Saturday, August 28, 2010

Which way will the cat jump?

Summertime, and the pavement was baking,

Sun was burning,

And was blistering my head

Oh, I got a bone,

Spur all in my left heel, yeah,

I can’t do no walkin’

And I’m feelin’ so blue.

(Sincere apologies to Mr. DuBose Heyward and Mr. George Gershwin.)

This has not been the summer I had hoped it would be, mostly because of the sun and, latterly, a bone spur that developed in my heel (too much walking, maybe?). In fact, over all I'd have to call it a disappointing three months.

I spent most of the time around Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant; up Broadway, out Bedford and Nostrand Avenues, cutting through on my way out to the library. The only good long walk I took was on the last day of July when the heat broke and I ambled out to Bay Ridge and the Verrazano Bridge, and even that was a last minute decision that I took while walking around downtown.

Oh, well; best laid plans and all that.

I do especially enjoy wandering through the western edges of Bed-Stuy, the part nearest Clinton Hill, since this seems to be the area of Bed-Stuy most in transition these days. The Hassidic community of South Williamsburg is growing out along Bedford Avenue, Franklin Avenue, and Skillman Street among others, while the young people attracted to Brooklyn these days because of its trendiness see Bed-Stuy as a cheaper alternative to Williamsburg, Clinton Hill, and Fort Greene . . . among others.

Looking down Bedford Ave. from Myrtle Ave.

It's definitely a question of waiting to see which way the cat will jump; into a wholesale gutting of parts of the neighborhood, an attempt to integrate the new with the old, a quick and cheap grab at profits, which?

Bedford Ave. between Willoughby and DeKalb Aves.

The building that caught my attention most recently is an old church at the corner of DeKalb and Bedford Avenues. It was originally St. Peter's Lutheran Church, built in 1867, and around the turn of the century one of the largest Lutheran churches in Brooklyn with property valued at $100, 000, I'm no math wiz but I'd guess that $100, 000 in 1891 was a pretty tidy sum.

Bedford Ave. at DeKalb Ave., tower of St. Peter's church rising over the trees.

It's on the block now.

St. Peter's Church. Bedford Ave. near DeKalb Ave.

You can tell something's not quite right when you see a small sapling growing out of the belfry.

St. Peter's Church, Bedford Ave. near DeKalb Ave.

Of course, they could do a Limelight and save the church building but put it to another use. In fact, the notices there are somewhat confusing, between "retail space available" and "development site for sale" it sounds like the owners will take the most profitable and least complicated route.

If the structure does come down, well, new buildings haven't always been kind to the neighborhood. One can hope for the best.

Bedford Avenue and Clifton Place

Clifton Place is just two blocks farther down (south) of DeKalb Ave. and is a fascinating street in itself; fascinating because it is, again, one of those streets that changes from block to block. But I'm not going to go off on a tangent about Clifton Place right now. Maybe later.

A block beyond Clifton Place at Greene Avenue and Bedford Avenue.

Another block of those ordinary red brick buildings that were probably going up all over Brooklyn at the turn of the century. There's nothing spectacular about them, but maybe it's their sheer ordinariness, the fact that they've been where they've been so long and don't call attention to themselves that makes me prefer them to the newer stuff. That building on Clifton Place doesn't call attention to itself, it SCREAMS it.

And here are a few more . . .

Bedford Ave. at Greene Ave.

Greene Ave. at Franklin Ave.

Lexington Ave. at Franklin Ave.

Lexington Ave. at Franklin Ave.

At which point another map might be in order, courtesy of the New York City Department of Internet Technology . . .

Now, to be perfectly fair to any developers and builders, not every block in that area is lined with old brownstone or brick row houses and shaded by hundred-year-old trees. It's a mixed area of the residential and the commercial and some blocks are pretty dreary. Not that the new building does anything to brighten the blocks up, it just doesn't do anything to damage anything better.

Lexington Ave. between Classon and Franklin Aves.

Lexington Ave. between Classon and Franklin Aves.

Lexington Ave. between Classon and Grand Aves.

Lexington Ave. between Classon and Grand Aves.

I don't know if that factory above is still operating. If not I'd prefer that someone renovated it into apartments rather than tear it down and replace it with some green- or blue-glass and steel monster.

Across the street from the above building is the one below that has been turned into living space. Nice! Keep the greenery and just add people.

Lexington Ave. between Classon and Grand Aves.

Now it just happens that around the corner from those two buildings above is a perfect example of two different ways to handle this problem of new building in old neighborhoods.

Lexington Ave. dead ends at Grand Ave. and you can go either right to Greene Ave. or left to Gates Ave. Along the western side of Grand from Lexington to Gates is a row of old, tree shaded homes, brownstones mixed with others.

Grand Ave. from Lexington Ave. looking toward Gates Ave.

Grand Ave. looking from Gates Ave. toward Lexington Ave.

In the opposite direction, toward Greene Ave., there is new building, but directly across the street from the houses above there was also some new construction, and you can see that the developers made two very different choices, one to try to blend in and the other, seemingly, not to bother.

Grand Ave. from Gates Ave. toward Lexington Ave., directly across the street from the two photos previous.

Grand Ave. from Lexington Ave. toward Greene Ave. A different block, a different decision.

It's almost midnight and I am going to take a break now. The pictures above are from my walk to Bay Ridge at the end of last month (the start of the walk before I had actually decided to go all the way out to the bridge).

Since I've had the problem with the bone spur in my heel I haven't been able to walk much, but I have been so anxious to track down the last two Carnegie libraries in Brooklyn that I hadn't seen, that I figured today, the hell with it, I'd just take buses.

Well, let me tell you, walking is a breeze compared to busing. To get where I wanted to go I had to take four buses, the 62, 41, 12, and 14; going and then coming back. It took six hours altogether what with transfers and heavy traffic on some routes. The sooner I get back to walking the better.

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