Category Archives: Exploring Brooklyn

Banh Mi Place 824B Washington Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11238

Don’t miss this wonderful little sandwich shop in Prospect Heights Brooklyn. The food here is amazing.

Don’t miss this wonderful little hole in the wall sandwich shop in Prospect Heights Brooklyn.

Dining on a Shoe String in NYC

Banh Mi Place

824B Washington Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11238

(718) 552-2660

https://banhmiplacebklyn.com/

Open: Sunday 11:30am-9:00pm/Monday-Thursday 11:30am-9:30pm/Friday & Saturday 11:30am-10:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d8530850-Reviews-Banh_Mi_Place-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

I ordinarly try a restaurant a few times before I recommend it for this site but this evening I had the most amazing sandwich for dinner and I had to share this with the world.

Banh Mi Place

Banh Mi Place at 824B Washington Avenue

I was at this tiny sandwich shop in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, Banh Mi Place at 824B Washington Avenue ordering a sandwich before an event at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. I was in the mood for something different for dinner so I ordered the Classic Sandwich which is pate, Vietnamese ham, roasted ground pork with mayo, cucumbers, julienne carrots and daikon radish and cilantro and it was served on a toasted French baguette.

Classic Sandwich

The Classic Vietnamese sandwich at Banh Mi Place

The sandwich was mind-blowingly…

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Little Miss Muffin ‘N’ Her Stuffin 768 Washington Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11238

Don’t miss this little hole in Prospect Park Brooklyn. The food is excellent.

Don’t miss the meat patties here!

Dining on a Shoe String in NYC

Little Miss Muffin ‘N’ Stuffin

768 Washington Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11238

(718) 857-4963

https://www.facebook.com/LittleMissMuffinNY/

Open: Sunday Closed/Monday-Saturday 10:00am-6:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d21245841-Reviews-Little_Miss_Muffin_n_Her_Stuffin-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

I came across Little Miss Muffin n Her Stuffin when I was searching for another restaurant down the street called Lowerline (See my review on TripAdvisor) and it had not opened for the evening and I was starved. I stopped in for a Jamaican Beef Patty to tide me over until dinner and it was one of the best patties I had ever had.

Little Miss Muffin

Little Miss Muffin ‘n’ Her Stuffin at 768 Washington Avenue

Instead of the pastry dough being hard, chewy and flaky like of the restaurants in the City carry that are premade, the dough on these are moist, well baked and flavorful. Since they are baked on premise, they are always nice and warm and constantly being replenished. The store is always busy when…

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9/11 Memorial

Day One Hundred and Seventy-Four: 9/11 again

Today is the 19th anniversary of 9/11. We just got back from the 9/11 Memorial for Hasbrouck Heights, NJ and it still reminds me of that morning when I was still living in California. I still can’t believe that 19 years have gone by in the blink of an eye.

I have students who were not even born when it happened or I have to hear “I was in elementary school when that occurred’. That is surreal for me. Everyone generation has their moment. Our’s was 9/11.

In memory of that day I have enclosed the beginning of my novel “Firehouse 101” and the events that lead the main character, Alex Livingston, to return to New York City. This book can be found on the IUniverse.com website and can be purchased through that site, Barnes & Nobel, Amazon.com or any online book store.

This book is dedicated to my best friend, Ahilya Mangroo, who survived the falling of the towers that day by having to go to a doctor’s appointment in the City first before she had to go to the office that morning.

To Ahilya:

The Introduction of my novel “Firehouse 101”

                   September 11th, 2001

                             3:30 am

There were fifteen hundred Japanese business people and their families in Waikiki this week. The Singi Group, an Internet company was meeting at The Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa in Honolulu. Alex Livingston had been on the job all day and it looked like he was going to be there through the night and into the next morning. He had a thousand goody bags to finish by 7:00 am and he and the staff had to set them up for an early morning breakfast pick-up. The goody bags were filled with many little gifts for the employees as a token of appreciation for their hard work. The Singi Group staff was a trying bunch. Their demands had been exhausting from the start and the staff had been on their toes since their Friday arrival. Alex was accustomed to this as he had worked in the casino industry before moving to Hawaii and was used to the demands of the high rollers.

Marriott Waikiki at night

Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa 9/11/2001

The silver goody bags had to be folded in a particular way and their ribbons had to be tied a certain way. The group’s meeting planner, who had yelled at the staff in both Japanese and English on how these bags should look, had supervised the first five hundred bags. After she finished yelling, she showed Alex and his staff how to do it and watched the next couple hundred being made in front of her. It annoyed Alex that any client would sit in his kitchen to watch what he did this early in the morning.

When Alex finished helping with the last of the goody bags, a few of the staff headed to the hallway to help the banquet set up crew get the early morning breakfast buffet finished.  A special set up had been arranged with the flowers positioned in a way that guests would believe it brought good luck. At 3:30 am, all Alex could think about was the good luck he would have when this group checked out at the end of the week. Thursday could not come fast enough for Alex.

“Yo, Cuz!” Maka yelled from down the hall, “We’re all done outside. The banquet people are done and the captain is setting up.”  Maka was Alex’s lead Room Service Captain. “Maka, can you help me with these bags? We have to get them outside,” Alex yelled back. In the distance, the staff could hear several Japanese businessman in the bar yelling at the television set. They were finishing watching a sporting event that had been taped for them by the hotel. Others had arrived late from Tokyo and had been drinking through the night.

The bar had technically closed a few hours earlier but it was kept open by the hotel for the convenience of their arriving guests. The bar manager had left in a huff an hour earlier. Since Alex had to stay until six in the morning to help banquets get the tour guests out, he had said he’d stay and watch the group. Alex went in the bar every half hour to check on them. They were having a grand old time watching the end of the game and watching another channel that was being broadcast from the East Coast, so Alex felt he had nothing to worry about.

The Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa

As he helped the staff get the goody bags out, Maka and Robert (the other Room Service Captain), spoke with Alex about Maka’s son’s first birthday party, which had been the week before. “You know, Cuz,” Robert said to Maka, “you should have had more food. You ran out.” Maka turned to Robert and said, “My mom did not expect thirty extra people at the party. She should have though, more people always show up for these events.” “Your mom can cook, Cuz,” Alex said, “I always enjoy going to your house.” Alex had been there a few times over the last year and a half. Ordinarily Alex would not have gotten this close to his staff members in the past, but he had worked with this group for over three years, so they felt more like family.

Alex had been Room Service Manager for the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa on Waikiki Beach since he had moved from Las Vegas over three years earlier. A co-worker friend had recommended him for the job when Alex tired of casino life. The high rollers wore him down and he never really liked the tacky glitz of the city even though he had lived there for almost five years. There had been a big Polynesian population living and working in Las Vegas while he was there, driven there by better paying jobs and a lower cost of living. Most worked in the hospitality industry. His friend, Sean, had recommended Alex for the job in Waikiki when Sean’s cousin moved to Las Vegas. Alex jumped at the chance to get off the mainland and as far from his family as possible. In time, his staff at the hotel he become his surrogate family.

“Yo, Alex. Stop daydreaming!” Robert yelled as he and two of the other room service servers brought the goody bags out. Alex could still hear the loud shouts of the Japanese businessman in the distance. At least someone was having fun, he thought. Some of the early morning staff walked by Alex on their way to work and nodded hello. They looked just as tired as he did.

