Search the archives of this Brooklyn Born Blog!


More about this blog

Brooklyn Born Blog Subjects

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday Stories 01/31/10: Bruekelen Born Edition

Time for a quick sample of Sunday Stories. The NYTimes has this article about the Wyckoff-Bennett Homestead out in a part of Brooklyn I always thought of as Midwood or Flatlands, that the paper refers to as "Madison". Makes sense I guess, Madison High School (home of the coolest female teachers ever) is a few blocks from the locale of the homestead.

The subtitle of the article is "A Prewar Home, to say the least" that's because the house predates the American Revolution. The Wyckoff-Bennett Homestead is one of a few remaining original Dutch farmhouses that dot the far reaches of Brooklyn, dating back to the days when Brooklyn was spelled Bruekelen (for land of Brooks as this place was). Btw, that spelling of Brooklyn really confuses the hell out of at least some neighborhood newcomers, if the conversations I've heard around Franklin Avenue are any indication.

Back to the article, which is sweet and feisty, profiling the long lived couple who own the home and have in their time considered a ghost, stood up to the city and lived among historical notables (rye for the king and Hessian graffiti!).

The Wyckoff's in short were major land owners in Breukelen during the 17th century. The family name as the article notes had been Claesen before the British forced the adoption of British names.

Anyone who lives in Crown/Prospect Heights, Bed-Stuy/Clinton Hill and/or riders the B48 might recognize the sound of Claesen since it's the root of "Classon" avenue. So a heads-up to those of you who pronounce the street as"CLASS-on" You can stop now, you're wrong. It's "CLAW-SEN" (I'll rant write more about that and other local identity peeves later).

Back to the Wyckoffs, today their family name came be found unceremoniously througout the borough and the area extending out to Jersey. Another of their houses still standing, the Wyckoff home on Clarendon Road in East Flatbush is officially the oldest standing home in New York City, and you can visit it here. Wikipedia notes: The Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum is the oldest structure in New York City, with rooms dating back to 1652 (New Amsterdam).

Another heads-up, I lived out that way too, if you go to the Wyckoff home expect to find a residential/light industrial neighborhood surrounding the home and not much else). One of the more infamous places you'll find the name today is the Wyckoff public housing complex in what I personally used to call no man's land but is more clearly defined today as next to Boerum Hill and Carroll Gardens.

Another colonial farm house referenced in the article is at East 48th Street, in what I still consider to be in the Flatlands (although that's debatable) and I knew the house before I'd even googlemapped it. The home on E.48th a few blocks from one of my many childhood haunts was and is different from all the others on the block. While the rest of the block is made of the standard two floor brick home that consistently covers the residential enclaves of the outer boroughs, the E. 48th home also dates back to colonial days.

Riding my Huffy through the neighborhood, making utterly unnecessary (but vital) stops at Red's toy store (where my uncle practically lived every Christmas Eve) and then continuing through the neighborhood I'd pass dozens of the these outstanding homes. To me they gave off a sense of deep history beyond simply being architecturally different from their surroundings. So I find it cool that the Times took times to report about one.

I went, as I do, on a cascading set of google searches in an effort to get more information and I found a lot. Too much write about now (unless I give up on laundry, groceries and eating) but here's one great link I found as a result. It's to the site "" which is a repository from many things of past Brooklyn. Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Photo Wednesday 01/27/10 : Back in Time

Classic Car in Crown Heights
This photo of a classic Buick was taken this month in Crown Heights

I almost wrote this post 18 months ago but I was reminded by one of the bloggy that it was too soon. Time's right now, here goes; "it's tough keeping up with a blog, more than that it's work..!"

Yeah I hear that tiny violin playing for me, screw you puny virtuoso!

But seriously it's work and a commitment. I takes at least an hour for me to write anything, because I want my thoughts to come out and be understood, so there's rewriting, grammer grammar checking and often, when I get soapboxxy, fact checking. That doesn't include searching for relevant photos, uploading and so on. Basically it's never an hour its usually two and sometimes four hours of unpaid labor before I'm content to hit the little publish button and go looking to see if the rest of my life still exists. And in a way that's what I wanted to experience and one of the variety of personal reasons (not the least being love) that propels this bloggyeffort. I simply and complexly love Brooklyn. No doubt and forever.

And that's where work and commitment should be applied in my estimate, towards love. I can only guess how much of that is true in the case of the Buick in the photo above and it's owner.

All of this is going to be tested soon. I got a call yesterday, and a major entity wants to make an honest creator out of me. I've accepted the offer. Things will change but I've committed to this and it might mean things like me posting a photo for Photo Wednesday after 90% of Wednesday is gone but I'm committed to this, I'm not going anywhere, Brooklyn's my heart and home. Forever.

Keep Brooklyn in your heart and you'll be aight.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Photo Wednesday 01/20/10 : Super Soverign Edition

The situation in Haiti after last week's devastating earthquake essentially destroyed the capital of Port-au-Prince has barely progressed. Million's are still uncertain where the basics of food and medical care are going to come from despite the nations of the world coming to aid the island. I've learned since last week that some friends of mine are still waiting for word on their families in Haiti, and in one case a friend lost an older relative to a house collapse during the quake.

