12 January 2007

Getting Closer...

Friday 1/12, Run #108: Fort Greene & Clinton Hill

Distance: 8.50 miles
Time: 1:05
Pace: 7:39
Temp: 41
Wind Chill: 33
Weather: cloudy & windy

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today: 8.36Total Unique Miles: 839.83
Percent of Brooklyn Run: 48.20

For the complete route, click here

Notes: Yesterday I pondered the reasons why I've recently been ignoring my elaborate running plans and neglecting the careful strategizing I've done, but today I can say with some authority that I have an answer. I think it's pretty obvious, too -- I just want to get to the halfway point and take a break. While I still enjoy the actual running itself, I am kind of burned out, and have grown especially weary (as I may have mentioned already once or twice) all the non-running aspects like the planning and the subway rides and everything. And so (since I returned from California, at least), I've found myself devising routes that are simple, relatively close to home, and very efficient in terms of the unique miles. I'll probably regret this during the second half when I'll eventually have to do the runs (and planning and subway-riding) I'm now avoiding , but I don't think I care too much right about now. I just want to be done with the first half.

To that end, I ran in Clinton Hill and Fort Greene today. It was indeed a route that took maybe five minutes to plan and map out, had only a little over a tenth of a mile that wasn't unique, and both started and ended right at subway stops on the G, so travel time wasn't more than ten or fifteen minutes each way. Perfect! Moreover, these are two neighborhoods I've barely run in thus far, and it was great seeing some stretches of town that were new to me. I'll write all about these places, too -- next time I visit them. For the rest of today (and tomorrow) I hope to get some of my other writing done, but I'll be out on the road again on Sunday (weather permitting, of course).

As always, I tried to take a few pictures:

house inc., fort greene
Adelphi Street

building, clinton hill
Building on the St. Joseph's campus (Clinton Ave)

buiding and trees, fort greene
Carlton Ave

church, fort greene
Also on Carlton Ave

striped wall, fort greene
And one more from Carlton Ave

11 January 2007

Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn

Thursday 1/11, Run #107: Midwood

Distance: 8.66 miles
Time: 1:05
Pace: 7:30
Temp: 29
Wind Chill: 24
Weather: sunny & wintery!

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today: 6.82
Total Unique Miles: 831.47
Percent of Brooklyn Run: 47.72

For the complete route, click here

Notes: Once again, I've completely ignored my own self-imposed dictates for planning my routes. I probably should be dutifully plugging away out in Cypress Hills or somewhere, but -- for no particular reason -- I decided to fill in a little section of Midwood that I'd been ignoring for a while. I don't know why I feel kind of guilty when I do stuff like this instead of sticking to whatever master plan I'm supposed to be following, but there it is. What I need to do is to keep reminding myself that it's my little endeavor here, and there aren't any real rules concerning the "right" or "wrong" way of running the whole borough that I need to follow. As long as I'm honest about where I've run and careful with the recordkeeping, these other things shouldn't matter, right? But they do anyway. Truth be told, I think I'm veering dangerously close to physical and mental burnout, though I'm going to hang in there until I reach the halfway point (about a week and a half from now, at this rate). Then I'll sit down and think things through and figure out how long of a break I'll need and what plans I need to make (as if I'd follow them!) for the second half.

The run itself was limited to a fairly compact residential swath of Midwood (an aptly-named neighborhood in the central part of the borough) just south of the Long Island Railroad freight train tracks and southwest of Brooklyn College. It's a pleasant area to run in (though it'd be much more so in the warmer weather, when the abundant shade trees actually have leaves on them), with the streetscape dominated by single-family detached houses on the numbered streets and substantial apartment buildings along some of the avenues, and much of it bearing the imprint of the mostly Orthodox Jewish population, especially along the east-west avenues (which boast a good number of Hebrew schools and synagogues) and some of the commerical areas.

Perhaps the biggest news is that, after a month or two of waiting, the weather actually felt kind of wintery out there today. The forecast calls for highs in the fifties by the weekend, though, so I'll try to enjoy it while I can. Despite being a bit worn out I'm going to run again tomorrow and keep pushing toward that fifty percent milestone. Only a few more runs...

Broken Angel update: According to the Times and several local blogs, the building will be saved -- by converting most of it to condos. An odd fate, perhaps, but probably not completely surprising, either. Read all about it at Brownstoner, Gowanus Lounge, and the Times.

