Cherry Blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

The cherry blossoms are in bloom at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden! As you might recall from our previous post about the BBG, entry is free on Tuesdays and Saturdays before noon. Sadly, the garden closes at 6 PM on weeknights, making an evening trip difficult — but it opens at 8 AM, so a morning sojourn (assuming you live nearby, as I do) is not impossible. Nor is it crowded.


I arrived at about 8:05, and was among the first visitors, but not the first. The sky was threatening rain, which may have dampened (get it?) interest, but about a half-dozen people were already scoping out photo-ops on the Cherry Esplanade. Thankfully, the rain held off until I’d continued on my commute.


It wasn’t just the cherry blossoms; other flowers were blooming all over the garden, like these tulips.


This weekend is the Sakura Matsuri! That means no free Saturday entry, but lots of activities beyond the usual. Since the cherry blossom festival is scheduled far in advance, it’s pure luck when it happens to coincide with peak blossom — as it will this year.


Location: 990 Washington Avenue (stretches east-west from Flatbush Avenue to Washington Avenue and north-south from Eastern Parkway to Empire Boulevard).
Nearest Subway: Eastern Parkway entrance: 2/3 at Grand Army Plaza or Eastern Parkway/Brooklyn Museum, or B/Q at 7 Avenue; Washington Avenue entrance: 2/3 at Eastern Parkway/Brooklyn Museum or Franklin Avenue, or S at Botanic Garden; Flatbush Avenue entrance: B/Q at Prospect Park.
Estimated Timespan: 2-3 hours
Cost: $12 Adults; $6 Seniors and Students; free Saturday before noon and Tuesday all day.



Roscoe Conkling & Herman Melville

It’s easy to forget how many notable people spent part of their lives in New York City. Sure, we New Yorkers think our city is the center of the universe, but we forget how many others through the ages have been of the same opinion. This blog hasn’t been around that long, and we’ve already written about Alexander Hamilton’s grave, Edgar Allan Poe’s house, Dylan Thomas’s favorite bar, and a restaurant George Washington visited. Recently, near Madison Square Park, I stumbled across the stories of two other notable New Yorkers (okay, one probably has a more recognizable name than the other).


In the southeast corner of the park itself is a statue of Roscoe Conkling, New York congressman and mayor of Utica. Conkling was caught in a blizzard in Union Square while walking north towards 25th Street, and died a month later; his friends had wanted to erect a statue of him in that park, but:

Park officials believed Conkling not of a stature to warrant placement of this work alongside existing sculptures in the park of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and the Marquis de Lafayette.

So the statue found its home in Madison Square Park instead.


A few blocks away, at 104 E 26th Street, a plaque marks the location of Herman Melville’s New York residence. Melville lived there from 1863 to the end of his life; he’s buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.

Conkling died just 3 years before Melville — while Melville was living in his house on E 26th Street. It’s funny to think that they might well have passed each other on the street, or concurrently milled in Madison Square Park. Now both have memorials only a few blocks apart.


Location: Roscoe Conkling: southeast corner of Madison Square Park, Madison Avenue and E 23rd Street; Herman Melville: 104 E 26th Street, between Park Avenue S and Lexington Avenue
Nearest Public Transit: 6 at 23 St or 28 St; R/W at 23 St; F/M at 23 St
Cost: Free
Website (Madison Square Park)

Old Stone House

Park Slope’s Old Stone House is an oddity. It’s neither the original house nor located on the original site, though it’s near the original site and the reconstruction used some original materials. The original was important to the Battle of Brooklyn, also known as the Battle of Long Island, of the Revolutionary War. The reconstruction seems to serve as little more than background to the families who bring their children to the playground that serves as its front lawn.


I had a somewhat disappointing visit, too, because the house was closed for a private event. The perils of visiting off-the-beaten-path historic sites! Neither the website nor their limited social media indicated the closing and I didn’t call in advance. (In contrast to my visit to Poe Park, where showing up on a day when the house was closed was entirely my fault.)

