Don’t Let The Name Fool You

July 19, 2010

When you hear the name of the place, it would be reasonable to assume that it is somewhere along the Hudson or East Rivers. But don’t let the name fool you. Manhattan Beach is not on, or near, the island of Manhattan. In fact, this neighborhood is located on the narrow peninsula that forms the southernmost boundary of Brooklyn.

Physically, Manhattan Beach is about 12 miles from Manhattan Island and less than two miles — straight down the road — from the bright lights, clatter and raucous throng at Coney Island. But culturally, economically and spiritually, Manhattan Beach is a world unto itself.

The area was first developed as a summer resort by the Manhattan Beach Improvement Company. In 1877, the company opened two luxury hotels here along the sparkling sand. By the time World War I erupted, the hotels had both been torn down and the land sold to a residential developer. Soon the quiet stretch of beach, only three blocks wide, was filling with single family homes, many of them lavish enough to be described as mansions.

Today, the neighborhood, where the streets are in alphabetical order, is one of the wealthiest, quietest and safest in New York City. Since 1955 it has included a 40 acre public park that boasts fountains, playgrounds, picnic tables, two baseball diamonds and tennis, volleyball, basketball, and handball courts.

In fact, the most significant change to the stability of this enclave of about 7,000 people has been an influx of newer residents, many of them immigrants from Russia, during the past decade.

Many of the newcomers have purchased older houses, torn them down and replaced them with larger, showier, more elaborate places. Quite a few of these new residents tend to favor architecture reminiscent of The Sopranos or Las Vegas. But they, just like those who have lived here for generations, adhere to the neighborhood’s unspoken creed: they are fiercely protective of their property, their privacy and their community.

An armed private security force, the Beachside Neighborhood Patrol, drives through these wide, quiet, shady streets, keeping an eye out for trouble. A significant number of the homes prominently display burglar alarm signs, security cameras, keypad locks. Houses and yards are hidden behind impenetrable hedges (both natural and artificial), high fences, locked gates.

And yet … this is no exclusive, gated community that is locked away from the world. The residents of Manhattan Beach are sophisticated, dedicated urbanites who have consciously chosen to live in the most populous borough in the largest city in the US.

Here, behind the thick hedges, beyond the manicured lawns, they enjoy the best of both worlds: the richness, diversity, art and culture of the city, along with the space, tranquility, peace and quiet of the country — and all of that, just steps from the ocean and public transportation.

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No Trespassing signs on a dead-end street in Manhattan Beach

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A backyard with an ocean view

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Hedge and wall ensure privacy

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Fence embellished with gold paint

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A home in Manhattan Beach overlooking Sheepshead Bay

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Plenty of custom windows here

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Paved driveway behind gates

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Curved plantings echo curved stairs

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A synagogue in Manhattan Beach

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Cedars in pots hide the back yard

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Beige stone with red tiles

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Off street parking

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Elaborate roof structures

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Little room between these houses

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Red brick and white woodwork

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Victorian-inspired with multiple balconies

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Balcony and roof deck

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Elaborate front gate

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Mediterranean influence

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Front yard with plantings

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No one can see inside when there are no windows

Beachside Neighborhood Patrol saved after surge of support from Manhattan Beach
Manhattan Beach Community Group
If You’re Thinking of Living In Manhattan Beach
Sheepshead Bites


Where a Girl Can Find a New Best Friend

December 15, 2008

A kiss on the hand
May be quite continental,
But diamonds are a girl’s best friend.

A kiss may be grand
But it won’t pay the rental
On your humble flat
Or help you at the automat.

Men grow cold
As girls grow old,
And we all lose our charms in the end.

But square-cut or pear-shaped,
These rocks don’t loose their shape.
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.

–Jule Styne, 1953

Midtown Manhattan is home to the world’s largest shopping district for diamonds and fine jewelry. The quiet, elegant shops of Tiffany, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpel, Harry Winston, DeBeers, H. Stern, Bulgari, Mikimoto, Dunhill and Piaget are clustered in the area around 5th Avenue and 57th Street.

Ten blocks further south, on West 47th St between Fifth Avenue and the Avenue of the Americas, is an entirely different type of jewelry shopping experience. Over 90 percent of the diamonds that enter the United States go through New York City, and most of those spend some time on here, in the Diamond District.

The District, confined to a single city block, holds close to 3,000 jewelers, most of them working in booths within the marketplaces known as exchanges. Inside the exchanges, haggling is expected. The deals often involve great displays of emotion with buyers and sellers gesturing wildly and shouting in dozens of languages.

Out on the street, barkers stand outside the shops, urging passersby to enter and offering to buy unwanted gold, silver and platinum. Couriers rush along the sidewalks, briefcases holding fortunes in jewels handcuffed to their wrists. Rich and poor alike stop to gaze at the glittering windows, behind which, it is said, total receipts for a single day’s trade average $400 million.

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Banner on a lamppost

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Sign outside a diamond exchange

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Two diamond-topped pylons mark each end of the District

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Diamonds on holiday decorations

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Sign for a diamond exchange

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Shopper inspects a window

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Necklaces hang in a shop window

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Jewelry on display

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Window at a diamond exchange

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Sign at a diamond exchange

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Diamonds on an awning

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A row of diamond shops

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Window shoppers

The Diamond District
Reel Classics: Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend


Open House New York: Richmond Hill

October 7, 2007

I spent this, the final day of OpenHouseNewYork, in Richmond Hill, Queens.

Located more or less in the center of the borough, in many ways Richmond Hill seems more like a suburban community than a part of the city of New York. The streets are filled with single homes, many with driveways and garages. The residents spend sunny days washing cars, mowing lawns and puttering in vegetable gardens.

There is a small business district cluttered with store-front lawyers and tax preparers, family-run candy shops and discount stores, fast food joints and Latin American restaurants. Richmond Hills also contains a handful of notable churches, a few neighborhood institutions and more than its share of boarded up buildings, including a train station abandoned by the Long Island Railroad.

The most remarkable aspect of the area, however, is the way it has been divided into two camps: the long-time residents who want to preserve its past and, far outnumbering them, the newcomers who have come here to build.

Not long ago, Richmond Hill was best known for its stock of century-old wooden Victorian  houses, many with large yards. But, unlike many areas where such buildings are protected, the residents here have never been able to rouse the city into giving the structures here protected landmark status.

As a result, the newcomers tend to treat the houses either as tear-downs (the house is demolished and a new structure built in its place) or remodels (original features are destroyed and replaced by incongruous, often gaudy elements).

Trees are ripped out and buildings extended to the very edges of their lots. Fishscale shingles are covered with vinyl siding, cedar shakes are hidden behind asbestos tiles and brick veneer. Wrought-iron gates are replaced by chrome, wooden millwork is stripped off, gilded plaster hidden behind suspended tile ceilings. Satellite dishes replace privet hedges and lawns are turned into parking lots.

