Walking Brooklyn  by Adrienne Onofri

Walking Brooklyn Guide Book

by Adrienne Onofri (Wilderness Press)
Walking Brooklyn  by Adrienne Onofri
In Walking Brooklyn, native New Yorker and informative tour guide Adrienne Onofri leads you on 30 tours from the heart of downtown, along the Coney Island boardwalk, over the Brooklyn Bridge, and out to resurging East New York to discover side streets, architectural gems, and hip spots. Each urban trek features history, culture, and trivia, plus tips on eateries, galleries, and nightlife. Detailed maps, clear directions, and subway stops make exploring easy. Whether you’re looking for a 2-hour stroll or a full day’s entertainment, grab this book, step outside… walk Brooklyn!

© 2007 Adrienne Onofri/Wilderness Press. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Walking Brooklyn" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 30.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 30.

This is a lengthy walk from the westernmost to easternmost point of Prospect Park. It’s no straight line, and you never set foot inside the park. Instead, the walk skirts the park, taking you through Windsor Terrace south to the Parade Ground and then north through Prospect Lefferts Gardens to the Botanic Garden. One of the last stops is the most hallowed place in this “city of churches”—the site of Ebbets Field. It has been an apartment complex for more than 40 years but still exerts an emotional pull on baseball fans, Brooklyn nostalgists, and, perhaps, on anyone who has ever had his or her heart broken.
Brooklyn, NY - Walking - Trail Length: 5.25
Unlike many Brooklyn neighborhoods with “Hill” in their name, Bay Ridge actually sits on elevated ground—a bluff overlooking Upper New York Bay. It was the proximity to and views of the water that attracted Manhattan’s elite in the late 1800s, when Bay Ridge developed as a summer resort. The extension of the subway system in 1915 opened the neighborhood to the middle class, and it became more urbanized. Few mansions remain from the early years, though there are many large freestanding modern houses. Ethnically, Bay Ridge has long been identified with Italian-Americans (who supplanted Scandinavians as the predominant group) and more recently has gained Russian and Middle Eastern populations. Throughout the years it has remained one of the best places in Brooklyn to enjoy the water. This walk stays close to the shore and thus bypasses the lively commercial district farther inland that’s centered around 86th St. and 5th Ave., where you’d find plenty of mom-and-pop businesses, Italian restaurants, and Irish pubs.
Brooklyn, NY - Walking - Trail Length: 3.5
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Bedford-Stuyvesant, the district that made history by electing the first black woman to the U.S. Congress (Shirley Chisholm), had become synonymous with “ghetto” by the 1970s. Comedian Chris Rock now jokes about his mid-’80s childhood in “Bed-Stuy: Do or Die.” In New Yorker Billy Joel’s 1980 song “You May Be Right,” among the reckless behaviors mentioned: “I walked through Bedford-Stuy alone.” This reputation has threatened to eclipse the neighborhood’s architectural significance and profound African-American heritage. It possesses a bounty of Victorian homes built for the prosperous community of Stuyvesant Heights in the 1890s. That predominantly white area eventually merged with the larger, older, and more ethnically diverse town of Bedford, which had begun as a farming village in the 17th century. Blacks had a presence in Bedford almost from the beginning, but it became one of their prime destinations during the Great Migration. By some estimates, more blacks moved to Bed-Stuy than Harlem after the 1920s. Afrocentric cultural, religious, and social-service organizations have thrived here, and many of them have been involved in revitalization of the neighborhood over the last few decades.
Brooklyn, NY - Walking - Trail Length: 5
Begin near a large mall of today’s most recognizable chain stores. Cross the street and you are transported into the 19th century. Boerum Hill and Cobble Hill, adjacent neighborhoods south of Atlantic Ave., were fashionable districts in the 1870s. The emergence of Smith and Court Sts.—and the rebirth of Atlantic Ave.—as trendy shopping and dining destinations have added a new facet to this area rich in historic homes and churches along tree-lined streets. In recent years Boerum Hill and Cobble Hill have been appended to Carroll Gardens (their neighbor to the south) by acronym-favoring real-estate interests as BoCoCa.
