MIDWOOD, Brooklyn

by Kevin Walsh

A quick look at a map of southeastern Brooklyn reveals a nearly unbroken grid of unrelenting monotony, as city planners slavishly copied the Manhattan grid here and in most of Brooklyn. We’re in, or near, the old Kings County town of Flatlands, which describes things nearly perfectly — making the terrain ripe for a gridiron development. Hilly territory tends to promote winding, curved streets.

Midwood, a fairly large area south of Flatbush between the two Oceans, Parkway and Avenue, Brooklyn College and KIngs Highway, is old enough to have fairly interesting architecture and a patina of a small-town past — in the 19th Century, it was the Village of South Greenfield.

Avenue I and East 5th Street, from the golden age of multifamily dwelling design, likely 1910-1925, give or take a year or so. Regular FNY readers know I rail against the modern method of quick and dirty apartment house construction, with concrete lawns, conspicuous meters, rusting fire escapes and Fedders air conditioners. This building dates from the days when apartment living was actually thought of as preferable. When this place was built, you walked, or the trolley took you, to the nearest el and you were whisked to the office or counting-house with surprising alacrity. Somehow, you made do without air conditioning in your apartment or the train; you wore a suit complete with jacket, tie and hat, or if you were female, a coat, dress, slip, girdle, stockings, high heels, no matter how hot it was. I’m not advocating a return to the days when dressing for comfort wasn’t the norm, but I do advocate a return to the days when majestic architecture like this was constructed for renters, and you didn’t pay an arm and a leg every month.

Brooklyn has both and Avenue I and an Avenue J (go figure — Avenue E was replaced by Foster Avenue sometime in the distant mists) … it was laid out in the late 1800s, unlike Washington, DC, which Pierre L’Enfant designed in the late 1700s, a time when there wasn’t yet a clear division between I and J (they were thought of as two representations of the same letter at that time) and so, there’s no such thing as J Street in DC– after I Street, you pass go straight on to K Street.

The “gateway” to Midwood is here at Avenue J and Ocean Parkway. As a rule, ‘gateposts’ like this signify an originally private development, and while the ones north of here are readily identifiable (Ditmas Park, Prospect Park South, Fiske Terrace, etc) whatever the development here was has been lost to posterity.

Historian Joseph Ditta: The “forgotten” development was called “Manhattan Terrace.” At N-YHS we’ve got a circa 1902 booklet put out by the Manhattan Terrace Improvement Company that calls Avenue J “Jarvis Road,” though I don’t believe that name was ever official.

When I stumbled past Avenue J and Coney Island Avenue in the summer of 2008, Washington Mutual, which featured some of the most obnoxious TV commercials I’ve ever seen with bankers penned up like hogs in the bank basement, was still a going concern. They went under the next year and were acquired by Chase. The Dime Savings Bank of Brooklyn constructed this Moderne classic likely during the 1930s.

A great sight, a magnificent building, where your money is safe (as safe as possible these days, I suppose), flag whipping in the breeze…

A couple of doors north of the bank is a magnificent synagogue, at least on the exterior, Congregation Talmud Torah Of Flatbush. Between the bank and the temple is a taxpayer building with a mysterious, inscrutable black-panelled exterior. This sort of thing usually conceals a social club of some stripe.

Skipping a few blocks now, to the other main Midwood shopping strip, Avenue M, which was bruited through the heart of South Greenfield generations ago. At the NE corner of M and East 19th is M & M Pharmacy, with its incredible neon sign that hangs out over the sidewalk. On this day only the leeward side was lit up, in red and green. I’d imagine the neon still works on the awning signs, too — I’ll have to cruise past one night. I’d make this my neighborhood phamacy on the neon alone (I’m still glad I use an indie drugstore in lovable Little Neck and not a Walgreens or Rite Aid).

This was a fairly large Child’s Restaurant, taking up all of the north side of Avenue M between East 18th and 19th. I’d imagine Child’s built the block, occupied one of the storefronts, and rented the rest. Entwined seahorses always mark a Child’s, whose remains can be found scattered throughout the Five Boroughs.

