Running Brooklyn: Green-Wood Cemetery, Sunset Park, Industry City

Come on, Keith, I hear you say. Why won’t you just visit Prospect Heights?

When I have to go far afield, to a place like Spring Creek or Bath Beach, it’s a big affair. I set aside time. I scout. I map a route, to which I may or may not adhere.

Therein lies the problem. Prospect Heights is too close to my house. I go there informally all the time. I can just do my formal visit tomorrow. And then I say the same thing the next day. And the day after that. It’s a psychological issue.

I’ll do it soon. Pinky swear. But in the meantime, allow me to share one of my favorite running routes, which I took on one of the most perfect days of 2013 yet.

To prime the pump, here’s a Vine of my entire run.

You’ll probably see a lot of these posts in the coming weeks. I’m training hard for the Brooklyn Half Marathon. In March I put in 270 miles. I might top that number in April. Running Prospect Park that much would be boring, so I have to spice things up. (I’m open to suggestions for cool routes through, say, Highland Park or Bushwick.)

I don’t usually put photos of myself here, but I’m going to share this photo because I think it’s awesome.

Me (#737) running the Red Hook Crit. Photo by Ben Ko.

Me (#737) running the Red Hook Crit. Photo by Ben Ko.

Anyway, back to Sunset Park, which I formally visited last May. I love this route because you pass Green-Wood Cemetery (no running inside the gates, obviously), and I’m a huge fan of cemeteries because they are so humbling. How many of the people lying under these stone slabs thought the world revolved around them? And now they’re in the same place – a club I’ll one day join.

Here’s another of my favorite shots, taken near the highest point in Brooklyn, Battle Hill.

Skyscrapers, headstones: both monuments to hubris.

Skyscrapers, headstones: both monuments to hubris. (With my friend Craig, May 11, 2012)

The second-highest point in Brooklyn lies up Fifth Avenue, in Sunset Park (the park). I previously mentioned that the High Line and Ditmas Park were my two favorite places to take visitors. Eating a banh mi sandwich from Ba Xuyên while looking out over Manhattan is number three.

Of course I would take a picture of this. (With my friend Kent, August 19, 2012)

Of course I would take a picture of this. (With my friend Kent, August 19, 2012)

As for this trip, the weather was gorgeous. Around 65 degrees, sunny, with a cool breeze emanating from the harbor.

Two of the opening stops, captured in my Vine, were the McGovern-Weir Greenhouse and that awesome park, which had a lot of young families strolling about.

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Then it was down past Fourth Avenue, that awful highway-like route. I’m looking forward to this view again in November, when I run the ING New York City Marathon. I’m also dreading it a bit, since you can see forever – and that’s never a mental boost when you’re running a race.

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Western Sunset Park genuflects to cars. Much of this is due to Robert Moses’ ill-advised decision to ram the Gowanus Expressway down Third Avenue, what once was the heart of the area. (When I use the term “Robert Moses’ decision”, adding “ill-advised” seems redundant.)

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Sunset Park residents wanted the expressway to go over Second Avenue, which was already a heavily-trafficked truck route. From The Power Broker:

The Comptroller – along with non-Moses engineers – doubted Moses’ contention that using the El pillars would be much cheaper than building a whole new parkway, particularly since it would have to swing back to the shore after only one mile – a distance long enough to “permanently bligh” a neighborhood but not to make a substantial difference in cost. Moses had replied by telling the Board of Estimate that Sunset Park wasn’t particularly worth saving because it was a “slum”.

And now it is a bit of a slum.

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Bush Terminal, once a shipping port, is undergoing a renaissance. My friend Max’s Industry City Distillery is there. His facility has high ceilings and more open space than anyone knows what to do with.

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There were a few cool sights along Second and Third Avenues. This billboard looks like it’s decades old, but for some reason hasn’t been repurposed.

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The view from the western edge isn’t too bad, either. You can see Red Hook and Staten Island, along with the harbor (if you go down to the waterfront).

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For those interested in copying this route, here it is. My favorite direction after hitting up the park is running back to 36th Street and then running with the cemetery on my left and the MTA rail yard on my right. It’s a bit lonely, but fun for someone who loves both graves and trains.

Sunset Park running route

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3 Responses to Running Brooklyn: Green-Wood Cemetery, Sunset Park, Industry City

  1. H nemzer says:

    Love the Frankels store art. In the late 1970s my wife and I were there buying Frye Harness Boots (then hipster attire) and three toughs came in to look at nasty knives. When they picked one, the owner asked “do you want me to wrap that, or do you want to use it here?”

  2. RIch says:

    Who doesn’t love graves and trains?!

    good stuff, like the site.

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