NFT New York Sunset Park / Green-Wood Heights

Sunset Park / Green-Wood Heights

Originator of the city's recent bahn-mi craze, the final resting place of Basquiat, and home to one heck of a cool bowling alley, Sunset Park is a neighborhood with subtle charms hidden amidst bus depots, warehouses, and semis noisily barreling down 3rd and 4th Avenues.

The eponymous park offers breathtaking views from its central hill and an Olympic-sized public pool that seems to attract most of the borough during the summer months. You don't have to be into steampunk to appreciate Green-Wood Cemetery. Home to the highest point in Brooklyn, it offers a chance to look out over the harbor as you as pass the graves of notable New Yorkers like Boss Tweed, Leonard Bernstein, and the aforementioned downtown artist. A day trip here should make your list of things to do in New York: some of the crypts are works of art in themselves, and on occasion the staff will open them for tours.See more.

Originally settled by Irish and Dutch immigrants, Sunset Park has recently become one of the most diverse neighborhoods in New York, with Dominican, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Chinese, Malaysian, Korean, and Vietnamese communities living alongside Manhattan transplants drawn by cheaper rents. On one side of the park there's 5th Avenue, known as "Little Latin America," lined with mostly Mexican restaurants, bodegas and bakeries. In warmer months, old men play backgammon in front of their favorite delis and kids buy snow cones from street vendors who simply take a razor to a huge block of ice. South and slightly east of the park, there's 8th Avenue, "Brooklyn's Chinatown," with Buddhist temples, Asian markets, excellent Vietnamese restaurants, and dim sum spots galore. Chinese New Year is celebrated with verve here, replete with parades, confetti, and many, many dragons.

Though you'll find the respective main drags of "Brooklyn's Chinatown" and "Little Latin America" across the neighborhood from one another, everything in between is truly a melting pot. North of all this multicultural goodness is a very narrow strip of real estate sandwiched in between the river and the cemetery named Green-Wood Heights, and north of that is a small area that's now being called "South Slope." There you'll find some nice Park Slope-ish bars, restaurants, and shops opening up, especially on 5th and 6th Avenues between the Prospect Expressway and the cemetery. But so far the only hangout around here that's well known outside the neighborhood is the delightfully old-school bowling alley Melody Lanes.

Melody Lanes deserves to be landmarked. Irish Haven, a basic pub where scenes from Scorsese's The Departed were filmed, has become almost as popular. In the South Slope, hit either Korzo, Toby's, or Quarter.

Food is Sunset Park's specialty. Bahn-mi doesn't get much better than Ba Xuyen. Don't be discouraged by lines at dim sum spots like Pacificana because they're worth the wait. For sloppy late-night hangover prevention, you can't beat Tacos Matamoros. Korzo serves up Eastern European pub grub and j'eatjet? is a fun gastropub on the northern end of 5th Avenue that mixes things up some.

Local shopping options are generally more practical (Costco, Reef Aquarium, Sunset Beer Distributors) than fun. The 8th Avenue branch of Ten Ren Tea is a great spot to buy loose tea, tea bags and bubble tea to go.


This Neighborhood Featured in...
Slummer in the City 2005

By Cathleen Cueto
The Summer of 2005 was a one for the NFT books; hot, humid, swarming with insects, overcome with emotions and a ceaseless sense of hopeless anomie. Cathleen Cueto remembers that fateful summer. Voila, her slumming activities.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Sarah Enelow
Photo:  Sarah Enelow

Green-Wood Cemetery
Perhaps New York City doesn't have the illustrious fall foliage of New England, but that doesn't mean we have to head north to find some. Green-Wood Cemetery has many trees turning yellow, orange, and red right now, and it's still one of my favorite "parks" in the city. (To be fair, it is basically a park because it's a Revolutionary War site and a National Historic Landmark, and therefore affiliated with the National Park Service, so there.) Green-Wood's virtues are many: it's never crowded (unless you count the permanent residents), its 478 acres of rolling hills are enough to get lost in (I accidentally walked half its circumference last weekend), it's impeccably kept, it's home to many birds and century-old trees, it's free, and it has some nice views of Manhattan. It's brimming with dead bodies, true, but you can't beat it for introspection on a cool, colorful October day.

Posted By:  Rob Tallia
Photo:  Rob Tallia

I don't do Dim Sum very often, as I have absolutely no ability to stop gorging myself on food once it's on the table and available to eat (my meetings with Oprah on this issue have mainly ended in disaster). This problem was even more exacerbated at Pacificana, which has the best Dim Sum I've had, although there are several places in Chinatown (Triple 8, Mandarin Court, Golden Unicorn) that are very, very, good. By far my favorite experience of the day was the utter mob scene in the stairwell right outside the restaurant doors, where a woman with a microphone screams table numbers in both Chinese and English. This must be seen to be believed. As for the food itself, a lot of unusual Dim Sum choices, including the pork with jellyfish (pictured), the bacon-wrapped shrimp, and, of course, a lot of completely unidentifiable objects. Worth the trip to Sunset Park, absolutely.

