Between 1959-1964, when I was just being formatted, the city bruited the Gowanus Expressway through my neighborhood, which connected the BQE and the Belt Parkway junction at 65th Street and the Verraz(z)ano Bridge — just missing our apartment building. I was endlessly fascinated with the bridge construction, digging in the dirt in the park across 6th Avenue in imitation of the trench being dug for the expressway, and watched the towers going up and the cables being strung. Just think — future generations will have no direct remembrance of the VB being built, but I have it and those memories will die with me.
Today I want to discuss a couple of new streets that were created along with the expressway, which, between 79th Street and 86th, went directly between Fort Hamilton Parkway and 7th Avenue. On its east side, between 82nd and 85th Street, running for 4 blocks, was the new street called Dyker Place.
The name “Dyker” presents a bit of a puzzler for Brooklyn lexicologists. In Brooklyn By Name, Leonard Benardo and Jennifer Weiss assert that Dutch farmers who built dikes to drain the area’s wetlands in the colonial era gave it its name. However Van Dyke is a common Dutch name and a family of that name did have a hand in its development in the mid-1700s. Dyker Heights was more strictly defined when the Gowanus Expressway was completed in 1964, as the neighborhood’s boundaries can be set at 86th Street (and the Dyker Park Golf Course, where Tiger Woods’ father Earl played) the expressway, 65th Street, and 14th Avenue. It’s overwhelmingly residential and the only business streets are Fort Hamilton Parkway, 13th Avenue, and parts of 11th. The neighborhood is best-known and most heavily chronicled during the Christmas season, when many locals construct extravagant Christmas displays, especially along 84th Street between 11th and 12th Avenue.
Just a few of the original cylindrical (as opposed to octagonally shafted) lampposts that lined the expressway and its service roads are still in existence today. Dyker Place has a couple of them. The manufacturer, P&K (Pfaff & Kendall) can be found on the base, as well as the date of installation, 1965.
There are no addresses on Dyker Place, as it was hewn from the side streets between 82nd and 85th.
Though Dyker Place was not extended through to 86th Street, some years after the Place was opened, a walkway was built south to the busy route. It’s named Tina L. Harris Walk, though an internet search does not reveal who this person is or was. If you know, help me out in Comments.
Further north, the service road that was created along the Gowanus Expressway connecting 7th Avenue and 67th Street with 6th Avenue and 65th Street was dubbed “Eirik Place.” It skirts the edge of Lief Ericson Square. I’ll preface my comments about Eirik Place by saying that the name of the famed 10th Century Norse explorer can be, and is, spelled in numerous ways, because Ericson himself used Runic characters to write his name — if he wrote at all.
When street signs were first installed to designate the route in 1964, the name was spelled “Eirik” which was pronounced, as far as I know, “EYE-rick.” This green and white sign, considerably faded now, probably went up in the 1980s.
But there’s considerable disagreement about the spelling. This “Erik Place” sign at 6th Avenue is relatively new, as it was installed in the late 2010s.
This MTA map of the area renders it as “Erick” but that’s plainly wrong. It’s also incorrect about 65th Street between 5th and 6th Avenue bearing the name, which it doesn’t.
Meanwhile, Google Maps lists “Erik” which may be where the new Department of Transportation sign got the spelling. Meanwhile, paper maps like Hagstrom (except for the latterday computerized version, which got it right with “Eirik”) bothered with it.
There doesn’t need to BE an official spelling, since, like Dyker Place, no property abuts it and it has no addresses. But three spellings for such a short Place is weird.
Meanwhile, new streets continue to be created in Brooklyn. River Street, at the East River waterfront in Williamsburg, has been extended south through the new Domino Park. I will have some photos of that sooner or later, I was there in June 2018.
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