BENSONHURST BRIEFLY

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I lived in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn for 35 years, the last time in 1993 when I gravitated to Queens. I now live on the borderline of Queens and Nassau County. I work in Nassau and have many friends in Nassau; yet, since I do not have a drivers’ license, I’ll never be of Nassau, unless that situation changes. My ties to Bay Ridge are similarly ephemeral. I have had friends in Brooklyn over the years, made mostly in high school and college; I liked Bay Ridge, it’s scenic, pastoral in spots, but really, it’s the place where I was kicked downstairs in grade school, where the nuns tore up my magazines, and where I came home at 8AM after working the night shift and riding home on the IRT mugger mover, avoiding the gangs. My father lived in Bay Ridge 48 years, but he’s gone now. Sentiment doesn’t enter my thinking when talk turns to Bay Ridge.

I do have a very important connection to Bay Ridge remaining: my dentist. I have been patronizing the same dental practice since 1964, with first Dr. Leon Tempkin and then, his associate and now chief practitioner Dr. Mark DeBock since the 1980s. And I have given them plenty of business, since there’s a lot of starch in my diet. The office is at Bay Ridge Parkway (75th Street to Bay Ridgeites) and 4th Avenue. The R train rumbles under the office, and the B4 bus rattles off to Bensonhurst and Sheepshead Bay. So, after emerging from the House of Pain, benumbed mouth and all, I frequently have the camera with me for some Forgottening. This past Saturday I took the B4 to Bensonhurst for some foraging of New Utrecht town relics, but to get there, I jumped off the bus at 16th Avenue and New Utrecht Avenue. What follows is what I found.

Wedding Row

In all my years in Bay Ridge and riding my bike through Bensonhurst, I had had no inkling that the block of New Utrecht Avenue from 76th to 77th was called “wedding row.” I was aware of Kleinfeld’s on 5th Avenue and 82nd Street, but in 2005 the management came to the realization they were world-famous and a Bay Ridge address was declassé, so they decamped to Manhattan. Only one internet listing for Wedding Row appears, that one by the knowledgeable Barry Popik in The Big Apple, and that was in 2004. So, here’s the second mention online.

The thing is, at 77th I found nothing that would lend itself to the moniker “Wedding Row.” A hardware store, a liquor store, and a couple of wholesale outlets. Except…

OK, that’s more like it. Valentina Bridal Salon and Phil’s Tuxedos closer to 76th Street. Wedding Row!

Under the els, we find the Billy Bartys, the Michael Dunns, the Peter Dinklages of the lamppost world, the Dwarf Posts. I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that the Dwarves come in the same configurations as their bigger cousins: the cobra neck posts (like this short-arm post), straight arms, and even a few remaining curved-mast numbers around town.

The forbidding-looking Lax Cafe is likely a social club, and unless you’re a member, don’t come knocking.

LaBelle Pooch and the Puppy Boutique face each other across 17th Avenue at 80th Street. An etymological aside: The words pupil, puppy, pupa, puerile, andpapilloma all come from Indo-European roots meaning “swelling” or “slight inflation.” This has been co-opted over the years to mean small objects of one sort or another. Here, you can pick up a pooch fresh from the puppy mill and get its paws clipped all in one afternoon.

King Henry Entertainment, same building as La Belle Pooch. I kept thinking that if I went in there I’d find a red-nosed clown, a mustache-twirling magician, and perhaps Mr. Met all playing pinochle, waiting for a call.

[By 2011, King Henry had abdicated]

I stumbled past these handsome attached houses on 17th Avenue and 82nd Street. These pop up here and there around the neighborhood, and form the handsomest of the local building styles.

I’ve been grabbing shots of the M train in places where it soon will be vacating — the MTA plans to move the M train from Bensonhurst and move it from Middle Village through Manhattan out to Forest Hills in mid-2011.

Formerly, The M train traveled the length of the West End el along New Utrecht Avenue, and can also ran the length of the Jamaica-Myrtle Avenue el to Metropolitan Avenue. It was a double-el line.

Meanwhile, the promise of Manhattan can be seen from the 18th Avenue stop. If you’re in the right two spots on the platform, a spectacular vision of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge can be seen. It becomes a blue-green necklace of light at night.

Photographed February 6, 2010; page completed February 8

 





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