Brooklyn, NY - Walking - Trail Length: 2.75
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“What a lovely view from, heaven looks at you from, the Brooklyn Bridge,” sang Frank Sinatra in the 1947 film It Happened in Brooklyn. There are other ways to enter Brooklyn, but none is as famous (or as scenic) as the Brooklyn Bridge. It is, in fact, one of the most famous bridges in the world—an engineering marvel when it was built 120-plus years ago and still one of America’s architectural masterworks. After crossing the bridge, you’ll stroll through part of Brooklyn Heights and then take another riverside walk, on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. This trip may be the ultimate New York City photo op, as it offers views of virtually all of the city’s most recognizable landmarks.
Brooklyn, NY - Walking - Trail Length: 2.25
Brooklyn Heights needs no introduction, since it’s the one place in Brooklyn likely to have been visited by tourists and residents of the other boroughs. It’s even recognizable to those who haven’t been here, through its numerous appearances in movies, from Moonstruck to Prizzi’s Honor to The Verdict (where it stood in for Boston). It also needs no introduction in the sense that its gloriousness speaks for itself. There are more than 600 antebellum homes in the neighborhood, a slew of spectacular churches, and small streets that ooze charm. In 1965 the entire neighborhood gained landmark status—the first historic district recognized by the city—and that designation curtailed any new construction out of scale with the existing buildings. The Heights was the first American suburb, made feasible when Robert Fulton launched his ferry from Manhattan in 1814. Then, as now, it was a place of affluence.
Brooklyn, NY - Walking - Trail Length: 3
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In tracing the history of Bushwick, one of the five original Kings County towns founded by the Dutch (as Boswijck in 1661), two words are bound to come up: beer and blackout. Bushwick’s brewing industry, which before Prohibition accounted for 1 in 10 beers drunk in the country, may have begun with Hessian soldiers who stuck around after aiding the king’s army in the Battle of Brooklyn, but it burgeoned in the mid-1800s, when thousands of German immigrants moved in. After World War II, Bushwick started losing both its economic linchpin and middle-class stability. Beer companies consolidated production at plants outside New York, and families fled to the suburbs. Though still one of the city’s poorest districts, Bushwick is now being pegged as the next place for hipsters to colonize when they’re priced out of neighboring Williamsburg. Some have started calling it East Williamsburg.
Brooklyn, NY - Walking - Trail Length: 4
The “Carroll” comes from Declaration of Independence signatory Charles Carroll; the “Gardens” from the neighborhood design conceived by surveyor Richard Butts in 1846. The houses’ deep front yards have been well cared for over the years by garden-loving Italians, who moved here for the longshore work and were the dominant immigrant group throughout the 20th century. With its proximity to Manhattan and abundance of brownstones, Carroll Gardens more recently has been a magnet for yuppies—who transformed once-mundane Smith St. into a vaunted destination for boutique shopping and haute cuisine. Yet the Italian imprint has not eroded completely in either Carroll Gardens or Gowanus, the grittier ’hood across the canal. Long ignored because of its association with the festering canal, Gowanus is yet another Brooklyn neighborhood that’s being rediscovered by artists staking out non-Manhattan turf.
Brooklyn, NY - Walking - Trail Length: 2
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In the late 19th century, Clinton Hill was the most prestigious address in Brooklyn after Brooklyn Heights. Charles Pratt, Brooklyn’s wealthiest resident and the owner of Greenpoint-based Astral Oil, put the neighborhood on the map when he moved into his brand-new mansion in 1875. A number of Pratt’s fellow tycoons, some of whose names we know today from the companies they founded, followed Pratt to “the Hill”—among them, Messrs. Pfizer, Bristol, and Liebmann (owner of the Rheingold brewery). Pratt built more houses on his block for his sons to live in after they married, and he helped fund other construction in the area. His biggest project was Pratt Institute, a design and engineering college whose pretty campus doubles as a top-notch sculpture garden.
Brooklyn, NY - Walking - Trail Length: 1.75
Long before Vegas and Orlando, Coney Island was America’s playground. And by the time places like Vegas and Orlando were booming, Coney Island—the progenitor of every theme-park destination and beach resort across the land—was in serious decline. But sometime in the 1990s the inklings of a revival took hold. Since then, millions of dollars have been poured into the neighborhood: a pro baseball stadium was built, then new music and changing pavilions on the Boardwalk, and ultimately a showplace-caliber subway station. This walk covers the neighborhood of Coney Island and three-quarters of the island of Coney itself (really more of a peninsula since a 1910 landfilling), including all three miles of the famous Boardwalk.
