I make no apologies for being a nostalgist. I spent my first 35 years in Bay Ridge and return often, first to visit my father, who passed away in 2003, and then for regular dentist visits—I’ve patronized the same office since 1964. I still went to my favorite lunch spots, Zeke’s Roast Beef and the Nathan’s on 86th St. When I worked nights in Manhattan, my Mondays were always happy because before heading off to work at five p.m., I’d head to Zeke’s for a repast, which capped off my weekend, which ran from Saturday afternoon when I got up to reporting for work at Photo-Lettering at eight p.m. on Monday.
In July 2018 I was in Bay Ridge for one last lunch at its Nathan’s at 7th Avenue and 86th Street, which has been there since the 1970s; before that, it was another roadside fast food place. It’s recently been sold and the restaurant will be razed for apartment buildings that overlook the golf course. Nathan’s Coney Island location remains open, and will hopefully be there till the ocean swallows the Coney Island peninsula.
I always manage to discover something new or at least something I had previously overlooked in this historic neighborhood where I grew up.
The Bay Ridge Avenue, Prospect Avenue and 53rd Street stations were recently given a complete makeover by the MTA, adding wifi chargers and updated infrastructure. In addition, several elevated stations on the Astoria Line are getting similar treatment. I’ve questioned the MTA spending money and closing stations for months for what seems like cosmetic changes (though the Astoria Line stations required intensive repairs) but it’s hard to argue with the state-of-the-art results.
At the Bay Ridge Avenue station the newly installed artwork is the glass and ceramic mosaic “Strata” by Katy Fischer.
The side streets of Bay Ridge are chockablock with attached row houses made with brick or stone like these; probably the same developer(s) built most of them in the first couple of decades of the 20th Century. While today’s developers cut costs by sticking to cookie cutter formulas, these houses had similar variations by using oval and polygonal bays in the same row, and other subtle differences.
This apartment building between 3rd and 4th on Bay Ridge Avenue has a more utilitarian design. Even so, it has retained its original entrance canopies which feature ornamental metal brackets. How handy are these when it’s raining and you need to get your keys out?
The peaked building with the rounded edge at the SW corner of 3rd Avenue and Bay Ridge Avenue has been home to a pharmacy on the ground floor for apparently most of its life, Lowen’s since 1953; my friend Brian Merlis at brooklynpix has a photo from 1913, when it harbored Wolff’s. Much of the detailing on the corner section is unchanged, but oof, what they’ve done to the 3rd Avenue side.
This stolid structure on Bay Ridge Ave. (er, 69th St.) just west of 3rd Ave. has served as a Masonic temple, a church, and a school in recent decades, but its original purpose can be discerned on the keystones above the windows. Though some have been buffed out, the remaining ones depict former volunteer fire companies’ seals and names—such as Old Jackson H&L (Hook & Ladder); Blythebourne Engine; Neosho H&L; Bay Ridge Engine—of the former New Utrecht Exempt Firemen’s Association. (“Blythebourne” is the original name of the development that gave rise to Borough Park. “Neosho” stumps me, since it is a town in Missouri. Mets star Donn Clendenon was from Neosho.)
In the name “New Utrecht Exempt Firemen’s Association” you find two tidbits of history. A fireman known as “exempt” was a member of a volunteer fire company for five years; a number of other exceptions and corollaries to this rule further explained the term “exempt.” As far as “New Utrecht” is concerned, Bay Ridge was a part of the town of New Utrecht since the town’s establishment in 1683 until it was annexed by the City of Brooklyn in 1894, and then Greater New York absorbed Brooklyn in 1898. While Brooklyn had its own fire department (the BFD, the trigraph seen on a number of old firehouses around the borough) far-flung realms like Bay Ridge were served by a number of volunteer fire departments. This was a building where exempt firemen could meet and take advantages of services offered by the Association.
In Bay Ridge, many of the non-numbered streets are named “Ridge”, “Bay” or a combination. Bay Ridge Place runs between Bay Ridge Avenue and Ovington Avenue west of 3rd, and part of it is lined by some more of those attached townhouses I like so much. Weirdly, half of it is Belgian-blocked and half of it is surfaced with asphalt. And, from the way they’re worn down, these Belgians seem to be the original paving stones.
Another of Bay Ridge’s short lanes is Perry Terrace, between 70th and 71st Streets west of Ridge Boulevard. There’s also an apartment building called Perry Arms, at Ridge Boulevard and Bay Ridge Avenue. What’s with all the Perry names here?