“Alex, how long you been here?” Maka asked. “Since 2:00 pm yesterday, when they threw a last minute box lunch meal at us and I had to help the Banquet Manager,” Alex replied exhaustedly. He had worked non-stop since he had walked in that afternoon and had not even realized the time until it was way after midnight. “Go home after breakfast,” Maka said. “I am, Cuz, I am,” Alex answered. Alex had slowly picked up the local dialect, “Pidgin” English, over time much to the disgust of his father. His father would yell at him on his visits home and tell him to stop speaking like an uneducated islander. Alex never realized it until it was pointed out to him while he was talking to another employee.

It took fifteen minutes to get the tables organized. Finally Alex, Maka and Robert could relax. The three other servers were now assisting the banquet staff with the remainder of the set up. “So Cuz,” Maka asked Alex, “are you going home for Christmas this year?” “No way,” Alex remarked, “I no deal with that.” “Don’t you miss them?” Maka asked, never understanding why in the three years he knew Alex he never went home for the holidays. ‘Too busy’ was Alex’s usual answer but he quietly answered “Sometimes.”

Alex had a strained relationship with his family that had started in his childhood. He always felt that his older sister Lisa, seven years his senior, had gotten everything while he got the leftovers and hand me downs. He adored his mother, a jovial and hardworking C.P.A., (who ran her own business out of New Haven, Connecticut), but he realized that she harbored her own secrets about her family. Like her son, she rarely talked to her own immediate family. What kept Alex from going home was the constant insisting of his father on how he should make something of his life and becoming an investment banker like himself and other members of his family. Alex Senior, as he was known, did not want his son in the hotel industry.

Alex Senior was constantly on his son’s back about his joining the firm and making some real money. He understand neither his son’s dropping out of Penn State to go to the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, nor his fascination with the hotel industry. “It’s horrible pay, lousy hours and dealing with picky people,” his father would say. “It’s never dull,” Alex would say, “I get to travel and the money will come as I move up the ladder.” Whose fault was it anyway? Alex would think to himself. His father had taken the family on two foreign vacations a year from the time Alex could walk until he transferred colleges. Alex and his sister, Lisa, even in the lean years that the family experienced, had now been around the world five times.

It had always fascinated Alex how the hotels where they stayed worked. Every chance he got, Alex would peak behind closed doors. His biggest thrill was when he was ten. While the rest of the family stayed by the pool, the General Manager himself escorted Alex on a tour of the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok. The General Manager was impressed that someone so young would be interested in his hotel. Getting to see how the hotel worked, who cooked the food and cleaned the rooms plus the rich history of the hotel drew Alex in. After that, Alex wanted to work in the hospitality industry.

“Besides, I hate snow,” Alex continued getting out of his daydream, “I like Christmas when its 86 degrees and can go swimming in the middle of the winter. Don’t believe people when they say they want a ‘White Christmas’. Who the hell wants to shovel all that snow? In addition, I would rather sing, ‘Mele Kalikmaka is the thing to say on a bright Hawaiian Christmas Day’ than ‘I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas’. Bing Crosby probably never shoveled snow before.” Maka started to sing, “Mele Kalikmaka is the thing to say on a bright Hawaiian Christmas Day” as Alex and Robert joined in on the second chorus. They were laughing their heads off as the rest of the staff joined in. It was 3:45 am.

Singing ” Mele Kalikimaka”

As the group of six was singing, there was a commotion in the bar and then a scream from one of the banquet captains. “What’s going on now?” Robert asked. “Mouse?” Alex asked. “Mouse,” Maka answered. The banquet captain ran out of the bar area into the hallway where everyone was working and hollered, “Everyone get in here. The World Trade Center in New York was just hit by a plane!” “What the hell?” Alex said.

Everyone scrambled into the bar to see the crowd glued to the television. Smoke was billowing from one of the towers and the television reporter had no idea what was going on. Maybe it was a military aircraft like the one that hit the Empire State Building fifty years ago, Alex thought. The reporter was rambling so fast that no one could understand what had just happened. The restaurant manager ran into the bar with his staff. They were also setting up for the onslaught of breakfast patrons that would be dining with them in two hours.

9/11

Watching the events unfold on Honolulu time at the bar

About forty people were now glued to the television and nothing was being done. Alex thought of his sister and father, who were both working on nearby Wall Street. It was now almost 9:00 am in New York. They were probably in their offices at this point, on the phone, having their morning coffee. He debated calling home but could not take his eyes off the television. He stood there like everyone else, transfixed by the horror he witnessed.

For the next ten minutes, there was the clamor of English, Japanese and Hawaiian being spoken so rapidly that it was unintelligible. Then it happened. In front of some forty people, the second plane hit the other tower. The whole crowd went silent as the explosion tore through the building. Some people started to shout and run out of the bar. Others stood stunned, not knowing what to do.

To the shock of everyone at the bar that morning another plane hit the towers

Some of the women started to cry and quickly were followed by some of the men. People made desperate cell phone calls to loved ones. Alex grabbed his cell phone and called his sister’s apartment in Manhattan but there was no answer. He then called his father’s office but again no answer. He then tried to call his mother, but by 9:30 am, she was probably stuck in traffic some where between Milford and her office in downtown New Haven. Alex did not know what to do, so he went back to the bar to wait with the other people.

Everyone in the room was either talking on cell phones, watching television or downing the complimentary drinks that the bartender was now handing out. This was no time to be sober, one man said. By 5:00 am, more people had entered the bar. Before anyone could say anything, suddenly there was a roar heard on the television. Everyone fell silent again. Tower One was collapsing in front of them. For a split second, there was silence in the bar, no one moved and no one said a word. Then people panicked, workers and guests started to run out of the room. Maka and Robert watched Alex’s face pale in horror and they ran over to console him. In disbelief, Alex started to run out of the room too.

“Where you going?” yelled a bewildered Maka. “I’m going to the General Manager’s office. I have to call my mother!” Alex stopped for a moment. His staff tried to console him and calm him. It did not work. There was a second rumbling and he watched the second tower collapse. No one could console Alex; they were in shock themselves. Alex raced out of the bar to the office without looking back. It was now 5:40 am Honolulu time.

September 15th, 2001

                                                    3:00PM

Planes were finally able to leave the islands and frightened tourists looked over their shoulders at the Honolulu Airport. There was no use singling out anyone with dark skin because the whole airport had a tan and no one was in the mood for jokes. Security was extremely tight. In newspapers around the world, everyone saw a photograph taken by Bob Hakamoto, a journalist with The Honolulu Advertiser. He had been on vacation with his family, getting ready to go to the observation deck of the Trade Center with his family when tragedy struck.

 Sending his family away to meet him later at the South Street Seaport, he ran around taking pictures of the towers and of the firefighters racing to the scene. Soon before Tower One fell; he snapped a picture of two firefighters assisting three frightened ladies that needed help leaving the tower. Not five minutes later, Bob ran for his life as the tower started to collapse. His picture depicting the bravery of these two firemen from New York was published all over the world as a symbol of the good in man. Because of a mistake in communication by cell phone, the picture was titled “Heroes save women and many others as Building Seven falls.” No one knew who the firefighters were or if they had died that day.

The famous Bob Hakamoto photograph in the Honolulu Advertiser on 9/12/2001

September 28th, 2001

                                                     1:00 pm

Alex’s girlfriend, Alice Fallon (or as she was called behind her back, Princess Alice) told him that as a class project, she was having the kids of her second grade class each write a letter and make a poster for the firefighters who helped those women. Alex’s mother had told him that his cousin, a fire chief in Connecticut, said that many firefighters had lost their lives that day, so he was not sure the two of them were alive. He told Alice that it was still a good idea as it might cheer some of the guys up.

