( E. 3RD St. photo by Austin McAllister)
This tiny, hard-to-find street is part of the Albemarle-Kenmore Terraces Historic District and is lined with brick houses in the neo-Federalist style. Although they were built in the early 20th century, they look like they were built in the time of the Revolutionary War. And looks are what really matter.
Best Block To Pretend It’s the 1950s
E. 3rd Street, between Vanderbilt Street and Greenwood Avenue, Windsor Terrace
This is the kind of block where people hang out on their porches, saying hi to their neighbors who are walking their dogs. There are multiple block parties every year in which kids run around in water arcing up from opened fired hydrants. Friends play catch or hockey in the street because there isn’t too much traffic. There’s even a woman who all the kids think is a witch, because she’s inscrutable and has an aggressive dog. Probably she is a witch. It’s a little piece of Pleasantville right in the middle of Brooklyn.
Best Block To Pretend It’s the 1970s
Evergreen Avenue, between Bleecker and Greene, Bushwick
There’s no compelling evidence here that things have really changed much at all in the past several decades. The lived-in awnings on the delis and laundromat, the vinyl-sided houses that all have the exact same design—down to the white piping and identical fences—and the low-key traffic that would lend itself to kids roaming around on banana-seated bikes.
Photo by Austin McAllister
The wild parrots of Brooklyn are something you need to see to believe. Walk down this block, which curves along the perimeter of Brooklyn College’s football field, and you’ll become a believer. Scores of bright green parrots have made Brooklyn their home since the 1970s, and while we’ll always have a soft spot for the New York pigeon, we can’t help but revel in the sight of the native-to-South-America birds swooping down from their perches in the football field’s lights.
Photo by Helena Wolfenson
Best Block for Wildlife: Campus Road
As the city’s street art community braces for the demolition of 5Pointz in Queens by the end of the summer, Brooklynite Joseph Ficalora has launched its namesake (though unaffiliated) successor, Bushwick 5 Points, which spreads outward from the intersection of Troutman, St. Nicholas and Scott, and features an ever-growing collection of murals including pieces by pop culture pundit Hanksy, sartorial street artist Nick Walker and the indefatigable Overunder.
Photo by Austin McAllister
Best Block for Street Art: Troutman Street
Yes, Smith Street. Consider your mind blown. Listen, there are plenty of streets in plenty of Brooklyn neighborhoods that are teeming with fantastic food options. But if we’re forced (at gunpoint, mind you!) to single out one teeny tiny block, well, there’s a reason this corner of Cobble Hill is considered such an indomitable dining destination. We’re throwing our support to this stretch, which boasts a rustic Italian restaurant (Lunetta), an unimpeachable sushi spot (Ki), a vegan Asian joint (Wild Ginger), and a phenomenal bakery (Bien Cuit). And you’re just a block away from a Michelin-starred local/seasonal eatery (Saul).
Photo by Austin McAllister
Foodiest Block: Smith Street
If you were just strolling east down this Brooklyn-y commercial block, you would be pleasantly surprised when you suddenly ran into Brooklyn College, which looks nothing like the block you’re on. When the CUNY school was awarded Most Beautiful College Campus in the country a few years back, many scoffed. But it’s precisely this radical juxtaposition that earned it such an accolade.
Best Block to Pretend It’s New England
Coffey Street, between Ferris and Conover streets, Red Hook
After Superstorm Sandy, news reports kept making Red Hook sound like some weird urban fishing village, which it’s not, really, except maybe on this block, with its charming brownstones and smaller homes with large front yards that set them back from the sidewalk. It also leads to Valentino Pier Park, whose eponymous pier is popular with actual fishermen.
Block Most Unlikely to Change
Sherman Place, between 11th Avenue and Terrace Place, Windsor Terrace
Lined with a mix of brick and limestone townhouses set back from the street, this block feels protected from any development. Strictly residential, it’s unlikely ever to undergo any changes other than the occasional new family moving in. But once they’re in? They stay. It’s that kind of place.
Best Urban Palimpsest
Plymouth Street, between Washington and Main streets, DUMBO
On one side are old Gairville warehouses, repurposed for start-ups and a (now out-of-business) restaurant; on the other, a mod Brooklyn Bridge Park playground. In the middle are belgian blocks cut through with decommissioned rails, driving over which you might spot an aughts-model sports car (as we did the other day).
