Archive for the ‘Brooklyn’ category

Atlantic Avenue Street Fair in Brooklyn

October 4, 2007

Last weekend, I was wandering Smith Street in Brooklyn (post forthcoming) and ran into a very, very nice street fair on Atlantic Avenue.  If you’ve seen other posts where I mention street fairs, you’ll note that I’m not fond of them.  They’re too repetitive and predictable.  I only need so many wallets and socks.

When I first ran into the fair, I noticed it was…a lot different than a typical Manhattan street fair.  This one had character and real displays.  West of Smith Street, it was decidedly oriented towards kids.  And pretty crowded, too.



About 20 minutes after taking this picture, I wandered past this area again and found it still running.  There were a bunch of little girls from some dance academy that were lined up to demonstrate their talent.  They received pretty good applause from the onlookers and everyone seemed to be having a good time.  Lots of proud moms and dads, I’m sure.

For me, the highlight of the fair was the New York Transit Museum’s bus display.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  Great, great stuff.  I’ve seen double-deckers in Manhattan, but they always seem to be tourist buses.  I’d love for what I typically ride to be replaced by something like the below.


There were a bunch of buses, but a couple of items were also very interesting.  First, there was a “tunnel wreaker” that would clear disabled vehicles out of the subways.


And there was a specialized machine that did electrical monitoring in the tunnels, in 1936 no less.


But the real bus, at least for old timers, was the 1948 bus that was called something like the “Jackie Gleason Special”.  It’s the style of bus that the his character “Ralph Kramden” in “The Honeymooners” drove in his job.  Of course, the TV show was way too low budget for that.  I didn’t think they ever even had an exterior shot, but a sign said he was photographed in “Bus Number 2969”.  (The sign did note that the bus’ real number was 4789, but was re-numbered to meet the show’s needs.)


Here’s the interior.


This makes me happy to have the current buses, despite their length of about half a block.  I can’t imagine today’s needs being met by this sort of vehicle.

Anyway, after the Transit Museum display, I decided to walk all the way to the end of the fair in the east.  It was a big fair and it sure had a crowd. 


Basically, from Smith Street I walked all the way to the Atlantic Avenue subway stop.  It seemed a lot longer than it actually was simply because of the crowds, but then I do enjoy a good crowd.  Along the way, there were a number of live singing acts including R&B, jazz, a little country, and gospel.


Probably the most interesting part of the fair for me was the change in the neighborhood along the way.  It transitioned slowly, but perceptively along the way and I was fascinated that the crowd mix was pretty consistent except for the families being more numerous at the west end of the fair (in the kids and Transit Museum area).  As fairs like this are really extensions of the actual neighborhoods, it was wonderful to see the different groups in the east and the west of the area all got together to put on a nice display for everyone.


More on Brooklyn Heights

September 21, 2007

I’ve gotten so involved in parades and the like that I’ve neglected a post I’ve been planning to write for a couple of weeks.  At the beginning of September, I ankled my way around Brooklyn Heights and I’ve written two posts about it (here and here).

But there was more and I wanted to give a little more information about this very attractive and well-positioned place.  So far, I’ve written about Borough Hall and the Promenade, now let’s see what was in-between.

Brooklyn Heights is quite historic.  As mentioned before, its favorite son is Henry Ward Beecher from Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims.


It’s an attractive an modern-looking church that belies its actual age.

A plaque on the church reads “Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims founded in 1847 as Plymouth Church and built in 1849 from designs by J.C. Wells.  This Congregational Church became a center of anti-slavery sentiment preceding the Civil War.  Henry Ward Beecher was its first minister, 1847-1887.  Abraham Lincoln worshipped here twice in 1860.  A fragment of Plymouth Rock is in an adjoining arcade.  In 1934 it was united with Church of the Pilgrims, founded in 1844.  Plaque erected in 1961 by The New York Community Trust”

Inside the courtyard (where I couldn’t go) was another statue of Beecher.  And a frieze of Lincoln.  And of a familiar figure just to the side of Beecher.


You may have to enlarge it to see better (just click on the picture), but it’s another slave figure like in the original Brooklyn Heights post I did.  I have some very mixed feelings about the positioning, but can’t figure out where I stand.  I presume the statues are much older and putting “the great man” on a pedestal next to lowly nobodies is probably par for its time.  But I don’t know if Beecher wouldn’t complain about his relative elevation.  (Of course, I honestly don’t know that he would complain.)

In any event, it is odd that the Heights essentially has the same statue twice within a few hundred yards.  (Note that the statues are very different versions of Beecher, but with the same idea of him elevated next to a downtrodden slave figure.)

