27 October 2006

A City Within the City

Friday 10/27, Run #73: East New York

Distance: 9.38 miles
Time: 1:10
Pace: 7:28
Temp: 42
Dewpoint: 29
Weather: sunny

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today: 7.65
Total Unique Miles: 575.65
Percent of Brooklyn Run: 33.04

For the complete route, click here

Notes: Since the forecast is calling for heavy rain tomorrow, I decided to run this morning instead. But I'll save finishing up Brighton Beach (my original plan for tomorrow) for next weekend, and so, for no particular reason other than to run more streets in the third of the borough south of my arbitrarily-drawn line (the goal is to complete this area by the end of next month), I took the L train out to East New York. For the most part, today's run was pretty much devoted to Spring Creek Towers, the enormous, mostly self-contained public housing project formerly known as Starrett City. First rented in 1975, the complex comprises 46 apartment buildings (some as tall as 20 stories), as well as chain stores and restaurants, schools, and even its own power plant. It's down near the Gateway Center Mall I visited a week or two ago, in an area just south of East New York that used to be a landfill, I think (for a Voice article from last year about Starrett City, click here). Obviously, I've never been inside any of the apartments or anything, but the buildings and grounds are well-kept, nicely-landscaped, and almost entirely grafitti-free. Nice wide sidewalks didn't hurt, either. So while I can't vouch for what kind of place it is to live in, it's a pretty nice place to run, especially on a bright, chilly fall morning.

Anyway, after an off day tomorrow I'm heading down to Sea Gate on Sunday, hopefully, and will try to complete the entire gated neighborhood with one run (it shouldn't be too bad -- althought there are a lot of dead-end streets, it looks like I can cover all the roads in about eight miles or so). Until then, here are today's pictures:

towers, starrett city
Some of the apartment towers

starrett city boxing club
On Freeport Loop

memorial, starrett city
Memorial on a wall off of Croton Loop

building, starrett city
Entrance to one of the buildings at the southern end

window, east new york
At the corner of Alabama Avenue and Linden Boulevard

25 October 2006

Equine Surprises in Gerritsen Beach

Wednesday 10/25, Run #72: Sheepshead Bay, Gerritsen Beach

Distance: 10.22 miles
Time: 1:20
Pace: 7:50
Temp: 46
Dewpoint: 32
Weather: sunny & windy

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today: 7.07
Total Unique Miles: 568.00
Percent of Brooklyn Run: 32.60

For the complete route, click here

Notes: Another neighborhood down. This time it's Gerritsen Beach, the tiny peninsula of narrow streets stuck on the southeast corner of Sheepshead Bay (the neighborhood, not the body of water). The highlight of the run, I suppose, was coming across a couple of horses in a fenced-in area at the end of Devon Avenue. I'd encountered horses once before, at a stable near Prospect Park. That kind of made sense to me -- I'm sure there are plenty of folks willing to pony up (sorry, couldn't resist) a few bucks to buy some riding lessons for their kids or simply to saunter through the park. I'm not so sure about the horses I saw today, however, since the neighborhood is almost completely surrounded by water. Still, it's always fun to encounter the unexpected. Otherwise, I won't expend a lot of energy complaining about the complexity of the route (though it was plenty complicated) or the number of non-unique miles (over three), but instead let the warm glow of satisfaction resulting from the completion of yet another neighborhood suffuse my tired body. Or maybe I'm coming down with something.

No, really, I'm fine. Actually, I haven't had so much as a cold in almost two years. Maybe it's all the physical activity (strengthens the immune system, you know) or the healthy diet (well, except for all the chocolate bars), though I'm sure the frequent and thorough hand-washing (my devotion to which falls somewhere between that of a surgeon and Lady Macbeth) has something to do with it, too. I mean, you can practically see the germs festering on the poles on the subway. Of course, I've probably jinxed myself now, and I won't be surprised if I wake up in a day or two with pneumonia...

But I digress. Where was I? Yes, Gerritsen Beach is now filed under "completed," and I'm quite happy about it. Not because it's a horrible place or anything (though the neighborhood has been in the news a few times over the past several months, and unfortunately, not for good things), but mostly because it's a long way from the subway and has a lot of dead end streets, which really rack up those non-unique miles. (Not to mention that I get some of my strangest looks as I head down streets which clearly end just ahead of me.) I'm getting kind of itchy, actually, to see some new places and neighborhoods, but I figure that'll be happening soon enough. Anyway, I'll probably take two days off (my ankles have joined my heels in providing ongoing physical reassurance that I am, indeed, running all of Brooklyn), and then hopefully finish up Brighton Beach, Coney Island, and Sea Gate over the weekend.

