Archive for the ‘Brooklyn’ category

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.

-H

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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.

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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.

-H

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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

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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.)

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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.

20070903-west-indian-day-parade-45-huge-and-colorful.jpg

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…)

-H

Ankling to the West Indian Day Parade

September 7, 2007

Monday morning.  Labor Day.  Famous Ankles is tired and needs to do some personal chores and absolutely, positively, undeniably needs to have a day off from wanderings and blogging.  Until the TV story:  the West Indian Day Parade is today!  It’s big, it’s glorious, and it’s one of those events you can’t miss!  “Oh, yeah?,” I reply.  I’ll miss it.  I wasn’t going to go all the way back to Brooklyn just to see a parade.  No way.  I was still weary from Brazilian Day’s wanderings and waitings.

And, then I went to the West Indian Day Parade.

A lot of what you’ll read in the following may be indicative of my state of mind, but I don’t think so.  There’s no doubt that the West Indian Day Parade is huge and it has attractions that I really haven’t seen at other parades.  But, it isn’t a particularly good parade.  The downsides are such that, in the Famous Ankles pantheon of great NYC parades, the West Indian Day Parade ranks near the bottom.

That’s a bit of heresy, I guess.  Overall, I didn’t enjoy the parade.  Yes, the colors were eye-blinding.  Many of the women were wonderfully attractive.  The music was so loud that it shook my bones more than the Puerto Rican Day Parade did (and that’s saying something).  But….

Take a look at the pictures.  I’ll give some commentary; but look to see what you don’t see.

I took the subway down to Nostrand Street and found that the parade had already started.  However, it’s a very slow parade (as you’ll find out), so I didn’t miss much.

There were colorful women.

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The parade is held on Eastern Parkway.  As you can see, it’s a pretty wide boulevard.  The cool thing about having the parade here is that the parkway is paralleled by a sidestreet on each side.  Vendors were jammed all along the pathway.

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Incidentally, curried goat generally sold for $8.  I didn’t partake (I’ve had occasions where street food has caused…difficulties.  I’ve mentioned that I seldom indulge).  The interesting food item that I haven’t seen before was a type of fried fish.  It seemed to be a fish, head and all, that had been rolled in a light dough and then fried to a crispy brown.  I don’t know about the bones and such.  I didn’t partake. 

The first spate of marchers went by pretty quickly.  There was a delay, so Famous Ankles started to take a walk.  I first headed west and caught up to, and passed, the earlier marchers.  But I was heading toward Grand Army Plaza.  Been there, done that.  I wanted new ground.  So I reversed and headed into the heart of Crown Heights.

The crowds were big.  I had heard that 3 million were expected.  Now, I eventually walked most of the parade route and I saw a WHOLE bunch of people.  But 3 million?  I didn’t keep track so I’ll have to let the official counts (whereever they are) be my guide.

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I will say this.  Lots and lots of cops.  This event can have a violent side.  I later heard that three people had been shot.  As far as I know, not at the parade.  I didn’t see any suggestion of violence and I went everywhere.  But the parade is just part of the larger festival so it may have happened over the different evenings.  Maybe that’s where the rest of the 3 million were.

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Traditional costumes.  Yeah, that’s what they were…traditional costumes.

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Like I said.  The parade was slow.  There was a lot of waiting around.

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So, I kept up my walking.  Famous Ankles is peripatetic, so it was off to the sidestreet and continuing on to the source of the parade:  Utica Street.

Lots of music and spectators on the side.  This group was actually a bit lively.  And loud.  Oh yeah, loud.

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And the parade actually seemed to have stopped.  I noticed that it had been something like half an hour since I had seen/heard any marchers.  I took a long look down toward the direction they were to come from.

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Nothing.  I began to wonder if the parade was over.  It wasn’t.  Not by a long shot.  Maybe after 45 minutes total, they started up again.  This time, with a lot more colors and brightly dressed women.

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Rhetorical question.  Do you not see what I wasn’t seeing?  Ain’t it amazing?  (Okay, two questions.  But look at the crowd.  That’s where you don’t see it.)

I didn’t know how to classify these costumes.  In my notes, I just called them “colorful” or “colorfuls”.