A walking tour through the district is accompanied by a sad litany of vanished treasures. But the long-time residents are fighting back. They’ve organized the Richmond Hill Historical Society and are working to preserve and protect their neighborhood’s heritage.

Richmond Hill still contains architectural treasures including the remaining Victorians, the public library (an original Carnegie library), the Catholic and Episcopal churches and Jahn’s, an ice cream parlor founded in 1897 which still contains its original fountain, player piano, hanging lamps and furnishings.

While the majority of the newer residents have no interest in historic preservation, other newcomers are busily painting, plastering, re-pointing and restoring their historic homes to their former glory. Clearly, the final chapter in the battle for the character of Richmond Hill has yet to be written.

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Victorian home with stained glass windows and wooden trim

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Syrup dispenser in Jahn’s

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Jahn’s soda fountain and amber light fixtures

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Restored Victorian features several types of shingles

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Sleeping balconies were used on hot summer nights

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Another type of sleeping balcony

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A homeowner lovingly paints his Victorian

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A “Painted Lady”-style paint job

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Experimenting with contrasting shades and colors

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The roof lines were inspired by pagodas

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Painted terra-cotta on old apartment building

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Crumbling remains of a community center

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Entryway to former RKO Keith’s movie theater, now a flea market

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The theater’s grandeur hidden behind florescent lights

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Wooden Victorian “improved” with plaster columns and circular marble staircase

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When these remodelers ran out of vinyl siding, they continued in a different color

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Victorian house “improved” with columns and bricked-over windows

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Wooden Victorian “improved” with asbestos shingles

openhousenewyork weekend
Richmond Hill Historical Society Archive Museum
Historic Richmond Hill Walking Tour
The Richmond Hill Historical Society
Forgotten NY: Richmond Hill
richmondhillny.com
The Food Section: Jahn’s, the Best Way to Travel Back in Time
Wikipedia: Carnegie Libraries


Open House Harlem Pt 2: Hamilton Heights/Sugar Hill

October 6, 2007

The OpenHouseNewYork Weekend continued with a trip to another section of Harlem, the areas known as Hamilton Heights and Sugar Hill.

Like Manhattanville, the western boundary of Hamilton Heights is the Hudson River, the eastern end at St. Nicholas. The neighborhood’s name derives from its most notable early resident, the first Secretary of the US Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, who spent the last years of his life here at his country home.

As with Manhattanville, development here started in earnest when the railway lines were extended. A jewels of the area is the Church of the Intercession, built on one of the highest points of Manhattan. Its origins date to 1843, when sanitation problems downtown led Wall Street’s Trinity Church to stop performing burials in their yard.

To create a solution, Trinity reached beyond the city limits and purchased a large parcel of land in the tiny country hamlet of Carmansville for use as a graveyard. The land, which they dubbed Trinity Church Cemetery, became the last resting place of many notable and affluent citizens.

Within a few years, demand began for a convenient chapel, eventually leading to construction of the Gothic style cathedral that adjoins the Cemetery. Now celebrating its 160th anniversary, the Church features an altar designed by Tiffany, notable terracotta floor tiles, and an Aeolian Skinner organ.

Nearby is Audubon Terrace, which fills a block that was once part of a farm owned by naturalist John James Audubon. Created by railroad heir Archer Huntington, Audubon Terrace was intended as a modern-day acropolis, a sophisticated center of art and culture. At the dawn of the 20th century, Huntington hired the leading architects of the day, including Stanford White and Cass Gilbert. They designed the Beaux-Arts plaza and buildings that today house the Hispanic Society of America, the American Academy of Arts and Letters and Boricua College.

Sugar Hill, a residential section of Hamilton Heights, was once the country’s most fashionable address for African Americans, the place where life was sweet. In these palatial brownstones and apartment buildings lived the leading lights of the Harlem Renaissance, including Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn (who immortalized the neighborhood in his song Take the ‘A’ Train), Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison, Cab Calloway, Count Basie, Zora Neale Hurston and Paul Robeson.

The neighborhood was also home to prominent professionals and civil rights activists like W. E. B. Du Bois, Walter White, Roy Wilkins, Adam Clayton Powell and Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court justice.

When the city’s fortunes declined in the late 1960s and 1970s, this area was severely affected; as most of the well-heeled moved away, drugs and violence became widespread. Elegant brownstones were divided into cheap, poorly-maintained apartments, then vandalized. A significant number of neglected buildings were demolished or burned.

But today, Sugar Hill is on the upswing. Professionals, artists and community activists again walk these streets. Newly-created private schools and arts institutions (including the Dance Theatre of Harlem) have made this area their home.

Everywhere are signs of renewal and revitalization. Houses that were filled with squatters only a few years ago are now being restored and selling for millions of dollars. Buildings that had become rooming houses are being converted back to spacious homes and Sugar Hill is again becoming one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the city.

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Audubon Terrace at 155th Street and Broadway

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Sculpture on the Plaza at Audubon Terrace

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Bas-relief of Don Quixote on horseback

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Above the entrance to the former home of the Museum of the American Indian

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Entrance to American Society of Arts & Letters

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The Church of the Intercession

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Detail of wall at the Church of the Intercession

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Gatehouse at Trinity Church Cemetery

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The Gould mausoleum in the Cemetery

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Garret Storm’s mausoleum in Trinity Church Cemetery

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Gravestones

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Building with Mansard roof in Sugar Hill

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On W. 152nd St., three houses designed to look like one

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Restored buildings on St. Nicholas Avenue

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Classic Sugar Hill brownstones on St. Nicholas

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Row of houses on St. Nicholas Avenue

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Doorway with stained glass panel

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Wrought iron railings in Sugar Hill

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Painted stonework highlights the construction date

openhousenewyork weekend
Hamilton Heights Homeowners Association
The Hispanic Society of America
Church of the Intercession
NY Times: Living in Sugar Hill
Harlem One Stop Tour: Hamilton Heights/Sugar Hill
Historic Districts Council: Hamilton Heights/Sugar Hill
Hamilton Heights-West Harlem Community Preservation Organization
Harlem One Stop Tour: A Walk Through Sugar Hill
Harlem One Stop Tour: Trinity Cemetery
Dance Theatre of Harlem


Open House Harlem Pt 1: Manhattanville/W. Harlem

October 6, 2007

NOTE: Thanks to a particularly robust strain of influenza, Blather from Brooklyn was knocked out of the blogosphere for more than a week and a half. Publication is resuming where it left off when the flu bug raised its ugly head.

OpenHouseNewYork Weekend is here, a time when New York celebrates architecture and design. Sites around the city throw open doors that are usually closed to the public while designers, historians and enthusiasts eagerly lead packs of the curious on walking tours and explorations.

This afternoon, as part of the celebration, participants were treated to a tour that included elements of West Harlem’s past and future: highlights of the now mostly-vanished industrial neighborhood known as Manhattanville and a preview of a waterfront park scheduled to open next year.

