The Brooklyn Heights Promenade was first a sort of mythical place to me. For years I drove from boyfriend’s home on Staten Island over the Verrazano Bridge, through Brooklyn, over the Brooklyn Bridge, up the FDR, over the Willis Avenue Bridge, I-87 home to the Bronx. Yes, sometimes this took up to 3 hours in traffic.
All that aside, something magical happened every time I came up and rounded the curve of the sunken, walled BQE. All of a sudden, to the left was the most beautiful view of the city that you could ever ask for. The skyline, at night and during the day, aglow and looming close – just across the East River. As if you could almost touch it.
I hated being the driver and now try to be the passenger whenever possible so I can look at the sights. After repeated trips (and other-way journeys), I began to realize that the highway is part of a big sandwich at that point. That made me all the more fascinated. In fact, I think I would be enthralled without the view at this point! The bottom of the sandwich is the local, one-way Furman Street. It’s flanked by the rise of the sandwich road on one side and the Piers (some empty lots to be developed, some parks already) on the other. Next comes a shelf of highway, the eastbound (which to me is southbound) BQE. On top of that, my familiar patch of westbound/northbound BQE. And finally, the glorious, pedestrian-only promenade on top.
I always knew I wanted to walk on the Promenade, to experience the view without having to watch the road and to feed my desire to see places I’ve driven from a different, often pedestrian, point of view.
One night, on impulse, a kindred spirit, his friend, and I walked to the Promenade. It was beautiful outside and residents and tourists alike did not hesitate to make best use of the park. The length of the promenade astounded me – how different that feels in a car. I loved it at night. I loved also tiptoeing through the extravagant Brooklyn Heights neighborhood at night. It was so quiet it felt like it kept rich people’s secrets and I was discovering them – a planter of bonsai trees as a railing, a cobblestone street, a carved door and bay windows. I can’t imagine the area or the promenade in daylight, in fact, night was so enchanting.
On my more recent visit, boyfriend, neighbor and I had a white-knuckled drive down and parallel park. It may have tainted the experience some, made me angrier at the burden of the car than happy with it as a tool for exploring.
It was almost the same sort of night – beautiful weather, though windy. Everyone was out. I couldn’t draw myself away from looking down at the cars and the shelves of highway.
The others took more traditional pictures, and I indulged in the view for a bit as well.
Inspired by a recent dance improvisation class exploration, I talked boyfriend into blind walking me on the promenade a bit. He held my hand and waist and guided me while I walked with eyes closed. I could tell people were looking though I couldn’t see them. I felt a strong sense of my shoes on the ground and how the air felt – windy, humid. I had wanted to capture something special by integrating movement with one of my infrastructural spaces, and didn’t quite get that satisfaction. I think it’s because when I close my eyes I can be where I am, in a slightly different version of where I am (e.g., I have no idea which way I’m facing), or, maybe most interestingly, anywhere. Perhaps part of visiting these spaces is about capturing them in my mind so I can recall how they feel to use them at will when I move – in dance class, in “making dance” (whatever that means for me right now), in dreams, in life. We shall see.