Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tuesday Morning in Marine Park: Breakfast by Gerritsen Creek

We left Dumbo Books HQ in Williamsburg early, hoping to take ourselves to a quiet, peaceful place near the water. At 7:30 a.m. we were on the G train to Fulton Street, where we walked to the subway entrance by the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Building (One Hanson Place) for the D/Q Brighton line. We were headed for Gerritsen Creek and the Salt Marsh Nature Center in Marine Park, near where we grew up.

We got off the Q train at Kings Highway. Growing up, this was, along with the Junction (Flatbush/Nostrand) terminus of the IRT, our subway station.

(Photo courtesy of one of Brooklyn's best neighborhood blogs, the excellent

We used to come out here in 1965-66 in our sophomore year of high school, spent at The Franklin School on the Upper West Side. It took three trains and one bus 90 minutes to get home, the major reason we transferred to Midwood H.S. the next year.
Always we got out by East 16th Street and Quentin Road (unlike what they say on Broadway, between Avenue P and Avenue R there is no Avenue Q).

As we got older, Kings Highway, the shopping area between Coney Island Avenue (approximately East 10th Street, if there were such a thing) and Ocean Avenue (would-be East 20th Street) was where we went to at night when we were teens craving bright lights and a place to hang out. This was where we bought the Village Voice and the New York Times, since the papers weren't available in Old Mill Basin.

We went to the Kingsway and Avalon movie theaters here, got pizza and ices here, had lunch at Cooky's - a restaurant whose cookyburgers we still recall and which had locations on the East 16th Street BMT stops at Avenue M and Avenue J as well (Wendy Wasserstein's mother ordered Thanksgiving meals there, even from Manhattan)

- and we watched our friends buy cigarettes here (when kids could buy tobacco products, no problem) and look cool smoking and posing on a street corner.

We actually went only once or twice into Dubrow's Cafeteria on the northwest corner of East 16th, but we passed it for much of our young life.

After we got our drivers' licenses (and sometimes before: we drove in the neighborhood more times than we can recall when we were under 17), "The Highway" was also a teen cruising spot, a la American Graffiti.

When we got a little older and were active in politics, we'd accompany our candidates here, as in this pic we took of 1970 Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Congressman Dick Ottinger (he and the appointed incumbent Sen. Charles Gooddell - father of the NFL commissioner - lost to Conservative Party candidate, the sainted Jim Buckley).

Anyway, there is a Facebook group for people from 11229. We are actually 11234 people, and we headed there, to Marine Park, by bus.

Three choices: the B100 (the once-privately owned Mill Basin bus that used to take us home), the B2 up Avenue R mostly, then down Flatbush to Kings Plaza), and the one we spotted first, the no-longer-endangered B31 (Gerritsen Beach bus) which let us off at Gerritsen and Avenue U. (If we remember correctly, the B31 used to run from the Avenue U subway stop back in the day.)

(Photo courtesy of Forgotten New York, one of our top bookmarked websites and all-time favorite places, which has this great tour, among many brilliant ones of lesser-known NYC nabes, of this area)

This used to be The Flame restaurant, with "charcoal burgers," where we once stopped eating when we spotted a mouse running across the floor (though we didn't tell our lunch companions from college: our girlfriend, her future husband and his former fiancee). It's been the Chinar Restaurant for years now.

We finally got to Marine Park. Mostly when we were young, we stayed on the other side of the park, which stretches from Avenue U north to Fillmore Avenue. When we were young, the southern part of the park by Gerritsen Creek wasn't much, but with the Salt Marsh Nature Center and the trail and the help of the wonderful Urban Park Rangers, it's now thriving.

But it's still quiet early on a weekday morning (the Nature Center doesn't open until 11 a.m.) and we enjoyed our quiet time here.

Luckily, a little nature goes a long way with us.

After enjoying our time in the wetlands wildnerness, we hopped on a just-in-time B3 bus down Avenue U to civilization, this being for us the mall where we were maybe five times a week from the day it opened in early September 1970 until we left New York for Florida in January 1981. At the Flatbush Avenue entrance, there are some nice photos of old Brooklyn.

By the escalator is this scene of a big beach day at Coney Island.

We had a nice time at Marine Park and Gerritsen Creek before it got too hot. We're grateful for summer mornings off from work so that we can explore the less hectic parts of the city.

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