I was able to take a turn in the garden associated with the house, but without any signs or labels, it wasn’t very enlightening.


Park Slope may be easy to get to, but the rewards were greater when I schlepped out to the Wyckoff House.


Nearest Public Transit:
Cost: Park is free; I couldn’t find any information about the house!

Msgr. McGolrick Park

Last month’s strangely warm weather was perfect for park outings — even accidental ones. My boyfriend and I were out for an afternoon ramble when we stumbled across Monsignor McGolrick Park, which neither of us had previously known existed.


Prominent in the park are two memorial statues. The angel in front of the flag is dedicated “to the living and the dead heroes of Greenpoint who fought in the World War.” (The First, one presumes; the park was opened in 1891.)


The other was erected “to commemorate the Battle of the Monitor and Merrimac,” also known as the Battle of Hampton Roads, in the Civil War, “and in memory of the men of the Monitor and its designer John Ericsson.” The Monitor, I learned later, was built in Brooklyn.

The “Msgr.” of the name stands for Monsignor; Monsignor McGolrick was the pastor of a local church in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

At the center of the park is the large Shelter Pavilion, a designated New York City Landmark, pictured at the top.

Researching Msgr. McGolrick Park led me to NYC Parks’ Historical Signs Program. The site says:

New York City has more than 1,700 parks, playgrounds and recreational facilities. Unfortunately, few New Yorkers know whom they are named after or why. To help teach New Yorkers about their local parks and playgrounds and provide a sense of community, we created the Historical Signs Program.

True enough! I missed the sign that would have told me about Monsignor McGolrick, but I’ll know to keep an eye out for them in the future. 1,700 parks — I’ve still got a ways to go.


– Ellen

Location: Between Driggs Ave and Nassau Ave; between Russell St and Monitor St; Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Nearest Public Transit: G at Nassau Av
Cost: Free

East River State Park

The irony of the Manhattan skyline is that you can’t see it when you’re in Manhattan: you have to be in New Jersey, Brooklyn, or Queens. It’s a striking view that many short-term visitors to the city don’t get.

On the Brooklyn side, one of your options for a prime skyline view is East River State Park, in northern Williamsburg. It bumps up against the slightly more northerly and deceptively-named Bushwick Inlet Park, which includes an athletic facility; by contrast, East River State Park is an empty expanse of lawn dotted with picnic tables and playground equipment… unless you’re there in the summer, in which case it’s home to the bustling food truck market Smorgasburg.

Continue reading “East River State Park”

Canarsie Pier

This weekend, a friend with a car and I were planning to cruise around Brooklyn and hit a few of the destinations on my to-visit list that are difficult and/or time consuming to get to via public transportation. The forecast dissuaded us, however, and indeed as I look out the window over my laptop screen I can see pretty heavy snow falling.

So instead I got up early, procured a to-go tea, and set out on foot, hoping to complete a 10-mile loop before any precipitation showed up (I succeeded). The destination I picked: Canarsie Pier, on the shore of Jamaica Bay.

Continue reading “Canarsie Pier”

Poe Park

This will be a short post, and a lesson in doing your research in advance.

Edgar Allan Poe lived the last years of his life in a cottage in Fordham, New York — now a neighborhood of the Bronx. Though Poe himself in fact died in Baltimore, the cottage was still his primary home at that time, and his wife Virginia did die in the Fordham cottage. It was subsequently moved and the land around it became Poe Park.

I got out of work early on a Friday afternoon and thought I’d pop up to the Bronx to check it out. However, I didn’t think to check the house’s hours… which go only until 3 PM on Thursday and Friday. Oops!

I did take a quick stroll around the park, and was able to take a photo of the house (above) from afar. But I can’t quite check this one off my to-visit list yet.



Location: Poe Park: Grand Concourse between E 92nd St and E Kingsbridge Rd (the Cottage is at the north end)
Nearest Public Transit: B/D at Kingsbridge Rd; 4 at Kingsbridge Rd
Cost: Free entrance to the park; the Cottage is $5 for adults, $3 for students, seniors, and children