I’m occasionally surprised when it takes me an hour to get somewhere else in Brooklyn. (Apparently I keep forgetting that Brooklyn is a huge place.) Going to Spring Creek was such a trip.
To get there, I took the 3 to Van Siclen Avenue in East New York, one stop from the terminus at New Lots Avenue; from there, I hopped on the B83 to Vandalia Avenue and Fountain Avenue. At one point the bus takes the Shore Parkway over Hendrix Creek.
Here’s a map of my walk:
The thoroughfare of Flatlands Avenue is reduced to a backroad as it approaches its end at the Queens border. On the right side of the road is a Department of Environmental Protection facility tasked with cleaning up Spring Creek. On the left is the MTA’s Spring Creek Depot and a Postal Service maintenance-facility. If you’ve ever want to see USPS trucks hitting 55 mph, come down here and stand for a few minutes.
A few Department of Sanitation employers, hanging outside of their street-sweepers, noticed me, and I overheard them wondering what a “white guy” was doing in the area, in addition to some other colorful terms.
I had seen a sign for the well-named Aquaduck Flea Market. Even though it was not technically in my area of interest, I couldn’t resist. It is across the street from a fenced-off area with a mysterious grassy knoll.
There were some things you would expect to see at a flea market: clothes, handbags, food. Some shoppers haggled over items.
But there were some things I didn’t expect to see. To wit: household products. Here we have a selection of soaps and other items of cleanliness; a nearby vendor was selling Prego, Ragu, and other brand-name sauces, in addition to a variety of other packaged foods. This makes sense, because Spring Creek is in a “food desert“.
There were also knock-offs, like these “Sharpei” markers.
One booth caught my attention and my money: a coconut stand. The vendor, Ramon, picked a coconut for me, and lopped off the top with a machete, giving me access to the sweet, electrolyte-rich water inside. When I had finished the water, Ramon cut the coconut into pieces, allowing me to eat the “meat”, a gelatinous substance that I scooped out with a “spoon” made out of part of the husk.
Ramon hails from Guyana, and lives in Queens. When he was a kid, he and his friends would climb the coconut trees and make this treat for themselves. He also gave me some sugar-water; to make it, he put sugarcane into what looked like a presser for orange juice. It was very tasty – sweet and salty.
Moving on now, and looking back into my target zone, I came across a large athletic area called Moe Finkelstein Athletic Complex. It used to belong to Thomas Jefferson High School, which was closed by the city in 2007. Its campus, now repurposed for other schools, is located near the Van Siclen Avenue stop I had gotten off earlier.
Gateway Elton Street is under construction. Its plan includes a new educational facility, which will house two schools starting in the fall: the Academy for Young Writers (currently in Williamsburg, but with the majority of its students coming from East New York) and a new 6-12 school.
The other development in the area is Gateway Estates, possibly the most monotonous example of architecture in human history. The plan did make for some cool visual effects, though, like the spiral staircases below.
Although the area was mostly uninhabited, there were signs of life. This guy liked me so much he barked at me and tried to dig his way out to hang with me. (Right?)
I caught a look at the football/soccer and baseball fields on the other side of Moe Finkelstein.
Remember when I said Spring Creek was only three miles from the longest runway at JFK? These guys, among others, provided me with a not-so-gentle reminder.
The Brooklyn Developmental Disabilities Services Office takes up a large section of Spring Creek. It is entirely surrounded by multicolor-brick walls. In a few spots there are gates, which allowed me a look in.
Gateway Center might have the largest parking lot in Brooklyn. (I invite readers to submit challengers for the title.) It consists entirely of big-box stores; they don’t connect internally, so in effect it is a giant strip mall. Food options include an Olive Garden and a Red Lobster.
Spring Creek Park is an oasis of green snuggled between Gateway Center and the Shore Parkway. It wasn’t getting too much use on this Tuesday; I saw one man riding a bike down the well-marked path, and a mother playing with her daughter.
I also saw this beautiful bird. After some research (and a tweet to the National Audubon Society, which was kind enough to respond) I found out it was a Northern Mockingbird. I would later see an egret and a heron in the marshier areas, although they flew away before I could snap them. Apparently there are several unusual birds that call the landfill home.
The end of Fountain Avenue gave me the creeps. No wonder it was a popular body-dumping spot. (You can see the Empire State Building, nine miles away, in the second picture if you look closely enough.)
On that road I came across the six-year-old memorial to Imette St. Guillen.
On the south side of the Shore Parkway, abutting the former landfills, is a bike-and-pedestrian path. I saw a few others on it, but my hunch is it gets more use on the weekends.
Signs on the fence to the landfills were abundant, and the message was clear. (According to this 2009 Times article, the area is safe, but is still listed as a hazardous-waste area.)
Hendrix Creek – I am still unfamiliar with the name’s provenance – separates the two former landfills. Looking south, you can see the Rockaways in the distance.
I finished my walk by catching the B83 in the reverse direction. I had to walk into the neighborhood of Starrett City, the development in which is now called Spring Creek Towers; a large sign served as a reminder that I will have to come back eventually.