and-a-half years before buying the practice in 1985. Dr. Wasserman, who continued to live above the clinic with his wife Bernice, died this past November. Bernice predeceased him by one month.

Between 1957 and 2000, area veterinary customers were divided between just two clinics — the Heights Veterinary Hospital and the Cobble Hill Animal Clinic — while overnight emergencies required traveling to an all-night animal hospital in Manhattan. The benches in the little waiting room at 59 Hicks St. were usually crowded with mewing cats in carriers while large dogs lolled on the floor.

Over the past decade, however, a large number of new veterinary facilities have opened, including the 24/7 Veterinary Emergency Group on Warren Street in Boerum Hill; One Love Animal Hospital on Atlantic Avenue; Hope Veterinary Clinic on Atlantic Avenue; the Vinegar Hill Veterinary Group (on Front Street in DUMBO); and the above-mentioned Atlantic Animal Care clinic.

Further dividing the pot is the recently opened national retailer PetSmart on Atlantic Avenue near Boerum Place, which includes a Banfield Pet Hospital, a full lab and a “wellness plan.”

House Built in 1822

In 2005 Dr. Wasserman told the Brooklyn Eagle about the history of the small building with the red door at 59 Hicks St.Full article here:

“The house I bought in 1957, 59 Hicks St., to start my veterinary practice, was owned by an elderly bachelor: Joe Kaplan. Joe had a shop near the Brooklyn Navy Yard where he repaired and altered Navy uniforms. Having to leave that location because the building was to be demolished, he had bought 59 Hicks St.

“The ground floor had store windows and at one time held a chain grocery store. The walls and ceiling were covered in patterned pressed tin and all the pipes were exposed near the very high ceiling. It was built in 1822 by a man named John Rogers, who was a cooper.

“Joe was ready to retire,” Wasserman said. “His workplace consisted of a table with a sewing machine, a chair and a bare bulb hanging from the ceiling on a wire. That was the entire source of light in the store. The wooden floor was rotted, with sections missing, over a sand floor. There was no basement. Joe gave me a mortgage, and just before my last payments 10 years later, he died. The checks went to ‘estate of.’” Wasserman added, “Mentioned in the book The Great Bridge by David McCullough was the fact that the house was used as the architectural office for the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, which I had been told by old-timers in the neighborhood who got the information via their parents.”

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