Alice Fallon, Alex’s girlfriend, was the great-great grandniece of Queen Lili’uokalani and a member of the Hawaiian Royal Family

January 18th, 2003      

3:30 pm

Alex walked across a quiet courtyard and up the stairs to the pool area to drop off some paperwork. He waved over to some bored co-workers at the front desk who were yawning. They waved back. It was quiet at the hotel and now that Christmas was over, it was getting quieter.  Alex only had about ten orders that day and for the past year had not seen much of his staff. They only checked in to see if hotel occupancy had increased.

Waikiki Marriott

The resort over a year later

You can read parts of the book online at the IUniverse.com website or order the book to see how the story unfolds.

My novel “Firehouse 101” is available for sale online or can be ordered through any bookstore.

https://www.iuniverse.com/BookStore/BookDetails/101408-FIREHOUSE-101

https://www.amazon.sg/Firehouse-101-Justin-Watral/dp/0595367712

https://books.apple.com/us/book/firehouse-101/id512590359

Articles on my novel:

https://patch.com/new-jersey/hasbrouckheights/heights-fire-fighter-justin-watrel-promotes-his-firstede42418c1

https://www.tapinto.net/articles/local-aspiring-authors-shine-at-hasbrouck-heights

Justin Watrel promoting his book “Firehouse 101” after the Brooklyn Book Festival 2011

Prospect Park Zoo 450 Flatbush Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11225

Don’t miss this little gem in Prospect Park in Brooklyn.

The Zoo has a lot to offer

Visiting a Museum: The Unique, Unusual, Obscure and Historical

The Prospect Park Zoo

450 Flatbush Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11225

(718) 220-5100

https://prospectparkzoo.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60827-d283820-Reviews-Prospect_Park_Zoo-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

The Prospect Park Zoo is one of my ‘go to’ places along with the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Botanical Garden when visiting Brooklyn. The three popular destinations are all in the same neighborhood and if you have a full day is worth the subway ride from Manhattan to visit.

The entrance to the Prospect Park Zoo

On a nice day, the best place to start is the Brooklyn Botanical Garden at opening, then head over through the back part of the garden to Prospect Park and walk to the entrance near Flatbush Avenue and go past the carousel and enter the Zoo past the old Leffert’s Homestead. The Zoo is just past that.

The Leffert’s Homestead in Prospect Park

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60827-d103505-Reviews-Lefferts_Homestead-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

My review of the Leffert’s Homestead on…

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The Squid on the Bus

Day One Hundred and Fifty-One Attending the 7th Annual Barnacle Parade in Red Hook, Brooklyn October 29th, 2019

While I was staying in Kingston, NY for the puppet rehearsals for the Halloween Parade at the Rokeby Estate, I came across an article in the Red Hook Star Review newspaper for a parade in Red Hook, Brooklyn (I thought it was for a parade in Red Hook, NY where Rokeby was located). It seems that the Red Hook neighborhood on the coast line of Brooklyn off New York Harbor was having a small celebration in honor of the neighborhood surviving Hurricane Sandy’s wrath especially when the power went out in the neighborhood on October 29, 2012.

So on a somewhat gloomy afternoon that was grey, cloudy and misty I took the bus and subway out to Red Hook for the parade. It was an interesting and engaging afternoon and evening. I read later that the neighborhood had wanted to create a parade and the year after the storm rocked the neighborhood, business owners decided that a parade was just what the neighborhood needed to boost the morale and spirit of the residents.

The neighborhood had been hit with power outages, massive flooding and twelve foot storm surges. Neighbors looked out for neighbors and the people in the Red Hook Public Housing were especially hard hit with power out for weeks. Owner of the restaurant, Good Fork at Van Brunt Street, Ben Schneider said, “We thought it would be a fun way to shake off the hardships of that first year and have a good time together.” (Red Hook Star Revue 2019).

Red Hook Hurricane Sandy

Red Hook Brooklyn after Hurricane Sandy 2012

Red Hook, Brooklyn is an interesting neighborhood because of its maritime past and that most of the neighborhood was former marshes and creeks, some of which still flow underneath the streets and homes of the neighborhood. The area was also loaded with manufacturing so there are large swaths of industrial buildings now filled with light manufacturing and/or loft spaces. The artists still dominate this part of the neighborhood but I could tell as I walked the parade route that is quickly changing as the lots of coast line buildings are in the process of being knocked down and new luxury ‘buildings on the Bay’ are being constructed on this flat flood plain (nobody learns anything from these storms).

This had only been the second time I had been to Red Hook, Brooklyn. The other time had been on a walking tour of the neighborhood with the Fashion Institute of Technology back in the summer of 2017. There we walked the entire neighborhood and got to see manufacturing and shopping as well. (See Day Eighty Walking Red Hook Brooklyn with the FIT Tours July 22nd, 2017)

I found the parade to be an interesting mix of artists, musicians, business owners, residents and then the people like me who just discovered it having a wonderful time together. The parade started at 4:00pm on the corner of Van Brunt and Pioneer Streets in the heart of the downtown area of Red Hook with a concert with a small band and residents who looked like they were preparing for Halloween. Some were dressed like fish, some like sea captains, ladies like mermaids and parents pulling their kids through the parade in little ‘ship carts’ (trust me that adults were more dressed up than the kids). One group of people used a blue tarp to represent waves (I am not sure of the symbolize to that) through out the parade.

the-barnacle-parade-ii.jpg

The Band plays on

We followed the Squid in the MTA Bus that was ‘out of service’ throughout the parade route. Bubbles were flowing everywhere. The parade route took us all over the neighborhood as we walked the coast line of the area with the parade at its starting point and walking down Pioneer Street to Conover Street then crossed King Street and then down Ferris Street which is lined with former shipping yards that are in the process of being knocked down. We stopped in front of Louis Valentino Jr. Park and Pier and the parade participants visited Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies at 185 Van Dyke Street #1011 for a sample of a small key lime pie.

steves-key-lime-pie.jpg

Steve’s Key Lime Pies  at 185 Van Dyke Street #1011 were given out complimentary

God, was that delicious! I had not had one of those since the walking tour with FIT and it was so sweet and buttery. It was four small bites but I thought that was so generous of them. Talk about good public relations. While stopping there, many people were able to walk through the park and even on this gloomy day where the visibility was not great you could see out to Liberty Island and watch the boats flow by. This was also the site of Fort Defiance, a fort that had been built to protect New York Harbor from the British during the Revolutionary War.

Louis Valentino Park.jpg

Louis Valentino Park & Pier

As the parade started up again, more people started to join the parade and more children who were dressed in costume who were chasing one another around. We made our way down Van Dyke Street turned the corner back onto Conover Street and then down Reed Street to the front of Hometown Bar-B-Que at 454 Van Brunt Street on the corner of Van Brunt and Reed Streets. There we stopped for a complimentary beverage break but I was not really into the light flavored beers so I skipped that one.

The restaurant though is an old warehouse where the guts were pulled out and the place has exposed walls and ceilings and flooded with Christmas lights. The rich smells of barbecue filled the restaurant and later at the block party I was able to try some of the food that they donated. Their pulled pork, fresh pickles and mac and cheese were delicious.

hometown-barbecue.jpg

The inside of Hometown Bar-B-Que at 454 Van Brunt Street

The parade continued up Van Brunt Street, the heart of the neighborhood with more rousing nautical songs such as “By the Beautiful Sea” and “I’d like to be under the Sea” as we all marched up the street following the Squid Float which was now blowing blue smoke and more bubbles. We stopped again in front of The Good Fork at 391 Van Brunt Street where they were ladling out hot vegetarian chili (not one of my favorite things). It was nicely spiced and would have tasted better with a little meat in it. Everyone else though was devouring it as the night grew cooler.