Posted By:  Ilona Virostek
Photo:  Ilona Virostek

Don Paco Lopez Panaderia
Savoy Bakery has the location: directly across from the 45th Street "R" station. It also has the look: nostalgic signage and décor, with lots of pink and chrome, and shiny brightly lit curved glass cases for the goodies. A Sunset Park landmark that many locals see at least twice a day, coming and going from the subway, it is THE place to grab a coffee or bubble tea (it's a Korean bakery) on the way to work. But Don Paco Lopez Panaderia, down the street, beats the mierda out of Savoy when it comes to a true bakery experience. It wins the aroma contest: the smell of freshly-baked bread haunts you from half a block away, whereas the Savoy doesn't have any scent at all, even from inside. It wins the taste contest, with a dizzying number of variations on warm, sweet, buttery, colorful breadstuffs, whereas the Savoy has a smaller selection, all cold, wrapped in plastic, and none of it very mouth-watering (there are better Asian bakeries on 8th Ave). And it wins the price contest: both places are cheap, but Don Paco is under-a-dollar-per-item cheap. Ask for whatever's just come out of the oven if you really want to die and go to heaven.

Posted By:  Ilona Virostek
Photo:  Ilona Virostek

Green-Wood Cemetery
Cemeteries are not for everyone. Well, technically, I guess they are. But there is a prejudice among the living, a widespread opinion that a walk in a park is healthier and more pleasant than a walk in a graveyard. And so, the magnificent, pastoral, parakeet-inhabited Green-Wood Cemetery remains quite empty of visitors. For those in the know, who may be found strolling up and down Green-Wood's rolling hills, under her flowering trees and around her lagoons, the thought of all those suckers claiming their four square feet of lawn at nearby Prospect Park seems laughable. Green-Wood is a Victorian garden cemetery, with a maze of lanes and paths cutting over and around and through the beautifully-maintained natural landscape. You could get lost here, which could be a good or bad thing (solitude and the feeling of discovery: Good Thing; the catacombs at dusk: Bad Thing). Start out by wandering freely, stopping to contemplate ornate monuments or sit on the grass and enjoy the peace and quiet. When you're ready, the detailed map of the cemetery in NFT's Brooklyn guide can lead you back to the main entrance and city life as you know it.

Posted By:  Ilona Virostek
Photo:  Ilona Virostek

Botanica 7 Potencias
A tiny, secret gift shop with magic spells, charms, and potions for every need. Lucky floor wash? Got it, in a dozen flavors. Magic soap and bath salts? Of course! Good fortune perfume? Totes. Candles for every saint, wish, or ailment? Ya. Incense in Frankincense, Patchouli, Amber, the Virgin Mary, or "Power of 7 Men?" Yes, plus about 30 others. Rosaries? In every color! Jewelry? You got it. My favorites are the amulets, which run the gamut between kitsch and seriously witchy. One standout is a "protection" amulet that includes, among other things, a plastic lollipop and a tiny human foot, with an explanatory illustration of two African children with glowy eyes frolicking in some sort of voodoo Candyland. 7 Potencias also carries a wide array of magic powders, for attraction, repulsion, envy, and court dates, just to name a few. Needless to say, this equals a bargain-priced, tongue-in-cheek goldmine for hipsters in search of gifts. But I defy you not to start believing, just a little, before you leave the store, not to wonder if there really is something behind it all when the sweet old lady at the counter hands you your change and wishes you "good luck."

Posted By:  Ilona Virostek
Photo:  Ilona Virostek

New York Mart
A curious non-Asian could spend hours at Hong Kong Supermarket, ogling mysterious foodstuffs, reading enigmatic translations on colorful packaging, and dreaming up ways to use exotic ingredients. But don't daydream too hard: your big American ass is likely blocking several Chinese people from passing you in the narrow, crowded aisle, and you're about to get shoved. Hong Kong Supermarket is the real deal: a bustling operation that anchors Brooklyn's Chinatown. You'll find any Asian ingredient you need here, but if you have a shopping list, make sure you know what the ingredients you're searching for look like. Everything in the store is translated into English, but "dried fungus" doesn't tell you whether the mushrooms in the bag are shiitake or porcini. Your outsider status may be most felt in the baked goods area, a cramped endcap towards the front of the store, where you'll be in somebody's way no matter where you stand as you choose between lotus seed, red bean, pork, and scallion buns. You can practically hear the regulars thinking "Buns--as if she needs any." But hold your ground, choose boldly, and your taste buds will be rewarded.

Posted By:  Jennifer Keeney Sendrow
Photo:  Courtesy Roomorama

Sunset Park’s parallel communities of Asian and Latin immigrants, lining 8th Avenue and 5th Avenue respectively, offer no shortage of fantastic eats. But sometimes one can’t be bothered to go into a restaurant. Maybe you’re in a hurry. Or you’re not wearing a shirt or shoes, and you’re afraid that sign about “no service” is for real. Enter the street cart. There are many carts along 5th Avenue selling empanadas, fruit, ices, and tacos. They all seem pretty good. We like the ladies at 48th Street best for their friendly smiles, sassy outfits, and well-edited offerings. For your first course, you’ve got fresh mango and coconut, sliced and served with your choice of condiments. (Choose lime juice and chili powder, no sense messing with a classic.) Then select a main course from a short lineup of fried dough products, the best of the bunch being a juicy beef empanada. Round out the meal with something to drink from their plastic barrels, usually a choice of an agua fresca, horchata, or limeade. Take your food to the park for a picnic, or do as the locals do and window-shop along the Avenue whilst you munch.

Posted By:  Jane Pirone
Photo:  none

Ah, the calm, relaxing effects of organized noise. Slip your shoes off and take a nap on one of the pillows in this extremely cool sound space. On Saturdays until the end of this month, Kabir Carter is performing his piece “Shared Frequencies.” This is NOT for beginners.

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