I want to do all of the cool things
June 1, 2012 2:18 PM   Subscribe

I have a plan to visit NYC with my best friend next weekend. I've been to NYC about six or seven times now, and I have a few things in mind. Can you help me find some other cool things to do based on what I'm already thinking about checking out?

So far, I'm thinking I'd like to hit The Armoury on Park Ave, Eyebeam Gallery, and check out this bookstore in Williamsburg I've heard about called Book Thug Nation. Manhattan and Brooklyn are both on the docket. Can you recommend any cool galleries to check out?

I've actually never been to The Cloisters, so we might check that out - but I would love to see some cool contemporary exhibits or openings, particularly at smaller galleries.

Also I'm interested in cool places to see music in Brooklyn. I went to The Rock Lottery at The Knitting Factory last November and saw a ton of great local musicians play. What are some good venues to look at to check out who's playing?

Finally - my grandmother grew up in what is now called Flatbush. I have never ventured out there to explore because I had no idea where to go. Is there a good restaurant or cool thing to check out in that area to give me an excuse to really get out there this time?

Thank you for any advice you can provide, New Yorkers of mefi.
posted by pazazygeek to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Check out the Chelsea Galleries for art and the Bell House in Brooklyn for music. I'm sure there'll be more recommendations shortly. Enjoy!
posted by cestmoi15 at 2:36 PM on June 1, 2012

Best answer: Williamsburg is worth wandering around, in general, especially near Book Thug Nation. There are tons of cool little shops, bars, and restaurants around there. There used to be some galleries, though I think most of them moved out to Bushwick.

For cool places to see music, Williamsburg is a great choice. There's Music Hall Of Williamsburg, though I think shows sell out pretty quickly. And there are a ton of smaller venues as well. I like Trash Bar, Union Pool (which is distinct from Union HALL, which is a very different but equally fun venue in Park Slope), and Pete's Candy Store for teensy cheap places to check out local bands and unheard of indie folks. There's also Brooklyn Bowl, which is a bowling alley that has music stuff too.

Check Brooklyn Vegan for event listings, especially if you want to score last minute tickets to something happening rightnow. Look for their "What's Going On [tonight]" posts, where they do a complete rundown of every single show they know about, from Madison Square Garden to some well-connected cokehead's loft party.

The skint is also good for free concerts and gallery openings and the like, all over the city but skewing towards younger/hipper/downtown sort of stuff.

Re Flatbush - do you have the address? I feel like "Flatbush" as a neighborhood used to be known as one agreed-upon thing back in the day, but has been carved up by real estate developers and renamed and twisted around a lot over the last several decades. As a name, it's definitely not hip, and when I think of Flatbush I think.... ummmmm.... nothing interesting down there, really? But it's entirely possible she lived in what would now be considered Ditmas Park, which is definitely cool. Other neighborhood suggestions are Kensington, "Prospect Park South"/Windsor Terrace, and Prospect Lefferts Gardens. Hell, once upon a time I heard people referring to what is now called Prospect Heights as "Flatbush", and that's the other side of the park.

Also, is it possible that DiFara Pizza is nearby? Definitely eat there if you'll be in the neighborhood.

A great way to find hidden gems of obscure outer borough neighborhoods is to type the address into Yelp, browse on the map (auto-refreshing as you scroll around) and see what looks interesting. There are a lot of weird little places very few New Yorkers know about, but which manage to have Huge Followings with people who live in the neighborhood. For example this awesome Italian bakery in Bensonhurst called Villabate which makes maybe the best cannoli in the city. It's not in any guidebook, but it's a little slice of what makes New York what it is.
posted by Sara C. at 2:48 PM on June 1, 2012

Response by poster: Wow, thanks to the both of you!

Re: Flatbush - I don't know exactly where. She was born there in 1908 (Jewish Tenement Neighborhood) and she lived there until the early 40s, when she moved to Los Angeles; she said she lived on Hertzl (Hertzel?) Street (I'm unsure of its spelling), and that she could watch Dodger Games (!) at Ebbets Field from her rooftop. I have no idea if that is helpful information in triangulating the area...
posted by pazazygeek at 2:52 PM on June 1, 2012

That Ebbets field claim might be a bit of a stretch of the truth. Hertzl St is about 3 miles away. No tall buildings in that era so.... Anyway, have you thought about visiting Governors Island? It just opened for the season.
posted by blaneyphoto at 3:01 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Flatbush - I don't know exactly where.

