CONEY ISLAND to MIDWOOD, Brooklyn Part 2

by Kevin Walsh



At East 14th Street, the BMT Brighton Line bridges over the Belt Parkway and in an unusual arrangement, a pedestrian walkway adjoins it, with barbed razor wire preventing miscreants from entering the tracks. Remnants of a previous lighting arrangement have been left in place, as these fixtures likely once held incandescent lightbulbs that were no doubt relentlessly attacked by vandals. When you get to the other side, you can enter the subway via the Sheepshead Bay station.


The latest in officewear is available at Admire, Avenue Z and East 14th.


I was perplexed, at first, by the street sign Firemen’s Corner at Avenue Y and Ocean Avenue without a firehouse nearby, but a plaque mounted on the wall at the nearby Staples clears it up:

To the men of the Fire Department who died at the call of duty at this site on August 2, 1978, soldiers in a fight that never ends:

Lt. James E. Cutillo, Batt. 33, Eng. 276

Firefighter 1st Gr Charles Bouton, Ladder Co. 156

Firefighter 1st Gr. Harold F. Hastings, Batt. 425 Eng. 243

Firefighter 1st Gr James P. MacManus, Ladder Co. 153

Firefighter 1st Gr. George S. Rice, ladder Co. 153

Firefighter 4th Gr. William O’Connor, Ladder Co. 156

This memorial is dedicated by the Bay Improvement Group

 …[S]ix firefighters perished in what, at the time, was the largest loss of firefighters in a single fire in Brooklyn history. At approximately 9:02 a.m., the roof of Waldbaum’s at Avenue Y and Ocean Avenue (where Staples is today) collapsed, sending at least 12 firefighters into the inferno. In battling the blaze to save the lives of their fellow laddermen, 34 firefighters were injured. Sheepshead Bites

At Avenue X and Ocean Avenue is a cluster of neighborhood businesses and restaurants, though a stroll east on Avenue X is a fairly depressing undertaking, with a run of radiology and oncology offices. Keeping it real in Homecrest.

The neighborhood between about Kings Highway, Avenue X, Coney Island Avenue and Ocean Avenue is known as Homecrest after a real-estate development called Homecrest-By-The-Sea was constructed here in the early years of the 20th Century. A few of the Victorian-style houses can still be found in the neighborhood here and there.


Avenue X and East 22nd, one of a number of American flag murals in Homecrest and Midwood. And, none of them have been attacked by graffiti taggers.


An apartment building at Avenue V and East 22nd has a very unusual cornice.

Gravesend Neck Road forms an “X” with Avenue V at East 22nd. Known as “Neck Road” to local denizens, it is a very old colonial-era road that predates the overall street grid. It once ran to a peninsula east of today’s Nostrand Avenue called Gravesend Neck that has since been eliminated by landfill.

I wonder if PS 206, at Avenue V between East 22nd and 23rd, is named for the Joseph F. Lamb who was a noted ragtime composer in the 1910s.

My favorite rag is, of course, the Michigan Rag.

I’ve mentioned Zig Zag Records, at Avenue U and East 23rd, before — it has been a neighborhood mainstay since the 1970s, when its signs were installed. The posters in the window are the same ones as in 2004. That object on the lower edge of the window is a videocassette tape, which still exist (your webmaster has dozens of them).

It turns out that Zig Zag is quite historic. Back in the early 80s, heavy metal had its glory days here in Brooklyn. L’Amour’s was the place to be and Zig Zag was the place to get records… and meet your favorite bands. It’s hard to believe that bands like Metallica, Motorhead, and Venom all stepped through that door at one point. Stan, the guy who works there, has basically seen it all and has not given up his 80s days just yet. Yelp

The immortal Lemmy of Motorhead visited Zig Zag in 1982.


A second flag mural, adjoining Zig Zag on East 23rd.


Some houses on East 23rd and surrounding streets have two owners, with the property split down the middle. This one has had wildly varying decor treatments applied to each side … making it a 21st Century Schizoid House, perhaps?