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At this point, the parade of “colorfuls” became jam-packed.  They all didn’t have the full huge costumes, but they made up for it in numbers.

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(Do you not see it again?)  The music was loud.  In the Puerto Rican Day Parade, the music would thud throughout my chest.  Here, that plus through my skull. 

I was wearing earplugs.  Good earplugs.  (That’s one of the prime rules of parade-going.  If someone tells you to take earplugs…TAKE EARPLUGS!)

I guess when they call it the West Indian, some people take “Indian” more seriously than the “West” part of it.  Okay, there is the American West.

 20070903-west-indian-day-parade-32-american-indian-part-of-parade.jpg

Others just loved the regalia, whereever it came from.  Yes, those West Indian Vikings are the stuff of legend.

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I’m going to end this post.  It’s just too long with too many photos so far.  I’ll continue with more photos in a later post.

However, here’s the solution to the thing you didn’t see.  Crowd excitement.  There was none.  None.  Even during the music, I really didn’t see enthusiasm.  I’ve brought up the Puerto Rican Day Parade several times.  In that parade, even at well before the beginning when the crowd was just standing around, there was whooping and shouting and, well, excitement.  Flags being waved (seldom seen in the West Indian Day Parade even though most people seemed to have one in hand).  Whistles being blown (I only heard one at the West Indian).  People with horns and other sound-makers (unnoticed by me at the West Indian).  The only times there was excitement was when one of the DJs on the float would demand the crowd wave their flags or whatever.  They tried (the DJs, that is).  The only place with some excitement was the sidestreet.  They were having a good time….but not a Puerto Rican Parade kind of excitement either.

Overall, I’m not at the parade to see the floats (most are boring).  Nor the politicians.  And not even the music.  I’m there to share in the experience, and when people are bored…it’s not a great experience.

-H

Wandering Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza

August 21, 2007

My latest posts have been about my wanderings out and about Brooklyn on Saturday, August 18th.  Here’s another.

What can I say?  It was a busy day.  I still have two or three posts left that cover the weekend.  It may be for the best because this coming weekend’s weather may not be quite as accommodating as last weekend’s.  In any event, I sure hope it doesn’t include another mugging.

Anyway….this post isn’t about next weekend, but about my Park Slope (Brooklyn) wanderings.  Where we left off, I had managed to aimlessly wander around the ENTIRE PARK!!!!  What was I thinking?  I’ll tell you what I was thinking:  “I need to get to Grand Army Plaza and get something to eat.”  Ahhh, sophisticated thought processes on display there, eh?  (Truth:  it’s a big park, but it is walkable.)  When I finally did spot Grand Army Plaza, it was a moment of pleasant relief.

Grand Army Plaza is a huge area built up and around a plaza and it is grand, indeed.  The centerpiece of the plaza is the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch.  (But to confuse you, there’s a Grand Army Plaza in Manhattan, too.  It’s where the Plaza Hotel is, right at the southeast corner of Central Park.  Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza is at the northern tip of Prospect Park.  Both parks, as noted in my earlier post, were designed by Frederick Law Olmstead.  Maybe he had a thing about grand armies…)

Here’s a pic of the arch.

Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch

It is part of Park Slope, but it seems more or less a place all to itself.

I’ve been there before and each time, there’s been a Famers Market.  You can see part of it at the bottom of the picture of the arch.  NYC is big on farmers markets.

I was pretty tuckered out when I got to this point.  I did notice the Brooklyn Public Library just to the side and just had to go in.

Grand Army Plaza

It’s pretty nice inside, but not quite the New York Public Library, which has an entry beyond compare.  I still owe you a photo regarding my Brooke Astor post.  Soon…

Oh, there doesn’t really seem to be any places there that I wanted to eat; so I went a few blocks back to 7th Avenue and found the Tex-Mex place I mentioned in the Park Slope post.  It wasn’t worth walking the few extra blocks.  Well, I’ve gone further for worse, so no real complaint.

-H

Wandering Prospect Park

August 20, 2007

As part of my planned Saturday wanderings in Brooklyn, I decided to take a quick look into Prospect Park.  It turns out to be far more of a look than planned.  I essentially walked the entire perimeter of the park.  It’s a big park and I got pretty tired during the walk.