Coney Island Avenue and Avenue M make a triangle with Chestnut Avenue, one of South Greenfield’s original roads. That is one mighty piece of crapitecture on CI Ave. just south of Chestnut, though it may have its fans — it’s certainly formidable. On the NE corner of Avenue M and CI Ave is the stolid, sensible Midwood Memorial Chapel, most likely established by Harry Nieburg and Sons. It must take a certain temperament to establish and own a funeral home; the acclaimed HBO series Six Feet Under explored the foibles of one such family. In the traffic triangle, in 2008, I shot the future Bermuda Restaurant — some of the palms were already in place.

On East 4th between Avenue L and M is a lamppost I’ve admired for decades — it still has the shell of an old Westinghouse AK-10 “cuplight” which formerly illuminated Friends Field. Much stronger lightbulbs have been installed on the post recently.

 

Friends Field is a very large athletic field and playground south of Washington Cemetery (est. about 1855), East 4th, and McDonald Avenue. It was built in 1921 by the Quakers (Society of Friends) to provide athletic fields for Brooklyn’s Quaker schools. The Friends sold the field to NYC in 1973 and it operates as a public park today. Erasmus Hall High School uses the grounds as a home field. Page completed March 31, 2010.

Page completed 3/31/10

85 comments

Tommy Brill February 22, 2012 - 9:55 am

I had a friend whose father was a retired cop, and he worked security at that Dime branch in the mid-70s. If I’m not mistaken, they filmed scenes for “Dog Day Afternoon” there. At least that’s what I remember him saying so long ago. Love the site!

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rodney t elkins May 15, 2016 - 8:49 am

Dog Day afternoon was shot near Prospect Park and 7th ave. The original bank on eat 3rd st. and ave. p was unavailable.

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Joyce August 28, 2017 - 6:59 am

Dog Day Afternoon was not filmed at the Dime bank on J & CIA. The exterior shots were filmed at Prospect Park West between 17th & 18th Street.

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John Marro February 22, 2012 - 3:31 pm

Dog Day Afternoon Bank was located @ East 3St &Ave P which is also located in Midwood
!

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Tommy Brill February 23, 2012 - 12:01 pm

Thanks for clearing that up, John!

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OMAR October 7, 2012 - 8:34 am

HEY JOHN ….DID YOUR FAMILY OWN A BAKERY IN BROOKLYN?

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Shelle Berk February 25, 2012 - 1:26 pm

The triangle at C.I. Ave and Chestnut was a service station. My brother hung out there with the neighborhood hoods back in the mid to late 50’s. We lived in the apt. building behind Midwood Funeral Home, owned by the Neibergs who lived in our buildling. My Mom owned a health food store “Midwood Health Foods’ on E. 15th around the corner from Antelis Drugs, for over twenty years until she died in ’84. She had alot of customers from the NBC studio as regulars in her store. It was a wonderful neighborhood to grow up in. It will always be home to me.

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Jay Weitzman April 19, 2021 - 1:37 pm

Hi Shelle. I grew up at 1280 also at the same time. Do u have a brother named Eddie? It was a great neighborhood to grow up in

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Anonymous October 8, 2021 - 12:12 pm

My father, Victor, was a taxi driver at the cab stand based under Brighton Subway station at Avenue M. We lived on east 10th Street, between L and M.

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Maureen P Roland January 16, 2022 - 1:38 pm

Jay Weitzman: Before you moved to the fifth floor, I was the, “girl next door”. We used to play with your cowboys and horses. You had a parakeet who used to sit on my head and I once gave you every one of my baseball cards. Do you remember Maureen Palat?

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Anonymous April 21, 2021 - 1:03 pm

Shopped at the health food store in the early and mid 70’s. I remember your mom and I’m guessing that was your dad there as well. Started me on the road to granola.

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John Marro February 27, 2012 - 10:05 am

i also believe there was some sort of oil store on cia & chesnut

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Butch s. May 24, 2012 - 11:51 am

Kevin, That apartment house that you browbeat in your opening photo was probably the most exclusive in the area. It had private enterances on E.5th St. that were used by professional tennants. ( My dentist was the first enterance on E. 5th st.). It also had a doorman to my dismay as I tried to deliver The World Telegram And Sun as a teen.