If you're interested I found this page posted by Google with links to several legit aid agencies helping in the Haitian Earthquake aftermath:

Last week I picked a photo for Wednesday reflecting the national Haitian pride that was on display at last year's West Indian Day parade here in Brooklyn. This week another image from the parade:
West Indian American Day Parade 2009
A quick bit of history, I don't know that anyone has every written about the style trend of wearing a flag as a cape. But I declare this fashion was started by Nueva Yorquinos (Puerto Ricans from New York if you don't know). In the early 90's I'd go to the Puerto Rican Day parade, for a variety of reasons, and that's the first time/place I saw a flag as cape. It was awesome by the way. Not just for the cleverness of mixing nationalism with style points (the Puerto Rican flag with it's triangular end is positioned so coolly at the top of the back when worn as a cape) but for the way the ad hoc accessory evoked ideas of cultural ingenuity, (flag becomes cape) mythic cultural identity especially in our comicbook-hero obsessed american culture where cape equals super powered. In essence that Puerto Rican dude with PR flag-for-cape (and the rest of the "uniform" consisting of then prerequisite sneakers, acid washed jeans and sleeveless white t-shirt) equaled a "Super Rican".

I think it was a great statement and I declare a Puerto Rican did it first.

Since then I've seen the same styling with a number of different flags, most frequently occurring before my eyes at the West Indian Parade, which many don't seem to realize is a pageant of cultural love as much as it's of great food, loud music and occasionally hyper teenagers. One year I noticed a guy wearing the American flag-as-cape. I was surprised, that a young guy, who happened to be brown of skin would even consider adorning his body with the symbol of America, since alot of guys who fit that description in New York, who I'd grown up with would no even think of repping the American flag. But I've seen the American flag-as-cape more often, usually at the West Indian Day Parade and it's clear to me from the photo I took above that the idea of who America is, is changing in the minds of many.

I bring all this up because this seems to me, part of the issue in Haiti as well. The news has reported that many nations including Iceland were on the scene in Haiti before America troops aid and what-have-you arrived.

Certainly sending the military into a destabilized nation is a smart way to begin securing the Haitian capital city and preparing it to take on relief supplies, but why it took so long baffles me. These Chinese rescuers arrived before the US landed and they journeyed from 8,000 miles away, but that story comes from Chinese state media which can be tricky and there is disagreement over reports of their goals. Also couldn't some advanced troops have hitched a ride with the cable news? Obama's people explained they couldn't reach the Haiti president, meanwhile I was watching the Haitian Prez talk on CNN. Huh?!?

I'm also unclear why our military, which is well trained on how to get into a heavily defended country, or even a lightly defended island nation like in the Grenada invasion, yet they couldn't make the 2 hour flight and setup bases in the outskirts of the unpowered island nation of Haiti. I assume there is more going on, I wonder if the Haitian government is worried about which flag becomes dominate in their nation going forward, who real sovereignty will belong to, and I wonder if any of this matters to people dying in Haiti under the crush of all above.

Again if you're interested this page posted by Google has links to several legit aid agencies helping in the Haitian Earthquake aftermath:

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Photo Wednesday 01/13/10 : Can the earthquake disaster in Haiti cause a substantial rally round their flag?

By now you've probably heard that a massive earthquake struck the capital city of the nation Haiti. My best wishes for rescue and repair go out to the Haitian people and to my friends many of whom have roots in and around the capital Port-Au-Prince.
West Indian American Day Parade 2009 - 62
(above Haitian flags and pride fly in Brooklyn during the 2009 West Indian Day Parade)

If you'd like to offer support to the earthquake relief effort in Haiti, here's two suggestions:
The Red Cross and Mercy Corps

The photos from Haiti show hundreds if not thousands of structures including the Parliament Building were gravely damaged. Here in Brooklyn, where many of the over 200,000 Haitians living abroad call home, there is an understandable thirst for the lastest information on the devastation. I imagine there's an increasingly pent up desire to be active and helpful in the aftermath. And that's what came to my mind after glimpsing the destruction in Haiti.

Before yesterday Haiti was arguable the poorest of nations in the Western Hemisphere with a host of additional problems to boot. Yet consensus on how improve conditions in Haiti have been as varied as they are to act on. Haiti has suffered for decades.

My question is to the world community in general and the Haitian community abroad, especially those who've found better financial situations. Will this disaster fuel the moment when Haiti, clearly damaged in an apolitical way, and undeniably deserving of rescue is rebuilt better than before? Or will this be the final strike that allows Haiti to completely and totally disintegrate?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Photo Wednesday 01/06/10 : 1st look back Edition

End of a year, end of a decade, honestly I didn't even realize the latter until two weeks ago. Around that time it snowed. Since everyone still seems to be in the mindstate of looking back where we've been I thought these two photos were appropriate for today's "Photo Wednesday". I didn't intend the contrast when I took the second photo, but I did feel the sense of deja vu as I gloved back up and walked away from the snowy Fort Greene Park scene.

Winter in Ft Greene Park
It's almost the same spot albeit closer in the winter scene, but yup, same hill.
the last Soul Summit of 2009 in Fort Greene Park - 64
Ten years seems like near and far to me. Do we really need to look so far back to find significance? How far removed must we be to see clearly. I look forward to finding out.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy New Year Brooklyn (and those with BK Heart)

This was the first thing I witnessed in daylight of the new 2010 decade:

Something about this seemed significant. A peeling paint in the back of my skull suggested memory of feathers and possibility, but certainty on the subject tangents away from my mind.

Discarded feather
former of warmth and lift,
or perhaps the insulation for future endeavors.

I don't know, truly what the feather means. Anyway I'm going to home depot in Bed-Stuy to gather materials for my nest. It's a new year and I'm building.

seen from the nest.

Best wishes in 2010