Brooklyn's Answer to San Francisco!
January 16, 2014

Brooklyn’s Answer to San Francisco

It was a chilly, windswept day—one that felt surprisingly balmy following polar vortex temperatures of the previous week. We were on an outdoor adventure in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, guided by locals—Mara, Roark and their two wonderful daughters, Kaiva and Zanda, ages five and two-point-five respectively. We knew they had chosen Bay Ridge as a spot to live because Roark missed the urban shoreline of his hometown San Francisco, but little could we have guessed before we arrived just how much the neighborhood would remind us of the “city by bay.”

This was apparent from the moment we got off the R train at 77th street, and became even more so as we headed down to the water along 79th street. The neighborhood was composed primarily of charming single-family homes, which morphed into veritable mansions, built wealthy New Yorkers drawn by the cool coastal breezes. The neighborhood’s original name, Yellow Hook, was purportedly coined by the Dutch in reference to the yellow soil in the area. It was changed to Bay Ridge following the yellow fever epidemic of 1853, for reasons which are not hard to imagine.

Or Perhaps Crete, Or a Fairy Tale

Among the more charming aspects of Bay Ridge is that its rich history and heritage is so much a part of the landscape. A few blocks down 79th street the kids were stopped dead in their tracks by an outdoor garden display which the creator, an elderly Greek immigrant, fashioned out of shells, pebbles and countless other knickknacks as a memorial to his native island, Crete. Another site worth stopping by is the “Ginger Bread House,” just three blocks south on Narrows Avenue, which looks precisely like something out of Grimm fairy tale. 

At the end of 79th street we crossed Shore Road to discover a delightful playground, suitable for kids of all ages, which commands imposing views the lower Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty to the north, Staten Island directly east, and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge to the south. We were assured by our resident exile from San Francisco that the view of the Verrazano from many points in neighborhood bears a strong resemblance to views of the Golden Gate in his hometown out West.

Shore Promenade and the Eco Dock

After swinging, climbing and tossing balls on the playground, we took a quick jaunt north to follow a pedestrian bridge over the Belt Parkway to the Shore Promenade. The wind off the water was powerful, which is not surprising given that the neighborhood shoreline is breezy year round. Depending on the weather you might spot fisherman dropping their lines into New York Bay, as joggers, cyclists and pedestrians pass by.

On the day of our visit it was so cold that there was almost no one out there besides us. However it says something for how charming the view is that our apple-cheeked kids did not seem to mind at all. We followed the promenade down just over a mile to where it brought us to Owl’s Head Park which, despite the fact it is still recovering from the devastation of Super Storm Sandy, is very much worth a visit. However, just before we reached Owl’s Head we ran into the Eco Dock at 69th street. The Eco Dock is a floating dock, designed to have minimal impact upon the local environment. The dock, which locals hope will make the shoreline more accessible for recreational use, can be used to launch sailboats, as well as smaller vessels like kayaks. As Owl’s Head, not to mention the charming little botanical garden located right nearby, both merit blog posts of their own to describe. Stay tuned!

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