Situated between St. Nicholas Terrace and the Hudson River, Manhattanville was once a quiet waterfront village eight miles north of New York City. The 1800s brought paved streets, Robert Fulton’s ferryboat and a flock of city residents who ventured north for the green fields, fresh country air and new opportunities.

In the closing years of the 19th century, when construction of an elevated railway made it possible to travel from Wall Street to Manhattanville in less than an hour, the population tripled. The area was rapidly transformed from a community of tenant farmers and factory workers to a bustling commercial and transportation hub.

Over the years, changing fortunes plunged Manhattanville into a decline. But today, those who know where to look can glimpse the area’s past glory. Some of the luxurious buildings that rose here in the early 1900s are relatively unchanged, their facades still clad in marble and terra-cotta. In certain spots beneath the elevated tracks, the asphalt has worn away, exposing the granite Belgian blocks and bronze insignias of the long-defunct 3rd Avenue line.

As for the future, you’ll view it by crossing the West Side Highway to the spot where 125th Street ends at Marginal Street. There, along the river, is a construction project that will reclaim a long-inaccessible section of waterfront. Known as West Harlem Waterfront Park, the project is transforming a grubby, weed-filled parking lot into a lively spot for recreation.

When it opens next year, the small but carefully-designed park will contain sculptures, fountains and benches. It will feature designated spaces for fishing, kayaking, playing, performing and relaxing in the sun. Most importantly, it will fill a missing link in the greenway and bike path that will eventually stretch along the entire length of Manhattan island.

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Under the elevated tracks

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Plaque and unused tracks of the 3rd Avenue line

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The view from Marginal Street

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The fence is opened for OHNY visitors

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This area will be filled with grass

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Trees and grass will grow here soon

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Design of the long, narrow park is based on intersecting triangles

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Benches and walkway under construction

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The future Water Taxi pier

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The proposed fishing pier

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The kayak launching area

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The park will end here but the bike path will continue

openhousenewyork weekend
West Harlem Waterfront Park
Eric K. Washington
Archipelago Architecture and Landscape Architecture
Community Board 9: West Side Harlem
DMJM Harris: West Harlem Waterfront Redevelopment Program
NYLCV: Work Finally Begins on West Harlem Waterfront Park


A Day on Sheepshead Bay

November 29, 2006

“If you’d come here five, ten years ago,” said the old waitress, “you would have seen twice as many boats, three times as many restaurants and none of these great big places. Back then the tallest building was three stories high.”

She leaned on the counter, wiped her hands on her apron, and talked about the neighborhood’s many vanished businesses. In recent years, dozens of mom and pop stores have disappeared as real estate developers bought up blocks, demolished the existing structures and replaced them with luxury condominiums.

Similar stories can be heard in nearly every corner of the city but the denizens of this neighborhood are a stubborn lot, and most are determined to stay put here in Brooklyn’s only fishing village, Sheepshead Bay.

The Bay, named after the sheepshead (a large saltwater fish), is renowned for its abundant waters. Fishing once played a vital role in the neighborhood’s economy and the area around the concrete piers on Emmons Avenue still includes several bait and tackle shops, seafood restaurants and clam bars.

While the sheepshead disappeared from these waters long ago, the piers remain crowded with dozens of ducks, gulls, swans and fishing boats. The fleet usually goes out after dawn and returns before dark. The boats are met by shoppers who eagerly swap cooking tips and snatch up the catch of the day, often including flounder, tuna, bluefish and crabs.

A bit further down the road, tucked between the yacht clubs and construction sites, are a few rusted gates. These lead to narrow alleyways crowded with tiny bungalows. Most of the alleys and cottages are what remains of Sheepshead Bay’s first housing development, built around 1920 by a developer named Robert Densely.

A bit farther down the street, past the few retirement homes and “no-tell” motels, Emmons Avenue turns into an entrance to the Belt Parkway. The sand dunes begin where the sidewalk ends. The trails in the sand lead down to a quiet beach, where amateur fishermen patiently throw their nets into the water and haul their evening’s meals from the Bay.


The fishing fleet on the bay  Posted by Picasa


The Brooklyn VI boasts a “Curtious” Crew  Posted by Picasa


The Crystal Marie  Posted by Picasa


Fisherman on deck, filling bag for customer Posted by Picasa


Entrance to Sheepshead Bay Yacht Club  Posted by Picasa


Bernie’s Bait & Tackle  Posted by Picasa


Stella Maris Fishing Shop  Posted by Picasa


Sand dunes  Posted by Picasa


Brush on sand dunes  Posted by Picasa


Cottages at 3082 Emmons Avenue  Posted by Picasa


More cottages at 3082 Emmons Avenue  Posted by Picasa


View of Bay from 3082 Emmons Avenue  Posted by Picasa


View from the center of Lake Avenue  Posted by Picasa


Houses on Hitchings Avenue  Posted by Picasa


Swan  Posted by Picasa


Swans and ducks near the Ocean Avenue footbridge  Posted by Picasa


Ocean Avenue footbridge  Posted by Picasa

WPA Guide: Sheepshead Bay
Wikipedia: Sheepshead Bay
Forgotten NY: Sheepshead Bay
Forgotten NY: Alleys of Sheepshead Bay
Sheepshead Bay Party Boats
NY Fisherman: Sheepshead Bay
Sheepshead Bay Yacht Club
The Belt Parkway


They call it “Blooklyn”

October 13, 2006

You say you’ve been to Chinatown in New York? Which Chinatown?

The fact is, New York City now has three separate Chinatowns. The oldest is in Manhattan. The largest is in Queens. And the smallest and newest is right here in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

Brooklyn’s Chinatown is centered on 8th Avenue between 50th and 60th Streets. It is commonly believed that the Chinese moved here because they consider the number eight fortuitous for business and “8th Avenue” can be interpreted as “the road to wealth.”

Maybe.

But a more plausible explanation is that those seeking to escape from Chinatown Manhattan’s crowded, twisting alleys, noisy factories and overflowing tenements appreciated Sunset Park’s clean, grassy recreation areas, the relatively wide streets, an abundance of retail space and a direct subway connection to friends and jobs in the old Chinatown.

As with the other Chinatowns, many of the most visible businesses here are focused on food – preparing it, serving it, selling it. The curbs are lined with baskets of skittering crabs, tubs of fat, bobbing bullfrogs and Styrofoam coolers of flopping, freshly-caught fish. Vendors stand in tiny pushcarts, transforming thick, eggy batter into hot, puffy cakes ($1 a bagfull) and transforming skewers of marinated meat into hot, sizzling satay ($1 each). Bakeries fill the air with the scents of fresh-browned chestnut bread, lotus cakes, cinnamon crisps and pork buns.

In terms of charm and quaintness, Chinatown Brooklyn comes in dead last, which means that it is almost completely free of hulking tour buses, pushy sightseers and cheap, tacky souvenirs. If you go, instead of t-shirt shops and Starbucks, you’ll see hundreds of businesses that cater to the residents’ daily needs: insurance agencies, banks, bakeries, pharmacies, acupuncture clinics, hairdressers, tutoring services, cell phone centers, internet cafes, restaurant uniform and supply stores and florists.

