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Perspectives of a Native Brooklynite

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Perspectives of a Native Brooklynite

Brooklyn Mel always writes such interesting stuff, that I thought I'd take his perspective a little further.

In the meanwhile it will give some orientation to visitors who want to visit Brooklyn. But, is that Brooklyn c. 2012 or Brooklyn 'back in the day?

I was born in Flatlands area of Brooklyn in 1948, and have lived in NYC ever since (except for a year in Santa Fe NM). My neighborhood was a quiet middle class community. In fact Gil Hodges (remember him?) lived there, too.

Where we went for fun included Kings Highway, Marine Park, Prospect Park (esp. Zoo), beaches in Riis Park (Bay 14) and Breezy Point (Queens) sometimes Belle Harbor. We also went "downtown" to shop at Abraham & Strauss, and hang out around Court St, Borough Hall, Joralemon St, Brooklyn Heights. My grandmother owned a small 3 story building in Red Hook, which she sold in 1970 (for $17,000!). We hung out on "stoops", played street games, and had a fun time. We rarely went into Manhattan, although many of our fathers worked there. All our moms were stay-at-home. (It was 1950's after all).

We went to Jahn's for ice cream ("kitchen sink") and lots of other "ice cream parlors"; Coney Island (Steeplechase), the aquarium, Brighton Beach (esp. knishes), Sheepshead Bay (fresh fish right off the fishing boats) were part of our summers.

My mom went to high school in Park Slope, as did my sister. I went to college in Brooklyn (St. John's U which is now a condo) as did my sister (St. Joseph's College). I hung out a lot at the Bklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza. There were a few old Dutch farmhouse around (and still are). The Dutch originally settled Brooklyn and there was that influence, as well as Ducth-named street, which are still here.

Williamburg was then downscale with lots of industrial areas and poverty. So was Bushwick. You would NEVER go there. Ft. Greene was nice, as was Park Slope.

In 1972 I made the HUGE journey to live in Manhattan (Greenwich Village/now Columbus Circle) but hold Brooklyn close to me. I get more than a little frustrated with recent newcomers who think they "own" Brooklyn!

There are so many memories I could add, but I know there are other Brooklynites here who can also add their story. Or visitors with any Q's. It's great to visit Brooklyn, but don't be fooled by the hipster version of "Brooklyn", there's much history here.

Many of the places I mentioned are still in Brooklyn - give it a try!

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1. Re: Perspectives of a Native Brooklynite

I'm excited about exploring Brooklyn on my next visit in December, having only ventured over there on the night time bus tour on previous visits.

This is a great post, i'll be adding your suggestions to our itinerary for our Brooklyn day.

Thank you.

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2. Re: Perspectives of a Native Brooklynite

Hmm? Do we know each other??

I was born the same year as you and my friend is married to a guy who lived next door to Gil Hodges!

In addition to the places you hung out and the things you did I'll add:

Coney Island for a hotdog or lobster roll and to ride the Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel in a swinging car!

Ebenger's Bakery on Ave. M for blackout cake and fresh bread

Cookies, for a hamburger and milk shake after the movies

ice skating at the outdoor rink in Prospect Park, the Academy of Music for "matinee for moppets on Saturdays,roller skating indoors at the rink nearby

My family DID go into "the city"(Manhattan) for theater and once in a while to shop. I also went to Staten Island to go horseback riding in the park.

There was still a farm near our local playground where my grandmother could get a live chicken.

Neighborhoods and times change but it is good to take a look back once in a while!!

Brooklyn, NY
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3. Re: Perspectives of a Native Brooklynite

I still live in the same house my parents bought back in 1963 for $22,000 (can you imagine that?) in Bensonhurst/Bath Beach. Right around the corner from me is a Dutch Reformed (18th Avenue & 84th Street) church that was built in the late 1700's early 1800's. The original church is still on the block along with a new one built late 1800's. I can see the steeple of the original from my back yard. A couple of blocks from here there is a small monument where George Washington slept during the war and a couple of blocks in the other direction is an old cemetary from those days. So much history in the neighborhood.

I was born in Shore Road hospital which is no longer there. I went to New Utrecht High School, hung out in Chookies, Jahns (the one on 21st avenue & 86th street) and Famous Cafeteria. My brothers hung out at Mitchell's by Fort Hamilton Pkwy. We still go to Coney Island all the time in the summer and just love walking on the boardwalk, stopping in at Ruby's for a drink and having a hotdog at Nathans.

Like you we played on the "block" my mom was a stay at home mom and we would go into the "city" on special occasions.

We, too, would get fresh chickens from a local farm.

My mom shopped in Ebingers as well but on 86th Street. 18th avenue still has the best Italian food, shops and bakeries.

My house was and still is a family home and hopefully that will never change.

You and I are different but so alike.

Thank you for the walk down memory lane.

Edited: 08 June 2012, 20:03
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4. Re: Perspectives of a Native Brooklynite

I didnt know, until I met my Publisher Chuck from the Bronx (who calls me "Evar") that Jahns was a chain. We had it growing up in Union (NJ) too - and my other boss had it in Long Island.

we were all trying to remember how much the Kitchen Sink was - because it seemed exhorbitant at the time! As a chocolate ice cream lover, I was never tempted (but would drive miles for a place called Grunnings!)


Brooklyn, NY
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5. Re: Perspectives of a Native Brooklynite

Evening, at the time I don't think any of knew it was a chain. I was surprised to hear about the one that NYNM mentions.

NYNM - I have a son living in Albuquerque...not far from you. He is looking to come back to NY soon, but is in the army so needs to find a good fort to transfer to.

