On the first of May, 2018, I flew out to Brooklyn from Colorado where I live to visit my brother. In February my brother had a baby and I had to go see him!
I ventured into my childhood home, the concrete jungle of Clinton Hill, between Pratt Institute and the Fort Greene neighborhoods.
When I arrived at his apartment building I admired the blue and white tile picture of fish and boats, a reminder of how the buildings used to house the people who worked down at the Navy Yard, a couple of blocks away on the Hudson river. Now, the residences are all “co-op” developments.
My brother purchased this home a couple of years ago, which is just one block away from where we grew up during our childhood. Clinton Hill is now much different than when my brother and I grew up there long ago.
Myrtle Ave, which will take you down to Fort Greene park if you travel west, has many coffee shops, yoga studios, restaurants and bars that weren’t there when growing up there in the 1970s and 80s.
The four of us; my brother, his wife, my nephew and I all walked around Clinton Hill in the evening. The sidewalk bustled with people walking dogs or sitting in front of their brownstones enjoying spring. We got pizza and gelato at a local spot called Aita Pizzeria. Then walked by Underwood Park where the concrete sprinklers showered children one this 90 degree day.
I arrived at EWR or Newark Liberty International Airport, www.newarkairport.com, in New Jersey and they have an “Airtrain” that will take you to the NJ rail transit train station, which will take you straight into Penn Station, New York. Don’t make the same mistake I did and get out at “Newark” Penn Station. Make sure you exit at New York Penn! It costs $12.50 and takes 30–45 minutes to ride into the city.
The best way to get around
If you need a car rental you can pick one up your at Newark Airport, but honestly the best way to get around in the city is to use Juno, www.gojuno.com, a NYC ride share like Uber or Lyft.
The drivers undercut each other competing for our ride fare, so we got around on the cheap! My brother just put his credit card information into the app we’d get a message like “we’re only six minutes away” as an alert. He would tip the driver after from his phone.
The only problem we had with Juno was when we were out in Red Hook, Brooklyn. There are no subways there and a driver “dropped” us, so my brother had to flag another driver on his app to pick us up.
The drivers can be quiet and this was welcome one night when I needed to hit the hay at my hotel. He sat up front with two phone devices attached to their dashboard for GPS and phone.
On the website it states, “Juno treats drivers better, drivers treat you better” and you can currently get “30% off all rides in New York for a limited time.”
The best hotel to stay in
Thank God I read the reviews first because I kept seeing comments about dirty, infested NYC hotel rooms online when I was researching my trip back in Colorado.
I asked my brother where I should stay and he suggested Holiday Inn Express at 300 Hoyt-Schimmerhorn in Brooklyn.
Getting to the hotel was easy. You can walk from Penn Station, underground, and then take the downtown C train into Brooklyn getting off at the Hoyt-Schermerhorn stop.
You need to buy a MTA “MetroCard,” the subway fare costs $2.75 each time. The actual MetroCard itself costs an extra dollar, though.
The Holiday Inn Express is a new high rise hotel near The Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower. It was easy to see the “clock tower” landmark when I exited the subway and looked up.
Mega construction was happening everywhere in Brooklyn. It looked like it was all high rise luxury apartments being built.
It was 90 degrees the day I checked in, so the air conditioning in my room was nice. Also there was a view of Manhattan across the river, which was great at night. No bathtub, just a shower, but I didn’t mind.
The best places to eat
My brother took me to Red Hook, Brooklyn because a chef friend of his suggested Hometown BBQ and you should always trust a chef’s advice.
The restaurant was a walk-up service with “first-come, first-served” and European seating. A long line wrapped around the room, which I thought was a good sign. Many people bought and drank a Brooklyn Brewery Lager for $7 while waiting. A menu on the wall advertised BBQ sandwiches, but we got the beef rib, a huge rib we shared. The spicy sauce was caramelized and my brother described our eating experience as “intense.” I liked their Sticky Sweet” BBQ sauce. Lots of customers ordered the Korean spare ribs with scallions and ginger.