The Lincoln frieze is good, but it doesn’t show up well on the picture.

It’s been said that Brooklyn is the land of churches, and I think that’s true.  Both Manhattan and Brooklyn are filled with churches some well attended and some not.  But a lot of them are quite spectacular.  Also in Brooklyn Heights is the Episcopal Church of St. Ann and the Holy Trinity.


Yeah, there’s scaffolding in the front, but the church is big and grand and has a great front door.


But there’s more to the Heights than just that.  The streets are incredibly quiet and pleasant and the buildings are first rate.  Here’s some Pierrepont Street brownstones.


Pierrepont Street also has the Brooklyn Historical Society.

Historically, there’s a spot in the Heights where George Washington was leading the American revolutionaries during the Battle of Long Island.  He eventually had to withdraw in the face of superior force and successfully evaded the British and preserved his army.

There’s a street called Remson Street that had a variety of different architectural types in the same block.


It’s not as evident in the picture, but there is a definite difference among the line of townhouses.  And all, apparently, were build long ago during their respective dates of the style.

One weird thing did happen, the only thing out of the commonplace during my visit.  I was walking up from the Promenade and smelled smoke.  I had noticed a homeless guy about 20 yards ahead of me slow down for a moment or two and then walk on.  And then I smelled smoke.  When I got up to the area he had slowed/stopped, I found a newspaper on fire!  Just a few pages of it and just burning in the middle of the sidewalk.  I let it continue to burn for a few seconds, but once the wind kicked up, I stomped it out.  I don’t know if the guy started it or just observed it as he was going by (kind of like I did).  Hey, it could have been spontaneous combustion for all I know.  It sure did make for an interesting moment, though.


Brooklyn Heights Promenade

September 14, 2007

I’d held off long enough.  Brooklyn Heights.  The Brooklyn Heights.  It was waiting for me.

One of the whole points of this blog is to try and capture the wonders of New York City.  There is so much here, and there are so many people here, and so many things going on; that any single picture or set of pictures can’t begin to capture it.  In truth, every city, town, and area is also incapable of being captured so simply, but there’s so much to NYC that you really can’t begin to capture more than the tiniest sliver of the present, much less the past.  This blog may be a mile wide, but it’s a sixteenth of an inch deep.

Brooklyn Heights has something that no other place I’ve written about has.  It has the single best view of Manhattan that there is.  It’s called the Promenade.

Brooklyn Heights Promenade 1

That’s southern Manhattan you see there.  If you want to be anyplace and see picture-postcard Manhattan, the Brooklyn Heights Promenade is where you want to go. 

Okay, an air view of Manhattan is better, but let’s allow for the cheapness of your host to forego a multi-hundred dollar, several-minute-long-helicopter-ride.  It cost me $2 to get to the Promenade and I stayed for quite a while.

Here’s a medley of the views possible from the Promenade.

From the entrance at Montegue Street.

Promenade view 12

It’s nicely lined with benches and there’s lots of room for runners, bikers, and strollers.  That’s the Brooklyn Bridge in the distance (remember, this is only southern Manhattan).

Brooklyn Heights Promenade 13

Time it right and you can see the Staten Island Ferry.  Oh, and that’s Ellis Island just past the ferry.

 Promenade view 14 - ferry and Ellis Island

And the Statue of Liberty. (Governor’s Island is between the view of the Statue and the Statue itself.)

Promenade View 15 - Statue of Liberty

Another view of southern Manhattan.

Promenade view 16

A slightly better view of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Promenade view 18 - Brooklyn Bridge

There are a couple of things to complain about with regard to the Promenade.  First, it’s set up high to clear the view of the highway that rumbles beneath.  That’s great, actually.  But what I find distracting is all the pier area in front of the Promenade.  It is still a working area, so it’s a minor quibble, but some of the majesty is certainly a bit diminished.

Promenade view 28 - open area

Like I said, minor but distracting.

Incidentally, the Promenade itself is very photogenic.  Here’s a southward view.

Brooklyn Heights 20

And a northward view from the same spot.

Promenade view - northward

But the last thing to “complain” about is….it’s boring.  Music, displays, protests, are all prohibited here.  It’s just so quiet.  You’ve got the view.  Great view.  The view says “I’m Manhattan!!!!!  Come on over!!!!!!” 

Hey, I’m in Manhattan already.


Brooklyn’s Borough Hall

September 12, 2007

I’m breaking my Brooklyn Heights wandering into several parts.  The Promenade is a visit in and of itself.  I took way too many pictures and am having a time keeping it limited.  Nice views from the Promenade and throughout the Heights.