Want to know which shops have just opened? Look near the doorway for an array of green plants festooned with red ribbons, traditionally thought to bring luck to a new enterprise.


Church notice board Posted by Picasa


Egg cake cart Posted by Picasa


Fa Da Mall Posted by Picasa


Moms doing errands Posted by Picasa


Price list in beauty salon Posted by Picasa


Funny dry cleaning shop Posted by Picasa


Optician’s shop Posted by Picasa


Sign in deli window Posted by Picasa


Dried fruit displayed outside shop Posted by Picasa


Banks at the corner of 55th & 8th Posted by Picasa


Fresh caught and for sale curbside Posted by Picasa


New Dawang Seafood Market Posted by Picasa


Hong Kong Supermarket Posted by Picasa

  • Village Voice: The Other, Other Chinatown
  • Asia’zine: Brooklyn’s Chinatown
  • Chinatown NYC: Brooklyn
  • Prosper with 8 88 888 88888

  • A Place to Watch the Sun Set

    October 13, 2006

    Sunset Park, one of the highest points in Brooklyn, stands at the corner of 43rd St. and 5th Ave. An essential resource for this crowded, working-class community, the hilly, tree-filled park boasts an art deco recreation center for indoor activities, an outdoor swimming pool (now closed for the season), handball and basketball courts, a baseball diamond and rows of game tables that are usually occupied by older people playing chess, mah-johng, checkers and go. A section known as the Rainbow Playground includes swings, slides, jungle gyms, fountains and other play equipment.

    Climb to the top of the bluff and you’ll see the park’s most notable feature – its sweeping views of Lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, the East River, New York Bay, Staten Island and New Jersey. The vista once included a magnificent view the World Trade Center; when the towers were destroyed, residents gathered here to honor and remember the dead. Now this scenic area is the site of the city’s first Living Memorial Grove, a few dozen young trees protected with wire cages and surrounded by thousands of daffodils planted by local schoolchildren.

    There wasn’t time to do it today, but this is the perfect place to settle comfortably on a wooden bench, kick off your shoes and watch the sun slowly sink below the horizon.


    Boy on a swing Posted by Picasa


    Girl hanging from monkey bars Posted by Picasa


    Boy in yellow on a swing Posted by Picasa


    Boys on the playground Posted by Picasa


    Ceiling in Recreation Center Posted by Picasa


    Terra cotta tiles on Recreation Center floor Posted by Picasa


    Fountain in Rainbow Playground Posted by Picasa


    Rear of fountain in Rainbow Playground Posted by Picasa


    View from the top of the hill Posted by Picasa


    Men photographing the Memorial Grove Posted by Picasa


    Looking towards New York Bay Posted by Picasa


    Benches facing west Posted by Picasa

  • NYC Dept Parks & Recreation: Sunset Park
  • NYC Dept Parks & Recreation: Rainbow Playground
  • NYC Dept Parks & Recreation: Sept 11th Living Memorial
  • NYC Dept Parks & Recreation: City’s 1st Memorial Grove

  • A Walkabout Wallabout

    October 7, 2006

    OpenHouseNewYork (OHNY), a group focused on New York City’s architecture and design, has organized this as the 4th Annual OpenHouseNewYork Weekend. Billed as “America’s largest architect and design event,” the Weekend offers free tours of dozens of sites around the city, many of them usually closed to the public.

    I was unaware of OHNY or the event, scheduled for today and tomorrow, until late last night. When I went to OHNY Web site to investigate the available tours, I found that most of the best-known, least-accessible buildings were already full to capacity. Searching for a tour that I could join, I discovered the Wallabout neighborhood.

    Even if you’ve never set foot in New York, you’ve probably seen and heard of certain iconic locations ― the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Greenwich Village, Times Square. But even natives are unfamiliar with some areas of the city, and the Wallabout neighborhood is firmly among the obscure.

    The area borders three districts burgeoning with new historic and commercial interests ― Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and the Brooklyn Navy Yard ― but even its closest neighbors don’t know Wallabout’s name or its story.

    The name comes from the location; this section of Brooklyn is built on a parcel of land purchased in 1637 from the Dutch West India Trading Company by Walloon (Belgian) Jansen de Rapeljein. The river inlet bordering his land became known as Wallabout Bay (from Waal Boght, “Bay of Walloons”).

    During the 1700s, Wallabout Bay was the site of one of the greatest tragedies of the American Revolution when 11,000 men died on British prison ships moored in the East River. Most of their corpses were thrown overboard and, for many years afterwards, their bones washed up on the muddy shore.

    Five years after the establishment of the United States, the first shipyard was built on Wallabout Bay. In 1801 the federal government purchased the land and the shipping works and established what would come to be known as the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

    As the shipyard developed, commercial interests related to the docks began to spring up in the surrounding area, resulting in factories and warehouses for the goods being shipped and low-cost housing and taverns for the shipworkers. Those bustling streets, just beyond the walls of the Navy Yard, were dubbed the Wallabout district.

    There was never a reason for tourists to flock to this modest, hidden neighborhood. This was never a fashionable location. The houses, while often attractive and comfortable, were never populated by socialites or bankers; the shops, while serviceable, never included fine jewelers or chic dressmakers; the amenities, while adequate, never featured museums or theatres.

    The houses here were always, in every respect, in the shadows of the shipyards, warehouses and factories. Because the district was defined by industry, not ethnicity or economic status, it lacks a clearly defined culture and identity.

    Two major events transformed Wallabout and led it even deeper into obscurity: first, in the 1940s, World War II, great swathes of the industrial area (including most of the Dutch-style marketplace) were torn down to make way for America’s urgently expanded shipbuilding efforts; secondly, in the 1960s, the construction of the massive Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE), during which block after block of housing was razed in the name of “progress” and “slum clearance.” The building of the BQE not only destroyed streets and houses, it eliminated an source of public transportation, bisected the area and cut neighbor off from neighbor.

    Today, a small band of activists and advocates are working to have Wallabout named as a Landmark district. This designation would help homeowners restore some of Brooklyn’s oldest wood framed houses, which today are often decaying and crumbling, while preserving more of the area’s rapidly disappearing industrial landscape.

    Ironically, the most neglected houses in Wallabout are also among those most likely to still retain their original architectural details; their owners, either through neglect or lack or resources, failed to follow the lead of neighbors who have stripped away delicate ironwork, hidden carved stone under vinyl siding, replaced stained glass with factory-made windows and, strangely enough, covered solid bricks with brick veneers and layers of stucco.

    Today’s tour, led by an historic preservationist from the Pratt Institute, working with the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership, took us past former candy factories and cold-storage warehouses, charming cottages and crumbling churches, tidy homes and neglected gardens, empty lots, litter-strewn housing projects and well-maintained apartment buildings.

