I’m on a manhunt. Searching, hiding, being as stealthy as I can. It all begins on the dark, desolate block. The summer night breeze whipping through your hair. The night air is still not a cloud in the sky. But do not let the still of the night fool you. The block is truly crowed with us kids playing our favorite game. Manhunt is our extreme form of tag in the dark. We capture you and you become part of team hunting for the next man. All games aside NYC has been my life. I have grown up in the Big Apple as they call it or aka the city that never sleeps. But it in particular there is one place in NYC that it has really started out for me. It starts here on this block. It starts at the library where there is not book that cannot be found. It starts at Seaview Park where bicycles, runners and little kids are seen along the trail exploring the area of the park. It all starts in an area of Brooklyn we call Canarsie.
When you say Canarsie to people outside of Brooklyn they cannot figure out what this bizarre place is. Of course everyone has heard of Flatbush, Downtown Brooklyn, Brownsville and Bedford Stuyvesant. Colston Whitehead would say “The city also puts a lot of effort into making your hometown look really drab and tiny.” (3) This comes from the chapter “City Limits” in his book, The Colossus of New York where he breaks down and describes NYC in the most vivid way. NYC is known for the Empire State building, Times Square and Central Park. I feel for you to really understand NYC you have to get out to the surrounding neighborhoods and boroughs. Canarsie is one of these neighborhoods. The accessibility around this neighborhood is one of its main qualities. The bus, the subway, the highway are all in the area creating multiple options of travel. The ease of going to your favorite mall or to work creates so many routes for you to go. Whenever I want to go out to Green Acres Mall in Long Island I just hop on the Belt Parkway and let it take me there. Canarsie is defined by our sense of a community. We are residential and commercial together. We stand together as a community with block associations found all over. Canarsie has a highlight of places to eat, with frequent crazy people, sites of fun and nature beyond what you can imagine. You could walk down street pass Golden Krust and have that overwhelming smell of rice and peas with oxtails being cooked in the pot to being taken surpised by that one crazy nut on the street. Oh how I love it. But the true heart of Canarsie lies within two places where nature takes over your senses and mind.
To the side of the Belt Parkway is where Canarsie Pier can be found. Part of Gateway National Recreation Area, Canarsie Pier has been the hot spot for fishing community for years. The scenery around the pier is beautiful. Fresh cut green grass, seagulls, mini-playgrounds and the overlook of Jamaica Bay all provide for a great view. The pier provides the ideal spot for picnicking and outdoor recreation. It is the place to be on a hot summer day. I cannot even begin to count the amount of times I have been there to cool off. These are the true thing that tourists miss. They come to see big, old Manhattan with its skyscrapers but they miss out on the real attractions. They feel my hometown is “really tiny and drab” but it truly has a burst of energy. The humming of the Belt in the background might provide for a distraction but the scene just draws you in creating new memories and making you reminisce past ones.
Around the pier we can see many people fishing and enjoying their regular activities. Frequent barbecues can be seen and smelled at a distance. The smell of the food makes you want to ask that stranger “may I have some please?” The parking lot in the center of the pier provides a spot for people to unload the entire luggage they bring with them. Out pop a cooler, chairs, footballs, Frisbees, tables, kids, parents, and grills. I take this all in as if clowns are coming out of a small car one by one. You get the other people who take a walk all the way to pier with their family. The culture of people that Canarsie Pier attracts has always made feel a part of it. It shows how culture can be spread to any environment. Walking along NYC streets we always see someone different in culture. People are dressed in all different types of ways. The young and the old are out doing their daily duties. I can take all of this in at the pier itself too. It is such a great place for cultures to interact and learn about each other. It just infuses part of NYC into it. The pier is really the center of attention to Canarsie and makes this community even more special. Most people might feel that is all Canarise might have to offer.
But actually Canarise also gives us our own massive park. Seaview Park is not far from Canarsie Pier. Seaview Park provides even more activities than the Pier can provide. On a normal day you can see many people along the trail walking, riding bikes, skateboarding or roller skating. The playground is located in the front of the park. Kids can be seen on the swings, parents behind them pushing them. Babies are crawling over by the little baby playground looking for their own adventure. Kids slide down the metal slide, holding their butts as they come off because the slide has given them a punishment from the sun. So many people are running along the trail. Colston Whitehead would say “Is something chasing them. Yes, something different is chasing each of them and gaining slowly.”(42) I know when I run in the park I always picked up speed whenever a bike passes me. I wanted to gain enough speed to catch up to the bike. There are so many trails in the park. Each one has its own adventure mapped out for you.