Pictures from today's run:

yeshiva, midwood
Young Israel of Flatbush, a synagogue on Coney Island Avenue

the other nathan's, midwood
The other Nathan's (Avenue H)

cemetery, midwood
Washington Cemetery (as seen from E. 4th Street)

09 January 2007

Visiting the Broken Angel of Clinton Hill

Tuesday 1/9, Run #106: Bedford-Stuyvesant, Clinton Hill

Distance: 8.08 miles
Time: 1:00
Pace: 7:25
Temp: 38
Wind Chill: 29
Weather: partly cloudy

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today: 7.64
Total Unique Miles: 824.65
Percent of Brooklyn Run: 47.33
For the complete route, click here

Notes: Usually my routes are dictated by the geographic logic of the "big map," but today marks the first day I planned a run in order to see a specific place. This morning, I headed back to Bed-Stuy (or, to be a bit more precise, the fringe of Clinton Hill on its western border) in order to visit the Broken Angel, an impressive piece of "outsider" architecture and an oddly compelling part of the local streetscape whose origins and impact have sometimes led it to be compared to the Watts Towers in Los Angeles. Starting with an old building they picked up cheap in 1971, owners Arthur and Cindy Wood have continuously built up and out and onto, adding several stories as well as all kinds of ornamental detail. A fire last October led to quite a bit of local attention (with the best coverage coming from several Brooklyn-based blogs) and numerous questions about its future. According to Brownstoner and Gowanus Lounge, the Woods have been unable to raise the funds or hire the contracters necessary to bring the structure up to code (apparently, the city didn't give them a lot of time), and the property is now for sale. Click here to see a terrific set of photos (both interior and exterior) from the Woods' son, Christopher.

Anyway, I figured it was worth a trip to see the place before it gets torn down and replaced by condos or whatever other fate may be in store for it. It is indeed a very impressive and very cool-looking building, and it's easy to see why so many locals are worried about its seemingly imminent demise. And while I have virtually zero knowledge about architecture, homebuilding, or city codes (and thus can't really comment on the Broken Angel's safety or structural integrity), I think it's still kind of amazing that the city let the place stand as long as it has. But as of today it's still there, and however small the chance, maybe something will get worked out to let it stay.

Otherwise, today's run also had a lot going for it besides getting to see a storied piece of local color -- plenty of unique miles, lots of other stuff see (including a good number of small churches and groceries), and great weather (except for the pretty stiff wind). I'm still not feeling 100%, however, so I'll probably take tomorrow off before trying to run again on Thursday. See you then.

Update, 1/11: Broken Angel to be Saved, in a Way (from Gowanus Lounge)

Broken Angel pictures:

broken angel, clinton hill 4
Looking north on Downing Street

broken angel, clinton hill 3
The front (4 is the address on Downing Street)

broken angel, clinton hill 1
The view looking west on Quincy Street

Other pictures:

liquor store, bed-stuy
Classon Avenue

church, bed-stuy
Church on Quincy Street

mural, bed-stuy
Downing Street

a gospel feast, bed-stuy
Stuyvesant Avenue at Quincy Street

07 January 2007

Practically In My Own Backyard

Sunday 1/7, Run #105: Greenpoint & Williamsburg

Distance: 9.86 miles
Time: 1:15
Pace: 7:36
Temp: 45
Wind Chill: 40
Weather: sunny

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today: 9.06
Total Unique Miles: 817.01
Percent of Brooklyn Run: 46.89

For the complete route, click here

Notes: Sure enough, after writing just a few days ago about how I was going to assiduously begin working on filling in some streets out in the eastern parts of the borough, I decided to scrap those plans and stay close to home. The subway doesn't run as often on weekends, and of late I've just been getting kind of tired of spending so much time sitting on trains or waiting on platforms. By starting and finishing right here in Greenpoint I was able to sleep in a little longer, get in a good number of miles, and still get home well before I would otherwise. I'll probably regret it down the road, but it sure seemed like a good idea this morning.

Like my short neighborhood jaunt a week ago, I was able to see a pretty diverse swath of Brooklyn while never straying more than a mile and a quarter from home. Near the East River, of course, there were the requisite old factories and industrial fixtures and warehouses (both functional and residential), but my route also took me into some of the more residential parts of Williamsburg, down alongside the Williamsburg Bridge (one of the three that connect Brooklyn to Manhattan) and up Meeker Avenue, which runs pretty much under the elevated Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Many of the miles, however, were spent on the north side of Williamsburg, a neighborhood I'm pretty ambivalent about. Allegedly, it's where a sizeable contingent of young artsy types and hipsters live and socialize, but it also can seem at times like a bizarre kind of urban theme park, where a surprising number of (oddly homogeneous) twenty-somethings in indie-rock haircuts and thrift-store duds drink expensive coffee or ride their fixies up Bedford Avenue. The party may be over soon, though, since it's already an expensive area and the ongoing rapid gentrification will continue to alter the neighborhood pretty drastically in the near future.

Regardless, the weather was a bit more seasonable than yesterday, there was plenty to see, the run itself felt pretty good, and I didn't spend all day on the subway. Not bad at all.


chabad, williamsburg
Bedford Avenue

tire ball, williamsburg
N. 8th Street

sandwiches, williamsburg
Just off Marcy Avenue

williamsburg bridge
Looking west from the foot of S. 5th Street

statue, williamsburg
Jackson Street