I had a wonderful weekend excursion this afternoon in Brooklyn, enjoying the Fifth Avenue bike path that Aaron Naparstek and others fought for. It was a wonderful stretch with many cyclists using the path in both directions. Three of us stopped off and had sushi at a place at about 7th Street or so. No doubt all the increased bicycle traffic and the calmer streets, encouraging pedestrians, have made these businesses much more profitable since the lane was installed.
The only incident that marred the ride was a complete nut driving an enormous pickup truck. This unfortunate individual was careening through the streets way over the speed limit when the lights were green, sending a heavy wake of air past us. When the lights were red, he swerved into the bike lane at every intersection to avoid hitting the lawful motorists who had stopped. He would then floor the truck through the intersection to make it 200 feet to the next red light. We watched the guy run six red lights before coming to a stop at a heavily trafficked street. Too bad none of us caught this guy’s plate number, or we could have MV-15′ed his ass.
We talked to a man who reminisced about the good old days of growing up in Brooklyn, playing stickball on the streets. He remembered the open streets without too many parked cars. Sometimes, only one car would be parked on a block. “We’d ask Tony the Butcher to go move his car, he’d say ‘sure kids’,” our acquaintance recalled. “Today it’d be: ‘Move my car???’ — they’d look at you like you had four heads!”
The purpose of our bike ride was to head over to Battle Hill, the highest (natural) point in Brooklyn at 220 feet above sea level. From that peaceful vantage point in Green-Wood Cemetery, one can listen to the cicadas and sit on a bench at the Altar to Liberty, where Minerva waves to the Statue of Liberty. Next to the Altar stands one of the earliest monuments to the 168,000 New Yorkers who fought in the Civil War, the downcast soldiers remembering the fallen.
This site was the subject of a controversy that got some coverage back in April. (See these filings from the Daily News, Channel 7, Brownstoner and Curbed.) You’ve heard this story a million times before. A developer wanted to build a tall building and neighbors are upset that the views will be hurt. In this case, the views are accessible to the public, and come to a very special spot. At the top of this post is a picture of the view. It’s far more majestic than it seems because it comes across so poorly in this photo. Here is an aerial photo (thanks Google maps) with an arrow that points to the Altar, and a square box showing the controversial site.
I’m not sure whether the developer or the activists won in the end or whether the issue has even been resolved. What should take priority, the public’s view or the need for the city to build its tax base by providing housing for reasonably wealthy residents?
The view at Battle Hill was marvelous and the setting divine. But don’t expect to get there on a bike. The cemetery occupies a great green space as vast as Prospect Park with beautiful winding roads, hills and ponds, and ornate tombstones, but it prohibits bicycling. It’s perfectly fine to drive a hugely disruptive S.U.V. through this sacred space, but a quiet bicyclist is forbidden.
- Bike Fags & Elitists Win 5th Ave. Bike Lane [Naparstek.com]
- MV-15: Even the Score [Naparstek.com]
- Battle Hill, Green-Wood Cemetery Brooklyn’s Highest Point 220 Feet [America's Roof]
- Saluting statues see view threat shrink in distance [Daily News]
- Fight Over The View–From A Cemetery? [WABC]
- Follow-up: View May Not Be Killed [Brownstoner]
- Green-Wood Views Live to Die Another Day [Curbed]