I reached the park after going through Park Slope, which is just to the immediate west of Prospect Park.  I think I was on 9th Street and I did enter at the Lafayette entrance.  I don’t know if that’s the actual name, but there’s a dedication to him at the entrance.

Prospect Park entrance

The area just inside the entrance was set up for a big birthday party for a little kid.  Happy Birthday kid…whoever you are.

Frederick Law Olmstead was the primary architect of both Central Park and Prospect Park.  They are very different, but they both share one feature that even Famous Ankles can notice:  complexity and diversity of the areas.  Neither park can be described simply.  You can’t take in the parks at a glance or even with a dozen different perspectives.  They are designed to have distinct areas, each with its own identity and, usually, a distinctive name.  In Central Park, you’ve got such places as the Great Lawn, the Sheep Meadow, the Ramble, and Poets’ Walk.  Prospect Park has lots of names, but they don’t strike my ear as familiar as those in Central Park (whose places I had heard of before moving to NYC).  That doesn’t make them any less attractive.

The most immediate difference I saw between Central Park and Prospect Park is the lack of fences in Prospect Park.  Central Park has a lot of fenced-off areas; or at least areas that are fenced off at various times during the year.  I wandered for a while in Prospect Park before I saw my first fenced-in area.  It’s an equestrian area where two women were taking horse riding lessons.  There were also two instructors, one of whom seemed to enjoy yelling at one of the riders.  It wasn’t English…but in NYC it can be anything.

Riding area

I continued walking and ran into Prospect Park Lake at the far south tip of the park.

Prospect Park Lake 1

It looks like Goose Heaven to me.

Prospect Park Lake 2

And that leads to a second difference between Prospect Park and Central Park:  wilderness areas.  As beautiful as Central Park is, there’s very little unplanned space in it.  At times, it seems that every blade of grass is planned.  Central Park has an area called “The Ramble” (an old favorite of mine) which is relatively “wild”.  But even it is very well planned out.  In contrast, Prospect Park has lots and lots of “wild” areas.  (I saw an interview where a Park employee said they had the last true forest in NYC.)

Wild areas 1

Wild areas 2

Okay, the last seems pretty planned, but it wouldn’t look that way in Central Park.

The biggest difference, at least for me, is really the people.  On a weekend like this one, Central Park is usually much more crowded.  There are a lot of runners/bikers in the streets in both places, but I don’t think Prospect Park had more than a relatively small fraction of that population in Central Park.  I did note that the hilliness of Prospect Park made some of the bikers and rollerbladers go a lot faster than anyone I’ve seen in Central Park.

But, both parks were done by Olmstead and there are lots of similarities.  I’ve mentioned the “sections” that both parks consist of.  They both also have a number of tunnels in the walking areas.

Prospect Park underpass

They both have “boathouses”.  In Prospect Park, it’s near the Audubon Center.  Central Park’s boats are individualized (you rent them and paddle yourself).  What I saw in Prospect Park included a sort of micro-cruise ship.  Here’s that boat coming under an overpass (unique to Prospect Park, too).

Audubon Center area

It’s tiny, but it is powered by something other than oars.

Okay, but there’s one thing that Prospect Park has that Central Park doesn’t:  the Long Meadow.  Stretching from Prospect Park Lake in the south to the northern tip, the Long Meadow is a grassy open area several hundred yards wide and who knows how long.  It meanders all over the place and is a combination Sheep Meadow and Great Lawn and beyond.  In Central Park’s Sheep Meadow, people often just cluster to sunbathe.  In the Great Lawn, they play organized sports (reserved times and everything).  In Prospect Park’s Long Meadow, they do both and anything else they feel like.  It’s nearly perfect.  I can hardly say enough in its favor.

Long Meadow 1

Long Meadow 2

Long Meadow 3

The last picture is from near the northern tip of Prospect Park.  At that point, you enter back into Park Slope.  That area is Grand Army Plaza (the subject of another post).

-H

Wandering Park Slope

August 19, 2007

My Saturday wanderings started with a very popular and prosperous part of Brooklyn:  Park Slope.

If you’re financially sound and new to NYC:  Park Slope calls.  And a lot of people are hearing that call.  There are definite reasons for that.  It’s a nice area with beautiful buildings and a magnificent, terrific, wonderful, beautiful park right next to it:  Prospect Park.  I’ll be posting separately on that.

