The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Caledonian Mystery

I can't be the only one peeved that Park Avenue in Manhattan doesn't run along the park. It's two blocks away for chrisakes. Were city planners totally high, or did they just get lazy and not rename things after the park set its boundaries? I know, I know, I could probably Google my way into understanding, but I'm too lazy, and it's more fun to be outraged. It's not like there's no precedent for changing the names of streets long-known as something else. Ever heard of Avenue of the Americas? Dumb name, right? Somehow that one stuck, and even longtime New Yorkers use it sometimes - like the ones who still say IRT when referring to good ol' green and red.

This humble blogger's physical and spiritual home is here in Parkside, a fanciful land where the glorious Caledonian Hospital once thrived as benevolent castle, and where the fabled U-Deli of Parkside once bustled with lotto sales. And yes, I plan on having my ashes scattered over UMMA park like the rest of you.

One of our main streets - "Parkside Ave" - is aptly named, but of course, it doesn't predate Prospect Park itself. On the map below, purportedly from 1901, it's pretty clear that Parkside Avenue was called Franklin Avenue, which doesn't make a lot of sense, since there's already a Franklin Ave, which you could sort of imagine extending down past Empire and around along Ocean Ave and bend it 'round the corner at "the Q at Parkside" station, thus cutting the park from its parade grounds.

Fair enough then. There were two Franklin Avenues, and never the twain shall meet. And yet, I came across this nugget in the Brooklyn Eagle archives from 1902:

I'm inclined to believe this version of events. And remember, this was right around the time Brooklyn became integrated into NYC, so things were probably happening fast and furious. Oh, and thousands of new immigrants were flooding into Brooklyn every month via Ellis Island. What's a tiny name change during a time of chaos? Just another whimsical bureaucratic swipe of the pen I'd imagine.

Ft. Hamilton Avenue DOES make sense. Lots of sense. Just look at the modern map and mentally extend the current Ft. Ham, pretending Robert Moses' Prospect Expressway ain't there. The choice to extend the name Parkside Avenue all the way to Kings County Hospital? Not so much.

Ah, Parkside. Just between you and me, Parkside between Flatbush and Bedford is my favorite block in all the kingdom. Real class act, Parkside.

But it don't run along the side of no park.


sarah said...

i live on parkside between flatbush and bedford and it is an awesome block. glad you like it!

Bob Marvin said...

Just speculation, but maybe "our" Franklin Avenue was changed to Ft. Hamilton to avoid confusion after Flatbush merged with Brooklyn in 1894 and then changed, to Parkside, again a few years later.

However, I DO know that no real New Yorker refers to 6th Avenue as "Avenue of the Americas"--that name only "stuck" with tourists [And yeah, I STILL say IRT (as well as BMT and IND) when talking about Subway lines, but that's just because I'm old :-) ]

babs said...

I have never heard anyone born anywhere in or near NYC call Sixth Avenue anything but that - people calling it Avenue of the Americas must be doing so because they think you're not from here and wouldn't know better. Additionally, referring to subway lines by color rather than letter/number can be dangerous, as the MTA has been know to change the colors (most recently, re-routing the M and turning it orange) and lines of the same color go to very different places (as a recently-arrived and Manhattancentric friend of mine found out when he wound up in Carroll Gardens on the F instead of at Atlantic Ave on the B or D because he thought all the orange trains went to the same place).