Good Fork.jpg

The Good Fork at 391 Van Brunt Street

Our next culinary stop on the parade route was Fort Defiance, a bar and restaurant at 365 Van Brunt Street for a cup of their Butternut Squash Soup. God, was that delicious! I asked the owner how they made it and he said that it was a combination of pumpkin and butternut squash with just a little heavy cream in it. It tasted so thick and creamy and you could taste the hint of sweetness of the pumpkin. As it got cooler that night, that soup hit the spot.

fort-defiance-bar.jpg

Fort Defiance Bar & Grill at 365 Van Brunt Street

Our last stop before heading back up to Pioneer Street was at the local VFW on Van Brunt Street for a shot (that seriously warmed me up). I stopped in to look around and the place was decorated for Halloween with all sorts of decorations and colored lights. The guys were really cool about looking around and I swear I felt so much better.

The parade ended back at the corner of Pioneer and Van Brunt Streets with a musical band playing all sorts of rock songs and some dancing under all the gloom and mist. There was a tent set up with free food from Hometown Bar-B-Que with their pulled pork sandwiches, Southern Fried Chicken with seasonings, creamy mac & cheese, corn bread and someone donated some corn dogs which I never got to sample. There was also another tent where Pizza Moto was making homemade pizza with fresh mozzarella and basil and that really warmed me up as well.

What was nice was the food was free and they asked for a donation for the relief fund for the Bahamas, which I thought was a nice touch. I gave the $5.00 donation for the meal which I thought was well worth it. I thought it was nice of the restaurants to be so generous and thoughtful to the parade participants as well as great PR and introducing their food to the neighborhood (these are smart restaurateurs).

The pulled pork was delicious and was served with a hot horseradish sauce which we could top with fresh pickles and homemade Cole slaw. It was rich and decadent. The mac & cheese which was served on the side was creamy and loaded with Cheddar cheese. The fried chicken was meaty and nicely fried and spiced with Old Bay seasonings. What a nice and generous meal. The pizza was also excellent on a cool night.

pulled-pork.jpg

The pulled pork sliders and mac & cheese were worth the wait in line

I stayed for another half hour enjoying the music and watching a group of kids run each other around in a shopping cart in a club that was open for sitting and using the bathrooms. These kids really carried on but in a fun way. I could see the other adults were worn out by it but I just saw myself and the fun I used to have as a kid.

I told one artist who was in a mermaid costume eating a slice of pizza that I would rather see these kids carrying on like this yelling and screaming and having a good time than playing with a cellphone not talking to each other. She smiled and agreed with me.

Before I left the neighborhood, I stopped at the new Ample Hills Creamery & Museum at 421 Van Brunt Street to see the new factory and store that they had built. I swear that this company has grown in leaps and bounds in just seven years and they now have eight stores plus this factory. It was very impressive and shows how their product is made. They also make all their add ins like cake batter, brownies and candy. Very impressive!

Ample Hills Factory.jpg

The Ample Hills Factory at 421 Van Brunt Street

Red Hook to me is more than just a neighborhood in Brooklyn. It was like a small town where people know their neighbors and people talked and greeted each other and engaged in conversation. Some may not be best friends or agree with one another but you can tell they are a neighborhood. This little parade will be something bigger in the future I know but for now it showed me the true spirit of a small town community in the heart of New York City.

The Barnacle Parade is every October 29th to mark the Anniversary of the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. What a way to show the spirit of resilience of a community!

See my entry in MywalkinManhattan.com: “Day Eighty Walking Red Hook Brooklyn with the FIT Tours July 2017” for more insights on Red Hook, Brooklyn:

https://wordpress.com/post/mywalkinmanhattan.com/5737

Here are some interesting videos on the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy on Red Hook Brooklyn:

Another Great insight on Hurricane Sandy:

Watch a neighborhood come together after the storm:

The Barnacle Parade in 2020:

I missed the Barnacle Parade in 2020 because there was a major downpour that afternoon and the thought of walking around for the afternoon in the rain did not appeal to me. I saw by the YouTube videos only about 30 people showed up which was WAY less then last year.

The Barnacle Parade

It did not look like anyone stayed that long as it was pouring in Red Hook Brooklyn too. It was too bad as this was a fun event the year before. I felt bad for the people getting soaked.

Barnacle Parade 2020 II

This year’s theme was a Climate Justice March.

Places to Eat:

Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies

185 Van Dyke Street #1011

Brooklyn, NY 11231

(718) 858-5333

keylime.com

Home

Open: 11:00am-7:00pm/Monday-Thursday 12:00pm-6:00pm/Friday 12:00pm-7:00pm/ Saturday 11:00am-7:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d1599956-Reviews-Steve_s_Authentic_Key_Lime_Pies-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

Hometown Bar-B-Que

454 Van Brunt Street

Brooklyn, NY 11231

(347) 294-4644

hometownbarbque.com

https://hometownbbq.com/

Open: Sunday 12:00pm-10:00pm/Monday Closed/Tuesday-Thursday 12:00pm-10:00pm/Friday & Saturday 12:00pm-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d5081197-Reviews-Hometown_Bar_B_Que-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

The Good Fork

391 Van Brunt Street

Brooklyn, NY  11231

(718) 643-6636

goodfork.com

https://www.goodfork.com/

Open: Sunday 5:00pm-9:30pm/Monday Closed/Tuesday-Saturday 5:30pm-10:30pm (10:00am-3:00pm)

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d619947-Reviews-The_Good_Fork-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

Fort Defiance

365 Van Brunt Street

Brooklyn, NY  11231

(347) 453-6672

fortdefiancebrooklyn.com

http://www.fortdefiancebrooklyn.com/

Open: Sunday & Saturday 9:00am-12:00am/Monday-Friday 10:00am-12:00am

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d4245688-Reviews-Fort_Defiance-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

Places to Visit:

Louis Valentino Park and Pier

Ferris and Coffey Street

Brooklyn, NY  11231

(212) 639-9675

nycgovparks.org

https://www.nycgovparks.org/parks/valentino-pier/history

Ample Hills Creamery Factory & Museum

421 Van Brunt Street

Brooklyn, NY  11231

(718) 875-1273

amplehills.com

https://www.amplehills.com/location/red-hook-factory

Open: Sunday-Thursday 12:00pm-10:00pm/Friday & Saturday 12:00pm-10:30pmreview

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g48473-d14978931-Reviews-Ample_Hills_Creamery-Red_Hook_New_York.html?m=19905

The Brooklyn Botanical Garden on Rose Night

Day One Hundred and Thirty-Six: Visiting Brooklyn for Rose Night at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden & trip to Coney Island June 12th, 2019

If you have never visited the Brooklyn Botanical Garden when visiting New York City you are missing a lot. I have been a member of the garden since 2002 and fell in love with walking around the gardens when visiting the Brooklyn Museum next door.  It is the most relaxing place to walk around and just think. It is also nice to grab a book, sit under a tree and just relax.

One of the benefits of membership are the private event nights that the Gardens have for its members. ‘Rose Night’ is one of my favorites. This is when the Crawford Rose Garden and the surrounding rose gardens to the main one are in full bloom and on display. Because the weather has been so hot lately most plants have been blooming about two weeks ahead of their normal schedule.

The Crawford Rose Garden was no exception as the recent hot weather and two rain storms put some strain on the rose bushes and some of them were going out of bloom the night of the party. Still the roses were ablaze with color and the fragrant smells of the garden were prevalent all over the garden. The event draws a very large crowd and people were all over the place picnicking and relaxing while listening to a jazz band that was performing inside the cherry trees.

