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It’s a lot cooler to not look back. I heard Van Morrison being interviewed by Don Imus [early March 2009] (about 100 years of showbiz there) and he said he never listens to his old hits, even though he was touring on his 1968 recird Astral Weeks in early 2009. But among artists, they’re supposed to say they never look back — it’s all about what you’re doing now. I deal in things as they were, but also as they are now. Usually, now always comes up short.

So I was back in Bay Ridge recently, ostensibly for a dentist visit, but it quickly turned into a new project…

… as I was photographing Bay Ridge’s plethora of alleys and one-block streets for my “Places Matter” project in which I explore in depth streets that don’t go anywhere, but they’re there for people to live on. Being back in Bay Ridge reminded me of yet another Forgotten NY inspiration.

When I was a kid, I’d say between the ages of five and ten, my grandmother and I would walk down 6th Avenue from our home on 83rd Street northeast. Sometimes we’d get only a few blocks, but occasionally, we’d make it all the way to Bay Ridge Avenue, which all Bay Ridgers call 69th Street (after, all, it’s between 68th Street and Ovington. What’s that you say? Nobody called Ovington Avenue 70th Street? That will have to remain a mystery, I suppose). Anyway, I soaked all of it in like a sponge. 6th Avenue was primarily residential, but there always was, and there is today, a convenience store at 6th and 79th. That is also the intersection where two flows of traffic intersect: one flow coming from the 79th Street Bridge over the Gowanus Expressway, and another from 5th Avenue. There were a pair of large DO NOT ENTER signs to prevent accidents. On 81st Street between 6th and 7th, the telephone wires are on poles, not underground, like the other blocks. At 6th and 78th, there was a fire alarm that hadn’t worked for years; the FDNY put a metal plate on the base, closing it off …

I’d go on with these innumerable details but you get the picture. When I moved to 73rd Street and 7th Avenue in 1982, I found a luncheonette complete with soda fountain on the corner of 6th and 73rd, but it rather quickly converted to a Dulaine’s Caterers, which, when I passed it the other day, looked deserted. And then there was this building at 6th and 74th, which I didn’t notice either as a kid or when I lived around the corner…

Now, this looks like your regular, boxy apartment house, which it pretty much is. But I didn’t pay much attention to what’s going on over the entrance.

The name of the building, Saint Rose, appears, along with a pair of reclining nudes. I wonder if I’m the only one who has noticed the juxtaposition of the sacred and the erotic; this is weird, to say the least. Saint Rose of Lima (1586-1617) is the patron saint of Latin America and the Philippines. Reading her online biography about her devotion, she seemed manic in her self-mortifications. I imagine the sculptor was attempting to present a generically classical tableau with no connection to any saints.

I have said that this was my favorite Bay Ridge block, and when I lived down the block from here it was my aspiration to someday purchase one of these attached, bowed-windowed buildings. When I first encountered 74th Street, there were still brick gutters, which no other remaining street around possessed. Of course they were quickly paved over. These buildings continue in unbroken lines down both sides of the street, almost to 5th Avenue.

I believe there was some commentary by someone from Europe, or perhaps the New York Times, that haughtily averred that Americans cling to the US flag as a talisman, especially after the terrorism of 9/11/01.

I like it that there is a flag on nearly every building. There is one hanging over the street. There is one on the tree planter. Owners have decorated their exteriors with miniature castles and lighthouses. And where there isn’t an American flag, there’s a shamrock.

Growing up in the neighborhood I was always fascinated by side street storefronts; they encrusted the side streets next to the main drags like 86th Street or 5th Avenue like barnacles on ship bottoms. The “Your Size Shop” was there on 74th when I first moved nearby; its ghost can still be seen.

It is quite possible that 74th Street’s flags are attributable to its legacy as the home of a 9/11/01 hero, Police Officer Moira Smith (1965-2001), winner of a Distinguished Duty Medal and a posthumous NYPD Medal of Honor. A photograph taken on 9/11 shows P.O. Smith tending to a man she had just helped out of one of the towers; she then returned to the tower to assist further, and was killed when it collapsed.

On this pageMartin Glynn remembers being aided by P.O. Smith on 9/11/01.

Photographed February 28, 2009; page completed March 2

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6 Responses to 74th STREET, BAY RIDGE

  1. Dorothy` says:

    I enjoyed these pictures. I haven’t been back since 1974. I left when I was 14, so 41 yrs ago. I was born on 52nd closer to 7th Ave. And at age 4 moved to 55th Street between 6th and 7th. Lots of familiar places P.S. 94, Sunset Park, 5th Ave, O.L.P.H., Thanks for the memories………. I haven’t forgotten, once a Brooklyn girl always a Brooklyn girl.

  2. Maria Melendez says:

    I was so thrill to see your pictures I live on 74th St. for 26 years and it is one of the best blocks in Bay Ridge, the people here are family we are a village not a block, some of the homes here are owned by people who were born and raised here, we have great respect for NYPD & FDNY MANY OF WHOM LIVE HERE Thank you for sharing your story & pictures and come visit our Lil Village ant time

  3. Thomas Conaghan says:

    This was not your ordinary block in Bay Ridge. I grew up on this block, my mom still lives there… To know the feeling as an adult how special my childhood was it’s incomprehensible to most outside of this street. We as kids and now more as adults realize what a special place this street was to us. To this day we are all still friends and look at each other more as family friends than just some I just grew up with…. I’d like to say from 504 to the 575 house. there were so many great families!

  4. Denis Cronin says:

    I grew up between 72nd and Ovington. Over Frank and Larry’s pants store. I love your site and we seem to be about the same age. I swear I was just off to the right in your pic of opening day of the Verranzo Bridge. Any how just addressing your post about Ovington Ave3rd Avenue at Ovington Avenue, long ago, was the center of an art colony called Ovington Village:
    The Ovington family owned a farm in the vicinity in the 1840s. Henry Alexander Ovington, who bought the property for use as a summer home, was the assistant chamberlain of New York City. Three of his sons owned Ovington Brothers, a china shop on Fulton Street whose name can still be found on vintage crockery. Another son, Earle, was the first air mail pilot employed by the U.S. Post Office.
    However, the most famous member of the Ovington family was Mary White Ovington, a co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and a moving spirit behind the Niagara Movement.
    The history of the area is not limited to the annals of the Ovington family. Rather, the intersection of 3rd Avenue and Ovington Avenue was the site of a skirmish between colonial forces and British troops a few days prior to the 1776 Battle of Brooklyn.
    Ovington Avenue was originally named Cedar Lane. It served as the gateway from the local concert hall, the Atheneum, to Ovington Village. Historic Districts Council
    The Yellow Hook restaurant is named for Bay Ridge’s original moniker. Cosentino’s has the best awning sign on the avenue, no competition. [It was replaced when they moved across the street in 2011]

    • peggy says:

      Hi Denis I hope you are brother to Marion You family first lived on 73rd st. I lived on 5th Ave between 72nd 7 73RD had many friends on 72nd 73rd 74th most gather at Candy Store on 73rd and 6th. Then move to Henrys Ice Cream Parlor on 5th
      Many good memories of Bay Ridge. Hugs

  5. Delia Hanley says:

    I really enjoyed the pictures. I grew up on 74th Street between 6th and 7th avenue during the 60s and 70s. The candy store on the corner of 6th and 73rd were owned by a couple we referred to as Mr. & Mrs. S. The story was that they were Nazi concentration camp survivors. I can still hear Mrs. S saying very loudly, “This is not a library” when we would look at the Archie comics and not buy them. :)

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