In any case, Brooklyn Heights is a lot more than the Promenade.  It thinks of itself as the first suburb in America.  It’s also the site of one of George Washington’s biggest defeats (he did a magnificent withdrawal, but didn’t get back to New York for a long time as the British held it through the rest of the Revolution).

Okay, if you remember what I said about Park Slope being a place you might move to if you’re well off and new to NYC; if you’re new to NYC and rich, Brooklyn Heights calls.  It’s quiet, it’s beautiful, and it’s well-located; just across the East River from lower Manhattan.

There are several nearby subway stops, but I took the 3 line to Borough Hall.  Wouldn’t you know, there was a farmers’ market going on.  NYC loves a good famers market.

Brooklyn Heights - Borough Hall famers market

The area of the farmers market was just outside Brooklyn’s Borough Hall.  In the background of the above picture is the State Supreme Court Building.  Below is a picture of Borough Hall itself.

Brooklyn Heights Borough Hall

 There’s a large square going from the Hall to a statue at the other end.  One of Brooklyn’s favorite sons is commemorated there:  Henry Ward Beecher.


Note the woman to the left of the picture.  I don’t know if the figure represents a freed/escaped slave or if it represents those slaves that needed his oratory to raise the nation up against slavery.  In either case, Beecher was one of the giants of the 19th Century’s anti-slavery movement in the US.

The square/walkway is pretty long.  Here’s a shot with my back to the Beecher statue.  The farmers market is in the distance.

Walkway at Borough Hall

Finally, there’s a statue of Columbus right next to the Supreme Court Building.  Technically, there’s an area right next to Brooklyn Heights called Columbia Heights.  I don’t know if there’s a link between its name and the statue, but maybe.


More pictures of the West Indian Day Parade in NYC

September 8, 2007

My previous post took me a long time to get organized and together.  This one I’ll put up more quickly with some minor notes (at least that’s my plan).

The West Indian Day Parade was on Labor Day in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.  As I noted in the earlier post, I started roughly at Nostrand, then walked westward to Franklin before turning around and heading toward Utica, which is the originating point of the parade.

I took a bunch of pictures during the parade.  Unfortunately, I found the overall crowd energy disappointing.  The parade is very, very slow and there were some significant waits between some of the floats.  On the other hand, sometimes the parade would just halt in front of the area I was in at the time and the participants would wait until given the go-ahead.  That’s typical in parades, but 30-45 minutes between floats (that was the longest wait, by far) are unknown in other parades from my experience (I don’t remember ever waiting five minutes).  I have to admit I certainly preferred it when they stopped where I was rather than just stand and wonder where the next group was.

The first couple of pictures below were early in the parade.



Over time, I did notice that a lot of the participants had paint and/or glitter rubbed on them.  Some, I’m certain had paint (it was blue and they were within 3 feet of me) but others appeared more gold and sparkley.  You may have to click on the below picture to really see the glitter.


And others, well, just a lot more colorful.  One of the best of the exhibitions were where they’d have separate colored groups following close to one another, gold followed by blue followed by red and so on.  I tried to capture some of that, but often there’d be just people from the crowd who weren’t in costume that were walking with the participants.  The DJs tried to get them to separate out, but with mixed success.


One of the more interesting moments is captured below.  They are up pretty high on a sound truck and the music is blasting away.  It was shaking my body and I can imagine how it must have felt to them sitting/standing on the speaker platform.  Note the guy holding onto the woman’s ankle.  Just making sure she doesn’t get a nasty slip.  (You can see her in the above picture, but more in the distance.)


At one of the heights of the music and marchers, I remember turning an photographing this to try and capture the crowd’s lack of exuberance.


I think I did capture it.  There’s interest, but not the exuberance that I’ve experienced in other parades.

At one point, one of the large colorful one-person floats (whatever they’re called, I referred to them as “colorfuls” before) broke down.  You can see the woman struggling with it.


This was another of the “colorfuls” (or whatever).


At the end of that segment of marchers, the cops brought up the rear.  I presume they were trying to keep the marchers moving.  The woman at the center was one that I thought of as the unhappiest person in the whole parade.  (Click on the picture to enlarge it and catch her expression a bit better.)


They were followed, a little later ’cause it’s a slow parade, with some pretty big and colorful displays.  I think this was the single most impressive one I saw all day.  It’s pretty cool.


I still have more on the parade, but will make it into a separate post.  (After this group, I think I started heading much more quickly toward Utica and then did some exploring in the backstreets.  Then I came to the parade gathering area.  Stay tuned…)