Best Block to Pretend It’s Staten Island
Neptune Avenue, between Stillwell Avenue and W. 12th Street, Coney Island
A strip mall? In Brooklyn? We used to walk up here when the Luna Park Saloon was still open, but it’s been closed some years now. RIP.
Much as we’re weary of the mallification of Bushwick’s art scene, tenants in the go-to gallery building at 56 Bogart—from the ever-reliable non-profits Momenta Art and NURTUREart to a solid set of commercial spaces that now includes Studio 10, Robert Henry Contemporary, Slag Gallery, and Fuchs Projects—are coexisting wonderfully and collaborating on impossibly packed mass openings while maintaining curatorial independence.
Cutest Private Street
Harrison Alley, Vinegar Hill
If you’ve never wandered through the strange few blocks that constitute Vinegar Hill, you really should. Like, just around the corner from the popular Vinegar Hill House restaurant is this alley, basically a driveway, long-since (always?) fenced off by the people who live in the house at its end. (A curious sculpture surrounds their mailbox on the public side of the fence.) Yet it still has an official city street sign, adorably hanging off a crooked pole.
Most Unusual Residential Block
Park Place, between Classon and Franklin avenues, Crown Heights
What a peculiar block: why, as you get nearer to Franklin, does the street decline but not the sidewalk? Leaving an almost two-foot height differential? Necessitating fences along the curb, and the occasional short staircase for access? Is it because of the S train stop? Why is there a shuttle-train station smack dab in the middle of a residential street?
Weirdest Elevated Block
Seeley Street, between 18th Street and Prospect Park Southwest, Windsor Terrace
We were walking around the Windy T one day when we came to the spot where Prospect Avenue crosses Seeley—or rather, crosses under it. Whaaa? Now, we ain’t no engineers, but we can’t think of another spot in the borough where two otherwise perfectly ordinary streets intersect without actually intersecting.
Weirdest Residential Highway Block
17th Street, between Fourth and Fifth avenues, South Slope
You’re walking up this block and then all of a sudden you’re crossing an on-ramp to the Prospect Expressway. In the middle of a residential street? WTF? We looked at an apartment once on the north side of this street, and its back windows looked right out onto the expressway, to which it was level. For noise, pollution and privacy reasons, we passed on that place.
Photo by Austin McAllister
Between people in swimsuits who wander off the beach and locals just buying some delicious, unpronounceable meats at Brighton Bazaar, there’s always something going on here, especially in the warmer months.
Best Block with a Boat
Beard Street, between Richards and Dwight streets, Red Hook
During Sandy, a boat washed up onto the empty lot here that Joe Sitt is sitting on, waiting to develop, and it’s still behind the fence there, as if the neighborhood needed more lingering reminders of the storm.
Best Shortcut Block
Bay Ridge Place, between Bay Ridge and Ovington avenues, Bay Ridge
We always walk down this belgian-blocked side street, even when it takes us out of our way, because it’s just such a charming little side street with its squat brick housing.
Ocean Avenue, between Lincoln Road and Parkside Avenue, Prospect Lefferts Gardens
At one end of the street is the Prospect Park stop on the B/Q; at the other is the Parkside Avenue stop on the B/Q. That’s right—the corners are far enough away to have an entire subway stop between them! That’s a long fucking block!
Best Not Totally Paved Block
Mill Road, between Bay 44th Street and 27th Avenue, Bensonhurst
Once a major thoroughfare in southwestern Brooklyn (back before it was even part of Brooklyn!), this centuries-old street has been reduced in modern times to two blocks, one of which has a section in the middle covered not in asphalt but pebbles!
Just in general, Flushing is one of the borough’s most reliable thoroughfares for cyclists, but the stretch along the Brooklyn Navy Yards, starting at Washington? Pure bliss. Here, there’s an actual cement barrier separating you and your bike from oblivious drivers. It’s almost too good to be true!
Most Dangerous Block for Driving
Bushwick Avenue, between Linden Street and Gates Avenue, Bushwick
Really, this could be any stretch of Bushwick Avenue. The Daily News reported recently that only eight speeding tickets were given out last year in the entire neighborhood, and the drivers here seem to know they can get away with it. Pedestrians and cyclists are routinely injured, and the street itself is riddled with neglected potholes; the whole stretch is a nightmare.
Best Block for Almost Getting Run Over On the Sidewalk
Moore Street, between Bogart and White streets, Bushwick
Cars just fucking drive up onto the sidewalk here when Roberta’s delivery trucks cram the road.
