2.01.2012

Navigating Fort Greene: Between BAM and the Barclays Center

(updated 2015) En route to a performance at the either of the main venues of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the BAM Harvey or the Peter Jay Sharp Building, especially near the train stations that service the Brooklyn neighborhood of Fort Greene, it is possible to observe many visitors from other boroughs looking tentatively around in every direction to get their geographical bearings, as if they were lost. I would wager that they are lost.

Where Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall are served by immediately adjacent subway stops, making it possible to see these venues right away after climbing stairs to the street, the BAMs are visually obscured and thus take some time figuring out. I would also wager that more than a handful of performing arts patrons fail to make curtain time because of the wily geographical charms of this neighborhood.

From a Walk in Fort Greene
Walking in the Brooklyn neighborhood, Fort Greene.
Intersection of Fulton and South Oxford Street.

Let's solve this confusion by exploring Fort Greene on foot, because the more we walk an area the more we get to know it. Residential streets with London-sounding names – Oxford, Cumberland, Waverly, Portland, etc. – run in pleasant parallels with Fort Greene Park. To the south, Lafayette Avenue serves as an important cultural and retail thoroughfare, beginning on the west at Flatbush Avenue and ending on the east at Broadway in Bushwick. Fulton Street zips in a southeastward diagonal through Fort Greene, intersecting with Lafayette to create two unequal obtuse triangles on the east and west. Two small parks – BAM Park and Fowler Park – are nestled within these two bigger geographical triangles. This meeting place feels like a natural neighborhood center and a good place to start a walk.




View Walking Fort Greene: Between BAM and the Barclays Center in a larger map

From a Walk in Fort Greene
Fowler Park with statue of Edward Fowler, a Brooklyn resident and brigadier general
during the American Civil War. Fowler commanded the 14th regiment, stationed in Fort Greene Park.


Fort Greene has a reputation for being a friendly, diverse, and comfortable place, home not just to BAM but to many other arts organizations as well. It has a vibrant literary heritage, a soaring landmark (the former Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower), handsome brownstones, churches of architectural interest, and a large park with a fascinating monument and exceptional views.

From a Walk in Fort Greene
Lafayette Avenue lives up to its French name in this stretch. 

From a Walk in Fort Greene
Originally Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower, 1 Hanson Place, now luxury apartments.


From a Walk in Fort Greene
Mo's Bar and Lounge at 80 Lafayette.
Welcoming and fun, in the coolest way. 

A long bucolic walk in Fort Greene, however, ends at its southern boundary. Here, inescapably, on Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues, rises the Barclays Center, a major venue for sports and concerts. The center technically falls within Prospect Heights, the neighborhood on the south side of Atlantic Avenue. London-based Barclays purchased the naming rights of the arena in January 2007.

For worthy outdoor streetscapes, walk north on South Portland Avenue to Fort Greene Park. The street is lined with handsome uniform brownstones in the Italianate manner. For the big picture, walk up the path in Fort Greene Park to see the Prison Ship Martrys' Monument. The tall Doric column was constructed in the years 1906-1909 to honor the 11,500 American souls who died in British prison ships anchored nearby during the American Revolutionary War. Fort Greene is named for Nathanael Greene, the Continental Army major general who directed the construction of an earlier fort, Fort Putnam, built on this site.

From a Walk in Fort Greene
Along South Portland Avenue in Fort Greene.

From a Walk in Fort Greene
Prison Ship Martyrs Monument, 1906-1909. Stanford White of McKim, Mead & White, architects.

From a Walk in Fort Greene
View from the monument looking northeast.
1WTC, under construction, is in the distance.

Enjoy these lofty views. From up here, the downtowns of Brooklyn and Manhattan are hard to discern as separate entities. It's all one big city.

For further reading:

New York Parks website for the statue of Edward Fowler.

New York Parks website for the Prison Ship Martrys' Monument.

"Memorials and the Forgotten" by Elizabeth Giddens in The New York Times of September 2, 2011 contemplates the meaning of the Fort Greene monument in light of September 11 memorials.

• Website for the Barclays Center.

• Website for Brooklyn Flea.

• Website for BAM.

Oh, yea. One more thing. Finding the two BAMs is easy. The BAM Harvey Theater is at 651 Fulton Street and looks like this:

From a Walk in Fort Greene

And BAM (Peter Jay Sharp Theater) is to the south of BAM Harvey at 30 Lafayette and looks like this:

From a Walk in Fort Greene

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from January 2012.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks, this is on my list for warmer weather...enjoy your Blogs.. thombadley