It's possible that you can figure out where exactly by searching through the records of the 1910, 1920, and 1930 census data. I was able to find out where my grandmother lived as a teenager in NYC using this. (the building is still standing, but the neighborhood is full of hipsters)
posted by deanc at 3:08 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

That's really helpful, actually!

Ebbets Field was in one of those zones of "not really Flatbush" I'm referring to. Nowadays that would be considered Crown Heights, or maybe Prospect Lefferts Gardens. It was on the block bounded by Bedford Avenue, McKeever Street, Sullivan Street, and Montgomery Street. Google Maps doesn't show a Hertzel Street anywhere around there, but there are a lot of funny little streets in that part of the neighborhood, and that area has had a lot of demolition and rezoning and housing projects and the like in the century since your grandmother was born. So there could have been a street with a name like that back then.

Google Maps shows a Herzl street in Brooklyn, but it's nowhere near the site of Ebbets Field and definitely not in an area I'd consider to be Flatbush. It's in Brownsville, way to the east beyond Eastern Parkway, miles away from anything anybody ever would have called Flatbush. That said, there are several instances of identical street names within Brooklyn -- there are two unrelated Meserole Avenues in Williamsburg, for example. So just because there is a Herzl Street in Brownsville doesn't mean there was never a Herzl Street (or Hertzel or Hertzl or Hertz or Hazel) in Flatbush.

Not for nothing, but I wouldn't go to Brownsville after dark if I were you. It's a pretty dangerous part of town, and there's really nothing to see there but desolation.
posted by Sara C. at 3:10 PM on June 1, 2012

DiFara's is not that far from Ditmas Park (it's at 1424 Avenue J), but you would be best advised to queue up early, if you have any thought of getting your mitts on a pie. It is fantastic and well worth the wait!
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 3:59 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Would you be interested in other neighborhoods in Brooklyn?

There's a huge stoop sale happening in DUMBO this weekend, which a great excuse to go wandering around the gentrified factory buildings and enjoying the Manhattan skyline view by the water. You might find something small to take back with you!

In that same vein, the Brooklyn Flea happens in Fort Greene every Saturday (on Lafayette & Greene Aves) and Sunday (inside the absolutely gorgeous Williamsburg bank). The food is amazing; definitely get either a lobster roll from Red Hook Lobster Pound or a taco from Chonco's. Fort Greene is a beautiful, vibrant neighborhood* with a nice independent bookstore, a gorgeous park, and great red velvet cake.

Prospect Heights is just across Atlantic Ave. They have a good used bookstore as well as (no joke) dozens of bars and restaurants on Vanderbilt and Washington Aves. If you're interested in checking it out and want recommendations, feel free to memail me.

*I'm biased because I live here!
posted by zoomorphic at 4:19 PM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

This recent thread may also help.

Check ohmyrockness.com for show listings. However, shows where you might have heard of the artist on Brooklynvegan or Pitchfork sell out fast.
posted by kathryn at 4:55 PM on June 1, 2012

(Getting off track here a bit, but just wanted to point out that Brownsville was indeed a heavily Jewish working/middle class area until the mid-20th century, so it is quite possible your grandma grew up there. Fully 25-30% or so of Brooklyn is something that someone might consider part of "Flatbush" (it actually was one of the original towns that were incorporated into Brooklyn shortly before Brooklyn itself became an NYC borough, but I digress from my digression) so perhaps this is a source of the confusion.

In any event, you indeed should not wander around Brownsville at night, or pretty much any time for that matter unless you have a very specific sense of adventure. Most of the neighborhood was razed and replaced with public housing developments around the 1960s and it's now one of the least aesthetically pleasing and most crime-ridden parts of New York. Unfortunately for pretty much everyone.)

On topic, there is a neat little jazzy music venue on 9th Street in Brooklyn called Barbes. It is really quite tiny but an eclectic spot and many people swear by it.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 5:52 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding Barbes for awesome quirky quintessential Brooklynishness.

Re the Brownsville vs. Flatbush-proper question: it's also possible that your grandmother lived in both parts of Brooklyn at different times and is equating them. Or that they lived in Brownsville but had close family/friends/someone near Ebbets Field and she remembers watching games from someone else's roof.
posted by Sara C. at 6:00 PM on June 1, 2012

Brooklyn Flea happens in Fort Greene every Saturday (on Lafayette & Greene Aves) and Sunday (inside the absolutely gorgeous Williamsburg bank)

On Sundays, between April and Thanksgiving, the Brooklyn Flea is outdoors on the Williamsburg Waterfront.
posted by kathryn at 12:24 AM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Barbes and Roulette both have very adventurous music programming.
posted by kalapierson at 8:36 AM on June 13, 2012

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