Rose Night Brooklyn Botanical Garden II

I started my day working at the Soup Kitchen working in the prep kitchen for the morning. They kept me busy making a cucumber and tomato salad and cutting kale for a side dish they were making the next day. One thing I like about working at Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen is that the work is never dull. They always keep me busy.

Since I had plenty of time before the event, I decided to take a trip down to Coney Island to explore any changes that were going on in the amusement center. I wanted to visit the New York Aquarium and see the new ‘Shark Tanks’ exhibition and revisit the Coney Island Museum. When I arrived at the beach about 45 minutes later it was beautiful, clear and sunny on Surf Avenue.

The afternoon started out at Nathan’s at 1310 Surf Avenue for lunch (see review on TripAdvisor). I swear that I eat at Nathan’s in the suburb malls and it never tastes as good as it does in the original restaurant on Coney Island. Be prepared to face the lines for the rest of the summer as beach season approaches.

Nathan's Coney Island II.jpg

Nathan’s Coney Island at 1310 Surf Avenue

Their hot dogs and French fries are the best but they do not come cheap. I think this restaurant is getting more and more geared to tourists wanting to visit Coney Island. The hot dog was $4.75 and the French fries were  $3.75, which is a little ridiculous considering a pack of their hot dogs are $1.99 and a bag of their frozen French fries are $1.99 on sale at the supermarket.

Still their hot dogs were delicious. They have a nice garlicky snap to them and are nicely grilled and their French fries are cooked to perfection. It is nice to enjoy your lunch at their outside tables where you can breath in the fresh salt air. After finishing my lunch, I visited the New York Aquarium at 602 Surf Avenue.

 

Nathan's Coney Island IV

Nathan’s Hot Dogs and French fries

The aquarium is finally updating itself as this is the first addition to the park in years. I got there in time before the last sea lion show and that was fun. The ‘Sea Lion Celebration’ as they call it takes place in the summer at 11:00am, 1:00pm, 3:00pm and 5:30pm. The trainers look like they are having a good time with animals. These sea lions were born and raised at the aquarium so they are used to being around humans. The surprising part is that they act like humans with their responses. Unlike a zoo, these mammals get out and get their exercise. It is an interesting show as they are very talented and seem to enjoy working with the trainers.

New York Aquarium.jpg

New York Aquarium at 602 Surf Avenue

I was able to walk through the ‘Ocean Wonders: Sharks!” exhibition before the aquarium closed for the evening. I found it fascinating about the history of sharks and their place in ocean world and where they are on the feeding scale. They hardly care about eating humans and like one of the displays said that ‘Jaws’ gave them a bad wrap. They are bottom dwellers who eat all the things that are ‘left over’ and are a good cleanser for the sea.

New York Aquarium III.jpg

The Shark Tanks

We as humans unfortunately over-fish them or with some of the Asian countries, they will cut off the fins of the sharks for meat and then throw them back into the sea where they drown, which I think it the cruelest thing you can do to an animal. Its like being buried alive and the aquarium showed the results of what happens to this fish when it happens.

The last large tank before you leave has several variety of sharks and fish which sets up an almost feeding ecosystem for them and it looks almost graceful watching the sea go by. They even have a small crawl tunnel where you can travel under the fish to see them up close. At the top of the exhibition, they have a new restaurant, ‘Oceanview Bites’.

New York Aquarium II

The tunnel under the tanks

After the aquarium, I visited the Coney Island Museum at 1208 Surf Avenue (See reviews on TripAdvisor and VisitingaMuseum.com). This is the most underrated museum that covers the history of Coney Island from just being dunes that Walt Whitman read poetry on to the modern day amusement parks to current developments.

The museum covers this history of the three great amusement parks, Steeplechase, Luna and Dreamland Parks especially in their heyday. The amusement area of Coney Island still is considered one of the most innovative in history and most developments in amusement rides took place in Coney Island.

Coney Island Museum

The Coney Island Museum at 1208 Surf Avenue

Each room covers a part of the history of Coney Island from its years as a luxury resort, to seaside travel to the island, development of the amusement industry, to modern times and what the new developments might bring to the area. I was lucky enough to meet the curator of the museum, Lisa Mangels-Schaefer, whose family has a rich history on the island as a manufacturer of amusement rides. Her grandfather had manufactured and maintained many of the amusement rides in the park.

As the only two at the museum at the time, she gave me a personal tour of the museum, explaining the many displays and artifacts of the museum. She also told me stories of how her family used to manufacture the amusement rides back at the turn of the last century.

Coney Island Museum II

Some of the manufactured items by Ms. Mangels-Schaefer’s family

There are a lot of interesting artifacts at the museum from illuminated post cards to old amusement rides to many nostalgic pictures of the area from various times of history. Each gallery covers another theme of the history of the area.  Don’t miss  the displays of the amusement rides and the hall of fun house mirrors. For a $5.00, this museum is a real treat.

After the museum, I walked on the boardwalk for awhile and then just put my feet in the ocean. After a long day of working in the kitchen, it started to catch up to me. It was nice to feel the cool water and breath in the salt air. Coney Island has its problems as I could see but still it is a place to relax and have fun. I just laid on the beach, relaxed and let the sun shine down on me. The view of the Rockaways in the distance is really nice and on a clear sunny day, the views were wonderful.

Coney Island Beach.jpg

Coney Island Beach

By 5:00pm, it was time to go back up to the Botanical Garden for the ‘Rose Night’ cocktail party and tours. I was smart taking the Q back as I got off by the back entrance and did not have to face the crowds of the main entrance by the Brooklyn Museum. I got there at the opening at 6:30pm and the place was already mobbed with people. The main part of the gardens by the cherry trees must have had about three hundred people sitting down having their picnic dinner.

While everyone else was conversing on the main lawn, I took the time to walk the gardens and see the Crawford Rose Gardens in bloom. It had been hot over the last two months and all the flowers were blooming two weeks earlier than usual so a lot of roses had already bloomed and had fallen off the branches due to two recent rain storms.

Still there were lot of species of roses and many were still at the height of blooming and made a very colorful and fragrant display while touring the paths. Many types of roses had the big blooms and smelled like perfume. Others lined the trellises and created a beautiful display overhead. You really have to take your time to admire the true beauty of the garden which only has about two weeks of blooming.

Rose Night Brooklyn Botanical Garden

Crawford Rose Garden

After I left the Crawford Rose Garden, I walked the back fountain area which had large rose bushes that were all in bloom. The fountain had been cleaned and turned on for the event so it made quite an impression in color and design with the way the rose bushes were growing.

For the rest of the evening, I walked all the different garden concepts from the Rock Gardens to the Shakespeare Gardens to the new water recycling gardens that had just been completed. All the tulip, daffodil and magnolia gardens were long gone but still a good memory of visiting a couple of months earlier.

The only problem with the event is that it has gotten so big. When it was much smaller it was more intimate and concentrated in one part of the garden but now there are more members and it is the first official ‘picnic night’ in the garden so it has gotten crowded. Also they stopped making that wonderful ‘rose cocktail’ they used to make for the event and had canned and bottled beverages that were between $8.00 to $12.00 which I thought was a little ridiculous. I know you have to raise money but $8.00 for a non-alcoholic canned beverage? I waited to go to Family Pizza at 720 Flatbush Avenue (see review on TripAdvisor) for some dinner.

