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Posts Tagged ‘Sheepshead Bay

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It’s National Fudge Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

To recap the last two posts, a humble narrator journeyed from Astoria to southeastern Brooklyn’s Plumb Beach to attend a lecture about Horseshoe Crabs offered by the NYCH2O outfit and which was led by my high school biology teacher – Alan Ascher. The first post covered the journey and setting, the second one discussed some of the characteristics of Plumb Beach, this one focuses right in on the Atlantic Horseshoe Crab itself – aka Limulus polyphemus. Scroll down to check them out.

That’s Mr. Ascher, and a horseshoe crab, above.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Plumb Beach faces out into a section of Rockaway Inlet, nearby Sheepshead Bay, and part of the totality of Jamaica Bay. Once fairly close to environmental ruination due to the ocean dumping of garbage, open sewers, and the development of highways and airports, large chunks of Jamaica Bay are now a part of the Gateway National Recreation Area and Wildlife Refuge – a Federally administered series of parks and conservation areas – and have therefore been recovering environmentally. There’s still a long way to go, of course, but compared to what this area looked like back in the 1980’s when I was in high school – it’s practically pristine in comparison.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

During May and June (particularly), but pretty much throughout the early summer, the so called “living fossils” which man calls the “Atlantic Horseshoe Crab” enact a mating dance. These critters first appeared in the fossil record about 450 million years ago, during the Ordovician Age. As a note, during the Ordovician, plants – let alone animals – hadn’t really begun to migrate out of the ocean onto the land yet. These creatures aren’t actually crabs (or crustaceans), and are instead part of a seperate subphylum called the Chelicerata. Their closest modern relatives are actually spiders and ticks.

from wikipedia

Horseshoe crabs have three main parts to the body: the head region, known as the “prosoma”, the abdominal region or “opisthosoma”, and the spine-like tail or “telson”. The smooth shell or carapace is shaped like a horseshoe, and is greenish grey to dark brown in colour. The sexes are similar in appearance, but females are typically 25 to 30% larger than the male and can grow up to 60 cm (24 in) in length (including tail).

Horseshoe crabs possess the rare ability to regrow lost limbs, in a manner similar to sea stars.

A wide range of marine species become attached to the carapace, including algae, flat worms, mollusks, barnacles, and bryozoans, and horseshoe crabs have been described as ‘walking museums’ due to the number of organisms they can support. In areas where Limulus is common, the shells, exoskeletons or exuviae (molted shells) of horseshoe crabs frequently wash up on beaches, either as whole shells, or as disarticulated pieces.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mr. Ascher demonstrated the various anatomical features of the Horseshoe Crab, which despite its fearsome appearance is quite benign and harmless to humans. It has a set of “book gills” which are those flappy looking structures nearby its shell hinge, and possesses two sets of fairly primitive “eyes” which exhibit varying levels of sensitivity.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The blood of a Horseshoe Crab is not hemoglobin (iron) based, as most living creatures upon the earth are, and is instead copper based. Within its circulatory system, the crab’s blood is greyish white to pale yellow in color, but it turns a bright blue when atmospherically oxygenated. This helps them survive the high pressure and low oxygen environment where they spend most of their time, and their blood is harvested by the pharmaceutical industrial complex in pursuance of the creation of  “limulus amebocyte lysate” or “LAL.” This material is used to detect the presence of bacterial endotoxins in pharmaceuticals and artificial joint replacements, and believe it or not – enzymes from their blood are used on the International Space Station to detect blooms of fungi and bacteria growing on common surfaces.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The NYC H2O tour ended, and on my way back to civilization, I spotted a dead ray just sitting there on the sand. Desiccated by the sun, I was reminded of an old European Sailor’s craft, common during the age of sail, which would see rays of this type turned into “Jenny Hanivers” by skillful knife and needlework. Jenny Hanivers were offered for sail by sailors during port visits as baby mermaids, basilisks, or any number of imaginary critters to the gullible landlubbers.

from wikipedia

Jenny Hanivers have been created to look like devils, angels and dragons. Some writers have suggested the sea monk may have been a Jenny Haniver.

The earliest known picture of Jenny Haniver appeared in Konrad Gesner’s Historia Animalium vol. IV in 1558. Gesner warned that these were merely disfigured rays and should not be believed to be miniature dragons or monsters, which was a popular misconception at the time.