To get the answer to that you would need to go back to 1890, when this was still part of the town of New Utrecht, long before Bay Ridge was part of New York City. At that time the neighborhood was transitioning from countryside and farms into a more urban existence. On the map, the roads in purple were already paved and the ones in the dotted lines were still planned. Ridge Boulevard was still “Second Avenue.”
One of the property owners here was the Perry family. The names “Joseph Perry” and “A.C. Perry” are seen on the map. The land developed for the terrace and the apartment building were likely purchased directly from the Perrys.
A pair of classic, or at least superannuated, signs from the 1970s or 1980s on Bay Ridge Avenue between Ridge Boulevard and Colonial Road.
Bliss Terrace, between 68th Street and Bay Ridge Avenue west of Colonial Road, was named for a prominent industrialist who lived in Bay Ridge. Owls Head Park is Bay Ridge’s largest public park,stretching between the Belt Parkway, Colonial Road and 68th Street, and its high hill provides a prime viewing spot during Brooklyn’s occasional tall ship parades. The park was created from the estate of Eliphalet Bliss (1836-1903). In 1867 he founded the machine shops that became the E. W. Bliss Company and the United States Projectile Company.
His estate, Owls Head, featured an observatory known as the Bayard Tower. He willed the estate to New York City, provided it be used for parkland. The park, still known by old-timers as Bliss Park, has been in use by local residents since the 1920s; Robert Moses redesigned it in the 1930s. The mansion and tower were razed in 1940.
You would not believe the little jewelbox house gems I discovered on this walk. Here are a pair on Bay Ridge Avenue between Colonial Road and Narrows Avenue. Near perfection in late 19th or early 20th residential design and construction. And their owners care about them, too.
The above photo shows Bay Ridge’s 9/11 memorial, dedicated in 2005. The unusual, 25-foot tall bronze design by sculptor Robert Ressler depicts a fireman’s trumpet – used by firefighters to communicate over the usual din at conflagrations in the days before walkie-talkies. You often see such trumpets depicted on memorials and gravesites.
The setting is the Bay Ridge Memorial Pier, first known as the 69th Street Pier located where Bay Ridge Avenue meets the Narrows, though Bay Ridgeites one and all call Bay Ridge Avenue and Bay Ridge Parkway 69th Street and 75th Street, respectively. It’s been home to ferry service intermittently over the past few decades, most famously the ferry to St. George, Staten Island, that closed the day after the Verrazano Bridge opened in November 1964. Views of Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, and the bridge are all available from the pier.
Bay Ridgeites one and all call Bay Ridge Avenue and Bay Ridge Parkway 69th Street and 75th Street, respectively–it’s a mark of recognition as a Bay Ridgeite. The Department of Transportation refuses to acknowledge this, and thus, this informal sign is the only one in the neighborhood that calls the street what everyone else calls it.
This unusual pencil-shaped marker has been at Shore Road and Bay Ridge Avenue since the 1980s at least — I remember it before I moved away in 1993. I don’t know of any others around the city like it. Rust is beginning to take a toll.
This mural depicting sea life under the Belt Parkway overpass on 69th Street is relatively new.
The Owls Head Water Pollution Control Plant, and its stench on hot days, has been a Bay Ridge fixture for over 40 years. I was fascinated with the place when I bicycled here using the Belt Parkway bike path. Why? The reason is simple. I never got into the plant, but the approach road past the gate had some very unusual streetlamps resembling those on the Golden Gate Bridge in California until they were replaced in the 1980s.
I did not attend Xaverian High School (named for St. Francis Xavier) on Shore Road and Mackay Place, but I liked their sports letter, which was, of course, a big X — one of my favorite letters. The school was founded in 1957, the same year I was founded. Alumni include MLB’s Rich Aurelia, Hollywood’s Scott Baio, and St. John’s University’s and the NBA’s Chris Mullin. The school became co-educational in 2016 after most of its existence as an all-boys’ school.
I can’t rummage through these parts without mentioning the Barkaloo (“Revolutionary”) Cemetery at Narrows Avenue and Mackay Place.
This smallest cemetery in Brooklyn was founded in 1725 by Dutch immigrant William Harmans Barkaloo and likely served as a family farm graveyard. At the time, the nearest road was the Road from Gowanus, which evolved into the present 3rd Ave.
The “revolutionary” appellation comes from a plaque erected in 1962 on the protective gate, which indicates that several Revolutionary War veterans are buried here; though some historians dismiss the claim as spurious, others say that William Barkaloo’s sons, Harmans and Jacques, fought in the Battle of Brooklyn, which raged in Bay Ridge and throughout the towns of New Utrecht and Brooklyn. The last burial took place in 1848.