Still it was nice to have the gardens for the members only night and the newly renovated Japanese Gardens had opened again so I spent the last part of the evening walked around the wooded paths and stopping at the pagoda to look at the man-made lake that now feed the entire Botanical Garden its water supply. You could still hear the jazz band on the main lawn from here and it was a nice place to just sit and relax and enjoy the sun setting.

It is a simple evening of walking paths and looking at flowers while listening to music but still isn’t that what a pleasant evening in a garden is supposed to be?

 

Development in Coney Island in the future:

 

Coney Island Development under Mayor Bloomberg:

Places to Visit:

 

Coney Island Museum

1208 Surf Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11224

(718) 372-5159

https://www.coneyisland.com/programs/coney-island-museum718

Open: Sunday 2:00pm-6:00pm/Closed Monday and Tuesday/Wednesday-Saturday 12:00pm-6:00pm

Fee: $5.00

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60827-d555621-Reviews-The_Coney_Island_Museum-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1978

 

New York Aquarium

602 Surf Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11224

(718) 265-3474

https://nyaquarium.com/

Open: Monday-Friday 10:00am-5:00pm/Saturday and Sunday 10:00am-5:30pm

Fee:  Adults (13 & Over) $24.95/Children 3-12 $24.95/Children under 2 Free/Seniors $26.95-Check the website for seasonality

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60827-d107414-Reviews-New_York_Aquarium-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/3619

 

Brooklyn Botanical Garden

990 Washington Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11225

(718) 623-7200

https://www.bbg.org/

Open: Saturday and Sunday 10:00am-6:00pm/Monday-Friday 8:00am-6:00pm

My review on Tripadvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60827-d103900-Reviews-Brooklyn_Botanic_Garden-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2785

 

Places to Eat:

Nathan’s Coney Island

1310 Surf Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11224

(718) 333-2202

Open: Sunday-Thursdays 10:00am-11:00pm/Friday-Saturday 10:00am-12:00pm

https://nathansfamous.com/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d458011-Reviews-Nathan_s_Famous-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Family Pizza

720 Flatbush Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11225

(718) 462-0639

Open: Sunday-Saturday 11:00am-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d4966907-Reviews-Family_Pizza-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

Day One Hundred and Fifteen: Visiting the Brooklyn Botanical Garden on Rose Night in June June 14th, 2018

Every year the Brooklyn Botanical Garden opens its doors to the membership for the Annual Rose Night in June. This is when the roses are at their peak of bloom and members and their friends and family come to enjoy a private evening.

I have to admit that the weather has played a big role in the way flowers have bloomed this year. Plants have either opened too early or too late. The crocuses opened about three weeks too early and they sat in snow. The tulips opened on time and then were hit with three days of 80 degree weather, which just burnt them out. The daffodils had a good but quick season due to the hot and cold weather. Daffodil Hill and the dogwood trees in the garden were spectacular. What vibrant colors and what a beautiful display that night.

Rose Night was tough. Normally it is a week earlier as most roses come out on the first week of June but for some reason they moved it to the second week and a lot of the roses had already lost their petals. The weather had been a big factor as it rained so much in late May and early June.

Still many of the roses were still coming out and the gardens were awash in colors. So many types of roses were blooming that they almost time themselves. The gardens were full of colors of red, pink, yellow and even green. The overhead trellises were lined in whites, yellows and pinks. Some had aromatic smells while other smelled line a plain flower.

It was nice to walk along the paths and spot the names of the roses. Everything is marked so you get to see when the flowers were grafted and developed. Things are timed so intricately in the garden so they all bloom in certain intervals. Some of the beds were beyond peak while others were just bursting out after a long winter’s nap. You will walk in amazement down the paths to see so much.

Brooklyn Botanical Garden Rose Night.jpg

Rose Garden at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden

It was a beautiful sunny Spring evening and the garden was packed with families picnicking on the lawns all over the gardens, having dinner at the Magnolia Cafe near the middle of the gardens where a special menu was laid out. Others like myself were listening to music in the area by the gift shop or ordering Rose Sangria from the bar which was made with infused rose petals (and is delicious).

The musicians were playing show tunes and the gardens hired a wonderful singer for the night. She was doing all the old Cole Porter songs while I was listening to her and the band. It was nice to just relax with a drink and listen to the band with the other members. Some take it really seriously and dress to the hilt in blazers and hats. I sometimes feel a little under-dressed for the occasion.

I took a long walk around the gardens. A lot is being renovated with the new watershed system that the gardens are setting up which will be opened later this Summer. All the daffodils, dogwoods and tulips are long gone making way for summer flowers to enter the beds. There will be a lot more to see later in the season.

There will be other members nights of picnicking on the lawns and movies to see and walking tours to show it all off.

This is the reason why being a member of the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens is so important if you live in the New York area. There are loads of wonderful events to get involved with on a monthly basis.

Places to visit:

The Brooklyn Botanical Garden

990 Washington Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11225

(718) 623-7200

http://www.bbg.org

Open: Mondays: (Closed)/Tuesday-Friday: 8:00am-6:00pm/Saturday & Sunday: 10:00am-6:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60827-d103900-Reviews-Brooklyn_Botanic_Garden-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2785

 

Author Justin Watral

Day Ninety One: New Blog Sites: VisitingaMuseum.com and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@WordPress.com by Blogger Justin Watrel.

To all of my readers and fellow bloggers following my blog, ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’. I created two more blog sites to accompany the main site.

I created ‘VisitingaMuseum.com’ and ‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC.Wordpress.com’ to take what I have discovered on the walk around the city and put it into more detail.

I created ‘VisitingaMuseum.com’ to feature all the small and medium museums, pocket parks, community gardens and historical sites that I have found along the way in my walking the streets of the island and in the outlining areas of Manhattan. There are loads of sites you can easily miss either by not visiting the neighborhoods by foot or not consulting a guidebook. Most of the these places are not visited by most residents of the City and should not be missed.

I never realized how many small museums exist in New York City, let alone the outer boroughs and in New Jersey. I have discovered so many wonderful and interesting artifacts in these museums that not only have so much historical value but they also deal with local history.

Gallery Bergen II.jpg

Gallery Bergen at Bergen Community College

There are so many pocket parks, community gardens and historical sites that you would miss if you did not walk the neighborhoods. What has also been fascinating about it is the people you meet along the way that volunteer in these facilities. There is so much pride to be had by these local residents dedicating their time to make these places successful.

‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC.Wordpress.com’ is my latest site:

https://diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/

I am featuring and promoting wonderful local restaurants that I have found along the way when doing the walk as well as places I have recently visited outside the city for $10.00 and below. I am not just featuring them for their price but for the quality of the food, the selection and the portion size.

Dumplings II.jpg

Delicious Dumplings at ‘Dumplings’ on Henry Street

These little ‘hole in the wall’ dining establishments offer a good meal at a fair price as well as supporting the local economy. I have a very limited budget for meals and thought this blog site would help all of you economize when touring New York City and the outlying regions. I cross reference my reviews on TripAdvisor.com.

For anyone thinking of doing a similar project like ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’, I want to let you know how expensive it is to do. I have to pay not just for bus tickets, subway passes, meals, donations to museums and historical sites but the general wear and tear on my clothes. I am on my third pair of sneakers due to this walk. This is why you need to set a budget for it:

https://mywalkinmanhattan.com/

Beekman Place.jpg

Beekman Place

So I hope you enjoy ‘VisitingaMuseum.com’ and ‘DiningonaShoeStringinNYC.Wordpress.com when coming to Manhattan. Please check all of this places out online for a change of hours and exhibits and menus.

