Alley Art and Mother Jones
Saturday 11/4, Run #78: Brighton Beach
Distance: 10.74 miles
click on image for interactive map
Unique Miles Today: 7.38
Total Unique Miles: 613.51
Percent of Brooklyn Run: 35.21
For the complete route, click here
Notes: Whoa. Today's run was the most complicated I've done so far, even more so than my previous outing to Brighton Beach a couple of weeks ago. In fact, the route was so complex that the little reference map I make was twice as big as usual, in order to have enough space to draw in all the tiny streets and alleys I needed to cover. (If the interactive map above doesn't provide enough of an illustration, get a load of the written description of the route. Seriously, it was awfully confusing -- not only were there seemingly dozens of turns and lots of retracing my steps, but almost all the streets were called "Brighton" something or other).
Why so complicated? Partly because Brighton Beach occupies a tiny little patch of Brooklyn just east of Coney Island, an area of roughly half a square mile (or less than 300 acres). Yet over 30,000 people live there, giving it a population density of roughly 60,000/square mile -- a good 50% higher than the rest of the borough (in which about 2.8 million people live in 71 square miles), and pretty close to the density of Manhattan (which, as of the 2000 census, was around 67,000/square mile). And while much of this density comes from the apartment buildings and condos close to the boardwalk, there are plenty of detached and semi-detached houses as well, and the only way to fit them all in is to make the streets narrow and very close together. In fact, in order to maximize the number of houses on some blocks (especially between Ocean View and Neptune Avenues), there are a number of pedestrian alleys, which I always enjoy discovering (but which pretty much added to my general sense of disorientation). The houses that fronted the alleys, insulated as they are from public view by virtue of their distance from vehicular traffic, represented a remarkable array of styles (and varying degrees of upkeep). The alleys were also the source of some ever-welcome weirdness, including one yard along Brighton 3rd Place with a number of odd and unique art installations (a picture of one is included below).
Another interesting discovery was an apartment building on Brighton 3rd Street bearing the name "Mother Jones." This is presumably an homage to Mary Harris "Mother" Jones (1830-1930), the famous union organizer and labor agitator and the only woman among the founders of the Industrial Workers of the World in 1905. (Her legacy is also evident through the eponymous magazine known for its lefty muckraking.) Some cursory googling didn't turn up anything about the building, but considering the neighborhood's long history as a destination for eastern European Jewish immigrants (many of whom were involved in socialist causes during the first half of the twentieth century), it certainly seems plausible enough.
[Interesting demographic aside: in the Wikipedia article on Brighton Beach (as well as other online sources), the population is given as 150,000, which is clearly wrong. Not only would it be close to physically impossible to squeeze that many people into that small a space, but the entire population of Community District 13 -- which comprises all of Brighton Beach, Coney Island, and parts of Sheepshead Bay and Gravesend -- was only 106,000 according to the 2000 census. (I got my figure of a little over 30,000 by adding up the individual populations of the seven census tracts within Brighton Beach, a trapezoid bounded by Ocean Parkway, West End Avenue, the boardwalk, and the Belt Parkway).]
Okay, enough with the geography and demography. Today's was indeed a labyrinthine run (and one I'd been long dreading, due to the commensurate complexity of the recordkeeping), but I also really enjoyed it. It was cool this morning but dry and sunny, and taking yesterday off helped my heels and legs to feel a bit better. Moreover, I can now move Brighton Beach onto the "completed" side of my running ledger, bringing me that much closer to having the entire southern third all wrapped up.
And as almost every runner (and New Yorker) knows, tomorrow's the New York Marathon (almost half of which, by the way, takes place in Brooklyn). Maybe I'll apply next year (my last marathon was Quad Cities, a little over a year ago), but for now I'm looking forward to spectating instead of participating. Best of luck to all the runners, and especially those of you whom I've gotten to know through this blog!
Finally, despite all the squinting at my little map so I wouldn't deviate too far from my convoluted route today, I managed to snap some photos. A sampling:
Banner Ave and Brighton 8th Street
Brighton 12th Street
Brighton Beach Avenue
Evidence of Brighton Beach's Wobbly past? (Brighton 3rd St.)
Uh, is the water supposed to be this color? (Brighton Beach Ave)
Yard art on the alley part of Brighton 3rd Place
Brighton 11th Street
Mural on Brighton 2nd Street