The Barkaloo Cemetery is still historic since it’s the only family plot in Brooklyn not part of a larger cemetery. A number of them remain in the Bronx and Queens (Lawrence Cemeteries in Astoria and Bayside and Pullis Cemetery, as well as the Alsop plot in Calvary Cemetery). The Barkaloos lived in Bay Ridge well into the 20th Century.
Mackay Place has its own story, too. It remembers a local resident, John W. Mackay (1831-1902) a prominent 19th Century area landowner: after making a fortune discovering tons of silver as part of the Bonanza Group at the Comstock Lode in Nevada in 1873, he entered the real estate, mining and telegraph businesses. His granddaughter Ellin married Irving Berlin in 1926, against the family’s wishes; his wedding gift was “Always,” one of your webmaster’s Berlin favorites, especially when Frank sings it.
Lined on both sides by handsome Tudor-style houses, Louise Terrace is another of Bay Ridge’s set of short streets, this one between Mackay Place and 70th Street near Colonial Road. John Mackay’s wife’s maiden name was Marie Louise Antionette Hungerford and it is likely the short street was named for her.
In its early days Louise Terrace was called Elvira Terrace, but none of that has anything to do with Cassandra Peterson, TV’s Elvira.
When I was a kid in Bay Ridge, I originally had three excellent libraries to choose from, none especially close to where I lived at 6th avenue and 83rd, but close enough: the Carnegie-funded library at 4th Avenue and 95th Street; Fort Hamilton Parkway and 68th Street, across from the old Fortway Theater; here, in a modern building completed in 1959 at Ridge Boulevard and 73rd Street — great midcentury design; and a fourth, built in the 1970s at 13th Avenue and 83rd Street in Dyker Heights.
Bad time for “parading” in Bay Ridge since everything had a sidewalk canopy as repairs were effected. Flagg Court, 7200 Ridge Boulevard in Bay Ridge. Currently FNY headquarters is in Westmoreland Gardens in Little Neck, a complex I had my eye on beginning in the 1990s when I lived in Flushing. I finally got my opportunity to buy a co-op there in 2007. Before that, when I lived in Bay Ridge, I eyed Flagg Court for years but didn’t get in. It was designed by Ernest Flagg and constructed between 1933-1936.
This 422-unit, six-building complex contained architectural features that were avant-garde for its time, including reversible fans below the windows and exterior window shades, both now removed, as well as innovative uses of concrete as finished ceilings and for a vaulted auditorium. Its most pronounced exterior feature is the pendant Carpenter Gothic cornice at the eighth floor. The complex was socially innovative, as well, as it included a tea room, auditorium, swimming pool, bowling alley, tennis and handball courts, and a nursery school to allow the building’s mothers three hours of daily free time. [Historic Districts Council]
Christ Church of Bay Ridge, Ridge Boulevard between 73rd and 74th Streets, still looks like the same country church it was when the congregation arrived in 1853. Founder Joseph Perry (that name again) is remembered by Perry Terrace and Perry Arms. The present church was constructed here in 1910 and designed by architects Ralph Adams Cram and Charles Goodhue; Christ Church’s original building still stands, as Good Shepherd Church, at 4th Avenue and 75th Street.
Many apartment buildings around the city are named (matching Britain’s fondness for naming houses; John Lennon’s childhood home was called Mendips) but few in the States actually use them. For example, I grew up in Tilden Court, but it was known to one and all as 8302 6th Avenue.
This apartment on Bay Ridge Parkway (sorry, 75th Street) has an unusual moniker. A spot of internet research indicated that “Tokeneke” is a district in Darien, Connecticut, as well as a country club in the vicinity. It took its name from a local Native American chief in the pre-colonial era. I’d imagine the architect or developer of this building also had interests in Connecticut.
The presence of many gorgeous churches in Bay Ridge serves to alleviate — somewhat — the sting that the loss of the Bay Ridge Methodist (“Green”) Church at 4th and Ovington Avenues in 2008 produced. As the cornerstone indicates, the Union Church of Bay Ridge was built at Ridge Boulevard and 80th Street as the Bay Ridge Dutch Reformed Church in 1896. The corner once held a conical turret, brought down in 1937 by a storm. I didn’t get a good picture of it, but the large picture stained glass window facing Ridge Boulevard was installed and designed by Tiffany Glass. The church has been known as Union Church since it merged with a Presbyterian church a block away in 1918.
The Antiochian Greek Christians, also known as Rûm, are an Arabic-speaking Christian group from the Middle East. The designation “Greek” mostly refers to the use of Koine Greek in liturgy. The parish of St. Mary’s, Ridge Boulevard and 81st Street, recently celebrated its centennial.