The most common misconception was that Jenny Hanivers were Basilisks. As Basilisks were creatures that killed with merely a glance, no one could claim to know what one looks like. For this reason it was easy to pass off Jenny Hanivers as these creatures which were still widely feared in the 16th century.

In Veracruz, Jenny Hanivers are considered to have magical powers and are employed by curanderos in their rituals. This tradition may have originated in Japan, where fake ningyo similar to the Fiji mermaid that were produced by using rogue taxidermy are kept in temples.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Well, that wraps up the story of going to Plumb Beach and checking out the Horseshoe Crab scene with my high school Marine Biology teacher. I did apologize to him for being thirty four years late to class, btw.

See you Monday, with something completely different, at this – your Newtown Pentacle.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 16, 2017 at 11:00 am

corroborate virtually

with 4 comments

It’s National Lobster Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As described in some detail in yesterday’s post, a humble narrator travelled clear across the western face of Long Island from Astoria to Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay neighborhood to attend a lecture by my high school biology teacher, an effort which was offered by the NYC H2O outfit. The lecture was occurring at Plumb Beach, which is a part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, and a Federal Park. The layout of the place includes a highway facing parking lot, which leads to a sandy beach and sand dunes, behind which are found a muddy type tidal marshland. I rode the R from Astoria to the 57th street stop in Manhattan, where I transferred to a Q express which carried me to the Sheepshead Bay Road stop, whereupon I walked down Emmons Avenue to Plumb Beach.

Whew, that accounts for like an hour and a half of my day, can you imagine how horrible it is to be me all the time?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My high school marine biology teacher was (and is) named Alan Ascher, and I remember him fondly. He didn’t remember me, which is sort of what I expected as I was an unextraordinary sciences student. I have fun memories of Mr. Ascher’s class, which revolved around an end of semester field trip to Jamaica Bay, onboard a boat, and the usage of a NYC Department of Education oriented permit to do some limited dredging of the bottom of Jamaica Bay in pursuance of biological specimens for study (critters).

First time I saw a live spider crab, or tube worm, was because this guy pulled them up out of the deep.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One specifically remembers maybe three or four of my teachers from high school. Two of them are for malign reasons. One of the malign duo was especially hated for her complete dereliction of duty as a teacher, another was for pursuing a certain vendetta against me. The latter was dealt with, decisively, later in life when I was no longer a powerless child. Another, a chemistry teacher named Bob Nissin, is remembered because he made the case to me that since I was inherently lacking mathematically I would be unable to pursue a course in the higher sciences – advice which was immensely helpful to a confused about his path and quite adolescent narrator.

Mr. Ascher, pictured above, is the guy who made me wonder – and more than wonder – all there is that might be found beneath the surface of the waters of New York Harbor.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The tour Mr. Ascher conducted felt familiar, as I had been on a similar outing during high school with him. We started in the parking lot, and went down towards the beach. It was low tide, as a note.

Mr. Ascher, then as now, talked about the shoreline grasses and their role in holding together the dunes surrounding the sandy littoral zone sloping down into the water. He mentioned the creation of the park back in the 70’s and the fact that this used to be an island called Hogshead.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A few mortal remains of the animal we had come to observe were scattered here and there on Plumb Beach, the Atlantic Horseshoe Crab – Limulus polyphemus.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mr. Ascher described the role played by the quite artificial jetties installed at intervals along the Plumb Beach, and how they aid in the constant battle against shoreline erosion which is fought by the engineers of the National Park Service, Army Corps of Engineers, and other governmental entities who oversee such matters.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The group threaded its way over the dunes, with Mr. Ascher pointing out various vegetable species encountered, including the Beach Plumb (for which Plumb Beach is so named), Rosehips, and the substantial abundance of Poison Ivy. On the other side of the dunes, we encountered the previously mentioned tidal marsh.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This sort of scene, depicting a tidal stream swirling around the muddy shoreline of Jamaica Bay, is so incredibly familiar to me that it looks like home. Not much has changed since high school back here, except that there’s a lot less garbage and specifically a lack of medical waste.