Check out the newest site, “LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com” for small boutiques and specialty shops that are unique and quirky.

Cute Downtown.jpg

Little Shop on Main Street:

https://littleshoponmainstreet.wordpress.com/

Please check out my fire fighting blog sites, ‘The Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association’, ‘tbcfma.Wordpress.com’, where I am blogging about the activities of the association that I am volunteering for at the home on a quarterly basis and the support that the organization gives to The New Jersey Firemen’s Home in Boonton, New Jersey. Firemen for all over Bergen County, where I live, volunteer their time up at the nursing home with activities to engage and cheer up our fellow fire fighters.

New Jersey Firemen's Home Museum

The New Jersey Firemen’s Home in Boonton, NJ

https://tbcfha.wordpress.com/

The second site about fire fighting I blog about is ‘The Brothers of Engine One Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department”, ‘EngineOneHasbrouckHeightsFireDepartmentNJ.Wordpress.com’, where I blog about the activities of  Engine Company One, in which I am a member, as part of the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department. We do a lot of volunteer work for the department and many of our members are very active and hold a lot of positions on the department.

Brother's of Engine One with their bell

The Brothers of Engine One HHFD (site now closed-Blogs moved to section of MywalkinManhattan.com called “My life as a Fireman”):

https://engineonehasbrouckheightsfiredepartmentnj.wordpress.com/tag/engine-one-hhfd/

The most frequented of my blogs is “BergenCountyCaregiver.com’, a caregivers blog site to help adult caregivers take care of their loved ones. This helps caregivers navigate a very broken system and put all sorts of programs that might help them all in one place to read and chose what might help them. This deals with county, state and federal programs that most social workers miss because there are so many of them that don’t get a lot of attention. It is by far the most popular site.

BCFHA Barbecue 2019 V

The Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association

I wanted to share these with my readers and thank you for following my main blog, ‘MywalkinManhattan.com’. Please also share this with your friends who are visiting New York City to really tour the city by foot and see it for its own beauty and uniqueness.

Happy Reading!

My Blogs:

MywalkinManhattan.com

https://mywalkinmanhattan.com/

BergenCountyCaregiver.com

https://wwwbergencountycaregiver.com/

VisitingaMuseum.com

https://visitingamuseum.com/

DiningonaShoeStringinNYC.Wordpress.com

https://diningonashoestringinnyc.wordpress.com/

TheBrothersofEngineOneHasbrouckHeightsFireDepartment@Wordpress.com

https://engineonehasbrouckheightsfiredepartmentnj.wordpress.com/

TBCFMA@Wordpress.com

https://tbcfha.wordpress.com/

Also visit my past blog on Patch.com: The Merchant Series

https://patch.com/users/justin-watrel

https://patch.com/new-jersey/hasbrouckheights/friends-merchant-series-young-fashions

https://patch.com/new-jersey/hasbrouckheights/friends-merchant-series-young-fashions

I did this for the Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library from 2009-2014.

Movie Night at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens

Day Eighty-Seven: A Trip to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden for Members Movie Night August 23rd, 2017

I took some time before I start the next section of the walk to travel to Brooklyn to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden (See reviews on TripAdvisor and my blog ‘VisitingaMuseum’). I have been a member for over a decade and I am glad that my donation helps support the gardens. It is so much fun to walk around these beautiful individual gardens.

I got to Brooklyn too late to visit the zoo or the Brooklyn Museum, so I took a walk to my favorite pizzeria in the area, Family Pizza at 720 Flatbush Avenue in Flatbush (See review on TripAdvisor). Their pizza is amazing and if you are in the area, walk down Flatbush Avenue for a slice. Even at the $2.75 price per slice, it is still great pizza. The sauce is so delicious and really makes their pizza.

Family Pizza.jpg

Family Pizza on Flatbush Avenue at 720 Flatbush Avenue

I have never seen a neighborhood change so fast. It is going from a West Indian and Caribbean Black neighborhood to hipster central.  I have never seen a place change so much in an eight month period. Every time I walk down this street, it looks like another ten businesses have left and the ‘for rent’ signs keep going up. All the local businesses are being replaced by all the frou-frou restaurants and shops that cater to the hipsters.

As all the new buildings keep going up all over the Flatbush Avenue and the surrounding streets, all the businesses that surround them change as well. Even some of the small local businesses have been smart and upgraded their stores. I passed a Jamaican bakery that had been opened for years is completely renovated. It still looks the same outside but they have upgraded as the neighborhood has changed. On the five blocks to the pizzeria, I counted at the least ten businesses that have left and some have been replaced with new restaurants and shops.

I decided to look it up and the head of the Merchant’s Association said that there were 22 businesses that were closed now and they were not being filled so fast. The ones that are being filled are opening expensive restaurants with things like $12.00 hamburgers and $20.00 pizza when the restaurants in the are that are left are serving food that is just as good for half the price. This was the difference between Family Pizza, where I ate tonight and the fancy pizzeria that opened directly across the street with the same pizza for double the price. Pretty place in comparison but still at the end of the day it is pizza.

After my walk down Flatbush Avenue and dinner, I walked back up to the Gardens. The movie tonight was the ‘Fabulous Mr. Fox’, voiced by George Clooney and Merle Streep. It was not too fabulous. In fact, I found the movie boring and sending the wrong message to kids. That’s the reason why it was a big flop at the box office. With a former line up of the ‘Wizard of Oz’, ‘The Goonies’, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ and ‘E.T’., they could have picked another classic live-action film like ‘The Parent Trap’ or ‘Freaky Friday’. They even cut out the free popcorn that they have every year. I could tell someone new was running it.

Still the gardens were in bloom and it was a beautiful warm, non-muggy night (79 degrees) to sit on the lawn and enjoy the film. The place is testament to families as it is like a step back into the 70’s with kids running around in their bare feet, parents talking to their neighbors and people from the same buildings socializing with one another.

It was nice to walk around the Crawford Rose Garden and some of the roses were coming back in bloom and the Japanese Garden was in full form. I had not been there since the Cherry Blossom Festival in April. I had missed a few of the events because of work but still the Gardens are going through a renovation and the new Water Garden is being expanded. If you live anywhere in the surrounding area, this is one membership you want to have in your collection of museums and parks.

Brooklyn Botanical Garden Rose Night.jpg

Brooklyn Botanical Garden

It is one of those membership perks that I really enjoy and to come in all the way from New Jersey after work says something. Its a great neighborhood to explore that is now constantly changing. Its just nice to be outside under the stars watching a film on a warm summer night.

 

Places to Visit:

 

Brooklyn Botanical Garden

990 Washington Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11225

Open: Sunday & Saturday 10:00am-6:00pm/Monday Closed/Tuesday-Friday 8:00am-6:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60827-d103900-Reviews-Brooklyn_Botanic_Garden-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/2785

 

Brooklyn Museum

200 Eastern Parkway

Brooklyn, NY  11238

(718) 638-5000

Open: Sunday-Saturday 11:00am-6:00pm/Thursday 11:00-10:00pm

My Review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60827-d110213-Reviews-Brooklyn_Museum-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Places to Eat:

 

Family Pizza

720 Flatbush Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11225

(718) 462-0639

Open: Sunday-Saturday 11:00am-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d4966907-Reviews-Family_Pizza-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

Coney Island Sandcastle Building Contest

Day Eighty-Five: Back to Coney Island for the Annual Sandcastle Building Contest and Walking Surf Avenue August 19th, 2017

 

I had a busy day running around Newark and then Brooklyn visiting both the Newark Museum and Coney Island. I love how everything gets planned on the same day. Everyone is preparing for the Solar Eclipse on Monday, so both the Newark Museum and the American Museum of Natural History are getting ready for the viewings. So I stopped at the Newark Museum first today to see what they were planning knowing that New York was going to be very busy.

