Sunday, November 09, 2008

Walking Tour: Bedford-Stuyvesant

Bedford-Stuyvesant, in north central Brooklyn, is not an obvious neighborhood to get the Slavs of New York walking tour treatment. While the neighborhood may have been home to some Poles long ago, they did not leave much of a trace. This is the district that elected the first Black woman to Congress – Shirley Chisholm in 1968 – and today it is a major center of African-American life in the city.

Our tour starts at the Classon Avenue G station (this can easily be accomplished together with a visit to
Greenpoint, also serviced by the G train). Coming out of the station, walk up Classon towards Kalb Avenue, turn right onto Taaffe Place and you’ll find Sputnik (262 Taaffe Place).

The place lies slightly out of the area normally though of as Bed-Stuy, but it’s close and the burgers are highly recommended. The restaurant has a 1950s space-age theme that has as much in common with the Jetsons as it does with the Russian space program, but has a great vibe.

After a quick bite (the burgers are highly recommended!) head back down to Kalb and keep walking straight, to Nostrand. From there, two streets up is Pulaski Street, one street down is Kosciusko Street. Between Marcy and Dekalb Avenue is the
Kosciusko Street Pool, a public swimming pool.

Kazimierz Pulaski (1746-1779) was a Polish nobleman who came to the American colonies and rose to the rank of General of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Pulaski does not seem to have been active in New York, but memorials to him abound across the United States. Aside from this street, the Pulaski Bridge between Greenpoint and Long Island City is also named for him.
Pulaski Day is celebrated on the Sunday closest to 11 October with a massive parade down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

Kosciusko Street is named for
Thaddeus Kosciuszko (1746-1817), a major figure in the American – and Polish – wars of independence. Though he is not known to have spent much time in New York (he was, however, the chief engineer at West Point, and his one-time home in Philadelphia is a National Memorial), he has also given his name to the Kosciuszko Bridge, over the Newtown Creek between Brooklyn and Queens.

Kosciuszko is also the only Slav honored in the New York City subway system - the
Kosciusko Street J train station. When you’ve finished exploring the neighborhood, walk down to Lafayette Street and hop the #38 bus to catch the train!