Glimpses of the Past in the Present in Brooklyn
When people think of New York, Manhattan often comes to mind first as a destination. However, Brooklyn’s historical sites are well worth a visit.
As Manhattan becomes slicker, tidier, more corporate, and policed, Brooklyn begins to seem like a refuge for the gloriously imperfect, the significant historical and the radically artistic or political elements in life. Taking the time to visit these three free or inexpensive landmarks, among other important stops in a trip to this borough, will take the visitor back to New York’s roots.
This lush, expansive 478-acre plot of land can be found off 500 and 25th streets. Admission is free, though guided tours are also available. These tours will show where a host of famous locals are buried, including Samuel Morse and Lewis Tiffany. Founded in 1838, this cemetery is not located on church grounds but within a beautiful park, complete with four ponds and flower gardens. As well as seeking respite from the busy city surrounding it, the tourist can also attend complimentary events on the grounds, especially in the summer months.
Open to the public in 1883, this Gothic structure that stretches from Manhattan to Brooklyn over the East River. Along with its vehicle lanes, the bridge offers room for pedestrians and cyclists to cross in a comfortable, albeit crowded, fashion! Views are amazing on this one-hour walk (with extra time to snap lots of pictures). The walker can see the Empire State Building, the Woolworth Building, and the Statue of Liberty, as well as spectacular river views.
Even the construction of the bridge is fascinating with its cables and archways. Many poets and songwriters have commemorated the beauty of this structure, from Hart Crane to Frank Sinatra. After the walk, check out some of the delicious restaurants on the Brooklyn side in the artist’s village known as Dumbo.
This famed island is actually a peninsula in south Brooklyn, featuring a beach on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Pre-WW2 Coney Island was a very popular amusement park, featuring rides, games, and even food that Americans had never experienced before. Luna Park, Dreamland, and Steeplechase Park all offered new and exciting adventures. Unfortunately, they burned down or were shut down after the war when low-income housing was needed and gang problems made the area less attractive to tourists.
A new amusement park, Astroland, opened in 1962 after the area had stagnated for over a decade. However, it recently shut down too, leaving only the Wonder Wheel and the 75-year-old Cyclone roller coaster intact, along with some vendors and a small midway. Coney Island remains worth a visit.
It might not be long before the entire history of this place is torn down for a multi-million dollar development. In the meantime, enjoy a stroll along the boardwalk, historic rides, cotton candy and fried oysters, and the sweet neon kitsch that remains of its glory days.