I lived in Bay Ridge 35 years and never noticed this pair of gems on opposite sides of Ridge Boulevard on each side of 82nd Street by what was likely the same architect.
I wish I knew the architectural origins of this grand mansion at 8311 Ridge Boulevard, but its personal story is also engaging. Its owners were arrested for welfare fraud in 2009, a decade after their 21-year old son disappeared and was believed killed by the Columbo crime family.
Angela Piccini Canadé is remembered at 3rd Avenue and 84th Street. She was a columnist for 40 years at Bay Ridge’s Home Reporter newspaper, now known as the Brooklyn Reporter.
Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church, at Ridge Boulevard and 84th Street, was dedicated in 1964. The congregation was founded at a 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, fur business in 1956.
Bay Ridge’s Adelphi Academy was founded in 1863 by two teachers from the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, Aaron Chadwick and Dr. Edward S. Bunker, and opened on Fort Greene’s Adelphi Street, a name that comes from the Greek term for “brotherhood” (cf. “Philadelphia,” or “brotherly love”). Brooklyn’s Adelphi Street in turn had been named for London’s Adelphi Terrace, an early housing development in London, England that lasted from 1774 to 1938.
In 1965 Adelphi moved to a large brick mansion at Ridge Boulevard that was previously the Kallman Home for Children at Ridge Boulevard and 86th Street. The school expanded with a new gym in 1978 and an adjoining five-story classroom building in 1990.
In a neighborhood featuring large apartment complexes, the Bay Ridge Apartments fill an entire block between 86th and 87th Street on the west side of Ridge Boulevard.
Another Citadel of Living at Ridge Boulevard and 87th Street.
Colonial Hall at Colonial Road and 92nd Street. In the late 80s I was testing the waters for a different apartment and took a look at a 1-BR here. The price was too rich for me at the time, $660 per month. At the time, I was paying $475 on 73rd Street! I would up moving to Flushing in 1993 and remained till 2007, with a final rent of $775.
The Belt Parkway, officially known as Shore Parkway between the Gowanus Expressway and Laurelton Parkway in Queens, was originally called the Circumferential Parkway and was built on landfill mostly along the shores of Brooklyn and Queens from 1938-1940. Three or four handsomely designed pedestrian overpasses featuring iron scrollwork connecting the north side of the parkway with the pedestrian/bike path along the shoreline are still in operation, including this one, at 92nd Street and Shore Road.
The tugboat Amy Moran plying the Narrows on the way to an assignment no doubt. Information on the vessel is easily obtainable from tugboatinformation:
Built in 1973, by McDermott Shipyard of Morgan City, Louisiana (hull #179) as the Amy Moran for the Moran Towing Corporation of New York, New York.
Powered by two, twelve cylinder, EMD 12-645-E2 diesel engines. Turning two, bronze, fixed pitch propellers. She is a twin screw tug, rated at 3,000 horsepower.
Her electrical service is provided by two 75kW generator sets. The tug is fitted with an elevating wheelhouse. Her capacities are 44,909 gallons of fuel.
I am sitting near the Brooklyn tower of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, completed in 1964; I saw it built. When I was a small boy, my grandmother and I would often sit in this spot and watch the suspension cables getting spun, in the years 1961-1963. I was on the first bus that crossed the bridge when it opened in November 1964.
It was also in this spot that Tony Manero told Stephanie in Saturday Night Fever that a man had fallen into unset concrete at the Brooklyn anchorage. That story is untrue, but some workers did lose their lives in falls during construction.
These tract houses were built on Shore Road, wrapping around to 3rd and 4th Avenues, sometime in the mid-to-late 1970s, replacing what I think was an athletic field. The buildings resemble those at the Sunny Hill Resort in the Catskills, where my parents liked to vacation.
The building on the right boasts the only 9999 house number in Brooklyn.
I left the waterfront at this point, but I have walked it before.
John Paul Jones Park, facing 101st Street between 4th Avenue and Fort Hamilton Parkway, is named for American patriot and naval hero (not the Led Zeppelin bassist), John Paul Jones (1747-1792), who, through victorious leadership in the American Revolution, became known as “the father of the Navy.”
The park is named “Cannonball Park” for the longtime presence of a 20″ Rodman gun and several cannonballs on the 4th Avenue side, one of two tested at Fort Hamilton but found unsuitable for combat. Streets surrounding Fort Hamilton, such as Dahlgren, Parrott and Gatling Places, are named for inventors of military ordinance.