Plumb Beach was always a great place to find thousands of hypodermics and used bandages embedded in the tidal zone. Along with other goodies, medical waste in great abundance would wash up here, back in the 1980’s – I tell ya. Trash was everywhere on the waterfront in this section back then, so I guess some things do seem to have gotten better, huh?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There were multiple examples of this sort of collection on the flat, shellfish and mussels abandoned by the tide, waiting for the water to return and flood the spot. Mr. Ascher reminded everyone to not venture too far in the direction of the muddy section, which has the characteristic of quick sand.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

An abandoned boat, deposited here by some storm, has been turned into a gallery for graffiti.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The salt marsh itself was covered in Spartina and other grasses, and perforated by crab holes.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Mr. Ascher… I just can’t call him Alan… discussed the various things we were looking at and provided insights into the hidden world of aquatic creatures which were sequestering in the muddy flats during the intertidal.

There were also a bunch of weird looking Russian muscle guys running around in the bushes on the other side of the water from our group, characters whom I did not like the look of.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In the penultimate installment of “what I did last Friday,” presented at this – your Newtown Pentacle – you’ll encounter Horseshoe Crab pornography.

That’s your trigger warning, right there, lords and ladies.


Upcoming Tours and events

Newtown Creek, Greenpoint to Hunters Point, walking tour with NYCH2O – June 29th, 7-9 p.m..

Experience and learn the history of the western side of Newtown Creek, as well as the East River Parks Hunters Point with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 15, 2017 at 11:15 am

miniature avalanche

with 5 comments

It’s National Strawberry Shortcake Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the cool people I’ve met over the last few years is a fella named Matt Malina, who’s a showrunner at an environmental educational operation that calls itself NYC H2O. NYC H2O offers tours of High Bridge, resovoir paddles, Ridgewood Resovoir – if it involves water, Matt and his gang are there. I’ve done tours of Newtown Creek for Matt, btw, in fact I’ll be announcing an upcoming one is tomorrow’s post.

So, I got an email from NYC H2O offering a lecture for science educators that would occur at Plumb Beach in Brooklyn, which would discuss the ecology of the location and the biology of Horseshoe Crabs in particular. Soon, I found myself on the train, heading from Astoria in Queens to the old neighborhood back in Brooklyn.

Why? I had my reasons.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Until recently, I’d have just walked over to 31st street and caught the Q line there, but since the Second Avenue Subway opened, the Q doesn’t enter Queens anymore. A connection between the two goldenrod badged trains was instituted at 57th street in Manhattan, and off to Sheepshead Bay Road and deep into Brooklyn went I.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Back in high school, I used to work in a shop on this corner, for a locally owned photo finishing company called “Foto Depot.” Things haven’t changed too much around these parts, except for a change of the secondary “lingua Franca” from Spanish over to Russian. Didn’t linger and reminisce too long, however, as I still had a bit of walk ahead of me to get to the “House of Moses” at Plumb Beach.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I turned east on Emmons Avenue, and walked along the bulkheads of Sheepshead Bay. Last July, I offered a couple of posts about the area. This one discusses the Ocean Avenue Bridge pictured above, amongst other things.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A continuation of the same excursion, Mute Swans like the one above were discussed in this post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One continued along Emmons Avenue, and I beat down the urge to enter the Roll-N-Roaster to gorge on their wares.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The eastern side of Emmons Avenue terminates at the entrance to the Shore Parkway section of what’s now called just “The Belt Parkway” by the powers that be. This is another one of NYC’s master builder Robert Moses’s arterial road system projects, which opened in 1940.

from wikipedia

The Belt System is a series of connected limited-access highways that form a belt-like circle around the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. The system comprises four officially separate parkways; however, three of the four are signed as the Belt Parkway. The three parkways that make up the signed Belt Parkway—the Shore Parkway, the Southern Parkway (not to be confused with the Southern State Parkway), and the Laurelton Parkway—are a combined 25.29 miles (40.70 km) in length. The Cross Island Parkway makes up the fourth parkway in the system, but is signed separately.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Moses called certain of his high speed roadways “expressways,” others “highways,” but the Belt is a “parkway.”

In Moses speak, parkway means that it hosted what he referred to as “shoestring parks,” which are both the green shoulders of the roadway itself and the entrances to the “buttonhole” parks that can be found periodically along the way. Given the relatively undeveloped shoreline of South Eastern Brooklyn in the 1930’s, when construction on the Belt Parkway project began, Moses and his team had a lot of leeway in designing out this shoestring concept between Bay Ridge and Cross Bay Blvd.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Plumb Beach hosts a sandy littoral zone which rises from the surf to a series of dunes. Behind the dunes, there’s a tidal salt marsh which has a muddy rather than sandy character. Famously, it’s one of the spots in NY Harbor where – during the late afternoon and evenings of May and June – you can witness Horseshoe Crabs both mating and digging nests. If you hang out till dawn, you’ll then see what seems like millions of birds descend on the nests to feed.

