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Bay Ridge history lives on Fourth Avenue

The Fourth Avenue Task Force and Community Board 10 teamed up to give a historic walking tour of Brooklyn’s “Park Avenue” on April 14.

Susan Pulaski, Bay Ridge historian and Community Board 10 member, tied the past to the present as she talked about the history of Bay Ridge and what improvements could be made to bring back its glory days.

Pulaski noted New York City “courted” Brooklyn, before it became a borough in 1898. “This was the gem, this was the sophistication of the city,” she explained to about a dozen Ridgeites, including Councilmember Vincent Gentile. “Brooklyn had the cultural concepts that we all wanted.”

Fourth Avenue is the main drag that it is now, Pulaski said, because of Senator Henry Cruse Murphy, who lived at 67th Street and Third Avenue, and after whom Senator Street is named.

“He wanted to get to his estate quickly and had pull, so they paved and grated Fourth Avenue from Atlantic Avenue to his area on 67th Street so he could get there quickly,” Pulaski explained. “That’s why Fourth Avenue is so wide.”

Bay Ridge’s Gilded Age lasted from the 1880s to World War I, Pulaski said, with “fashionable and famous” resorts and hotels going along Fourth Avenue, between 97th Street and Shore Road.

“You know how people get mad about all these hotels opening?” asked Carlo Scissura, the borough president’s senior advisor, who was on the tour. “They forget that Brooklyn was a resort town 100 years ago.”

When the subway was built in 1912, it was a bit of a controversy. “People thought that this was out in the sticks,” Pulaski said. “They didn’t understand why people needed to go all the way down to 86th Street.”

The tour ended with some discussion of how the avenue could be improved today. The block between 84th and 85th Streets could use more trees, and planters are needed in front of the Seven Eleven, as well as in front of the new elementary school on 89th Street, tour-goers suggested.

Community Board 10 member Jean Ryan, who uses a motorized wheelchair, talked about the need for more curb cuts. “Not all the corners here have curb cuts and those that do, they don’t come up all the way,” she said, noting that there are no cuts near St. Anselm’s and the 77th Street train station. “I like Fourth Avenue because there are not a lot of people, but it’s so bumpy.”

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