Most Clusterfucked Traffic Block
Avenue H, between Nostrand and Flatbush avenues, Flatbush
Witness here the incomprehensible clusterfucks of human transport involving buses, bikes, feet, wheelchairs, scooters, subway entrances and exits, teems of people even in the freezing rain, and a fucking Target circumscribed with “taxis.”
Center Drive, Prospect Park
Cut through the middle of the park as darkness falls and the bats come out—particularly during autumn—and you’ll feel like you’re in a horror movie: first you pass a cemetery, which is where ghosts live, and then some of the last remaining woods in Brooklyn, which is where Jasons live. Bring a dog, or your bald courage.
Don’t expect to check out a Google street view of this Shore Road side street, because there’re no cars on this “block,” which is actually more like an English mews, an alley bordered on both sides by brick, colonial row houses with tiled roofs; in between lies a narrow lane of greenery.
Best Honest-to-Goodness Alleyway
Howard Alley, DUMBO
Watch a Hollywood movie set in NYC, and you’ll likely see at some point a character dash down an alley. But truth is this city ain’t got many alleys, at least not anymore. (It’s the one thing Chicago has on us.) But this back-passage in DUMBO looks just like the genuine article—much cooler than nearby Fleet Alley, a glorified driveway—complete with a scary door at its end we’d dare never approach, let alone pass through.
Most Obama Block
2nd Street, between Eighth Avenue and Prospect Park West, Park Slope
Our president, the cause of so much disillusionment, lived in a few apartments in Brooklyn during the 80s, including one on the top floor of a brownstone on this block off the park, where he used to jog. Given its location, we assume the block now is full of Obama-voting Democrats. We mean, that vegetarian Jonathan Safran Foer lives on this block!
Best Block for Smoking a Joint
37th Street, between Seventh and Ninth avenues, Sunset Park
On one side, a fenced-off Green-Wood Cemetery; on the other, the barbed-wire-proected Jackie Gleason bus depot. There’s no reason for anyone ever to be on this especially long block, especially at night, so you should be good.
Best Block For Getting a Drive-By Contact High While On Your Bike
Central Avenue, between Cooper and Moffat streets, Bushwick
The last few blocks of Central Avenue en route to the cemetery smell like many stoners’ collective memories of all weed odors gathered together into one small room. All summer long.
Though you’re starting to see more shops and cafes open across the neighborhood, it was only a few years ago when the entirety of the evidence of Bloomberg-era new residents, the sum of their commercial presence, could be found on this block within steps of the south exit of the B/Q station: the Latin restaurant, the kooky cafe, the bar, the organic market, and so on.
Best Block for Having Sex
Waldorf Court, Midwood
The thing about finding a good place to have outdoor sex is that you don’t want to be rude. You don’t want to be in some really obvious place where a million people could walk by. Also, you want it to be as clean as possible. And it’s not bad if there’s a fence to hang onto. That’s why this cul-de-sac is perfect. It’s a really quiet street where you’re not likely to encounter pedestrians, and it’s in a nicely maintained part of Midwood. Plus, there’s a fence at the end of the street where it dead-ends at the Q tracks. Perfect.
Most Amusing Block
Bowery Street, between Stillwell Avenue and W. 12th Street, Coney Island
Our favorite parts of the amusement district are the alleys and side streets like this one, lined with eateries and games, a carnival’s essence distilled into a single city block.
Best Block for Lame, Overpriced Bouge-Degas
Bogart Street, between Seigel and Moore streets, Bushwick
There are two lame, overpriced, bougie bodegas a few doors away from one another. If one weren’t smaller and even less friendly, you could hardly tell the difference. Walk another block or two for less faux-fancy bullshit and cheaper brews.
Broadway, between Kosciuszko Street and Kossuth Place, Bushwick/Bed-Stuy
Poor Broadway. It runs under loud, dirty train tracks, and never really seems to be the first priority for garbage collectors, street sweepers, or pretty much anybody. On this particular stretch, the smell of the local fish market really puts it over the top.
Photo by Helena Wolfenson
Move over, Ostego Street! The Arturo Toscanini School, aka PS 216, is home to New York’s first branch of the Edible Schoolyard Project. Precisely planted rows of vegetables aid the school kids in their environmental studies and allow the casual passerby to remember the days when Gravesend was mostly farmland.