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CindyK June 9, 2013 - 6:06 pm

That black-paneled building between the Talmud Torah and the old Dime Savings Bank was my dentist’s office years ago, when I lived there.

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Matt O June 14, 2013 - 6:01 pm

Some recommendations for this page. Really need someone knowlegeable of Midwood to help out here:
– Show some older pics for one thing.
– Show the school Woody Allen (PS 99) and Avenue K buildings where he lived as a child.
– Show the NBC studios on East 13th and Avenue M where the Cosby Show was shot and countless many soap operas. This itself can take up a whole page.

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Anonymous September 4, 2017 - 8:13 pm

Hullabaloo was filmed at NBC studios as well…went often

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Helen Garber April 19, 2021 - 2:39 pm

Her, I always thought I grew up in Midwood and went to
that high school but lived east of what you claim is the border. East 27 between L & M

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Helen July 5, 2021 - 4:29 pm

Hi Helen, I’m trying to find out the name of a now closed Italian restaurant that was located on Ocean Avenue off Avenue M, since you were from that area, maybe you remember the name.

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Marcia October 8, 2021 - 12:07 pm

It was called Bonapartes. I think. My brother was a bus boy in the 70s

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Peter Cherches October 10, 2021 - 11:30 am

Genovese House was also at Ocean and M.

B. Stewart January 1, 2022 - 12:29 pm

Bonaparte’s was on Ave. M, just west of Ocean Avenue.

Bonita Jackowitz October 10, 2021 - 10:59 am

I grew up on Ave k and east 13th street went to ps99 and Midwood. My maiden name is bonnie Sobel

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Leo October 10, 2021 - 9:58 pm

Sounds like you should volunteer to help with that.

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John Lorber January 16, 2014 - 5:27 pm

Please send me any Pictures you might have of Cookies Restaurant located on Ave J in the 60’s.

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richard July 30, 2015 - 1:55 pm

hi,
i am doing some brooklyn research and came across your comment on a website. “cookies” on ave j, was owned by the rachelsons. their daughter, joy, was a classmate in ps 193 (now gil hodges school). they had the best cheeseburgers.
i am trying to find out when all the row houses were build in mid wood (around ave j through i). do you have any indeas?
thanks

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B. Stewart January 1, 2022 - 12:32 pm

Row houses along the subway tracks? I used to play there in the mid 50’s. I think the row houses were from somewhere in that vicinity, although I remember before they were built.

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Alan walker September 24, 2018 - 4:51 pm

Cookies restaurant was on avenue m and East 16

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Vynne Jacoby October 21, 2019 - 10:43 pm

The bank was on east 3rd and Ave. P . Chase Bank . I was there the day of the Dog Day Afternoon Event I watched it from Ave. P Park across the street . Btw my best friend lived in the house right behind the bank !! Vynne

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B. Stewart April 19, 2021 - 2:54 pm

There were various Cooky’s. I remember Avenue J at E. 16th, Ave M and E. 16t, Kings Plaza! and Valley Stream.

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Bonita Jackowitz April 19, 2021 - 12:29 pm

I used to go to cookies on Ave j by the time train

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Raven Franti October 10, 2021 - 2:18 pm

Why who did Orthodox Jews in the 50s and 60s call this area Flatbush?

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Steve Drettler June 25, 2017 - 10:32 pm

I worked the whole summer of 1957 at cookies on Ave m and Ave j was a counter man server and saved enough to buy my first car. Just eighteen years old seems like yesterday God I miss those days.

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Ron Carner October 9, 2017 - 8:34 pm

Drettler. Long time. Hope you are well.
Ron Carner
Bigrsc@aol.com

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Bonnie August 26, 2017 - 10:39 pm

Lived on Avenue K and Ocean Avenue. Can’t beat Brooklyn.

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Margie March 22, 2018 - 4:06 pm

Trying to remember a theater or other space for children at what used to be 1916 Avenue K, the corner of Avenue K at Ocean Avenue. I lived at the Steeples in the 1950s and recall going to a place on the corner where there were events for children, but can’t recall the name. Any assistance would be appreciated!

