Warren Place Mews

IMG_7847 (2)50 Favorite Places #10

There are a number of hidden streets in Brooklyn: streets that run for a block or two in the middle of the normal grid, then disappear; streets that dead-end at sunken subway tracks; alley-like streets where the horses and help of rich folk were once quartered. But there’s no street more hidden than Warren Place. Continue reading

Coney Island in winter

IMG_7920 (2)50 Favorite Places #9 (special Leap Year photo edition)

It has a mostly empty boardwalk to run on. It has Russian ladies in fur and Russian men in Speedos. It has birds: loons and gannets and Long-tailed Ducks, the occasional Razorbill, great flocks of gulls. It has a terrific aquarium. It has the ocean. It has palm trees, even if they’re fake. It has Nathan’s, open for business, and the silhouettes of amusement park rides padlocked for the season.

It even has a song by the great Garland Jeffreys. You might want to cue that up right now before taking a look at the photo gallery that follows. Continue reading

Yafa Cafe

IMG_794450 Favorite Places #8

That glowing review in the New York Times at the beginning of the year could well have gone to their heads – but it didn’t. Ali and Hakim are as friendly and unassuming as ever, their café’s vibe as relaxed, their food and drinks as good (or possibly better). The only difference I’ve noticed on recent visits is that it’s a bit busier. You may have to share a table at peak hours, but so what? Consider that part of its neighborly charm. Continue reading

The Coignet Building

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Third St entrance to the Coignet Building, circa February 2020

50 Favorite Places #7

Even at its most ruined, the Coignet building was striking. And also strange: marooned on the corner of Third Avenue and Third Street, facing the former American Can factory complex and a fenced-off Verizon lot and, these days, bumping up against Whole Foods, it has always projected faded elegance. It’s like an aging dowager fallen on hard times, querulous and irrelevant and no doubt an incorrigible reactionary, but dangling the promise of interesting stories (some of which might even be true).

For years, I assumed the boarded-up building with the Italianate facade had once been a grand mansion, the seat of the Coignet family. I imagined the Coignets hobnobbing with the Litchfields and the Pratts and the rest of Brooklyn’s Gilded Age elite. Continue reading

Panadería Don Paco López

IMG_787050 Favorite Places #6

Suppose, just hypothetically, that this blog’s account of Bush Terminal Piers Park (Favorite Place #3) piqued your interest. You go there, you look around, and as so often happens, you find yourself craving a bite to eat. The immediate area is unpromising.

What to do?

You could, of course, head to Industry City, where a few of Bush Terminal’s industrial lofts have been tastefully renovated to attract tech firms as tenants. But why not go somewhere that’s truly of the neighborhood, not a developer’s fever dream or a curated-to-death food hall disconnected from the surrounding streets? Poke around a bit, and you’ll find some gems – including several that merit “50 Favorite” status.

Panadería Don Paco López is one of them. Continue reading

Carroll Street Bridge

Carroll St Bridge50 Favorite Places #5

The first thing you notice about the Carroll St bridge is its bright blue paint job. The second thing, at least if you’re approaching from the west, is the sign that hangs from its exceedingly modest central tower:

ORDINANCE of the CITY
Any Person Driving over
this Bridge Faster than
a Walk will be Subject to
a Penalty of Five Dollars
For Each Offense Continue reading

Bond Street

Bond St sign50 Favorite Places #4

Bond St in Manhattan runs for two picturesque, Belgian block-paved blocks in NoHo. It’s lined with artful boutiques, luxury apartments and expensive restaurants, and is beloved by Instagrammers.

This is not about that Bond St.

Bond St in Brooklyn runs for roughly a mile, starting at 4th St in the Gowanus neighborhood, cutting through Boerum Hill and across Atlantic Avenue, eventually making a hard right in Downtown Brooklyn and becoming Dekalb. Sections of it have long been part of several of my standard running routes (e.g., my short Gowanus loop, my over-the-Brooklyn-Bridge 10 miler, and my Damascus-Bakery-is-calling-me ata’if route, among others). So I’ve watched the street change over the years, for good and bad and “it depends,” but until I decided to write about it here, I’d never traversed its full length in one go.

Come along with me, then, and explore Bond St from south to north. (If you’re not a runner, don’t worry – I’m currently injured, so we’ll be moving at an easy walking pace.) Continue reading

Bush Terminal Piers Park

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I’m two degrees of separation from this guy

50 Favorite Places #3

Panoramic views, running paths, industrial history, birds: Bush Terminal Park checks pretty much all of my boxes, except perhaps street art and food, and those are readily found nearby. (I’ve written about the first here, and future “favorite places” will cover the second, so stay tuned.)

Brooklyn industry once powered the nation, and Bush Terminal once powered Brooklyn industry. Continue reading

Café Martin

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Cold, snow, whatever: there’s almost always a bike outside Martin’s

50 Favorite Places #2

This is no longer Martin’s café – he handed it over to his one-time employee, Jenn, a few years ago – but it’s still mine. It’s the best place I know to sit and watch snowflakes drift down on a blizzardy afternoon like this one. Or to grab an iced coffee on a sweltering August day. Or to read, when the apartment is too small and the distractions too many.

What I like about Martin’s, aside from the excellent coffee, is that it’s an honest-to-god café . . . by which I mean, it’s a place to drink coffee, talk and read. It’s not a co-working space at which coffee happens to be served. There is no wi-fi, the tables will not hold both your coffee and your laptop (not even your tablet), and if there are outlets, they’re few and well-hidden (I’ve never bothered to look).

Jenn has made a few changes. Continue reading