Part 4– Beautiful Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

The Block! My great-grandmother's family saw these houses being built in 1912.


Finally! I sailed into the neighborhood at 3:30 PM on a Tuesday, and parked in front of Sylvia’s garage as instructed by Mom. “She said you can use her space but she’ll call for you to move it if she has to get her car out of the garage, like to go to the store or the doctor or something.”  

There was more.  

“And don’t forget that you’ll have to move your car on Wednesdays and Thursdays because of alternate side of the street parking to make room for the street sweepers. You can find spaces on 71st. Street, 73rd. by the Park, and  even 74th. … ” (Mom’s house is on 72nd.; I did a LOT of walking and driving over three weeks because it became clearer that I shouldn’t park in front of Sylvia’s garage unless I couldn’t find anything else.)  

And so I settled into Bay Ridge life. The first drama started the next day, when Rosemarie called Mom to start fomenting excitement about whether the Friendship Club was having its last meeting THIS Thursday, or NEXT. The wires grew red with heated inquiries as the neighborhood seniors went into action, unable to determine if there was going to be pizza served on the last day… or not! “And our table leader isn’t too healthy, so she talks loud and slow, and she’s a doll but still,” Mom told me. “You know what I mean?” I knew.  

I decided the next day to rent a bicycle.  

Bay Ridge is an old Brooklyn neighborhood that grew as part of the Dutch Nieuw Utrecht colony in the 1600s. It was originally known as Yellow Hook, and Yellow Ridge, due to its yellow soil, but that was changed to Bay Ridge after yellow fever epidemics cast a disturbing feeling on the term “yellow.” It was pastoral and bucolic for many years: farms and estates and dirt roads characterized the area overlooking New York Bay. It eventually developed into a suburb of sorts for New Yorkers living in Manhattan, grew rapidly after the local subway was built in 1915, and eventually melded with Brooklyn proper when the surrounding neighborhoods grew and the street grid was completed.  

Biking the neighborhood is one of the best ways to discover Bay Ridge’s soul, so here are some shots for you to enjoy…  

Atop the 76th. Street steps, where the ridge is too steep for the road to be cut through.


Typical row houses.


Visitation Academy, a Catholic Girls' School. Some of the buildings were once treatment housing for inebriates.


"The Gingerbread House" on Narrows Avenue. (1916)


I used to want to live in this house and smoke cigars while playing the piano.

The Greek Revival James F. Farrell residence. (1849)


The sacred and the profane on Shore Road.

Some REALLY beautiful apartment houses in the neighborhood:  


Original Salem Lutheran Church (1940)


Bay Ridge High School, now a school featuring technological studies. Brielle, my second cousin once removed, is a student here. Maybe she will design a rocket ship that will go to Mars. They used to teach Norwegian classes here when the neighborhood was heavily Scandinavian.


The first thing Mom had me do was to re-paint her statue of the Virgin Mary, who stands guard over the backyard. We think my grandmother got it from a paisano who used to manufacture and sell these items, linking back to the tradition of figuristi makers in their villages in Northern Italy. (My grandfather and uncle managed a mannequin factory in nearby Sunset Park; go figure.) We went to a hardware store in adjacent heavily-Italian Dyker Heights and had a detailed discussion with the man about exactly WHICH kinds of blue should be used to revitalize Mary… we didn’t go with his recommendations, but I think we made the right choices.  

Here is Mary Before, and Mary After:  


I figured after all that attention that she would watch over me, because I planned to bike even further afield…  

Next:  Biking Deeper into Brooklyn !  


12 responses

  1. That Pic of the Sacred, next to the profane, is litrally next door to my aunts house (colonial gardens)
    Its a odd looking house, and the garden is a junk yard! lol!

  2. Sigh. Remember it so well – I grew up on Bergen Place (off 67th) and went to Fontbonne Hall. Now I live in the wilds of Long Island and no one understands the concept of “Mary on the half shell”

  3. I’m back for some more of my tour, Jimmyboi. These photos are wonderful. Am I understanding correctly that Bay Ridge was added as a part of Brooklyn, later? These homes you pictured have yards!!!!! The one where you are going to play the piano and smoke a cigar? I’d love to see the inside of that house and how it’s laid out! Great post.I’m enjoying your vacation. 🙂

    • Right, Brooklyn was consolidated from a group of small Dutch / English towns at the end of the nineteenth century, and then was voted in as part of New York City in 1998. Bay Ridge was originally Yellow Hook, composed of Dutch farms starting in the 1600s. It was an area in the larger district of New Utrecht. I’m glad you’re enjoying !!

  4. Pingback: Architecture Kombat: Boston, San Fran, Brooklyn, New Orleans, etc - City vs. City - Page 2 - City-Data Forum

  5. Jim I was in Bay Ridge early May when on a whirlwind visit to NY-took a Sunday walking tour through your old stomping grounds-very impressed! Lit a candle in St. Anselm’s church-the number of Lutheran churches surprised me, until I heard the neighborhood history. I was staying in the Bronx on my visit-so it was quite a subway ride from Spuyten Duyvil to Bay Ridge-but well worth the visit

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