Save the Boathouse! The most romantic spot in Prospect Park, the boathouse has been closed for renovations for two years, after pieces of terra-cotta facade (poorly restored in the late eighties) began falling off, giving the white walls a pockmarked appearance. But squint a little: without the chain-link fence, without the thick layer of pond scum, this Palladian boathouse, like the one on 110th Street, could become a prime spot for weddings, dances, even a revenue-producing café. We can’t imagine why some recently engaged young socialite has not made it her charitable cause du jour. She’d look fabulous posed, in flowing white, on the graceful front steps.
Every Korean deli sells flowers, but the Garfield Apple Tree Market (Seventh Avenue and Garfield Place; 718-768-4691) seems to have made flowers its raison d’etre. Its display extends around the corner, past three storefronts. Tulips, lilies, the unfortunate carnation, plus birds of paradise, orange berries on branches, clumps of freesia, and multicolored orchids. There’s no way to pass the corner without feeling a little perfumed joy.
An odd name for the purveyor of French toast, eggs of every description, and a guilt-defying hash, but there it is: The New Purity (100 Seventh Avenue, near Union Street; 718-783-7095), the local ever-bustling diner, serves absolutely no health food items, but with the best of spirits. Its murals depict Manhattan and the Acropolis, both tinged with the purple of permanent sunset. Ironically, the New Purity’s backyard must share a property line with the Park Slope Co-op, but you can be sure there’s no hamburger-smuggling over the back wall.
Nominations for ugliest public art in the city fly thick and fast, but Mark Ravitz’s cow sculptures (Seventh Avenue between Second and Third Streets) are the hands-down winner. They used to be even more disgusting – pinkish brain blobs of what looked like an overflow of insulation – but Ravitz installed a black-and-white set this spring, turning the blobs into a demonstration of what would happen if Bessie decided to bungee-jump and forgot the cord. But a little bit of ugly can’t hurt in a neighborhood some people (usually visitors from deepest meatpacking district) find suffocatingly quaint.
Trees are a dime a dozen in Park Slope (that’s why we live here) but the two blocks of Seventh Avenue between Flatbush and Ozzie’s seem to have been planted with particular care. Your entry to the Slope is heralded by mighty gingkos, a brilliant yellow before they drop their fluted leaves each fall, and often backlit by the setting sun. We should all come home in a blaze of such golden glory.
Michael Ayoub’s Cucina (256 Fifth Avenue, near Garfield Street; 718-230-0711) was the lone Manhattan-style trattoria on Fifth Avenue for many years. But now the restaurant is just the flagship of a Tuscan mini-empire. Cucina proper is flanked by a bar and a take-out shop, and those whose taste runs less to pasta and more to read meat can smoke and dine at Mike and Tony’s (239 Fifth Avenue; 718-857-2800) across the street. Nights before BAM performances, he was always booked. But he’s now running the concessions at the renovated BAMcafe (30 Lafayette Place; 718-636-4100), so patrons have to take only an escalator, not a car service, for high-quality pre-whatever snacks.
Less ugly than the cows (see No. 44), but equally surreal is the Seventh Street Station’s “Scenic Overlook.” A green sign, like the ones on the sides of highways, points you down the damp culvert that is the route from Ninth Street to the F train. Just before you reach the unnamed turnstiles, look up. A photograph of a pleasant Romanesque Revival arch has been mounted above the door, so that even when you’re underground, you’re getting to take in some sights.
The sunniest spot around for the weekend midday meal, the New Prospect Cafe (393 Flatbush Avenue, near Sterling Place; 718-638-2148) has superior baked goods; modern, nondemnominational religious icons on the walls; an Asian-Cuban-Californian brunch menu; and bright-yellow walls. Even on a gray day, the restaurant glows. On a recent Sunday, we felt blessed in our choice of eggs cubano and french toast, coffee cake on the side.
Brooklyn has a rousing example of the triumphal arch, built to commemorate our win in the War Between the States. The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch and Grand Army Plaza are now surrounded by traffic, rather than exalted crowds, but the height and statuary remain impressive. On top, a winged Victory holds court, with chariot and steeds. An Eakins bas-relief of Abraham Lincoln peeks out from inside the arch. Watch the papers for announcements of arch tours; the view from the top, from what I hear, is unparalleled.
The Brooklyn Conservatory of Music (58 Seventh Avenue, at Lincoln Place; 718-622-3300) has 100 concerts a year, and hundreds of music students. They start them young – 18-month-olds are eligible for a rhythm-and-movements class designed to ensure that no Slope kids have two left feet – and the conservatory’s oldest student is 93. Offering instruction in any instrument, any style, the music school even has a jazz gospel choir that practices on the premises. Many concerts are free, and their popular Jazz at the Conservatory series costs only $15 per concert (recent performers included the Jimmy Heath and the Cindy Blackman Quartets). Their brick-and-brownstone building, formerly a Masonic club, is currently getting a face-lift. Good for them, but unfortunate for us. The conservatory’s corner bay, now covered in scaffolding, used to be a prime spot for a little free night music.