Brooklyn, NY - Walking - Trail Length: 4
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Crown Heights. It’s one of those places, like Selma or Kent State, forever linked in people’s minds with a violent event. For Crown Heights, it was three days of rioting in August 1991 that ensued when a seven-year-old black child was fatally struck by a car in the motorcade of Rabbi Menachem Schneerson. A rabbinical student was stabbed to death by black men in retaliation. But Crown Heights has too long a history to be identified with only one incident, and it has a racial heritage to be proud of. In the first generation after slavery, many blacks made their home within the bounds of present-day Crown Heights, establishing towns with schools, churches, and social services. All the hullabaloo over Crown Heights’ racial diversity and occasional strife has also drawn attention away from its architectural riches. Crown Heights was a wealthy suburb around the turn of the century, and its brownstones, mansions, and churches from those days are as impressive as any in the borough.
Brooklyn, NY - Walking - Trail Length: 4.25
“Only the Dead Know Brooklyn,” goes the title of a short story by Thomas Wolfe. He lived way over west in Cobble Hill, but the aphorism could apply to the easternmost nook of Brooklyn, where about 20 cemeteries straddle the border with Queens (including the one named Cypress Hills, NYC’s only federal cemetery). In addition, there’s a large city park half in Brooklyn, half in Queens—Highland Park, a name also used for the section of the Cypress Hills neighborhood nearest the park. Cypress Hills itself is sometimes considered a subcommunity of East New York. It was first regularly trafficked by horseracing fans going to Union Course, a track that opened just over the Queens line in 1821. Starting in the 1860s, it was part of a German belt that stretched across Brooklyn from Williamsburg. But most of Cypress Hills’ growth into the neighborhood we know today took place around the turn of the century, when it developed as a suburb after John Pitkin’s plan to turn East New York into a large city failed to materialize.
Brooklyn, NY - Walking - Trail Length: 3
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Aside from those Brooklynites still squawking about the “mistake of ’98,” Downtown holds the most reminders that Brooklyn used to be a separate city: government buildings, a concentration of shops and banks, and many former offices of public agencies. After Brooklyn consolidated with Manhattan and three other boroughs to form the City of New York in 1898, Downtown ceased to be the seat of a metropolis and slid into a decades-long decline. But with Brooklyn on the rise again and astronomical rents driving some corporations out of Manhattan, Downtown is reclaiming its stature. The 1990s brought MetroTech, a redeveloped 16-acre corridor encompassing office towers, a new campus for Polytechnic Institute, and public park space, plus the opening of Brooklyn’s first hotel (Marriott) since the Depression. In 2003, the city announced plans to develop 4.5 million square feet of office space and create 18,500 jobs in Downtown. Someday soon, Brooklyn’s newest and oldest locales may be sitting side-by-side in Downtown.
Brooklyn, NY - Walking - Trail Length: 2.5
In the past decade, artists and dot-commers have turned this no-man’s-land down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass into another Soho, converting warehouses into trendy residential and cultural venues. The attitude may be bohemian, but the real-estate prices certainly aren’t: prime units in new luxury condo buildings go for upward of a million bucks. But the views— arguably Dumbo’s greatest asset—are priceless. Near the river and from the upper stories of buildings, there are sweeping vistas of Lower Manhattan and its three bridges, while snippets of them peek through open spaces in the streets of Dumbo. This walk takes you through those streets and into adjacent Vinegar Hill, an oft-overlooked enclave.
Brooklyn, NY - Walking - Trail Length: 2.25
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In 1835, a Connecticut businessman named John Pitkin bought up land in the eastern reaches of Brooklyn with plans to create a city to rival Manhattan: East New York. An economic bulwark and employer of most residents of the community would be Pitkin’s shoe factory. His dreams were dashed, however, by the so-called Panic of 1837, which forced Pitkin to give up much of the land and relocate farther east, in Queens. A worse fate was to befall East New York in the next century. It was among the hardest hit of New York City neighborhoods by drugs, crime, and poverty from the late 1960s into the ’90s. At one point East New York ignominiously led the city in murders. But urban renewal eventually took hold, driven largely by church and civic groups. Though not without its struggles, it’s a resurgent neighborhood today. This semi-adventurous walk tours urban renewal at various stages and concludes with a stroll along Jamaica Bay to Canarsie.
