FORT HAMILTON

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In Bay Ridge, the southbound B63 has to make a slight jog to 4th Avenue here because 5th is one-way northbound for a block between 94th and 95th. The triangle formed by 4th, 5th and 93rd, known officially as Fort Hamilton Triangle for the nearby still-active US Army base, was known unofficially for years as Pigeon Park, since oldtimers would sit on the benches and feed the birds by the flocks. It mysteriously acquired a high chainlink fence in the 1980s, presumably to discourage the pigeons. The park seems to have obtained equilibrium these days.

With its central monument shaft with a globe-sitting eagle, Fort Hamilton Triangle reminds me somewhat of Memorial Gore in East Williamsburg. But FHT is bigger and contains seating.

When in Bay Ridge I sometimes think of the movie, Saturday Night Fever, which filmed here in 1977. Of course, the original locations are still in place, though they look quite different from 1977 and they are used for different purposes. The Mazda dealership at 94th between 4th and 5th was a restaurant where Tony met with dance contest partner Stephanie for coffee; she explained her ambitions to shake off Brooklyn and enter what we are supposed to think the goal of every Brooklynite was in that era: life and work in Manhattan.

In the film Tony’s brother was a priest having doubt about his vocation; coincidentally, St. Patrick’s, the oldest parish in Bay Ridge, is near the old coffee shop at 4th and 95th. It was founded in 1849 when much of the area was farmland. The present church was constructed in 1925.

Kelly’s Tavern appears in the film as well, though it sported the green exterior it carried for many years; it was recently painted red. Also nearby, at 92nd Street and 5th Avenue, was the White Castle where Tony and the boys horse around. Stephanie, who wavers between friendliness and cruelty in the film, here coldly dismissed Tony’s friend Bobby C., one of the incidents that led to his fatal Verrazano Bridge plunge. The White Castle disappeared in the 1980s to be replaced by a bland office building.

I may do a scene by scene Bay Ridge analysis of the movie one day, but that’ll consume quite a bit of time.

I liked the handcut lettering at the bar Panic Room. The southernmost subway stop on the BMT Broadway/4th Avenue line was 95th Street, appearing a few years after the original line out to 86th Street was completed in 1915. The station is huge by BMT standards and appears to be a dry run for the huge IND stations that were beginning to appear at this time. Unusually one of the staircases was built into a building lobby.

Meanwhile, a painted sign directing customers to a shoe repair place down the steps can stil be seen. It’s amazing this hasn’t been painted over. There’s still a storefront at the bottom of the steps but it’s gated and unoccupied.

It’s a nightclub and a Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall. 4th Avenue and 93rd — only in Bay Ridge!

The Harbor Fitness palace of perspiration used to be the old Harbor Theatre. The movie house opened in 1935 and closed in 1979. Though my theatres were the Alpine (5th and 69th), the vanished Dyker (86th and Gelston) and the old Fortway (Ft. Hamilton Parkway and 68th) I did see Beneath the Planet of the Apes here in 1970 and the first Christopher Reeve Superman movie here 8 years later. The ugly building behind it is what replaced the White Castle.

Architecture then and now. A Fedders Special and what they used to do with residential buildings, Lawren Hall. Adjacent on 93rd Street.

The parking garage on 88th Street east of 4th Avenue (left) used to be Leemark Lanes, where I bowled in two school leagues between 1967-1971, and my father and I would bowl there each Sunday into my high school years. My first game there was in October 1967. I bowled a 6. That’s right, a 6. I never got above a 150 average. Leemark came down in 2008.

This building at 4th and 87th was, until he mid-1970s, the main post office serving Bay Ridge. A new one was constructed about one block away at 5th Avenue and 88th.

Photographed February 2009; page completed April 27, 2009





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One Response to FORT HAMILTON

  1. b says:

    The picture with the Mazda dealer was a sneaker place before that and prior to that was a great seafood restaurant Bay Ridge Seafood. It was BRS for a very long time
    Also the photo with Harbor Fitness…the large medical building behind it was just 1 small but a wonderful building…WHITE CASTLE!!!

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