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6. Re: Perspectives of a Native Brooklynite

Last year during the Marathon in November, we stayed at the Sleep Inn in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say it seemed like hipsterism has not yet taken over that area. Out of all the places I have stayed in New York, it seemed the most "authentic." Just a bunch of regular people going on about their lives, residences, businesses, industry. We did go every day into the city for our activities, but also had at least one meal a day in one of the local places and watched our runners come by early in the race down 5th Avenue.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm going to guess that the vast majority of New Yorkers don't go into Manhattan regularly, just another reason why visitors should get off the beaten track some.

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7. Re: Perspectives of a Native Brooklynite

Ahhhhhhhhhhh, memories. Same age group! I grew up in Bath Beach then moved to Bay Ridge before finally coming down to SoBe. Also hung out at the library.......... Used to go to Jahn's on 86th Street also for the kitchen sink! That was for birthday parties. LOL! And the Ebinger's Blackout Cake! I forgot about that! YUM! Our summer vacation was taking the bus to Coney Island to the beach and stopping at Nathan's on the way home for their famous french fries! Hardly ever went into Manhattan to shop (if we did it was Klein's on the Square on 14th St.). Mostly we went downtown to A&S and would stop in Juniors for the cheesecake. Nothing nowhere beats Italian pizza and food and pastries like those in Brooklyn -- not even Little Italy LOL! Remember Mitchell's too! Also played "on the block" summer nights catching "lightning bugs" in our jars with holes punched in the top. Stay at home moms and grandfather's outside all day watching the block! How about White Castle in Bay Ridge LOL! I think there's another old church with graveyard in the 80s but maybe on 16th Ave? I also remember going with my grandmother to a place where they had live chickens -- think it was on 18th Ave somewhere. Great neighborhood back then, Is it anywhere near what it was now??

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8. Re: Perspectives of a Native Brooklynite

Born in the Bronx, and growing up in Mamaroneck, I had few trips into Brooklyn. I had to discovery the borough essentially on my own. When I came back from college, I wanted to live in Manhattan but was priced out. I discovered Park Slope by accident in 1980 and have live there since.

When I moved in there were several abandoned buildings on my block, and Fifth Ave was mostly bodegas, laundromats and abandoned buildings. Cabs would not come here. But, it was near the park, I could afford it, and the houses were still beautiful. I have watched as the area changed around me. It seemed like Fifth Ave changed overnight.

DUMBO was a mostly abandoned or semi abandoned industrial area with a fenced off waterfront. Williamsburg, which I began to visit when the Brewery opened, was mostly an old Polish neighborhood with assorted industry and not a hipster in sight. Bushwick was just dangerous. The farther reaches of the boro like Manhattan Beach, Canarsie and Mill Basin were not even on my radar.

It took some time for me to spread my wings and go visiting other neighborhoods in my home boro, and often felt like a tourist outside of the Slope. Still feel like one in many areas of Queens or The Bronx. But over time, I began to know more about BK than my own neighborhood.

My Brooklyn is the Brooklyn of rebirth. The boro that was left for dead, picked itself up, dusted itself off, and began to reinvent itself. Those abandoned industrial buildings in DUMBO are now stores and million dollar condos. Williamsburg has bloomed into an interantional hipster scene complete with great restaurants and biergartens. And dangerous Bushwick, while it has a way to go, is rapidly becoming a place where artists live and work.

My Brooklyn is not the Brooklyn of NYNM or Italian Prince. My son's Brooklyn is not the same Brooklyn as mine. Your Brooklyn? Those discoveries have yet to be made. Come across the river and check it out for yourself.

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9. Re: Perspectives of a Native Brooklynite

This is wonderful, thank you for sharing. Staying in Brooklyn for 5 days in early July and looking forward to it very much.

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10. Re: Perspectives of a Native Brooklynite

I knew there would be some Brooklynites out there who would join in!

And I'm glad so many future tourists are also joining in.

I'm glad there's recognition of the Dutch influence in Brooklyn.

For the future tourists:

As you can see, there are a few Brooklyns. I will try to outline:

1. "Seaside Brooklyn" (Coney Island, Brighton Beach, also include Manhattan Beach, Sheepshead Bay, Mill Basin, also Shore Road/Verrazano Bridge).

2. "Brooklyn of Rebirth" (as Mel calls it). This is the hipster NY and settled mostly by people who moved out of Manhattan; also called "Eastern East Village." This is not "old" Brooklyn and I cynically do not really see it as a "phoenix" in the sense that the residence are often trust fund kids and real estate developers who are not native NYers. But it is "hot".

3. "Neighborhood Brooklyn": This is your Bath Beach, Bensonhurst, Flatbush, Flatlands, etc. There are many ethnic enclaves and well as missed middle class folks.

4. "Old Stock Brooklyn": Includes Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, Fort Greene, Eastern Parkway, some of Bedford Stuyvesant, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights, and Prospect Park. There are older areas with long history and many lovely old brownstones.

A few other comments:

- Kitchen Sink was $5.95, very expensive. Eventually $10.95. The Jahn's I went to was on Nostrand Ave near Ave. X or Ave Z.

- Yes, Ebingers! Mint green box with brown latticework.

- Horseback riding/Staten Island = Clove Lake! Also reptile collection and 69th St. ferry Bkiyn to SI.

- Coney Island - yes, Wonder Wheel, Cyclone. Who remembers the "Swing" at Steeplechase?

- Live chickens, yes. My grandma got the on Columbia St (now "Carroll Gardens!")