I see so many different people in the park. Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. Everyone has their own obligation or task to enjoy themselves. Kids ride up the sand dunes with their bikes with the occasional kid falling off only to come up covered in sand. Sounds of dogs barking can be heard all over. The usual pickup soccer game is played in the park with garbage cans used as the goal posts. The basketball courts are filled with kids hoping to get their chance to shine with the big boys on the court. The grass provides the soft resting spot for picnics and couples. The park benches provide a resting spot for the tired and sitting spot for those who just want to take in the view. I become one of those people several times. The athletes train, others take a cool walk. For me the only thing “chasing them” is the motivation to continue on. All of this makes me think of Central Park. Seaview Park is like our own little Central Park. Maybe we do not have the fancy horse carriages, street lights or even the area of the park but Seaview Park still brings a community together which I think is the most important thing. This is Canarsie’s central park. This is our park, this is Canarsie’s park.
Transportation could not be better in Canarsie. There are an assortment of buses and one train that runs in Canarsie. The B42, B82, B6, B60, B17, B103, BM2 and L train all run in Canarsie. They provide a connection to the rest of NYC. The last stop on the L train is Rockaway Parkway in Canarsie. The subway station is open meaning weather can have an effect on what goes. I always used to take the L train. The L train provided good memories as I would take it to Broadway Junction and get off seeing all the hood rats hanging out. Until the B103 came in a few years ago this was always my main transportation to get into the city. The L train as of now is a distant memory. It’s a train that I really do not take anymore. I feel like we have grown apart like a couple might break up. I found an easier route for me back in the summer of 2009 when the B103 was really around. It connected me to Flatbush junction where I could take the 2 or 5 train to school or downtown. I remember being on the L and how it would get stuck in rush hour. I would just wait for that sudden jolt signaling the trait was moving but it would not could. I felt just like how Elaine felt in Seinfeld. She was going crazy in her head as the train was stuck and keeping her from attending her friend’s wedding. That feeling is one that I always remember on the L train. It carried over to the 2 and 5 trains also but I really felt it more while on the L train. I felt kind of bad not taking the L anymore because it was like it was Canarsie’s train and I was abandoning it.
For me Canarsie is just like Emma Wisniewski says “With every glance, a new space pulses a trigger in my memory, lapping and overlapping at the shoreline of my past.” (128) Emma Wisniewski in her essay “Mapping” described Five Pointz and LIC and how they were “hybrid” to her. Canarsie is where I grew up and developed my livelihood. It is where I developed countless friendships. It is where I developed into a young man with goals and dreams ahead of him. It is where things all started for me. It is where I played ball at my neighborhood park. It is where I connect to the Belt Parkway to go away on vacation. I am just all over the place in Canarsie. I find myself at the corner store, a friend’s house, the park, the library, Burger King, McDonalds, the senior home and so many more. I find the outside of every place has its own smell or aroma to it. The corner store has the weird mixed smells of cigarettes, deli sandwiches and people. It’s just the weirdest mix to hit your nose. You get the feel for it eventually because in a strange way it warms you to know that this is your deli. The park brings along the smell of nature fresh flowers, grass, trees and animals. However, the pollen that rains upon you causes several sneezes and coughs that feels like you blew out your insides. Achoooo!! See what I mean.
But the feeling and vibe you get from being in Canarsie is too great to care about allergies. The people you see around can be friendly to be around. People stick up for each other in Canarsie as best as they can. People seem motivated in Canarsie and willing to help each other. Something is “chasing” us out here and it’s our dreams that are. Now do not get me wrong, it is not like Carnarsie has the nicest people but people are generally friendly to be around. I have seen how my neighbor has grown and changed. When I look at a new place being built it “triggers my memory” of what used be in that spot. Times are changing around us but the memories that we have will always be with us. The memory of my first bike ride will be on my block. I could hear my dad cheering me on as ride down the block with no assistance. It is moments like these that you remember. Moments that “overlap my past” and bring with them new fantastic memories.
Canarsie represents just another one of those unique neighborhoods that most people might not know about. But we are here representing one of the five boroughs: Brooklyn (the best one if I may add). If tourists want to see the true NYC they need to come out to the other neighborhoods. Do not go for the same old cliché Empire State Building or Central Park. Come out and experience what the other boroughs have to offer. Go out to the Bronx Zoo, take a trip on the Staten Island Ferry, go to Citi Field in Queens or go to Coney Island in Brooklyn. Feel the rush that these places give you, the sights, the sounds and even the smells. Hear the animals at the Bronx zoo as the make noises that make you feel like if you are in a safari. Smell the fresh hot dogs as you go back to your seats at Citi field taking in the amazing view. This city seriously never sleeps with the amount things we could do. I would never want to grow up anywhere else. As I see my hometown grow and evolve I know my heart will always be one with it because Canarsie has my heart in its arms.
Wisniewski, Emma “Mapping” “NYU”
http://www.nyu.edu/cas/ewp/wisniewskimapping09.pdf N.p, n.d. Web 30 July, 2013
Whitehead, Colston “The Colossus of New York”
https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B49hFIS8s6WjaGZBRndXczNjSVU/edit?pli=1 N.p, n.d. Web 30 July, 2013