    At the end of the program, the group turned onto Ryerson Street, site of the last surviving home of America’s greatest poet, Walt Whitman. There, we were greeted by representatives of the Walt Whitman Project, who ― to the surprise and delight of the tour group and the area’s residents ― read to us from the 1856 edition of Whitman’s masterpiece, Leaves of Grass.


    The sum of all known reverence I add up in you, whoever you are;
    The President is there in the White House for you–it is not you who are
    here for him;
    The Secretaries act in their bureaus for you–not you here for them;
    The Congress convenes every twelfth month for you;
    Laws, courts, the forming of States, the charters of cities, the going and
    coming of commerce and mails, are all for you.List close, my scholars dear!
    All doctrines, all politics and civilisation, exsurge from you;
    All sculpture and monuments, and anything inscribed anywhere, are tallied in you;
    The gist of histories and statistics, as far back as the records reach, is in you this hour, and myths and tales the same;
    If you were not breathing and walking here, where would they all be?
    The most renowned poems would be ashes, orations and plays would be vacuums.

    All architecture is what you do to it when you look upon it;
    Did you think it was in the white or grey stone? or the lines of the arches and cornices?

    All music is what awakes from you, when you are reminded by the instruments;
    It is not the violins and the cornets–it is not the oboe nor the beating drums, nor the score of the baritone singer singing his sweet romanza–nor that of the men’s chorus, nor that of the women’s chorus,
    It is nearer and farther than they.


    Heading into the ‘hood under the BQE Posted by Picasa


    The grandest house in the neighborhood Posted by Picasa


    The shabbiest house in the neighborhood Posted by Picasa


    Few awnings remain in the old marketplace Posted by Picasa


    A warehouse with an awning and terracotta tiles Posted by Picasa


    77 Clinton Ave., former bakery building Posted by Picasa


    Site of the Rockwell Candy factory Posted by Picasa


    The site of former stables on Waverly Ave. Posted by Picasa


    Vinyl siding covers a wooden house Posted by Picasa


    Left, brick & ironwork; Right, brick veneer Posted by Picasa


    The last remaining tenement Posted by Picasa


    A brick & brownstone doorway Posted by Picasa


    Apartment building doorway carved with dragons Posted by Picasa


    An original doorway and glass-paned door Posted by Picasa


    A rotting front stoop Posted by Picasa


    99 Ryerson Street, Walt Whitman’s house Posted by Picasa

  • OHNY
  • Prison Ships In Wallabout Bay
  • Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership
  • Pratt Institute
  • Fort Greene & Clinton Hill Places of Interest
  • Andrew Cusak: Wallabout Market
  • Gowanus Lounge: Wallabout Update
  • The Walt Whitman Project
  • Fort Greene Park Conservancy
  • Clinton Hill Blog
  • NYC Roads: Brooklyn-Queens Expressway

  • How About a Little Seoul Food?

    October 4, 2006

    Some people call it Koreatown, some say K-Town. But unlike the Koreatowns in San Francisco and Los Angeles, Manhattan’s Korean enclave isn’t much of a neighborhood; in fact, it is just a single block of 32nd Street between Broadway and Fifth Avenue.

    Few Koreans actually live here. There isn’t much residential space on the block or in the surrounding area. But K-Town has become the cultural center for New York’s growing Korean population.

    At ground level you will find an assortment of shops, newsstands, banks and hotels, but the street is dominated by dozens of Korean restaurants and cafes. This area is busy 24/7 and if you are in the mood for an inexpensive prepacked lunch box, a stylish sweet snack, a traditional barbecue or an elegant dinner – regardless of whether you are a vegetarian, a seafood fan, a calorie counter or a lover of bloody red meat – you’ll easily find something to suit your taste and your budget.

    Don’t miss the eggless scallion pancakes at Woorijip, the cold acorn noodles (yes, they’re made from acorns) at Hangawi, the freshly-baked cakes and buns at Koryodang Bakery or the green tea frozen yogurt (so addictive it is affectionately called crackberry) at Pinkberry. If the day is sunny, you might prefer to sit outside at the tables on the plaza to watch the busy social scene.

    Once your craving for Seoul Food is satisfied, remember to look up. The higher floors of the buildings on this block are packed with businesses that cater to the needs of the Korean community, offering herbal medicines, spas and beauty treatments, tutoring and language lessons, employment and travel agencies, tattoo parlors, internet cafes and raucous karaoke bars.


    On 32nd Street Posted by Picasa


    Animated billboard with Korean subtitles Posted by Picasa


    Pinkberry yogurt shop Posted by Picasa


    Girls on the plaza Posted by Picasa


    On the plaza Posted by Picasa


    Korea Way sign Posted by Picasa


    Newspaper stand Posted by Picasa


    Looking in to Woorijip Posted by Picasa


    Nightlife on the upper floors Posted by Picasa

  • Hangawi Restaurant
  • Woorijip Restaurant
  • Koryodang Bakery
  • Pinkberry
  • Village Voice: Close-Up on Koreatown
  • K-Town Comes of Age
  • New York Times: Beer For Breakfast

  • Saying Goodbye to Summer at America’s Playground

    September 4, 2006

    Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is considered the unofficial last day of summer in the US. Summer holidays are over; beaches close to swimmers, kids go back to school, temperatures start to drop and days begin to grow shorter.

    Coney Island, once known as America’s Playground, is no longer the nation’s preeminent amusement park; that honor has gone to sanitized, homogenized, ultra-safe-and-predictible corporate theme parks such as Disneyworld and SeaWorld. It may longer attract visitors from all over the country but this lively, accessible and inexpensive stretch along the Atlantic Ocean remains the favorite of New York’s working families.

    In recent years this neigborhood has experienced a renassiance. A new baseball stadium, a revitalized New York Aquarium and a gorgeous new subway station have helped bring back the crowds. Kids flock to the hotdogs sizzling on Nathan’s grill, the rattling cars of the wooden roller coaster, the polished horses of the merry-go-round, the rolling waves, the cotton candy and stuffed animals, the seashells, scuttling crabs and polished glass. Grownups lose their pocket change to games of chance, suck down freshly-brewed beer and freshly-caught clams and spend a few bucks to savor the burlesque shows and sideshow freaks.

    It is hard to say goodbye to the pleasures of summer, but if it has to be done, a day on the beach and boardwalk at Coney Island is the perfect way to end the season.


