Twilight in Crown Heights North

I paid a short visit to Crown Heights North last Wednesday. It was my first time taking a trip in the evening, so I was a bit pressed for time, even on a bike. I relegated my trip to the western half of the neighborhood.

I had used a bike twice before on my trips. For Plumb Beach, I had little choice, since my areas of interest were so far removed from transit. There was also little downside, since there’s not much excitement in between those spots.

For Sunset Park, on the other hand, I found myself sacrificing detail for coverage – a trade-off somewhat mitigated by that neighborhood’s size. I’ve resigned myself to accept that here, too, although Crown Heights North is smaller. I plan to fold the remainder of the neighborhood into my future trip to Ocean Hill, or to a bonus trip of sorts if I take advantage of the Transit Museum’s partnership with the Children’s Museum.

As those of you who have been following me for a while might have noticed, the quality of pictures from my iPhone camera has been deteriorating. This was even more apparent in twilight. Of the pictures I took, many of them were unusable. A huge bummer. I’m eligible for an upgrade on October 7, so I’ve got that going for me.

One nice feature of Crown Heights North is that it has plenty of bike lanes, including a new one on Eastern Parkway. Unfortunately, many people weren’t caring to use them properly. There were many salmon (riders going the wrong way). This is particularly dangerous on multi-lane, single-direction avenues, which drivers tend to use as speedways. Add in visibility issues thanks to the impending darkness and I had a few squeezes where I felt nervous.

Bedford Avenue has lanes in both directions (at least until it turns into a one-way strip north of Dean Street). I found a few storefront churches,

and some much larger specimens, too.

Ten or so firefighters were outside the Studebaker showroom at Bedford and Sterling. There had been a fire there earlier in the week. By this time, they had boarded up the third-floor windows, although the facade above it was still charred.

The Atlantic-Bedford Armory, formerly the training-site of the 23rd Regiment, is a homeless shelter – for the time being, anyway. In August, the NYC Economic Development Corporation put out a request for proposals to revamp the space.

Speaking of cyclists doing stupid things, I made the mistake of riding on Atlantic Avenue. In some spots, not even the sidewalks were available for protection from speeding Access-a-Ride vans. I did see a cool little store selling rugs and trinkets, though.

Directional signs are everywhere for the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, a large, sheeny yellow building. Next to it is Brower Park, where some kids were shooting some last-minute hoops before dusk.

Eastern Parkway is the center of the Lubavitcher community; both sides of the street have huge buildings with signs in Hebrew and English. (Its influence extends at least two blocks north, to Saint Johns Place.) Members of the community were present in large numbers, unwinding from their celebration of the new year. In my future return, I need to pay a visit to Kingston Avenue, where many Jewish shops are located.

The area’s residential buildings vary. Some are your typical brownstones, while others had some unique features. Some spots were marred by neon.

A single block of Franklin Avenue, between Sterling Place and Park Place, is surprisingly gentrified. There is a hip tacqueria, late of Classon Avenue (the line was around the corner); a few other restaurants; a bar with a huge backyard, noted for future comfortable weekends; and a fancy candy shop.

I checked out the candy shop first, The Candy Rush, where I was shocked to find Big League Chew. (When I organized an intramural softball team for a few years, I looked high and low for this stuff, finally finding a bodega on 90th and Broadway that carried it. It has since closed.) The kid behind the counter asked if the gum was really in the form of shreds. Ah, youth.

One of the restaurants across the street is TasteBuds, which opened three months ago. It is sleek-looking and has high-quality local ingredients. The owner’s wife happened to be there, and she ensured I got extra cheese on my French “hot dog” (silent h): dog, gruyere, baguette. It was great. (Both restaurant and candy shop have the same owner, apparently.)

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