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Carol May 27, 2018 - 9:05 pm

It was the Midwood theatre

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Margie June 27, 2018 - 4:59 pm

Thank you for your reply, but it was not a movie theatre, and not on Avenue J. It was on the corner of Ocean Avenue and Avenue K, on the opposite side of the street from the East Midwood Jewish Synagogue.

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Janet June 2, 2021 - 8:51 am

I lived next to the midwood Jewish center 1946. Many wonderful memories!

Alex Rosenfeld October 9, 2021 - 3:51 pm

Margie i believe you are thinking of the Esplande club. Which was torn down for the apt bldg now on that site. We were neighboŕd at the Steeples. I lived on k and 19th

Anonymous June 5, 2019 - 1:59 pm

The Midwood Theater was on Ave J and around E.14th ST

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adri September 10, 2017 - 5:31 pm

Trying to remember the name of a womens clothing shop next to Pauline’s bras and girdles on Coney Island ave between k and L.

Any help?

Went there in the 1970’s.

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Rick December 31, 2017 - 10:08 am

Lupu’s. My dad owned willies lunchoenette on the corner of Ave L and CIA. I used to deliver coffee to that dress shop. Looking for any photo’s or memories of Willie’s

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Faith Goldenthal May 8, 2018 - 12:14 am

Hi. Was that the donut shop? Was there soneone named Fli who worked there? I was a kid. I loved midwood. Lived down the nlock from the old NBC building.

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Phyllis April 19, 2021 - 12:06 pm

I lived on the corner E10 & Ave.L across from Willy’s . Loved him he was so nice we would go in for an egg cream or malted my husband would go in for a hamburger once in a while . We would buy
our ice cream and a small container of walnuts in syrup . He also would sell us when we needed it
coke syrup for an upset stomach . Willy was the best .

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Anonymous June 5, 2019 - 2:04 pm

I used to buy candy as a kid at Willies

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Anonymous May 25, 2021 - 5:11 pm

Rick – I met my wife at Willie’s in 1958…we’re still married! In the summers, in the 50’s, I worked as a delivery boy at Morris Scherr’s grocery store. Made $1.25 an hour plus tips I was so skinny that I took a break and went to Willie’s for a chocolate malted with a raw egg added. Signed, “ I still love Brooklyn”

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Margie March 22, 2018 - 4:07 pm

M&M Pharmacy was owned by 2 partners, Musso and Michaelson. One was named Frank.

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greg z April 20, 2018 - 5:03 pm

I grew up in the area in the 60′ and 70′
I was a summer parkman at colbert park -ave m and east 18th–don rickles asked to take a shot with my stickball bat.
then in 1972 the summer job was on east 3 rd and p and good thing
my pay came late other wise i would have been on the dog day afternoon bank
where I used to go to cash my paycheck.

great memories -went to NBC studio as I lived down the block from it –east 14 and L
remember seeing paul revere and the raiders and paul lynn hanging out side one day
my parents used to see mitch miller and kraft music hall there
anyway i can go on and on and probably
should write a book.

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Lewis August 18, 2020 - 12:51 pm

Your last name Ziliani?

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Jerry M October 13, 2021 - 10:00 am

Park is on Avenue L, not M.

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Ruth July 8, 2018 - 10:32 am

Anyone remember the farm on 18th street or Wingate field?

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Maureen Roland July 29, 2019 - 5:45 pm

You’re right. Cookies was in Ave M. Perhaps they’re thinking of Dubrows. JFK ate there when campaigning for President in 1960. Streets were mobbed to see him.

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Joe Beim October 11, 2021 - 7:07 am

Zenda?

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Maureen P Roland January 16, 2022 - 1:40 pm

Ruth, Was it Mrs. Dick’s farm that you’re thinking of? (Sometimes she was called, “Mrs. Brown” too.

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Patty August 23, 2018 - 12:05 pm

Anyone remember the name of the owner of the Midwood Lounge?

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Jimmy December 1, 2018 - 11:26 pm

The Midwood was owned by Vinny Petrocelli and later on his ex wife Tracy took over also he had a brother in law who was involved Louie Seika big looking guy always dressed cotton in his ear I believe Vinny Petrocelli was from the family of Petrocelli suits

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mary September 17, 2018 - 4:55 pm

Can anyone recall “Midwood Lounge” 1957. I’m told it was in Midwood that either owner or bar keeper was Luis Sica.