The Newark Museum is running a series of members mornings with a early morning tour of the museum and a light breakfast that seems to be catching on with the membership. We had a early morning tour of the kinetic sculpture of Uram Choe, a Korean artist who specializes in metal working sculptures that move on motion. His one piece upstairs in the Asian galleries opens up like the sun would in the morning and his downstairs on the second floor piece is a serpent eating itself, which is based on an old legend.

Uram Choe

Uram Choe’s work at the Newark Museum

Mr. Choe’s is from an architect background and each piece moves on a series of motors based on motion. Every piece is placed with such detail and the way it moves is so intricate. The Newark Museum (See TripAdvisor review) is going though a major renovation where they will be opening the original entrance to the museum in the Fall after twenty years and hopefully a new beginning for a museum with a major identity crisis.

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The Newark Museum

The museum has such amazing works to see in a beautiful setting but the problem is that Newark still has a negative  image to most suburbanites. No one I know wants to go there and that is a real problem for the city.  The museum in a great area of the downtown that is being rebuilt and refigured with all sorts of new housing and lofts but it will take time to shake the riots of the 60’s from peoples minds.

They just opened the new American Indian exhibition and refigured the American Art wing to reflect the development of the United States from Native American time to the present. Their Asian and African galleries are very detailed but the biggest problem they have is the imagine of an ‘African’ museum which they can’t seem to shake. It is such a gem and try not to miss going there.

We had a long talk in the gallery about the artist and about the development of Korean Art from Ancient times until today and then the museum had a beautiful Continental breakfast on the top floor of the Ballentine House. This was Mrs. Ballentine’s daughter’s section of the house that was built in the late 1890’s when they moved in after her husband’s death. The room, now used as the trustees room, is a look back on the Gilded Age and the invention of electricity in modern homes. It really showed me the treasure trove of artifacts that exist in this small museum.

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Ballentine House

After the tour, there was a quick tour of the museum and then a train ride to Manhattan and then a long subway ride on a beautiful clear sunny day to Coney Island. The whole thing took about two hours and I got there by three o’clock.

The Annual Sandcastle Building Contest I thought would be much bigger than it was. Only about twenty people were competing in it. Several mounds of  sand in one section of the beach outside of Luna Park were used but still the imagination of the work was spellbound.

Most of the works that I saw were some form of castle which seemed to be the object that everyone based their idea on but some people were a little more creative. There were gorillas, octopuses, people crawling out of the sea and one artist even dug out a complete hole and had the imagine of a women lying in the sea. There were some pretty interesting ideas at play. I am not sure who won that afternoon but the prize was $500.00.

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Coney Island Sand Castle Contest 2017

Some of the professional artists did works to welcome everyone to the contest and their detail work was interesting as you see in the picture above. This was not done by a group of ten year olds.

I walked along the beach to relax my feet and as I walked I could not believe how empty the beaches were for a Saturday afternoon in August. By the water it was full but towards the back by the boardwalk it was empty. Not the Coney Island of yesteryear when every spot was full. I guess its just not that place anymore.

After a long walk along the beach, I dried off and walked the boardwalk to the end to Seagate, a private community at the end of the boardwalk. Along the way, I passed by the Coney Island Houses, one of the more dangerous housing complexes in Brooklyn. I don’t know whose brilliant idea it was to build low income housing along the shore front but that made no sense to me.

It looked like the complex was having a barbecue, that is until two guys went after each other in the basketball court area as the DJ was announcing a kids dance. She was beside herself to tell them to calm down. Then you had two groups of people trying to calm the situation down. It was not a pleasant scene.

I got to the end of the boardwalk and decided I wanted to see all of Surf Avenue to see the real changes on the island since the closing of the amusement area. I agree with an article I read years ago, it still is like a war zone.

They built all this public housing outside Seagate and as you walk along Surf Avenue until you get to about where the rehab center is, it just looks like Beirut. The whole area is full of rundown looking public housing and the street itself is a shell of the once glorious resort if it ever  was that. If there are ever going to get this island back into shape, the city seriously needs to rethink this part of the island.

I walked the entire length of Surf Avenue down to Brighton Beach and really looked at the stretch of the island facing the shore. By Brighton Beach, the area got so much nicer and more built up. Even in some of the pockets before the amusement area, they are building new condos along the boardwalk in between the projects. Even still, even when you reach Nathan’s, there is just too much wasted opportunity along the shore front.

I turned around and walked up Stillwell Avenue by the subway spot and there they are starting to knock down the block and replacing it with low rise apartment buildings. This is where all the hipster people must be living. It looks like more of this area is about to come down.

For dinner, I went to Totonno’s Pizzaria Napolitano at 1524 Neptune Avenue between 15th and 16th Streets (See TripAdvisor review). This place is harder to get into than any trendy restaurant in Manhattan. They only make so much dough and as a matter of fact the smaller pizzas sold out before I got there and it was 4:30pm when I ate my lunch/dinner. The place was busy the entire time I got there. The only bad thing about the restaurant is the seating. They need to reconfigure their tables to accommodate more people. You can’t seat a single person like myself at a six top table.

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Totonna’s Pizza

The menu is so simple. Either you get a small or large pizza with a choice of ten toppings for $2.50 extra. The drinks were pricey with a bottle of Coke being $2.50. The pizza was $20.50 for the large or $18.50 for the small. The place is cash only.

The pizza was wonderful and with the size and the quality of ingredients, well worth the money.  You get a large pizza that is a large pizza with fresh tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella, which gives it a different flavor from the shredded processed cheese most places use giving it a creamy flavor. The whole thing was topped with fresh basil and I added sausage to it. Cooking it in a coal brick stove gave it a nice smoky flavor. Needless to say, the owner could not believe I ate almost the entire pie at one sitting.

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Totonna’s Cheese Pizza

I met Louise Ciminieri, the current owner and the granddaughter of the original owner. She told me how the business passed down from her grandfather to her uncle and then to her. Her uncle had a habit of only making so much dough and after it was gone, the restaurant closed for the day. A little strange for a business to make money.

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Louise Ciminieri of Totonno’s Pizza

She could not have been nicer or more welcoming to me and seemed to get a kick at the fact that I made such a fuss in meeting her. I told her of all the reviews online and the fact that my own mom had eaten here probably when he uncle first owned the business. She has not changed the place much over the years and she explained how the neighborhood has changed so much since they opened. What was once an Italian neighborhood is now all car repair places.

After dinner, I took once last walk around Surf Avenue and then headed back to Manhattan where I ended up spending the rest of the evening at an outdoor concert in Bryant Park. It was nice to just relax and listen to the music.

It was a beautiful night and a great way to end the trip to Coney Island.

The Coney Island Sand Castle Building Contest is held each August.

 

Places to Visit:

 

Newark Museum/Ballentine House

49 Washington Avenue

Newark, NJ  07102

(973) 596-6550

https://www.newarkmuseum.org/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46671-d217958-Reviews-Newark_Museum-Newark_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1818

 

Coney Island Beach

Surf Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11224

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60827-d106173-Reviews-Coney_Island-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Places to Eat:

 

Totonno’s Pizza

1524 Neptune Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11224

(718) 372-8606

https://www.totonnosconeyisland.com/

Open: Friday-Sunday 12:30pm-7:30pm/Closed Monday-Thursday

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d459062-Reviews-Totonno_Pizzeria_Napolitano-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905