I was biking to south Brooklyn last weekend and decided to take a random path through Crown Heights, a neighborhood I haven’t really explored much of. On my way, I noticed a back alley on Brooklyn Ave between Union & President and hopped off my bike to take a look.
Filmmakers constantly come to Manhattan expecting to find it riddled with dank, seedy (ahemclichedahem) alleys, unaware of how unlikely this is when one considers what a single square foot of space on the island goes for these days. There are really only four or five decent alleys, and I’m always on the lookout for interesting alternatives in the boroughs.
What surprised me about the entrance to this back alley, however, was that there was no street sign. Unpaved, with piles of bricks to fill in the deeper holes, the alley felt as if time had forgotten it. It was also eerily quiet for what I’m used to in Brooklyn.
I noticed this stone in the alley, which was once probably positioned on Brooklyn Ave.
Several gardens abutted the road, and I was surprised at how much green there was overall – trees, bushes, vines, and plants seemed to be flourishing, another unusual find in Brooklyn.
Neat old car in decent condition parked off the street:
When I got to the end, I still couldn’t find a street sign. Something was wrong. Not only does EVERYTHING in New York City have a name, places often have several names – streets are overlapped with “ways,” which are in turn overlapped with plazas and squares…
The idea that something would remain nameless in New York City seemed unlikely, and I was going to chalk it up to a stolen sign…That is, until I noticed another unnamed back-alley across the street:
This one was paved and less green, but still interesting nonetheless (a local told me he had paid to have it repaved recently). I really liked these old wooden barn doors with big iron hinges on the back of a garage (I stupidly cut the awesome iron work above the door out of my photo):
This back entrance to an apartment had a really neat design in silver and black:
Yet again, I got to the other side, and still no street name.
As I continued on, I noticed more and more nameless alleys:
This one was greener, and seemed to only be a footpath:
This alley dead-ended a shortways up into the side of an apartment building:
Later, when I got home, I realized that I had only seen a fraction of Crown Heights unnamed streets – they’re everywhere! Alleys, dead-ends, back-ways, multi-block streets…
Some even take very unusual paths:
I’m totally fascinated by the streets – each seems quiet and forgotten, and distinctly unlike what I’m used to finding in Brooklyn. Does anyone know more about their history? I’m curious if the back-alley system originated with Brooklyn’s map-gridding, or if it dates back to an earlier time. A guy in his backyard told me they are private ways, which explains why none of them show up on Google Maps’ Street View. I’m looking forward to heading back in the future to take a more thorough tour.
Finally, if no one else is calling ‘em, I proclaim the one on Brooklyn Ave btw. Union & President be known as “Scout’s Way”! (Or, if we’re feeling particularly obscure, “Scout’s Snickelway“).