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Sheila Yarnell August 7, 2020 - 5:33 pm

I used to go there in the mid 60’s! I thought Luis Sica was the owner along with a Vinnie! The bartender was
rocky and the waitress in the restaurant was Lena!

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Dee November 2, 2018 - 3:02 am

Ave m was the best lived at 1305 east 18 st

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Kim R December 5, 2018 - 1:49 am

I used to visit my grandmother’s house in the summers. She lived on Avenue N and east 31st Street I believe across the street from the Midwood Lounge or bar. Which was on Nostrand Avenue. Unless you mean a different Midwood Lounge. Brooklyn is so beautiful and old.

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Joseph Walsh October 12, 2021 - 4:43 pm

I Remember – The Midwood at N & Nostrand. I also Remember when they shot scenes for ‘Goodfellas; there.
I went to St. Thomas Aquinas, Hudde JHS, & Midwood HS. (Tho’ I spent as much time Hangin’-Out at Brooklyn College as I did at Midwood.)

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Sylvia Damaso January 1, 2022 - 12:47 am

I also went to huddle so did my brother Billy. Also went to midwood.

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Lillian Cottone Santeix September 2, 2019 - 3:21 pm

We lived on East 9 th St between Aves O and P. I went to PS238 graduating in 1949, my brother 4 years later. It was probably one of the best primary schools in NYC, one of the last that took you to the 8th grade and not to Junior High School
The teachers were top notch enthusiastic exponents of New Deal pedagogy. We had a student government, after school sports , a self monitoring system in which the older children helped the younger ones .Made me self-confident, self-reliant, cooperative, optimistic about the future. We had just won the war, we believed in America and in ourselves.
Any other alimni of the same era?

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Ed April 14, 2020 - 11:16 am

Remember Ben Masiks (sp?) Town & Country on Ocean Parkway when they featured Guy Mitchell probably around 1956?

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Donna Rubin April 19, 2021 - 12:11 pm

Ben Masik’s was on Flatbush Ave. The Elegante was on Ocean Parkway, Ed.

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JUDITH A SENNING May 16, 2020 - 8:37 pm

664 MIDWOOD STREET WAS BUILT IN THE MID 1800’S…NOT 1931..ONE GREAT GRANDMOTHER SOLD IT TO MY OTHER GREAT GRANDMOTHER! THE REALTOR SITES NEED TO GET THEIR ACT TOGETHER!

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Sandra May 26, 2020 - 2:31 pm

does anyone remember Consumers on Ave M????

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Elena Paperny July 14, 2020 - 3:15 pm

Sandra – Consumers Distributing property was eventually taken over by the Amazing Savings franchise. Amazing Savings moved up a block or so to East 15th Street and Avenue M, right across from the Q line subway station.

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Elena Paperny July 14, 2020 - 3:16 pm

The old Amazing Savings store was sold to an organic kosher supermarket, now called Organic Circle.

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Dan July 30, 2020 - 5:13 pm

IMG_9671.jpeg
Doing a bit of urban archaeology and restoring my building on Coney Island Ave between K&L and uncovered this floor inlay for what I believe was Cookys children’s store that closed sometime in the 60’s.

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Lewis August 18, 2020 - 12:47 pm

I grew up on the corner of Avenue K and Nostrand, above where the barber and nail salon are (3000 Ave K) but my grandfather, Luigi, had a shoe shop where he made and repaired shoes across the corner where the tiny synagogue is now. I loved that neighborhood, even though in the late 60s and early 70s, it was no upper east side. lol If anyone has photos from that corner before the synagogue was there, it would make my year. Thanks!

