The walk down into DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights, combined with my usual walks home from work over the Williamsburg Bridge have caused an idea to fester in my mind for a while. Why doesn’t Brooklyn have the kind of linked riverside park/path system along the East River that Manhattan does? Why don’t the neighborhoods along the East River have even the kind of riverside path that our friends and neighbors in Bay Ridge and Fort Hamilton have?
As I mentioned in a previous post, I walked down to Bay Ridge over Memorial Day and discovered the walking/cycling/running/sitting path that runs along the Upper Bay north and south of the Verrazano Bridge. In the words of Brooklyn’s own poet, I loafed and I invited my soul. After a long, hot walk along 4th Avenue and then through the warehouses and dusty streets along 2nd Avenue, I felt my soul was refreshed when I came upon that walk along the bay.
Why are our souls not refreshed in Williamsburg or Greenpoint or along the shore around the Navy Yard? We are handed piddling little pocket parks that most people probably don’t even know about, anyway, unless they stumble upon them accidentally, and we’re expected to be grateful like poor Oliver Twist with one helping of gruel. Meanwhile the high-rise co-ops shoot up blocking what view of the river we might have had as the "mid-towning" of the riverfront continues.
Kent Avenue is beginning to look more like 6th Avenue in Chelsea every day with the glass and steel and brick behemoths lining the roadside. These days one of the few places you can get a decent view of that stretch of the river is from the Williamsburg Bridge and the city has made certain you can’t enjoy that by enclosing you in a wire cage
from one side to the other. Don’t think about trying to take a picture of the Manhattan skyline or the Williamsburg shore from the Williamsburg Bridge unless you want your photo to look like something produced by the Futurists or Constructivists: Lower Manhattan through a Mesh Screen.
For anyone wishing to taste the delights of the riverfront there are always the large attractive parks between and around the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges (above), including a state park, but this is a long walk from Williamsburg or Greenpoint; there is a small park behind a new apartment building on Kent Avenue(co-op or condo or whatever) just south of Broadway (below) (if you don't miss the small gate or mistake it for private property since the park sign isn't too visible, or if you're even walking along Kent Avenue at all), and Williamsburg’s sop, the riverfront park on Kent Avenue north of Grand Street (along with the vest pocket park at the foot of Grand Street). I hear they are planning a sliver in Greenpoint, too. But these are insignificant compared to the length of the river's shoreline.
And don’t let me start on the Navy Yard. One would have thought that when the federal government relinquished control of the Navy Yard to New York City, the city might have found something better to do with it (or even additional to do with it) than immediately hand it over to a private group for a gated business/industrial park. I wouldn’t be surprised if the security in place there now is stricter than when the Navy occupied the place.
Just think of walking from Williamsburg to Prospect Park or the central library at Grand Army Plaza as I do on a weekly basis, or even a walk over to Fort Greene or Clinton Hill. You descend Clymer Street and see across the street an inviting open gate and a roadway. On city maps this is shown as Washington Street, the same Washington Street that goes through Clinton Hill on its way to Eastern Parkway and the Brooklyn Library and Brooklyn Museum. You walk to the gatehouse and inquire if you can walk through. No, I’m sorry but you must have proper ID to go in. So you turn back and trudge your weary way down Kent Avenue along the sun baked sidewalk to the BQE and turn to walk down Williamsburg Street and then Park Avenue until you come to Washington Street once again. And you look back through that gate at the apartment house at Clymer Street and think, if only. But we only pay the taxes, right? And no doubt there is a latter day Manhattan Project underway that demands the strictest security. Maybe guard dogs and razor wire next.
P.S. Speaking of loafing and inviting our souls, I would recommend a copy of Leaves of Grass to anyone wanting to wander the streets of Brooklyn. It gives one perspective.