Sunday, July 19, 2009

Almost There

As I suspected, most of this blog is going to consist of re-walks, but that’s okay. I started on my project of walking the borough of Brooklyn back in March; at least the genesis of the idea was my walk of March 14 down Prospect Park West to Windsor Terrace, Green-Wood Cemetery, and the top of the hill at McDonald Avenue. Simply put, everything else comes from my curiosity about what was at the bottom of that hill.

On the following weekend—or the nearest following one with decent weather—I went on to the bottom of that hill into the Kensington neighborhood and on successive weekends rambled through the neighborhoods around there, meaning that vast swath of Brooklyn south of Prospect Park. I walked down Ocean Avenue and back up Ocean Parkway. I walked Bedford Avenue from Williamsburg past Brooklyn College into Midwood, over to Coney Island Avenue and back up to the park.

On Memorial Day weekend on two successive days I walked out to Bay Ridge, to the Verrazano Bridge, up into Fort Hamilton, Dyker Heights, and into parts of Bath Beach and Bensonhurst. That weekend, I walked 5th Avenue through Sunset Park and thought Sunset Park would never end. As far as I can tell right now I have walked the entire length of Fort Hamilton Parkway, Bedford Avenue, Eastern Parkway, and all of Flatbush Avenue except the very end from Avenue V to the Belt Parkway, but I will remedy that before summer’s end. I have to, since I believe that Flatbush Avenue is the only roadway that crosses the entire borough of Brooklyn from the East River to the Atlantic Ocean and I would like to say that I’ve walked its entire length. Bedford Avenue comes in a brave 2nd, I believe, but it ends at Manhattan Avenue in the heart of Greenpoint and doesn’t go all the way across that neighborhood to the Queens line. I celebrated the 4th of July by walking Bedford Avenue from it’s end (or beginning) in Sheepshead Bay to my home in Williamsburg.

The 4th of July was also the day I walked out Flatbush Avenue almost to the end, from there wandering through part of Marine Park and into Gerritsen Beach and from there to Sheepshead Bay (and so back home by Bedford Avenue).

For the past two weekends I have walked the neighborhoods off Eastern Parkway. I was going to say “explored” those neighborhoods but I don’t have time for that when, sometimes, I don’t have any idea of exactly where I am going or how long it will take to get there (and back home again). Last weekend I decided to walk out Eastern Parkway to its end, which I knew would be at Broadway Junction. From there I took Broadway back to Williamsburg.

Yesterday (Saturday, July 18), I wandered around Weeksville. Weeksville is a community founded in Brooklyn by black freedmen in the early 19th century. It is in a part of Bed-Stuy between Eastern Parkway and Atlantic Avenue around Utica and Rochester Avenues. I hadn’t time to do much more than walk through the area yesterday to get the lay of the land and will be going back there later. In connection with Weeksville, I just found out that PBS has an online video series on New York City called “The City Concealed,” that I haven’t seen. The link to the Weeksville segment is: I haven’t seen any of them and don’t plan on seeing them at least until I have finished my walks. For the time being I want to discover things for myself. Watch it if you’d like.

Today I took in DUMBO, Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Redhook, and parts of Gowanus and Boerum Hill. That wasn’t as difficult as it sounds because they all lie pretty much next to one another along the East River and Upper Bay. I hadn’t been in Brooklyn Heights in, probably, twenty years and had never been in the other areas. Having lived in Williamsburg for eight years, I was astounded at the quiet in the Heights and Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens. Was it just Sunday or is it always like that? Astonishing. You could almost hear the bees buzzing in the flowers for the silence.

From what I could see today, Redhook looks like it consists of the Redhook Houses, a vast, sprawling complex of redbrick apartment houses; Redhook Park and the Redhook athletic fields, a vast, sprawling complex of baseball fields, soccer fields, handball courts, and parkland; warehouse buildings . . . and Ikea.

From there I walked home by way of Gowanus and Boerum Hill, both the kind of quiet, out of the way neighborhoods that appeal to me.

I am tired from so much typing. I wanted to get in the giglio feast at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel nearby me in Williamsburg and even start adding photos, but I haven’t the energy right now.

I hope to pull this blog together soon. The walking takes up so much energy that there isn’t a lot left over for writing.

Anyway . . . as far as I can tell, I have yet to get to and through Gravesend and Coney Island (and more of Borough Park, which I really just skirted back in May), and also what I guess would be the far eastern end: Flatlands, East Flatbush, and Canarsie.

I’d also like to get down to Floyd Bennett Field and into Mill Basin, for completeness sake if nothing else, and then perhaps spend the autumn filling in the blank spaces.

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