Now… why did a humble narrator travel way across the City to attend the NYC H2O lecture? Was it just to watch the arthropoda snuggle?

from wikipedia

Plumb Beach (sometimes spelled “Plum”) is a beach and surrounding neighborhood along the north shore of Rockaway Inlet, in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. It is located near the neighborhoods of Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach, just off the Belt Parkway. Originally an island, Hog Creek was filled in during the late 1930s. Since 1972 it has been a part of Gateway National Recreation Area, though the parking lot and greenway that provide primary access to the shore are the responsibility of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and the New York City Department of Transportation. The neighborhood is part of Brooklyn Community District 15, although a section of the beach is not part of a Community District.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was actually the instructor which drew my interest this time around, a fellow named Alan Ascher.

Alan Ascher was my high school marine biology teacher. I apologized to him, for being thirty four years late to bio.


“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 14, 2017 at 11:00 am

tinkling flames

with one comment

Finishing up a trip to Sheepshead Bay, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, I told you a bit about the NY Aquarium, and finding Nemo in Brighton Beach. Yesterday, it was a Holocaust Memorial, the Ocean Avenue footbridge, and an infestation of what I believe to be the mute swans in Sheepshead Bay. Today, we finish out my south east Brooklyn excursion and end with lunch at one of the old school businesses which has somehow survived the changing culture and real estate dynamics of Brooklyn.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sheepshead Bay has both a marina for small vessels and a series of Parks Dept. administered commercial piers along Emmons Avenue. There’s a plethora of fishing boats and pleasure craft on display at the marina.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The commercial vessels, found along Emmons Avenue at the aforementioned commercial piers, range from gigantic to quite small. When I was a kid, these piers were occupied entirely by fishing boats. My next door neighbors owned one of them, called the “Atomic.”

Pictured above is the Atlantis excursion boat. Atlantis is technically a luxury yacht, designed for “functions,” and is spacious enough to serve a sit down dinner to 240 people or accommodate 319 for a party. She’s got a 32′ beam, is 147 feet long, and apparently there’s a jacuzzi with a lighted fountain onboard. She’s owned by an operation called “Amberjack” which has a flagship vessel that’s pretty huge and is docked right next door.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

These piers really seemed to be in great shape, and boy oh boy could we use this sort of shoreline tackle on the East River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Towards the other side of Sheepshead Bay’s fleet spectrum, that’s Capt. Midnight pictured above. She’s a 75 foot long fishing boat that can accommodate 63 guests.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The western tip of the marina is visble from Emmons Avenue, and you can see what I mean about it being a pretty heterogenous collection of vessels.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is a bait shop which has been in this spot since I was a very young kid, nearly a half century ago.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I spotted a pile of dead birds, which made for a nice picture, but a humble narrator was desperately in need of some luncheon and a cold drink at this point in time. Dead birds weren’t going to cut it.

Luckily…

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Roll N Roaster is still there, at the corner of Emmons and East 29th, just where I left it.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

And inside of RnR, nothing has changed since the 1980’s, except for the prices.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I went with the lemonade, and the roast beef “as jus” sandwich. If you have the opportunity, get the above. If it’s wintertime, get the cheese fries as well. Fried potatoes just don’t go with the summer heat, IMHO.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A short scuttle carried me over to Sheepshead Bay road, and the elevated tracks which carry the Q and B lines through the neighborhood. Around 45 minutes later, there I was, back in Astoria.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Wednesday, July 27, 1st trip – 4:50 p.m. 2nd trip – 6:50 p.m. –
2 Newtown Creek Boat Tours,
with Open House NY. Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 30, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
DUPBO Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Sunday, August 21, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Poison Cauldron Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 27, 2016 at 11:00 am

considerable distance

with one comment

Back to southeast Brooklyn, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Last week, I described taking a trip “back home” to the south eastern section of Brooklyn which spawned me. My ultimate goal for the trip involved a visit to the NY Aquarium, described in this post, and then I set off to the east in the direction of Brighton Beach where I seem to have found Nemo.

