Olde Breukelenites reminisce

There was a lot to celebrate on Sunday, April 14 for residents of Bay Ridge. Or should we say Yellow Hook, as the area was once known?

Curious residents gathered at Bay Ridge Jewish Center to see a slideshow and hear Borough Historian Ron Schweiger talk about the history of Brooklyn. There were old-time sodas, authentic egg creams, knishes and more to be eaten and popular toys and games from the 20th Century on display and for purchase.

Schweiger provided the event’s coordinators, Lynne Grant and Barbara Gershuny, with pictures for the tables and books for attendees to read through, highlighting everything from why sidewalks in Flatbush shift a few inches towards the street in some areas to why Bay Ridge was once known as Yellow Hook.

According to Grant, the history of the borough is very important to Brooklynites. “There are a lot of people with fond memories of growing up here,” she explained. “Brooklynites are very loyal to our borough and we love to reminisce, no matter what neighborhood we’re from.”

Attendee Diane Nicosia said, “I’m interested in Brooklyn’s history and I’m a Bay Ridge resident. I’d like to go to more things like this, I’m glad they organized it!”

The event, which was two years in the making, attracted a large crowd. Schweiger brought about 75 of his 3,000 slides of pictures of Old Brooklyn to show the audience. As he flipped through them, he shared tidbits about a variety of topics including the proposed subway tunnel from Brooklyn to Staten Island and how Bay Ridge was once a summer resort for the wealthy.

“It’s important to know our history so we can preserve it,” Schweiger said. “I do walking tours all around Brooklyn and people are always surprised about the things they don’t even know about their own neighborhood!”

Tommy Holiday, a Ridgeite whose family has lived on the same block since the 1890s, takes his neighborhood’s history very seriously. “I’m born and raised in this neighborhood; I want to know all about it,” he explained. “I come to these things as often as I can.”

The event was a success, with everyone in attendance enjoying their trip down Memory Lane.

“Brooklyn has such a fabulous history,” said Candi Friedman, a self-described “stalwart helper” at the event. “With such an influx of new people coming in all the time and even with people who already live here and take it for granted, we need to be sure our history keeps on living!”

And for those of you who couldn’t make it to the event, Bay Ridge was known as Yellow Hook because of the unique yellow sand along its shore. The name was changed, however, when an outbreak of Yellow Fever caused the overly cautious to shy away from the neighborhood in fear of catching the disease.

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