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Cheryl November 25, 2020 - 6:10 pm

I lived on Nostrand ave bet j & k in the lat 50’s went to Hudde

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Irwin Levine January 5, 2021 - 8:51 am

there were 2 Cookies Ave N and Ave J

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Irwin January 5, 2021 - 8:53 am

not Ave N – Ave J

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Irwin January 5, 2021 - 8:53 am

and Ave M

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Dianne April 23, 2021 - 11:03 am

Ave U as well by Kings Plaza

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Bonita Jackowitz April 19, 2021 - 12:31 pm

We went to cookies on Ave j

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Will K January 12, 2021 - 12:46 pm

In 1960 when we moved from Park Slope (which believe it or not was becoming “iffy” safety-wise) to Midwood we kids played around the farm that was on 17 th street between Ave’s M and L. We called it Farmer Brown’s but have no idea if that name had any validity or was something we kids made up. I have come to believe that was the last farm in Brooklyn. The farm had chicken coops and a farm house and occupied its own little block. A mysterious fire put an end to it shortly thereafter and suddenly a 6 story apartment building took its place. Imagine that?!
I know at one time early on Brooklyn was mostly farmland because as I learned in Geology class at Brooklyn college the wonderful topsoil from Canada was pushed and deposited in Brooklyn by the advancing Ice masses in the ice age before they receded. Making Brooklyn ideal for farming.
We also played in the ruins of the Zoetrope Movie Complex ( I think that was the name) behind Ave M down 15th street before it was replaced by the Yeshiva of Flatbush. Many silent films with Mary Pickford and the like were said to be filmed there. My family bought a house on East 10th between Ave M and Roder Ave. that was supposedly owned by one of the silent screen stars back in the day.
I worked in the small luncheonette between the Ave. M “el” and Meyers Liquor Store and Antellis Drug store from ‘66 to ‘70-71 or so. There was definitely a Cookies on the other side of the train station 16th and Ave. M. By the way even Frank Sinatra took a stroll down Ave M from NBC Studios on M and 13th-14th.

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Maureen P Roland January 16, 2022 - 4:45 pm

Jay Weitzman: Before you moved to the fifth floor, I was the, “girl next door”. We used to play with your cowboys and horses. You had a parakeet who used to sit on my head and I once gave you every one of my baseball cards. Do you remember Maureen Palat?

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Maureen P Roland January 16, 2022 - 4:56 pm

Willy K: The Vitaphone Studio was across from NBC and, yes, it was a silent film studio back in the day. The farm you mentioned, I remember as, “Mrs. Dick’s”, but she was also called, “Mrs. Brown” had chickens. The farm was replaced by an apartment building around 1959/60. Many celebrities walked down Avenue M. We once lined the streets to see Kirk Douglas walk from Cooky’s to the studio. The original Steve Allen Show was broadcast from there and the neighbors were invited by NBC pages to be members of the audience. The show was replaced during the summer when the original show was on hiatus by Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme. There were trolley cars on Coney Island Avenue and the kosher market on Ave M and E 12th St was an independent grocery store called, “Penn’s” which eventually became, “Key Food” and on either side was a Fish Market and Ben’s Candy Store. Before air-conditioning, the neighbors would bring lawn chairs out to sit in the cool of the evening in front of our apartment building on E 12th. As soon as Ben’s closed, they would all move over to that side of the street so as not to disturb the tenants under whose windows they chatted. We kids were allowed to stay out late as long as those neighbors were there. When they went in, we had to come in, as well.

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Robert May 9, 2021 - 3:49 pm

What about ave m bowling alley a staple in the neighborhood

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Bill franca September 27, 2021 - 11:24 am

I grew up on midwood st between Rogers and Bedford ave, played stickball and many games we had with all the other kids I also played hookie a lot great friends with tommy Keenan jerry manix philly Clark wish I could turn back the clark

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Nancy B Rafalaf December 29, 2021 - 11:42 am

It was great seeing and reading about the area I grew up in. I lived at 1589 Ocean Avenue and K

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Arnie Wolsky December 29, 2021 - 2:33 pm

Erasmus Hall High School uses the grounds adjourning Friends Field as a home field and those grounds which hosted professional baseball, including Negro Leagues and professional football into the late 1940’s.

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Celso Pizano December 29, 2021 - 10:17 pm

Avenue E was replaced by Foster Ave, then Avenue F is Farragut Road and Avenue G is Glenwood Road.
And before those Avenue A is Argyle Rd, B is Beverly Rd, C is Cortelyou Rd, D is Ditmas Ave. Someone in that Area didn’t like using letters and preferred full names.

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