Okay, for those people who don’t know Brooklyn:  Park Slope is probably just a couple of miles east of Manhattan’s Financial District (that’s at the southern tip of Manhattan).  It is easily within reach of Manhattan because of a bunch of subways plus the Brooklyn Bridge.  It’s a bit north of Coney Island, but it is so far from Coney Island, in a cultural sense, that they practically aren’t on the same planet.

Park Slope is the home of a lot of artists and performers, as well as oodles of the non-hoi polloi (I love getting technical).  The prices range from sub-Manhattan to Manhattan equal.  The sub-Manhattan prices are in places that call themselves “Park Slope”, but don’t quite share the same zip code(s).  The area is quite hilly (that’s the “slope” part) and apparently lays claim to being the area of the story “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”.  Well, there are lots of trees in this part of Brooklyn.

Park Slope trees 1

Park Slope trees 2

The area has a lot of brownstones and rowhouses and the like.  Here are some on 7th Avenue, which seems to be a main commercial drag in Park Slope.

Park Slope buildings on 7th Ave

And a few more.

Park Slope buildings

The thing I love to point out (this is my jealous side) is to look at the window air conditioners.  The buildings are old, magnificent, often expensively remodeled, and incapable of handling central air conditioning.  You see it all over Manhattan, too.

The houses below are magnificent.  They’re on 9th Avenue about a block away from Prospect Park and are probably way, way, way outside any price range I’d ever consider.

Limestone houses

Yeah, they’ve got the occasional window air conditioner, too.

Some of the buildings have some interesting art.

Park Slope diaspora building

Dixon’s bike shop

There’s even some small art.  Here’s a bit of tree protection (probably protecting it from dogs which doesn’t bode well for the art).

A tree is protected in Brooklyn

Okay, Park Slope is a terrific looking place.  But is there more to it?  Sure, but my other impressions are so minimal that you can take them for what they’re worth.

The Park Slope Coop (I prefer the more correct “Co-op” to differentiate a cooperative from a chicken house) is an interesting throwback to the 1970s.

Park Slope Co-op

The place is busy and filled with non-standard foodstuffs.  It is also a little dirtier (although not unsanitary) than I like my grocery stores to be.  It has the real feel of the 1970s cooperative food store that I used to go to long ago.  But that’s not for good reasons.  There are lots of little repairs that need to be done (as in “we’ve got more important things to do rather than repair a few tiles or re-paint a wall”) and the displays are unprofessional.  I used to do some retail and it’s always a good idea to pull the few remaining items to the front to make the display look full and flush.  At the Park Slope Coop, every single can was pushed as far back as it could go.  And almost every line of product wasn’t fully stocked.  It isn’t for nothing that Whole Foods is doing so well:  they’ve got the co-op feel and selection types down pat, but they’ve done a lot of professionalizing of their appearance.

On the other hand, as I went it a pretty loud woman (apparently just in a boisterous and happy mood) greeted an old friend with the statement “I just finished my film shoot.  It was intense, man!”

Another Park Slope image in my mind:  lots of stoop sales (people putting out homewares for sale, but having no yard, put it just off the building’s stoop).   I saw about four stoop sales in three blocks.  My favorite:  a family had out a wide variety of stuff.  Not a great quantity, but a great variety.  It included two mannequins, an accordian, and an old PC.  I took a picture, but it came out poorly, so won’t be shown.

And they did have a great flea market that day.  It appears to be a weekly event.  I thought it was pretty good.

Park Slope Flea Market

It included furniture, coins, typewriters, old watches, original art, and (most poignantly) family photos.  The quality appeared generally on the good side, so it beats most flea markets hands down.

There are lots and lots of real estate offices.  As usual in NYC, all of them have posted “for sale” and “for rent” samples on their front windows.  Most of the offices actually have a number of their postings marked “SOLD” or “Under Contract”.  I don’t know how true/timely they are and think that’s just to drum up interest on the part of sellers.

I had lunch at a little Tex-Mex place.  Not worthy of any note, so I won’t.

Overall, Park Slope is ethnically very caucasian and middle American.  I don’t think I heard any foreign languages on the street, but people and events were actually very muted.

-H