    The Wonder Wheel  Posted by Picasa


    Trying to win a stuffed animal  Posted by Picasa


    After riding Top Spin  Posted by Picasa


    The Cyclone  Posted by Picasa


    Shoot the Freak  Posted by Picasa


    Barker at Freak Show  Posted by Picasa


    Shoot Em Win! Posted by Picasa


    Mermaid mural (behind a fence)  Posted by Picasa


    Gyro Corner Posted by Picasa


    Gregory & Paul’s Posted by Picasa


    Finding seashells  Posted by Picasa


    Burying Daddy in the sand  Posted by Picasa


    A sand castle  Posted by Picasa


    Tomorrow the clam will go to school Posted by Picasa


    The last salty smooch of the season  Posted by Picasa

  • The History of Labor Day
  • Coney Island USA
  • The American Experience: Coney Island
  • Coney Island History
  • Wikipedia: Coney Island
  • The Brooklyn Cyclones
  • New York Aquarium
  • Astroland
  • Nathan’s
  • America’s Playground Redevelopment Plan Unveiled

  • The Gardens of Carroll

    September 1, 2006

    Most of the brownstone row houses in Carroll Gardens were built in the late 1800s, shortly after the American Civil War. The oldest homes in this section of Brooklyn have large, deep front yards, allowing their residents to enjoy an aspect of outdoor living rare for New Yorkers — the ability to create distinctive stoopside gardens, many of them featuring statuary, arbors, grottoes, plaques and fountains.


    St. Maria Addolorata at Court & 4th Place  Posted by Picasa


    St. Joseph on 1st Place  Posted by Picasa


    The grass withers and the flower fades Posted by Picasa


    Fountain and pots of hostas Posted by Picasa


    St. Lucy in memory of Tuddy Balsamo  Posted by Picasa


    Back gate to Mazzone Hardware on Court St.  Posted by Picasa


    Garden diva hard at work  Posted by Picasa


    My secret garden: Don’t tell nobody!  Posted by Picasa


    Geese and ADT Security sign  Posted by Picasa


    Statue, hostas and coleus  Posted by Picasa


    With red rosary beads on 1st Place  Posted by Picasa

  • South Brooklyn Network: Carroll Gardens
  • New York Magazine: Neighborhood Profile
  • Brooklyn Now: BoCoCa Guide

  • They Call it Little India

    August 31, 2006

    The air is heady with the fragrance of cardamom, cumin, roses and incense. The markets are crowded with women clad in flowing saris and men wearing caftans and intricately-wound turbans. Shop windows display glittering gold jewelry, statues of Krishna and lacquered sitars. Sidewalk vendors proffer bunches of fresh herbs, sticky sweets and copies of the Koran.

    This is Jackson Heights, also known as Little India. It has been said that this section of Queens is not really like Bombay (or even Mumbai) because there are no cows wandering the streets. But Little India certainly isn’t like anyplace else in the United States.

    This is the place to go for books, newspapers, CDs and videos in Urdu, Hindi, Tamil and Gujarati. Catch the latest releases from Bollywood at the Eagle Cinema. Bang on a tabla, have a salwar kameez made to measure, fill your arms with colorful glass bangles, get a mehndi tattoo, drop a coin in a beggar’s cup, have your eyebrows threaded or your handlebar moustache groomed.

    The grocery stores and pushcarts overflow with the spices, herbs, fruits and vegetables of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Intrigued by curry leaves, purple yams and ridge gourds but unsure what to do with them? Just ask (you’ll be inundated with “secret” family recipes) or leave the food in the hands of the professionals and fill yourself — cheaply and deliciously — at the local sweets shops and restaurants.


    Fresh Pan, Kulfi Posted by Picasa


    Outside a toy shop Posted by Picasa


    Bejeweled necklace Posted by Picasa


    Gold bracelet Posted by Picasa


    Gilded statues of Hindu gods Posted by Picasa


    India Sari Palace Posted by Picasa


    Selling saris Posted by Picasa


    Silk on display Posted by Picasa


    Bolts of silk in a sari shop Posted by Picasa


    Stacks of glass bangles Posted by Picasa


    Vegetables piled on a pushcart Posted by Picasa


    Grocers with cases of mangos Posted by Picasa


    Okra and karela (bitter melon) Posted by Picasa


    Methi and palak Posted by Picasa


    Tiny eggplant Posted by Picasa


    Cloth bags of rice Posted by Picasa


    Delhi Palace Sweets Posted by Picasa


    Sweets with cherries Posted by Picasa


    Pistachio burfi with silver foil Posted by Picasa


    The Eagle Cinema Posted by Picasa

  • Citysearch: Jackson Heights
  • Jackson Heights NYC
  • Time Out New York: 74th and Broadway
  • Jackson Diner

  • Borough Park: Part Deux

    August 22, 2006

    Borough Park is a neighborhood largely shaped and defined by its large population of Hassidic Jews. Last spring I visited on a Friday afternoon when the area’s businesses shut down to prepare for Shabbos, the Jewish Sabbath (see Erev Shabbos in Borough Park).

    In sharp contrast to the stillness and quiet found here at Shabbos, during the business week Borough Park is bustling. The busiest street, 13th Avenue, is lined with hundreds of mom-and-pop shops and restaurants. It doesn’t take many mothers pushing strollers to fill the aisles of these small stores, so on a sunny day most of the shopkeepers move racks, tables and boxes of merchandise outdoors. Their sidewalk displays serve to both promote the business and make more room inside. Everything from earrings to suitcases to toys can be purchased curb-side, giving the district the air of a gigantic stoop sale.

    The prices aren’t far above those of a stoop sale, either. While some stores cater to the needs the religious community, dozens of places offer deep discounts on designer and name-brand goods, particularly women and children’s shoes and clothing. Buy a few items and be prepared to be offered a discount — or just ask for one. In addition to shopping, Borough Park is a great place to practice your bargaining skills.


    Kosher pizza guys Posted by Picasa


    Strolling near 48th Street Posted by Picasa


    Three mommies on 13th Avenue Posted by Picasa


    Yakub’s Shoe Repair Posted by Picasa


    S&W Ladies Wear Posted by Picasa


    At the corner of 13th Avenue and 44th Street Posted by Picasa


    Stationery – Cigars Posted by Picasa


    Klein’s real kosher ice cream truck Posted by Picasa


    Newsstand on 13th Avenue Posted by Picasa


    Rack of dresses displayed on sidewalk Posted by Picasa


    Towels for sale Posted by Picasa


    Old man on 39th Street Posted by Picasa


    Mother and daughter running errands Posted by Picasa


    Sign in window of butcher store Posted by Picasa


    Join us for dinner. Gas is on us. Posted by Picasa

  • Wikipedia: Borough Park
  • Village Voice: Close-Up on Borough Park
  • Boychiks in the Hood: Travels in the Hasidic Underground
  • Etude: At Work in the Fields of the Lord
  • Baal Shem Tov Foundation

  • Brighton Beach Memoirs

    August 11, 2006

    Take the Q train to the Brighton Beach stop and exit directly into another country. This is “Little Russia,” also known as “Little Odessa,” the heart of Brooklyn’s Russian community and the reputed home of the Russian Mafia.

    The Village Voice says, “No matter where you’re from, it’s likely that at first, Brighton will make you alienated, lonely, and even … miserable.” Perhaps not miserable, but for those who don’t speak Russian or understand the culture of the former Soviet Union, negotiating the ‘hood can be a daunting experience.

