MORE than most other Brooklyn neighborhoods, Gravesend features short, one block streets known as Courts and Places. While a couple of them are “legacy roads” that existed in the colonial era before the region was developed with a street grid, most are simply the product of developers wishing to add plots once all lots from the numbered and lettered streets in the area had already been laid out. Wolf Place is one of these short blocks, running between West 6th and Van Sicklen Streets between Avenues V and W.
At West 5th, you find a sign identfying it as Ken Siegelman Way. While most street subnamings honor area soldiers, firefighters or police officers, the honoree here taught at Lincoln High School for over three decades and was named Brooklyn’s poet laureate and hosted Brooklyn Poetry Outreach, a collaboration with former borough president Marty Markowitz and the Park Slope Barnes & Noble that featured readings and discussion by some of Brooklyn’s best and aspiring poets. In addition, Siegelman was the subject of the feature documentary “Fading to Zero,” directed by Silvana Gallardo.
Siegelman passed away from kidney disease at age 63 in 2009 and Wolf Place was subnamed for him a few months later. (Why streets are not named for their honorees during their lifetimes when they can bask in the glory is an exercise for the reader.)
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I rather like the idea of naming streets after teachers.
He was a great teacher.
At Lincoln, Sieg taught honor students, many of whom blindly followed directions. He took it as his mission to stop that and have people think for themselves. He’d come late to class, having left a blackboard full of notes and then walk around to see who wrote down the nonsense he had put up there and then ask the guilty parties why they did it. He’d go off on tangents and wait for someone to call him out on it, at which point he’d thank that individual for not just taking a teacher’s word as gospel. It was a tag team approach. These students would then have Mr. Lewis the following year who would help them crystallize what Sieg had taught and learn what to filter and truly how to learn in an engaging manner. I was one of those kids. I took these important lessons with me to college where, the very first week, I thought a teacher was trying to trick me. He was not pleased and told me if I didn’t listen to every word he said without question, I’d fail. I aced the class even though I did respectfully call him out at times. It was then he came down from his pulpit and asked how and where I learned such critical thinking. Sieg and Mr. Lewis were my proud response. I never forgot them and the lessons they taught, and still have the very customized words of advice they left in my yearbook. May his memory be a blessing and his legacy ever long.
I lived in the corner house, not pictured on the right of the photo. Directly across from the small bungalow. I remember Ken. Gravesend is a very old part of Brooklyn. Lots of history in that area