Peak fall colors on East 23rd near Avenue S


There are some Dutch colonial-era homes in the area…notably, East 28th between Avenues S and T, and also on East 22nd at Avenue P…but, though this house on East 23rd near Avenue R looks like it could be one, I can’t find any evidence or records that it is one.


This house on West 23rd boasts a garage that could double as a guest house — looks like it has enough room.


The only Avenue Q these days is a musical that played on Broadway from 2003-2009, and off-Broadway since. Brooklyn’s Avenue Q was renamed Quentin Road in 1918 in honor of Theodore Roosevelt’s son, Quentin Roosevelt, an aviator who perished while on duty in World War I.


Kings Highway is a multi-lane behemoth lined in spots with apartment buildings and attached homes from Avenue P and East 22nd Street northeast to Brownsville. Only its western section west of Flatbush Avenue follows the path of the original colonial-era Kings Highway, while the northeast section follows the path of Flatlands Neck Road. Formerly a winding country lane, it attained its present width after a major rebuild in the early 1920s.


Walking north on East 23rd north of Avenue O, we see a road issuing to the northwest and, across the street, a pair of houses tilted as if they faced a road that is no longer there. This is Bay Avenue, part of the street layout of a very old village called South Greenfield. The roads of South Greenfield survived even after the overall prevailing street grid was laid out and constructed in the first 3 decades of the 20th Century.


The former South Greenfield (Bay Avenue) features pleasant freestanding and attached houses including the Tudor at right.


A second road parallel to Bay Avenue runs between East 22nd and East 24th south of Avenue N. For the past few decades, it has been called Olean Street, though older maps show it as “Old Ocean Avenue” or just “Ocean Avenue.” The street likely predates the longer Ocean Avenue which runs from Prospect Park south to Manhattan Beach. The city probably substituted a letter, “l” for “c” and is not intentionally honoring the upstate New York town of Olean.


Architects have had to design around Midwood/South Greenfield’s unusual street layout, and you get trapezoid and parallelogram-shaed buildings because of it, as well as buildings that jut at odd angles; left: Bay and Ocean Avenues, right, Bay northwest of Ocean.

Second only to liquor stores in their retention of old neon and other kinds of signage are pharmacies. M&M Pharmacy on, what else, Avenue M and East 19th carries neon that must go back to the 1940s at least, and still has vintage interior signs, as well. As the awning signage indicates there is also a Russian clientele, spilling north from Brighton Beach along the Brighton subway line.

The north side of Avenue M between East 18th and 19th Streets features two buildings with shiny terra cotta cladding. The building shown at left and in the middle carries the telltale seahorses that mark a former Child’s Restaurant branch; Childs’ eateries often had a maritime or ichthyic theme even though they were not strictly seafood restaurants.


This is another one of the buildings that had to be built around South Greenfield’s unusual street layout, along Bay Avenue and East 18th. The apartment house appears to be sailing down the street, like an ocean liner.


Yet one more flag, East 18th Street south of Avenue M. One day I’ll have to get all NYC’s painted flags on one page.


One more pharmacy with an old neon sign, Antelis on East 15th Street and Avenue M. Also note that on both this and M&M, above, the traditional vessel-with-the pestle and Rx motifs are also used.


After about 3.5 hours walking it was time to take the chariot back to Little Neck. The Brighton Line is under repairs so it was necessary to take the train south to Sheepshead Bay, cross the center platform and then get the Manhattan bound.



Danny Herbst January 19, 2013 - 1:32 am

I went to PS 206 for Kindergarten & Lived on E 24th & Ave.S.You missed so many things about the hood,but it was still good to see.

Reclaimed Home: Green Low Impact Housing Renovation of New York, Brooklyn, New Jersey October 11, 2013 - 9:13 am

[…] Zig Zag Records closed it’s doors about two years ago, but will always be remembered by alt-rock Brooklynites growing up in the 80′s as the place that sold NME and rare UK records. Photo via Forgotten NY. […]


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