    This immigrant community is remarkably insular and suspicious — in fact, Brighton Beach is the only area of New York where shopkeepers have actually abandoned their busy cash registers and run outside to angrily forbid me from photographing their storefronts. That’s right, they don’t want photos of the exteriors of their shops. Taking pictures inside the stores is even more difficult, requiring a bit (or more) of subtrefuge.

    And that’s a shame because, while the area is seriously lacking in charm, visitors who peek behind the Cyrillic signs can discover fascinating (and delicious) shopping and dining in Brighton Beach. Beyond the famed Russian connection, the neighborhood has drawn immigrants from many of the nations in Russia’s orbit and the main shopping street, Brighton Beach Avenue, is crowded with Ukrainian bakeries, Belarusian furriers, Turkish sweets shops and Georgian shashlik houses.

    Brighton Beach’s many bakeries all have large windows open to the street, allowing shoppers to buy savory pastries — flaky pockets stuffed with meat or cheese and fresh, fragrant loaves of pumpernickel and rye — without having to push their way into the crowded shops. The delis and supermarkets feature “salad bars” stocked with heaping trays of cooked sausages, chicken Kiev, dilled potatoes, stuffed cabbage, beet salad, eggplant “caviar,” cherry-filled blintzes and other hearty old world dishes. Huge stores offer goods ranging from t-shirts emblazoned with Russian slogans to copies of Microsoft Excel for Dummies in Russian; tiny shops sell caviar and babushkas.

    If you go to Brighton Beach, be sure to stop in at Vintage, where you can select nuts and candies from dozens of bins and barrels, M&I International Foods where you can enjoy Russian ice cream, borscht and pelmeni at the rooftop cafe, and the Odessa grocery, where you can buy an enormous slab of baked salmon for only a few dollars. Walk a block or two south and you’ll find a wide, windswept boardwalk and miles of clean, beautiful Brooklyn beaches.


    Welcome to Brighton Beach Posted by Picasa


    Keep Brighton Beach Clean Posted by Picasa


    Under the tracks Posted by Picasa


    This appears to be an ad for a Russian drag show Posted by Picasa


    Sign at butcher shop Posted by Picasa


    Glass-fronted wooden drawers of grains in Vintage Posted by Picasa


    Olives and sundried tomatoes in Vintage Posted by Picasa


    We squeaze juice Posted by Picasa


    Bakery worker Posted by Picasa


    Danielle Steele novels Posted by Picasa


    Caviar Posted by Picasa


    Fresh sweets Posted by Picasa


    Ground pork Posted by Picasa


    Under the tracks on Brighton Beach Boulevard Posted by Picasa


    Bakery worker Posted by Picasa


    On Brighton Boulevard Posted by Picasa


    A pavilion on the boardwalk Posted by Picasa


    The beach Posted by Picasa

  • Brighton Neighborhood Association
  • Village Voice: Close-Up on Brighton Beach
  • Village Voice: Close-Up on Brighton Beach, Brooklyn
  • Roadtrip America: Brighton Beach
  • Brighton Beach Memoirs
  • Little Odessa

  • Welcome to Little Italy on Arthur Avenue

    July 29, 2006

    Most tourists think that New York’s Little Italy is a few blocks in lower Manhattan filled with overpriced red-sauce spaghetti joints, tacky and vulgar t-shirts and knock-offs of designer duds. But knowledgeable New Yorkers know that the real Little Italy is in the Belmont section of the Bronx.

    Arthur Avenue is the main street of Little Italy, packed with family run food shops and restaurants. Most of the places here not only sell Italian-style foods, they create it, including homemade cheese, sausage, pasta, bread, wine and pastry. The fish shops are operating-room clean, the bakeries warm and fragrant and the delis and cheese shops are brimming with pre-cut samples of their wares.

    If you visit Arthur Avenue, you’ll eat a little, drink a little, taste a little, walk a little. Have a cannoli, a handful of roasted ceci, a stuffed zucchini blossom, a briny clam on the half-shell, a slice of pepperoni, a chunk of olive bread. Benvenuto! Mangia, mangia!


    Little Italy in the Bronx Posted by Picasa


    Scungilli Posted by Picasa


    Octopus Posted by Picasa


    At sidewalk clam bar Posted by Picasa


    Beef tripe Posted by Picasa


    Inside pork store Posted by Picasa


    Outside Teitel Brothers’ store Posted by Picasa


    Sidewalk display outside Teitel Brothers’ store Posted by Picasa


    Inside Arthur Avenue Retail Market: Thank you Mr. Capone Posted by Picasa


    Rolling cigars at La Casa Grande Tobacco Company
    Posted by Picasa


    Lamb heads inside Arthur Avenue Retail Market Posted by Picasa


    In Arthur Avenue Market: Closed for my granddaughter Posted by Picasa


    Inside Calandra Cheese Posted by Picasa


    Cannoli filled while you wait Posted by Picasa


    Inside Madonia’s Bakery Posted by Picasa


    Chocolate covered cannoli Posted by Picasa


    Rum cakes Posted by Picasa


    Cream puffs Posted by Picasa


    Eclairs Posted by Picasa


    Arthur Avenue & E. 187th St. Posted by Picasa

  • Arthur Avenue
  • Village Voice: Arthur Avenue
  • Saveur: Arthur Avenue Guide
  • eGullet: Arthur Avenue
  • Off the Broiler: Arthur Avenue
  • Gastropoda: Arthur Avenue
  • New York Magazine: Arthur Avenue
  • Mike’s Deli on Arthur Avenue

  • A visit to Governors Island

    July 7, 2006

    If you’ve spent any time in New York, you’ve probably seen Governors Island, but chances are you’ve never been there. This island in New York Harbor long served as a key defense base and access was restricted to authorized military personnel.

    In the period immediately following the revolution, the newly-formed United States fortified Governors Island. Fort Jay was built at the island’s highest point and Castle Willliams near the shore. Administrative buildings, housing and other facilities were erected, and for hundreds of years the island was occupied and run by various branches of the military.

    In 1996, in a cost-cutting measure, the Coast Guard reassigned officers and troops, moved equipment and records, and permanently closed the base at Governor’s Island. Once emptied of its inhabitants, the island was essentially split in two; the 92-acre area surrounding Fort Jay and Castle Williams was declared a national historic landmark district and the remaining 150 acres turned over to City and State of New York, which have not yet decided on its use.

    This summer, the island’s historic landmark district is open to the public. Ferry service brings visitors from the Battery Maritime Building (next to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal) and tours are provided by the National Park Service; both ferry and tour are free of charge.

    Benign neglect has allowed much of the historic district to slide into decay and most of the Victorian manses on Colonel’s Row, once devoted to officers’ housing, remain off-limits. While visitors aren’t able to enter most of the buildings, they are free to enjoy the sweeping views, stroll the wide walkways, laze under the centuries-old shady trees and explore the ghost town the lies only a few hundred yards from Manhattan.