Brooklyn, NY - Walking - Trail Length: 5.75
Only a few neighborhood names are instantly recognized by nonresidents. The Left Bank is one. The French Quarter another. In Brooklyn, Flatbush has earned that honor. Non–New Yorkers got to know Flatbush from the movies, the Dodgers (who actually played in Crown Heights), and from local boys and girls made good (there are a lot of them!). Midwood today is largely identified with its Orthodox Jewish population, though it’s also where you’ll find one of New York’s top-rated pizzerias (DiFara at Avenue J and E. 15th) and a strip known as Little Pakistan. Flatbush, once a stronghold of Jewish immigrant families, is home to many West Indians and a jumble of other ethnicities. It also includes about a dozen mini-neighborhoods developed as posh suburban communities at the turn of the century and now known collectively as Victorian Flatbush.
Brooklyn, NY - Walking - Trail Length: 5.5
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Fort Greene has earned many bragging rights. It’s home to Brooklyn’s only skyscraper, the 512-foot-tall Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower. It has the oldest performing-arts institution in the country, the still-vibrant Brooklyn Academy of Music. In fact, Fort Greene is a source of pride for African-Americans (two-thirds of the neighborhood’s population) in many respects—from its cultural energy to its eluding the ghettoization that befell other black Brooklyn neighborhoods like East New York and Bushwick. Since its post-agricultural development, this has been a middle-class neighborhood, with a wealth of scenic, cultural, and historic treasures.
Brooklyn, NY - Walking - Trail Length: 2.25
New Utrecht was one of the five original towns established by the Dutch in the 17th century in what would eventually become the city, then borough, of Brooklyn. This walk includes present-day neighborhoods within the area once under the jurisdiction of New Utrecht. The route hugs the shoreline as you go from neighborhood to neighborhood via the off-street biking/walking path along Lower New York Bay (aka Gravesend Bay). While this is intended mostly as a scenic walk, it’s bookended by two places of historical significance: Fort Hamilton and what remains of New Utrecht.
Brooklyn, NY - Walking - Trail Length: 5
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One hundred and forty-four years before the United States adopted its Constitution, a town was founded on the ideals of religious, social, and political freedom and equal rights for all. It was the first of the six original settlements of Brooklyn and the only non-Dutch one among them. Most extraordinary of all, its founder was a woman: Lady Deborah Moody, a baron’s widow who had left Massachusetts, her first home in the New World, because it was too restrictive—one might say puritanical—concerning personal liberties. Gravesend, the town she established in 1643 and received a land patent for in 1645, started as 28 lots on 17 acres but eventually grew to encompass the entire southern sector of present-day Brooklyn (including Coney Island). This walk explores Lady Moody’s stomping grounds as well as some Dutch colonial heritage, including 4 of the 14 Dutch farmhouses still standing in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn, NY - Walking - Trail Length: 3.25
Greenpoint was one of Brooklyn’s centers of the “black arts,” with more than 50 oil refineries and 20 glass factories in operation in the late 19th century. But industry was on the decline by the mid-20th century, and its vestigial infrastructure today marks Greenpoint as a neighborhood of contrasts, sometimes on the same street. Some abandoned factories and riverfront street ends are given over to litter and graffiti, while other old buildings have been cleaned up and repurposed for artist studios, new businesses, and desirable apartments. Further improvements to the housing stock and outdoor spaces are expected as the hipster/artist spillover from neighboring Williamsburg continues. Meanwhile, Greenpoint’s most steadfast identity has been as a Little Poland. Poles first moved here during the huge influx of Eastern European immigration in the late 19th century, and later generations fled Nazism, then communism, and then the post-communist uncertainty. The neighborhood was still receiving thousands of new Polish residents a year in the 1990s.
Brooklyn, NY - Walking - Trail Length: 3.75
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