We walked off our meal after down by the river on the pier. We took pictures of the Statue of Liberty from there and watched the IKEA ferry motor by, a boat “taxi” that brings Manahattan-ites across the water to a giant IKEA store in Red Hook.
My parents used to shop at Sahadhi’s when we were kids, a Middle Eastern Grocery store that has stood on Atlantic Avenue since 1948 and I was lucky enough to get a chance to visit there again during my trip. I bought a zaatar and cheese; a sesame seed bread/pastry item and also got a Halvah Bar; nut butter and tahini in a sugary candy form. A wonderful place to get authentic Mediterranean food.
Beastie Boy Park
My brother and I visited a small park in Brooklyn Heights called Adam Yauch Park named after MCA form the Beastie Boys. Apparently he grew up playing in this playground, according to the website, and learned to ride a bike here, which is interesting because I’m sure my brother and I did, too. We played in many area parks in Brooklyn in our childhood and very well could’ve rode a bike in this same neighborhood at one point.
The park was not much to look at really. If you go to Pierrepont Playground a couple blocks at the Promenade you’ll find that one much more fun for the kiddos.
I had to hit China Town. I just missed it because I hadn’t been in so long.
My brother accompanied me and I got a chance to walk through.
I observed a group of young men sitting up on a fire escape drinking beer and observing us pedestrians down below. They could’ve been aspiring Broadway actors living there, you know what I mean?
It sent my imagination soaring because I’ve been thinking about writing a novel that includes use of fire escapes. I studied fire escapes throughout my time in the city and realized how a fire escape ladder works.
It can become easily unlatched to be released, so you can climb down to the sidewalk.
We had a great meal at a restaurant called New Shanghai Deluxe, Inc. It hit the spot.
Pier in Brooklyn Heights
Where to stay
Holiday Inn Express, 300 Schermerhorn St, Brooklyn, NY 11217, (718) 624–2211, 1–800–315–2621, www.ihg.com. Kids 18 and under stay free in their parents’ room. Ages 11 and under eat free at on-site restaurants (up to four kids). Doubles begin at $270.63
EVEN Hotels, 46 Nevins St, Brooklyn, New York. 11217, 1–877–666–3243, Front Desk 1–718–552–3800, www.evenhotels.com. It advertises a business center, a health center and pets are allowed. Doubles begin at $184
The Leon Hotel, 125 Canal St, New York, NY 10002, (212) 390–8833, www.leonhotelnyc.com. This hotel sits at the base of the Manhattan Bridge and makes for easy access into Brooklyn. Doubles begin at $125.
Where to eat
Hometown Bar-B-Que, Red Hook, Brooklyn, 454 Van Brunt St, (347) 294–4644, http://hometownbarbque.com. Specializing in “pit-smoked meats” smoked on oak wood. Entrees run about $12 to $30.
Sahadhi’s, 187 Atlantic Ave, (718) 624–4550, https://sahadis.com. Since 1948 this Middle Eastern grocery has been supplying Brooklynites with bulk foods and middle eastern specialties. Prepared food runs from .50 cents and up.
Aita Pizzeria, 373 Waverly Ave, 718–789–1520, www.orderaitapizzeria.com. Get pizza garlic knots and gelato here. Entrees run about $15 to $23.
The Pennsy Food Hall, 2 Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, NY, (917) 475–1830, www.thepennsy.nyc. Enjoy the “Shiny Silver Mirror Drop” sculpture and the bleacher styled outside seating at this food court near Penn Station. Entrees run about $12 and up.
To learn more
Greater New York Chamber of Commerce, 20 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036; (212) 686–7220, www.chamber.nyc.
Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, 335 Adams Street, Suite 2700, Brooklyn, NY 11201; (718) 875–1000, www.ibrooklyn.com.
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