As mentioned in the two prior posts, having spent a good amount of time on the Q, or Brighton, line traveling here from Astoria in Queens – I wanted to maximize the time spent and decided to head over to Sheepshead Bay. At the head of the Bay, my first visit was to the Holocaust Memorial.

from nyc.gov

The park originally consisted of a grove of established London plane trees (destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and since replanted) and a seating area which formed a contemplative space beside the water. After a lengthy planning process led by a local non-profit organization, the Holocaust Memorial Committee, Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden allocated $933,000 toward construction of a permanent memorial designed and built by the City. Holocaust Memorial Park was dedicated on June 22, 1997 by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Having grown up in a Jewish neighborhood, and family, it was kind of normal to see people with non-ironic tattoos on their arms who were survivors of the Second World War’s death camps. In my peer group, it was actually fairly common for many of these folks to be my friend’s parents or grandparents.

Sheepshead Bay has, if anything, become even “more Jewish” in the years since I left this area, no doubt due to the huge number of Russian Jews who have emigrated here in recent decades. Accordingly, there’s a Holocaust Memorial Park at the head of the bay.

from wikipedia

The name “Sheepshead Bay” applies to the neighborhood north of the bay as well as the bay itself. Sheepshead Bay was named for the sheepshead, an edible fish found in the bay’s waters. The fish, now rare, can still be caught in the local waters occasionally.

The bay itself was originally the easterly entrance to Coney Island Creek, but the filling-in of the central part of this waterway during the 1930s, in conjunction with construction of the Shore Parkway portion of the Belt Parkway, eliminated access to that waterway. At the same time, the bay was widened, deepened, and bulkheaded at its western end. Recreational fishing fleets are now located there, though the fishing fleets have been shrinking every year and are being replaced by dinner boats. Holocaust Memorial Park, located at the western end of the bay, is used throughout the year for commemorative events.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s actually a pretty nicely thought out sculptural installation that conveys a revenant vibe, and it is tellingly devoid of graffiti. Actually, one of the things I noticed about the modern version of Sheepshead Bay is that there was comparatively little graffiti on the walls. Even under the subway overpasses. This is a marked change from what it looked like when I was a kid. If the “old rules” of this section of Brooklyn still apply, it would indicate that there’s high ranking figures in the local underworld who have let the neighborhood know what will and will not be tolerated and that “street art” ain’t one of them.

When I was a kid, this figure would have been somebody of Italian ancestry, whereas today it is likely someone of Russian or Ukranian birth.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

I wasn’t at Sheepshead Bay to muse about the provence of the local Organized Crime families, nor to contemplate the Nazi regime and the consequences of their policies – instead I was here to revisit some of my old haunts and check out how the place was doing.

This neighborhood got absolutely slammed by Hurricane Sandy back in 2012, as you may or may not know,

from wikipedia

The western inlet of Coney Island Creek extends eastward from Gravesend Bay to Shell Road. The path of the landfill follows Shore Parkway, Guider Avenue, and the triangular block between Neptune Avenue and Cass Place. The eastern inlet picks up at Shore Boulevard and gradually widens into Sheepshead Bay.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sheepshead Bay was once part of the Coney Island Creek tidal strait – which seperated a sand bar barrier island – which today hosts the neighborhoods of Manhattan Beach, Brighton Beach, Coney Island, and Seagate – that was isolated from Brooklyn, which is actually on Long Island, and was called “Coney Island.” Coney was a proper island until Robert Moses came along in the 1950’s and turned it into a peninsula, separating Sheepshead Bay from the western section of Coney Island Creek with landfill, in pursuance of building out Shore Parkway and what we now call the Belt Parkway.

This section of the “House of Moses” is connected to the larger Jamaica Bay water system, which is absolutely teeming with all sorts of critters.

from wikipedia

Jamaica Bay is located on the southern side of Long Island, in the U.S. state of New York, near the island’s western end. The bay connects with Lower New York Bay to the west through Rockaway Inlet and is the westernmost of the coastal lagoons on the south shore of Long Island. Politically, it is divided between the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens in New York City, with a small part touching Nassau County.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sheepshead Bay is fairly infested with Mute Swans. I believe they’re mute swans at least, (I’m no ornithologist) which are actually an invasive (anthropogenically introduced) specie native to Asia. You can tell what they are because of the orange bill. Trumpeter Swans, which are actually a native specie to North America, have black bills. They’re the Royal bird of the British Crown, which employs a “Royal Swanherd” to care for them on the Thames.

