Running Brooklyn: Gerritsen Beach

Before we get to a photo essay of a run through Brooklyn’s Most Patriotic Neighborhood™, allow me to share a long-overdue video: my second contribution to On the Run for the Brooklyn Half.

Last year, you might recall, I took host Karla Bruning to Dumbo, Vinegar Hill, Fort Greene, and Grand Army Plaza. This time around, I shared the history of Green-Wood Cemetery (cut here, unfortunately), Ocean Parkway, and a few spots on Coney Island, including Totonno’s, my favorite pizzeria in the city.

OK, on to the good stuff: Gerritsen Beach. On Sunday night, my girlfriend rented a houseboat on the Sheepshead Bay side of the Plumb Beach Channel (for a practical reason – more on that later) and invited me to join her. We had a nice Sunday evening on Emmons Avenue; I noticed a few more modern-looking places along the water than had been there during my “official” visit in August 2012.

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Boats boats boats.

Monday morning, I ran from the boat (which is tucked behind a weird gate next to a TGI Friday’s) to Marine Park via Gerritsen Beach, snapping pictures along the way, as usual.

Here’s a map of my route.

Gerritsen Beach run

To get to this secluded neighborhood, I took Knapp Avenue, which abuts the Coney Island Wastewater Treatment Plant. When it got dark on Sunday night we could see flames shooting from an exhaust pipe. We couldn’t smell it from the boat, but it’s hard to breathe through your nose when you’re passing by.

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One of my favorite spots is the abandoned Burger King on Knapp Avenue at Avenue Y. It’s been empty for two years, but on this run, I noticed a few signs in Arabic and one in English. Given the separation of the sexes, I figured it had been converted to a mosque, and I was right – partly.

According to Sheepshead Bites, it has been rented for the holy month of Ramadan by the group building the Islamic Cultural Center on Voorhies, which will finally be completed in the coming months.

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The grid at Gerritsen Beach is unusual for New York, with streets spaced twice as frequently. As such, there are not many backyards, many of the houses are cabanas, and the roads have a truly beachy feel.

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The area is bedecked with red, white, and blue. It might just be the proximity to July 4th, but a previous excursion to the neighborhood left me with the same impression, so barring evidence to the contrary, I am dubbing Gerritsen Beach Brooklyn’s Most Patriotic Neighborhood™.

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I mean, even some of the fire hydrants have stars, stripes, and American colors. And then there’s that strange ghost one, which is cool in its own right.

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Given the level of patriotism displayed, I had expected to see at least one Gadsden flag – and was duly rewarded. I had not anticipated a “Stand and Fight” NRA banner, however.

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Gerritsen Avenue is the main drag through the neighborhood, and the only street to run it from top to bottom, owing to an inlet just south of the awesomely named Gotham Avenue.

To the east of Gerritsen Avenue are baseball fields and Marine Park; to the west are some neat sights like this church (check out the speakers in the belfry) and the community garden.

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I saw a lot of these painted stars affixed to light poles. Apparently, they date to April 2013, and were created to bring optimism to an area still reeling from Superstorm Sandy.

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My first visit to Gerritsen Beach came soon after the stars went up, when I volunteered with Rebuilding Together to work on a few buildings in the neighborhood. One was a house on the northern end of Dare Court; the other was the Vollies Memorial Training Hall, which belongs to the Volunteer Fire Department, one of the last in the city. (Vollies is slang for Volunteers, I believe.)

The Hall looked nice from outside, but nearby was a reminder that not everyone has yet made a complete recovery.

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Down to the end of Gerritsen Avenue, where I ran along the beach in Marine Park. What would I find up this trail?

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Find out in the next installment of Running Brooklyn! [Update: it’s here!]

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