Williamsburg Bridge walk
Two immigrant neighborhoods, amazing views and iconic eats. Take that, Brooklyn Bridge.
Wed Apr 30 2008
Start: Southeast corner of Delancey and Forsyth Streets
End: Broadway at Driggs Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Time: 1.5 hours
Distance: 2.2 miles
Photographs: Dave Sanders
Kick off your stroll on Delancey and Forsyth Streets. These days, the immigrants in this neighborhood hail from Cleveland, not County Cork, but neither they nor the shiny Starbucks on the corner have managed to completely homogenize these blocks of hallowed tenements. There’s no sleep till Brooklyn, so look up at the Jesus mural on the outside of the Iglesia Adventista Delancey (126 Forsyth St at Delancey St, 212-925-5636) for divine inspiration—or at least a chuckle at Christ’s goofy grin.
You’ll want to stock up for your interborough walkabout. Head four blocks east to Ludlow and hang a left, then a right toward Economy Candy (108 Rivington St between Essex and Ludlow Sts, 212-254-1531). Where we’re going, we can’t take giant Elvis Pez dispensers ($18), but there are also portable morsels to snack on here. If you don’t like Swedish Fish ($3.50/pound), you’re probably a communist.
Laden with munchies, swing back to Delancey by way of Norfolk Street and turn east. The mouth of the Williamsburg Bridge—completed in 1903 and at that time the longest suspension bridge in the world—is that big, red-metal gateway ahead, helpfully labeled for anyone who might confuse it with the Staten Island Ferry. Hoof it uphill on the two-way bike- and footpath straight up the center.
Soon you’ll reach a fork in the path and the city of new york williams u gh bridge sign, missing a couple letters, but complete with vestigial h and a few dozen layers of graffiti. Swing right; you’ll soon be even with the subway tracks, so wave to the J train passengers on one side while you take in a great Financial District skyline vista on the other.
Don’t forget to people-watch; the W-burg is frequented by everyone from standard joggers and skateboarders to more unusual characters (we were into the lone dreadlocked biker on the decrepit front half of a tandem). At the midway point, cross to the north-side walkway to change up the view, gaining an eyeful of the crumbling landmark Domino Sugar Factory before it’s converted to overpriced luxury condos.
Strolling down toward land again, check out the vibrant graffiti decorating South 5th Street below. Then find George Washington’s statue, standing guard over a wee eponymous park (Roebling St between South 4th and 5th Sts) and an army of empty benches. A compass underfoot points to the historical army encampment Valley Forge, 90 miles away. If nature calls, find the shady (and we don’t mean because of the trees) public bathrooms off to Georgie’s left.
Go south on Havemeyer, crossing below the elevated J train. A right onto Division puts you smack in the middle of a Hasidic neighborhood. Stop in the Smilowitz Heimishe Bake Shop (167 Division Ave between Driggs Ave and Roebling St, 718-782-2955), where you’ll face the impossible choice between the delicate, culturally appropriate hamantaschen ($1 each) or a delectable chocolate croissant ($1.50).
Hang a right at Driggs Avenue, taking in the well-preserved wrought-iron and brick architecture. You’ll recognize Broadway by the aroma of porterhouse wafting from New York’s steak shrine, Peter Luger (178 Broadway at Driggs Ave, 718-387-7400). No reservations? Console yourself with a drink and live jazz next door at former stogie den Velvet (174 Broadway between Bedford and Driggs Aves; 718-302-4427, velvetbrooklyn.com). If you’ve downed too many to stumble back across the bridge, have someone point you to the Marcy Avenue J-train stop; you can be on your way home in minutes.
DID YOU KNOW?
A sign on the bridge notes that the chief engineer was Leffert Lefferts Buck. In 1898, he also built an ill-fated “honeymoon” bridge at Niagara Falls; it collapsed into the falls when a run of ice came down from Lake Erie.
Wanna try this walk?
Meet Allison at the southeast corner of Delancey and Forsyth Sts May 4, 2008 at noon.*
* If you join us for a walk, TONY is not responsible for your safety or your expenses. But if you have fun, we will take full credit for that.