Tiny Brooklyn front yards

IMG_819950 Favorite Places #18

Okay, so it’s not a “place,” exactly. It’s many places, scattered across the borough. Perhaps it’s better described as a style, a statement, even a culture. But the creative things that Brooklynites do with their tiny front yards deserve a shout out. For instance, I’m not sure why the folks in the Park Slope building depicted at the top of this post turned their yard into an amusement park, but I’m glad they did. If I had the ability to embed video, you’d see those sparkly rainbow pinwheels spinning wildly and it would be guaranteed to make you smile.

In fact, many tiny Brooklyn yards seem calculated to make you smile, like the one below, in the Gowanus section. (“They must be Italian!” was the reaction of an Italian-Canadian friend.)

9th St 3-4

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

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

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

From the sidelines of the 2019 NYC marathon

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My sentiments exactly

Here it is, delayed by my traditional post-marathon trip (look for a report on Brooklyn in Texas, coming soon) and general laziness: the view from the sidelines of this year’s NYC marathon. Seeing as how I presume to publish a spectator’s guide every year, it only seems right to share how my own spectating went down.

Pre-race – an odd encounter

I began the day, as is my custom, with a run along the Fourth Avenue segment of the course, from roughly Mile 7 in Park Slope to Mile 2.something in Bay Ridge. Thanks to the end of daylight savings time (daylight savings time is a fraud and a scourge, as far as I’m concerned, and I look forward to its end almost as much as I look forward to the marathon), I was able to set out in full light a little after 7 am. As I ran, I kept a rough count of the people I saw along the course. In descending order of frequency, they included:

  • Race volunteers (thank you, all of you)
  • Cyclists
  • Cops
  • NYC Department of Transportation trucks and personnel (so that runners would have fresh, sticky asphalt to step in, which I suppose is marginally better than potholes)
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses
  • Musicians
  • Other runners
  • Skateboarders
  • People telling me I was going the wrong way (only two this year, well under the norm)
  • A guy wearing a marathon race bib, seemingly doing strides on 92nd St

The last comes with a story. Continue reading

Street art Sunday: A new mural rises in Sunset Park

IMG_7212Or perhaps I should say “newish;” I missed an opportunity to document its creation last summer. I did see it in its earliest stages, when I went for a run along Brooklyn’s industrial waterfront in mid-July, right at the beginning of one of our heat waves. A group of young people was gathered by one of the long, low-slung buildings along First Avenue, between the south entrance to Bush Terminal Park and the Brooklyn Army Terminal, and I stopped to chat with them, because I know how much teenagers enjoy talking with sweaty, middle-aged women. I could see what looked like the beginnings of a mural behind them – splotches of color, sweeping, curved lines, all very abstract – and asked if that’s what it was, and if they part of the crew putting it up. Yes, they told me. Continue reading

Street art Sunday: migrations

458ECDBE-EC23-4B77-9D3D-4735D6D62419I’m in northwest Ohio this week for the “Biggest Week in American Birding,” returning to the streets and landscapes of my childhood to watch thousands of birds make their own journey north. I’ll have more to say about my trip in a post-to-come.

In the meantime, here’s a series of poignant, hopeful murals that make the connection between the migrations of birds and people. They’ve adorned the exterior of P.S. 24 in Sunset Park for years now, and while time has worn and faded them, they’re still beautiful.

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Street art Sunday: Brooklyn at work

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A proud Sunset Park machine shop

In honor of May Day, also know as International Workers’ Day, coming up on Wednesday: images of work and workers from around the borough.

The first couple of examples aren’t street art proper, but I love them anyway. The gears and fasteners at the top of the post aren’t retro, or ironic, or historical: they decorate the walls of a small machine shop on the northern edge of Sunset Park. I choose to believe that one of the workers there – a skilled painter as well as a machinist – suggested festooning the outside walls with images of precision tools and quality products. Continue reading

Street art Sunday: self-referential irony

IMG_5760 (Edited)Today’s look at Brooklyn street art focuses on street art that’s not only aware of itself as street art, it demands that you be aware of it, too.

Like this late, great piece in Gowanus, dripping with irony as well as gold.

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Then there’s this contribution, which can still be seen in Bed Stuy.

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And this from Bushwick, with extra irony courtesy of a passerby.

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But my hands-down favorite is the piece at the top of this post, found in Sunset Park. I like the fact that there’s nothing ironic about it. It’s clever, sure, but it’s cleverness that celebrates creativity, not the other way around.

Street art Sunday: Mexico in Brooklyn

IMG_6858Today’s bonus post launches a new blog feature, highlighting especially cool and/or weird street art seen around Brooklyn. It’s quick and easy enough to post weekly, even when I’m at my laziest, which is often. It gives my backlog of “seen on the run” photos a raison d’etre. And, hopefully, it will brighten your own Sunday.

In honor of our Mexico trip, this week’s installment features “Templo Mixcoac,” seen yesterday morning at the corner of Norman and Guernsey in Greenpoint and credited (I think – deciphering tags is not my forte) to @tiburon_704, who appears to be on Instagram (also not my forte). Continue reading