I didn’t see, nor have I ever heard of, anyone in Sheepshead Bay who might be described as a Swanherd.

from wikipedia

The English word ‘swan’, akin to the German Schwan, Dutch zwaan and Swedish svan, is derived from Indo-European root *swen (to sound, to sing). Young swans are known as swanlings or as cygnets; the latter derives via Old French cigne or cisne (diminutive suffix -et “little”) from the Latin word cygnus, a variant form of cycnus “swan”, itself from the Greek κύκνος kýknos, a word of the same meaning. An adult male is a cob, from Middle English cobbe (leader of a group); an adult female is a pen.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The northern side of Sheepshead Bay follows Emmons Avenue, and that’s where you’ll find the big commercial docks as well as a series of restaurants, bars, and attractions. More on that in a minute, however.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Shore Blvd. is on the tony Manhattan Beach side. Manhattan Beach hosts homes that are near mansions, and on its eastern tip you’ll find a nursing home and CUNY’s Kingsborough Community College. As an aside, when I was in high school back in the 1980’s, we referred to Kingsborough as the “12 and 1/2th grade” but I understand that they’ve really stepped up their academic standards since.

Connecting the two sides of the bay is the Ocean Avenue Bridge.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Now, a bit of personal backstory is required for this.

My mother was terrified by many things. Elevators, African Americans, air conditioning, dogs, bees, flocks of passing birds – she was actually convinced that electricity could shoot out of the wall sockets if you didn’t put little plastic plugs in them. The largest resovoir of her irrational estimates of risk, however, always involved the water.

She would be rendered catatonic if she was around today and found out how much time I spend on boats, shorelines, etc. Catatonic, yes, but she would still likely be yelling at me about something.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As a child, one thing I was forbidden to do by Mom – on pain of death – was to cross “dat piece a shit wooden bridge ovah dat Sheepshead Bay, it’ll collapse and they’ll never find ya body in that shit watah. Why woulds you do’s dat to me? Haven’t I sacrificed everyting for youse? Why would you do that to your mawtha?”

What can I say, the rumors you’ve heard about Jewish Mothers are actually kind of understated.

On the “pain of death” thing, for those of you under the age of thirty, it used to be pretty much assumed by kids that their parents possessed the legal right to murder them under the “I brought you into this world, I can take you out of it” rule.

from forgotten-ny.com

The bridge has a very old pedigree: it was first opened by Long Island Rail Road king Austin Corbin in 1880, and after a few false starts (Corbin kept closing the bridge since he thought “undesirables” would frequent his development, then-exclusive Manhattan Beach) there has been a pedestrian bridge here almost continuously since. It’s called the Ocean Avenue Bridge, even though it’s a block west of Ocean Avenue on the north side.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It was with my last remaining ember of adolescent rebellion that I walked up the ramp to Ocean Avenue Bridge and headed across the water towards Emmons Avenue. Take that mom.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite the spectral admonitions offered by a cranially contained inner voice which I refer to as “Mom,” I actually found the bridge to be in a fairly good state of repair. One did not fall into the water.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Turning onto Emmons, I began to notice how much things had changed around Sheepshead Bay since the old days. Whole sections of the waterfront were completely changed, and most disturbingly, the bar I used to go to in high school that did not ask for proof of legal drinking age was gone. Of course, the bouncer at this particular bar – for a certain interval between 11th and 12th grade – was sometimes none other than Andrew Dice Clay.

That’s the neighborhood that I’m from, btw, for those of you know me in real life and think my behavior or speech patterns overly direct, confrontational, or not “politique” enough. As I often say, I grew up in “Brooklyn” Brooklyn where the only thing “artisanal” you might encounter was a beat down – if you were lucky enough to have encountered an assailant who was only using his hands rather than bricks, bats, or garbage can lids.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Happily, though, some things on Emmons Avenue were exactly the same as they were the last time I was here, which reflection reveals as being more than two decades ago. More tomorrow.

Upcoming Events and Tours

Tuesday, July 26, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. –
Glittering Realms Walking tour,
with NYC H2O. Click here for more details.

Wednesday, July 27, 1st trip – 4:50 p.m. 2nd trip – 6:50 p.m. –
2 Newtown Creek Boat Tours,
with Open House NY. Click here for more details.

Saturday, July 30, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
DUPBO Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

Sunday, August 21, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. –
Poison Cauldron Walking Tour,
with Atlas Obscura. Click here for more details.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Written by Mitch Waxman

July 26, 2016 at 11:00 am

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