This morning's photos:

sun, gerritsen beach
A store on Gerritsen Avenue

houses, gerritsen beach
Looking north across the canal that separates the two halves of Gerritsen Beach

clock, gerritsen beach
Clock tower on the public library, Gerritsen Avenue

st james church, gerritsen beach
Part of St. James Church, also on Gerritsen Ave

horse(!), gerritsen beach
The aforementioned horses, on Devon Street

24 October 2006

Same Borough, New Shoes

Tuesday 10/24, Run #71: East Flatbush, Flatlands, Bergen Beach

Distance: 10.03 miles
Time: 1:15
Pace: 7.29
Temp: 45
Dewpoint: 31
Weather: mostly cloudy & windy

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today: 6.43
Total Unique Miles: 560.93
Percent of Brooklyn Run: 32.19

For the complete route, click here

Notes: Today's run followed another of those routes designed to fill in an area that I've ignored for a while, but which required me to re-run over three miles of road. Part of this was because I hadn't really thought out some of my early routes all that well, but part of it is simply due to the fact that Bergen Beach -- the neighborhood which was my ultimate objective today -- is a long way from the nearest subway stop, and half my run today consisted of getting down there and back. The result was my least efficient run yet, barely edging out Saturday's convuluted jaunt through Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay. Not to complain too much, of course, since it was a beautiful, cool autumn morning, but it's still kind of a drag to spend time treading where I've already trod when there are so many miles of streets still left to explore.

As for specific thoughts on today's outing, I don't have a whole lot to add. Bergen Beach is a small neighborhood laid out on a simple grid, with modest single family homes interspersed with some larger and more recent constructions. It must also have one of the highest Hummer ownership rates -- I think I saw at least four or five of them. Otherwise, not a lot to write home about. Except, of course, that I very unceremoniously retired my last pair of running shoes yesterday, and did today's run in a spiffy new pair, into which I inserted a new pair of those spongy heel inserts. It's always a pleasure to run in fresh, springy, clean shoes -- it may be more psychological than physical, but it's a pleasure nonetheless, and one that us runners only get to experience a few times a year.

Anyway, some pictures:

houses, hubbard place
Houses on Hubbard Place

ps 119
I like the dog reading the book on ethics (PS 119 on Avenue K)

window, utica ave
Window on Utica Avenue

bank, flatlands
Emigrant Savings Bank on Flatbush Avenue

post office mural, flatlands
Mural on the Ryder Station Post Office, just off Flatbush Avenue

houses, Avenue O
Houses on Avenue O

church, flatbush ave
Storefront church on Flatbush Avenue

22 October 2006

The Other Coney Island

Sunday 10/22, Run #70: Coney Island

Distance: 9.31 miles
Time: 1:10
Pace: 7:31
Temp: 50
Dewpoint: 42
Weather: mostly sunny

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today: 7.90
Total Unique Miles: 554.50
Percent of Brooklyn Run: 31.82

For the complete route click here

Notes: This morning I focused my efforts on the western two thirds or so of Coney Island, and -- as alluded to in the title of today's post -- this is the part of the neighborhood that many folks might not be as familar with. Lots of people visit the boardwalk and amusement park area, of course, and older fixtures like the Cyclone and newer ones like Keyspan Park are as popular as ever. But beyond these attractions the streets continue on to the west, with a mix of older, run-down houses, huge apartment buildings, public housing projects, and even some newer development. Up along the northwest edge of the peninsula is a small beach which fronts Gravesend Bay, and though it isn't as accesible as the ocean beaches on the southern shores of Coney Island or as clean (there was quite a bit of litter), it was also not very crowded (I had it, in fact, all to myself) and offers a fantastic view of the Verazzano-Narrows Bridge just a few miles to the northwest. Elsewhere, commercial enterprises are limited mostly to Neptune Avenue, except for the occasional bodega or small-time auto repair place, and there were a few small churches. By and large, the area also seems resistant thus far to any widespread gentrification, and though I'm certainly no expert on such things it seems like a lot of the neighborhood probably looks a lot like it did 10 or 20 years ago (which is definitely not the case in many other areas of the borough). This could all change in a hurry, of course, so I'm really glad I got to poke around the corners of this place when I did.

Anyway, except for a few short stretches of Surf Avenue and the boardwalk, I'm just about done with Coney Island now. I still have yet to run Sea Gate (the gated community at the far western tip), but I'll probably do that next week, after I figure out who I've got to talk to in order to get in there in the first place. After a day off tomorrow, I'll probably be back on the street Tuesday, so do be sure to check back then.

Today's photographic installment:

Apartment building on W. 24th Street

Mural on W. 25th Street

Kings County Wastebasket Repository, also on W. 25th

gravesend bay beach, coney island

The Coney Island beach most people don't see (north of Bayview Ave)

W. 32nd Street, near the boardwalk