Front Street, between Adams and Washington streets, DUMBO
We walk down this street to work almost every day and are greeted by olfactory goodness. First the smell of freshly made juices from Foragers, then the toasted bread from the panini grill at Al Mar, and finally the scent of bacon-y goodness from Peas & Pickles. Then, of course, you cross the street and get assaulted by the mysterious sewage smell outside of West Elm and are forced to recognize that happiness is fleeting and garbage is always around the corner. Such is life.
Best Block to Get a Sandwich and Eat it at a Bar
Fifth Avenue, between 22nd and 23rd streets, South Slope
So, your friend wants a Cuban sandwich? She can get one at Guerrero Food Center, which makes one of the area’s best. And you want a delicious vegan burrito? Try Luna on the opposite corner. And then you can both meet back at Bar 718, one of our favorites, to eat them over Sixpoints. Then pop over to Mary’s before you go home, just for good measure.
Grand Street, between Leonard Street and Manhattan Avenue, Williamsburg
No matter where you are in Williamsburg, it shouldn’t be that hard to find a good place to hunker down and get drunk. But for unwavering reliability, this stretch of Grand houses both Bushwick Country Club and Second Chance Saloon, perfect standbys to shore up on cheap whiskey before (or after) heading to one of the million other great bars in the area. For the pragmatic drinker, there’s also a wine store!
Best Block for Mansions
Shore Road, between 80th and 82nd Streets, Bay Ridge
Granted, not every house on the twisty boulevard may be a bona fide mansion, but those that aren’t walled or massive make up for it with enormous picture windows looking out over the waterfront park across the street and out into the Narrows and Staten Island beyond. With a view like that, you’re all mansions.
It’s dark, there’s a questionable deli that’s never open, and a sketchy “motel,” but the worst part is the school that has band practices at 8am! On Saturdays!
Best Block for Unexpected Porches 11th Street, between Third and Fourth avenues, Gowanus There’re certain architectural styles you expect this close to Park Slope: brownstones, yes. Apartment buildings, sure. The occasional town house, why not? Even a warehouse or something. But porches?! Walk down this Gowanus-border block, and you’ll find many row houses not with front stoops but with honest-to-goodness porches: we’re talking decks and columns and roofs and shit.
Best Non-Cliche Block for Brownstones 56th Street, between Fourth and Fifth avenues, Sunset Park Oh sure, North Slope, Fort Greene, Carroll Gardens, etc. have lots of blocks lined with beautiful brownstones. But it’s 2013—Brownstone Brooklyn is so cliche! Travel a bit farther south and you’ll still find blocks with gorgeous stone row houses, but in a neighborhood that hasn’t been totally gentrified.
Best Block for a First Apartment
82nd Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues, Bay Ridge
Consisting almost entirely of six-family houses with relatively low rents and relatively high turnover, the block boasts—at least when we lived there (in an apartment we really miss!)—a super-active stoop life that extended up onto the rooftops. On summer evenings, a guy would walk around with pet birds, people would set up dinner buffet tables by their garbage cans, others would smoke weed and drink beer and set off fireworks.
This block slightly edges out its neighbors for its diversity of housing stock (brownstones, apartment buildings, and houses—with porches!) and its bike lane. Plus, it’s between the park and the neighborhood’s major nightlife areas, and within blocks of mass transit.
Westminster Road, between Beverley and Cortelyou roads, Ditmas Park
What we wouldn’t give to live in one of those big beautiful houses on one of those long beautiful blocks in Ditmas Park. We especially like the big beautiful houses on this long beautiful block.
India Street, between Franklin Street and Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint
This is our favorite block for homes in this lovely neighborhood: there are detached houses, six-family houses, apartment buildings, and vinyl-sided homes, all mashed together beautifully in a classically Brooklyn style. There are lots of stoops, lots of aluminum awnings, plus we’re pretty sure Hannah Horvath lives around here somewhere.
13th Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues, Park Slope
This South Slope block has an interesting mix of residential buildings; is near The Park, a good school, and some of the best restaurants (Fonda! Talde!); and is far enough away from the stroller brigades of Central Slope not to make you want to kill yourself. Kind of ideal.
College Place, Brooklyn Heights
Love Lane is the one everyone knows, but it’s this side street off that side street that’s really where you’ll find some of the prettiest housing stock in Brooklyn. Get down to the end and it’s just ridiculously European—plus totally secluded, even though you’re a very short walk away from stores and subways.