A trio of attached brick houses with semicircular bays, 100th Street between 4th Avenue and Fort Hamilton Parkway.
John Carty Park was built beneath the connecting ramp between the Verrazano Bridge and the Belt Parkway in 1964 and later named for a local 32-year civil servant who died in 1970. Not much of a park, really, but there was playground space for kids, and it became a default playground for me in the late 60s. The basketball court figured in a scene in 1978’s Saturday Night Fever. This was also a favored spot for me to ride my bicycle, no crosswalks between 92nd Street and JP Jones Park.
In the 1980s I was able to ride my bike into and through Fort Hamilton. Then we started invading people and were at war constantly, and the fort buttoned up the policy.
Virginians Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson are not names you would immediately associate with Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, but the famed Confederate generals do play a minor part in neighborhood history, both at Fort Hamilton and at St. John’s Episcopal Church on 99th Street and Fort Hamilton Parkway.
Though the present structure dates to 1890, there has been a St. John’s Church on this location since 1834, when soldiers garrisoned at Fort Hamilton built the first St. John’s. The nearby Roman Catholic parish, St. Patrick’s, originated the same year. Fort Hamilton had been nicknamed Irishtown since 1825, when Irish escaping from British oppression started arriving here.
Both Lee and Jackson worshipped at the original St. John’s while stationed at Fort Hamilton. A tree planted by Lee was replaced in 1912 complete with a new tablet commemorating the event, and another plaque cited Jackson. Both were removed (as well as other artifacts alluding to the Confederacy around the USA) in 2017 because political correctness defeats historical accuracy nowadays.
The property is for sale, and the non-landmarked church may soon meet the wrecker’s ball.
Fort Hamilton/Irishtown was once a separate community in southern Bay Ridge adjoining Fort Hamilton, and these small houses, Fort Hamilton Parkway and 97th Street, may be from the same mid-1850s era that saw the parish of St. Patrick’s established.
This one-story porched house, Fort Hamilton Parkway and 92nd Street, was in place when I traveled this spot as a kid in the 1960s. It may have been a farmhouse and likely goes back to the Irishtown days.
Looks like we have an outdated ad here for “We Buy Gold” unless we can buy gold at that physical therapy office.
Sampler of houses along Battery Avenue between 90th and 92nd Streets
When I’m in the area, I’m always drawn like a magnet to the Kenruby Apartments, 90th Street just east of Dahlgren. It’s a wild Tudor with great detailing like stucco, black and white checkerboard linoleum and even a small shelf both sides of the entrance to put a planter.
Once again, I lived nearby for 35 years but I don’t know if I ever noted the plastic-lettered, old school Weber Plumbing sign on 7th Avenue and 82nd Street.
When the Gowanus Expressway was constructed from 1959-1964, Fort Hamilton Parkway was moved and bridged across the open-cut trench, forming a triangle with 7th Avenue and 81st Street. The triangle was named for one of my relatives, Lieutenant William E. Coffey. He was one of my uncles, but I never knew him as he died quite young at World War II’s Battle of the Bulge, two days before his daughter, one of my cousins, was born. There was also a long-vanished American Legion outpost on 7th Avenue that was named for him.
McKinley Park was dedicated in 1903 and named for the recently killed President William McKinley. He was elected in 1900 as the 25th President of the USA and first one in the 20th Century; the Spanish-American War was waged under his presidency and as the spoils of the victory over Spain, the USA had annexed Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and the Philippines. McKinley was assassinated by an anarchist in September 1901 and was succeeded by Theodore Roosevelt.
Because of the street layout in Bay Ridge, thee are two points where a pair of numbered avenues come together at a V. There’s one at 4th Avenue, 5th Avenue and 95th Street, and here again at 7th and 8th Avenues and 73rd Street. In both cases, the lower-numbered Avenue “wins” and gets to proceed south.
This triangle features a war memorial dedicated to a local soldier, Anthony Mondello. It’s also home to a clutch of Brooklyn parrots, though I didn’t see or hear any the day I was there.
The corner of 8th Avenues and 64th Street is the former location of two long-vanished touchstones: the 3-story mixed-use building replaced the 2001 Odyssey disco, used for exteriors and interiors for Saturday Night Fever; and the market building replaced Bay Ridge Lanes, which was a smoky, down-at-heel bowling alley the first time I was in there in 1984 (I usually bowled at the equally vanished Leemark Lanes on 88th Street.
Well, I think that hits it in the head for the day. Time for the N train at 8th Avenue, which like most Sea Beach Line stations has been under repair since 2015.
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