Tuesday, March 21, 2017
For the 12th day of our month in New York, it's back to Brooklyn for a chance to walk through some of the most handsome, historic, and charming neighborhoods in the city. These days, the neighborhoods south of Atlantic Avenue from Brooklyn Heights have a patchwork of names: Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens, Red Hook, and Gowanus. They have been divvied up by highway construction and by real estate interests. But for many generations, this was just called South Brooklyn. This area began development as a rural retreat but very quickly grew up with the growth of New York and its harbor in the 1830s. The area south of Atlantic Avenue officially became part of the City of Brooklyn in 1834 and was connected to Manhattan by the South Ferry in 1836. Stately homes were built that housed upper-middle class professionals and these remain the typical structures of South Brooklyn today. As the 20th century progressed, the wealthy residents moved out and were replaced by immigrants including the requisite Italians and Irish, but even some unique communities such as Syrian/Lebanese immigrants, who still have an influence along Atlantic Avenue, and Mohawk Indians drawn down from Canada to work on the high steel construction projects in Manhattan.
It wasn't just houses being built here though. South Brooklyn proved ideal as a shipping center. South Brooklyn essentially was a peninsula. Buttermilk Channel, the waterway between Brooklyn and Governors Island and part of New York Harbor, is to the west. When the land abruptly ends at Red Hook the shoreline swings east and forms Gowanus Bay to the south. The east end of the neighborhood was pierced by a marshy lowland filled with brackish channels and sea grass called the Gowanus marshes. Over the middle of the 19th century, all of these waterways would be converted to shipping and industry. The Atlantic and Erie Basins were built as protected dockyards for ships in the 1840s and 1860s. By 1860, the Gowanus channel had been deepened and the marshes around it filled in to create an almost two mile long industrial canal. All this shipping attracted workers to staff the ships, warehouses, and factories. The area hummed as one of the busiest waterfronts in the world well into the 20th century when modern container ships would almost, but not completely, end the shipping to Brooklyn.
Through it all, the stately homes from the mid-19th century remained in tact. As early as the 1950s well-heeled New Yorkers were eyeing the charming historic properties for renovation and preservation acts in the '60s and '70s assured that the simple and stately old homes would never disappear. Today, the streets are just as likely to be trod by wealthy professionals and their families as Sicilian dockworkers. But look closer and you may see the few cranes along Columbia Street are still unloading ships, and giant cruise lines call at Red Hook on their way to ports all over the world. And along the waterways of South Brooklyn the old warehouses now house breweries, art galleries, distilleries, and performance spaces. The old and new coexist on every street in South Brooklyn
Friday, February 17, 2017
Monday, March 14, 2016
I like Philadelphia a great deal. It's not as glamorous or ritzy as Boston, New York, or Washington but in many ways it's more charming. There are the famous sights where America's revolution and government began of course, and all through the city are historic streets and neighborhoods. There are wonderful markets and foods, great art and architecture, but also a great vibe and soul. It's a city just that defined the sound of disco and 70s soul. There's a lot to see, hear, and taste on a trip to Philly. And best of all, it's only a 90 minute train ride from Manhattan. So head over to Penn Station, and get aboard the soul train.
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Friday, November 20, 2015
Finally, a note about the museum's admission policy: The Met requires visitors to pay to access the museum but visitors may pay any amount they like. So yes, if you want to be a jerk you can pay with a penny. As you enter the museum, there are ticket counters displaying an adult admission prices at a "recommended" $25. However, when buying your tickets you can pay any amount you feel comfortable with. I fully support anyone who pays the full admission fee. I also realize many people are unable or unwilling to pay the full amount and that is perfectly fine. The Met is meant, in both law and spirit, to be a place where everyone can appreciate the finest works of art in the history of the planet. There's no pressure to pay the full amount. And I've never found the ticket agents disagreeable if I decide to pay a smaller amount. It does make it slightly less awkward to have the exact amount in hand you want to pay, that way you just slap it down and ask for however many tickets you want.
Monday, August 24, 2015
Day 8 - Queens (Forest Hills, Jackson Heights, and Flushing)
Morning - Unlike Manhattan and Brooklyn, Queens is a product of the 20th century. For most of the 18th and 19th centuries Queens was just farmland, with scattered towns or factories mixed in. Construction and development exploded with the completion of the Queensboro Bridge in 1909, the opening of Penn Station and the Long Island Railroad tunnel in 1910, and the first subway tunnels in 1915 and 1917. Suddenly and entirely undeveloped part of the city had rail, road, and subway access to Midtown Manhattan. Developers madly rushed into the void and began building houses and apartment buildings all over Queens. In some neighborhoods, developers were able to buy up farmland in large swaths and create entire communities. Forest Hills and Jackson Heights both were built up in this fashion and Forest Hills is where we start the morning. Multiple subway lines bring you to 71st Ave, the E and F are express from Manhattan and get you to Forest Hills in only a half hour from Midtown. Walking down 71st Ave brings you past the commercial strip of Austin Avenue, under the Long Island Railroad tracks and into Station Square, the grand entry to the Forest Hills Gardens section.
Monday, May 25, 2015
The Great Bridge by David McCollough is one of those wonderful pieces of non-fiction where a great historical event is rendered into such a irresistible narrative that the pages fly through your hand. The bridge to link Manhattan to Brooklyn for the first time took almost two decades and twisted through years of corruption, scandal, dedication, construction, illness, and tragedy. The Great Bridge is a detailed yet evocative report of every aspect of how the Brooklyn Bridge was built, from conception to completion.