    Welcome to Governors Island Posted by Picasa


    Castle Williams and lower Manhattan Posted by Picasa


    Cannon and dry moat at Fort Jay Posted by Picasa


    Abandoned hospital Posted by Picasa


    Abandoned dental office Posted by Picasa


    Support Center New York Posted by Picasa


    Inside abandoned building (shot through window) Posted by Picasa


    Abandoned housing Posted by Picasa


    Vine-covered fence Posted by Picasa


    Visitor reading in the leafy shade Posted by Picasa


    Our Lady Star of the Sea Posted by Picasa


    Weeds growing through cracked tennis courts Posted by Picasa


    Decaying porch steps Posted by Picasa


    Library Posted by Picasa

  • Governors Island National Monument
  • Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation

  • A brief tour of As-tour-ia

    June 19, 2006

    Astoria has always been the home to strivers and dreamers. In the early 1800s the village of Hallet’s Cove was re-named Astoria in hopes that John Jacob Astor, the first millionaire in the United States, would invest there. Although he reportedly never set foot in Astoria, America’s richest man eventually gave the village $500 and the name stuck.

    This northwestern section of Queens, where three bridges – the Queensboro, the Triborough, and the Hell Gate – cross the East River, is the traditional center of Greek life in America. Today, long-time residents are joined by newcomers from around the world and Astoria has become one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the nation, filled with those pursuing their own American dreams.


    Triborough Bridge seen from inside the subway station Posted by Picasa


    View from subway station stairs Posted by Picasa


    Welcome to the neighborhood Posted by Picasa


    We speak German, Polish, Spanish, French, Greek Posted by Picasa


    Pedestrian and sidewalk mural Posted by Picasa


    Selecting oranges outside of a Greek market Posted by Picasa


    A proud gardener tending his fig trees Posted by Picasa


    In a quiet corner of the Triborough Bridge Playground Posted by Picasa


    Resting in the shade Posted by Picasa


    Chatting on the grass in Astoria Park Posted by Picasa


    A sleepy snuggle in the park Posted by Picasa


    View of Riker’s Island Posted by Picasa


    Bridge over the East River Posted by Picasa


    Chilling inside the Bohemian Beer Garden Posted by Picasa


    Security guard at Bohemian Beer Garden Posted by Picasa


    Statue of Socrates Posted by Picasa


    Athena, gift from the people of Athens, Greece Posted by Picasa

  • Queens Borough President
  • Central Astoria LDC
  • Astorians
  • Joey in Astoria
  • Greater Astoria Historical Society
  • Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden
  • Freeze Peach Cafe

  • Erev Shabbos in Borough Park

    June 2, 2006

    This is a sunny day in one of the world’s largest cities. It isn’t a legal holiday; there isn’t an emergency; the authorities haven’t evacuated the neighborhood. Yet the shops are shuttered, the businesses are closed and the streets are empty of traffic.

    Question: What is going on and where is everybody?

    Answer: It’s just another Friday afternoon in Borough Park.

    Borough Park (also spelled Boro Park), a somewhat run-down, working-class area of Brooklyn, is home to one of the largest Orthodox Jewish communities in the world. Many of the residents here follow the teachings of Yisrael Ben Eliezer, known as The Baal Shem Tov (The Master of the Good Name).

    The Baal Shem Tov, who died in the Ukraine in 1760, was the founder of the Hassidic Jewish movement. He taught that God is best served and worshipped through singing and dancing, and instructed his followers to meditate, so they could connect with the “holy sparks of the Glory of God” that dwell in “all that is in the world.”

    The male followers of The Baal Shem Tov are easily recognized by their distinctive appearance. Bearded, they wear garments modeled after those of their spiritual leader, including a beskeshe (a suit with long tailored jacket), a fringed prayer shawl called a tallit or talles, a skullcap known as a kippah or yarmulke and, on Shabbos and other holidays, a circular fur hat called a shtreimel. Hasidic women can dress in mainstream styles but are limited to suitably modest items. They are free to wear makeup, jewelry and other fashionable adornments, but once married, the women cover their hair with wigs, scarves or hats.

    While they have always considered children a blessing, many modern Hasidim are committed to having as many children as possible, believing that they must replace the 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. Consequently, the neighborhood has the highest birth rate in the city.

    On Friday afternoon, around 2:00 p.m., the entire neighborhood shuts down, allowing the Hasidim to go home and prepare for Shabbos, the Jewish Sabbath. It is Erev Shabbos (the evening the Sabbath begins), when, dressed in their finest garb, large families hurry through the streets to the services where they welcome their day of rest. Come Sunday morning, the normal workweek will resume; the restaurants and stores will open again, the sidewalks will overflow with bustling shoppers and the streets will be filled with roaring, honking traffic.


    Posters on a lamppost Posted by Picasa


    Sign on a construction site. Posted by Picasa


    Holding his shtreimel and tallit (talles) Posted by Picasa


    Retrieving a curious (and fast-moving) toddler Posted by Picasa


    A chubby little scholar Posted by Picasa


    Taking a break Posted by Picasa


    Mazel Tov Bubbies & Mommies – ad on a 13th Avenue bus shelter Posted by Picasa


    Kosher Submarine, locked until Sunday Posted by Picasa


    A yeshiva school bus stands empty Posted by Picasa


    A family of seven (one inside Mom) Posted by Picasa


    No place to spend a dime Posted by Picasa


    A row of shuttered stores Posted by Picasa


    Sisters in matching dresses Posted by Picasa


    The main street of Borough Park, 13th Avenue, at 2:30 p.m. Posted by Picasa


    Not a soul in sight on New Utrecht AvenuePosted by Picasa


    Nothing in this direction, either Posted by Picasa

  • Wikipedia: Borough Park
  • Village Voice: Close-Up on Borough Park
  • Boychiks in the Hood: Travels in the Hasidic Underground
  • Etude: At Work in the Fields of the Lord
  • Baal Shem Tov Foundation

  • The Year of the Dog

    February 5, 2006

    Last Sunday, January 29, was the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year. Today New York City celebrated with the 7th Annual Chinatown New Year Parade.

    The unusually warm and sunny day drew throngs of spectators and marchers and, in honor of the Year of the Dog, the parade included a contingent of colorfully costumed canines. Gung Hay Fat Choy!


    Banging the gong Posted by Picasa


    Red and yellow balloons Posted by Picasa


    Preserve and build affordable housing Posted by Picasa


    Riding a float Posted by Picasa


    Spectators Posted by Picasa


    Green coat Posted by Picasa


    Back of dragon Posted by Picasa


    Dragon Posted by Picasa


    Colored paper fills the air Posted by Picasa


    Red brocade coat Posted by Picasa


    Blue brocade coat Posted by Picasa


    Happy new year Posted by Picasa


    Happy new year Posted by Picasa


    Happy new year Posted by Picasa


    Happy new year Posted by Picasa


    By morning, it will all be gone Posted by Picasa

  • Chinatown New York City
  • China Institute
  • Chinese New Year

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