Welcome to Bay Ridge, to all our new neighbors! Today’s episode is just for you (and anyone who wants to experience our amazing neighborhood through new eyes. We’re going to Vibetown Mansion and the home of our newest official contributor to the podcast, Ember! Together we’ll explore all the weird and awesome things you can do in Bay Ridge!
Come gawk at The Hole! Experience our majestic waterfall. Walk by the Parrot Man. Learn what restaurants have the most attractive waitstaff. What place will let you cry while ordering eleven Cherry Cokes? Which one of our local elected officials is the biggest slimeball? All this and more will be answered.
Quickly jump to key parts of the episode by clicking the links below…
- Welcoming Ember
- Things To Do In Bay Ridge
- Get The Best Bagels
- Walk The Best Avenue
- Ride On The Travelator
- Eat At The Best Restaurants
- Run Into Elected Officials
- Cry Into The Best Cherry Cokes
- Get The Best Ice Cream From The Grumpiest Man
- See The Best Sights
- Witness The Hole
- Seek Out A Clop
- Be Stopped By The Sixth Avenue Troll
- Walk By The Parrot Man
- Explore Bay Ridge’s Waterfalls
- Check Out All Of Crete
- Watch People From A Gazebo
- Learn The Weird Names For Things
- Stand On An Abandoned Subway Tunnel
- Search FoHam Real Estate Listings
- Go Find A Haunted House
- Be Served By The Most Attractive Waitstaff
- Support Every Delivery Worker
- Know Your Local Slimeballs and Politicians
- Register To Vote in Bay Ridge
- Meet Other Progressives
- Anticipate Dan’s Ugly House Tour
- Join The Podcast!
Expand to view the entire show transcript (lightly edited for readability)…
Dan: Hey there! And welcome to Radio Free Bay Ridge. I’m Dan, and this is your hyper-local progressive podcast broadcasting from beautiful Bay Ridge, Brooklyn… in our wonderful… studio….
Rachel: Dan! It’s not our studio!
Dan: This isn’t our studio. I’m looking around… where… where have I been taken. Here, there’s a sign that says…
Ember: Vibetown Mansion, baby!
Dan: Oh my God. What’s happening!?
Rachel: Feels a little like an embassy.
Ember: Yes. I would say this is the embassy to our nation’s capitol, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
Dan: So, in case anyone doesn’t know, Ember is joining us in Vibetown Mansion (not our studio)… So I guess, actually, we’re joining Ember is what’s happening right here.
Ember: Congratulations for the honor.
Dan: We’re not just hanging out with Ember right now.
Rachel: It’s not just that we like you.
Ember: Aw shit.
Dan: You are a new contributor to the podcast.
Ember: Why didn’t anybody tell me!?
Dan: This is an ambush interview.
How Ember Ended Up On The Podcast
Dan: A while back, we recorded a “Welcome to Bay Ridge” episode for people who want to learn about things to do in the neighborhood. We wanted to refresh it. But we figured we needed to talk with the Mayor of Bay Ridge herself this time. And as that progressed, we realized… you just need to join the podcast.
Ember: I happen to agree.
Rachel: I think the real question was: why haven’t you invited me to be on the podcast yet?
Ember: I think what you mean is: I finally voiced that I was deeply offended that I hadn’t.
Dan: And we finally relented.
Ember: That’s right.
Rachel: We hate causing offense to those on the left.
Ember: That’s right. I was actually crying, begging on my knees. And here we are in my home.
Rachel: Easy as that.
Dan: It’s very hard to get onto this podcast.
Ember: If you too want to be on this podcast, simply show up to Vibetown Mansion crying… and you’re in.
Who Is Ember?
Dan: So Ember, tell us about yourself, in case people don’t know who you are… which we would find hard to believe (especially if you follow us on Twitter, follow the podcast, or follow anything about Bay Ridge on Twitter).
Ember: Yeah. My name is Ember. I’m happy to be here. I really, really love Bay Ridge. I’m known for frequently referring to it as our nation’s capitol because that’s just a disprovable fact. And I’ve worked in progressive politics in New York City now for about five years. I’m very excited to talk about this because I feel like Bay Ridge isn’t known for its young people. That’s not the typical reputation that we have. So I’m happy to be here.
Rachel: Wait, wait, are you saying Bay Ridge isn’t all gentrifying hipsters?
Ember: No, not yet, but I’m doing my best. No, I’m just kidding. I hope it never becomes that.
Dan: I remember when the Owl’s Head Wine Bar opened… RIP Owl’s Head Wine Bar… but some fools thought it was a gentrifying thing. And the guy who runs it, John, who has been on the show for the How Bay Ridge Became Bay Ridge episode, he grew up here. He has been here forever.
Rachel: He was also on the Art of the Gerrymander. By the way, was it Liam McCabe who was going after Cocoa Grinder at one point? Get over it.
Dan: “Oh my gosh, there are coffee shops!” Good gravy.
Ember’s First Landlord
Ember: I disagree that Owl’s Head was gentrification, but I will share my favorite memory of drinking in Bay Ridge. A few years ago, my landlord, the first landlord I ever had here in Bay Ridge, would make us walk our checks directly to his apartment. And I walked over and knocked on the door to hand it to him. And he was like, “Hey, it’s almost Christmas!” And he brought me inside and then gave me two shots and then drove me to an Indian Restaurant and dropped me off.
Dan: That was your first landlord…!?
Ember: Anyway, down with landlords, but I just needed to share that. Shout out to him. Real Italian man. You gotta love it.
Dan: If anyone has moved to Bay Ridge recently and this hasn’t been your landlord experience, you’re missing out.
Rachel: Lodge a complaint. [email protected]
Dan: We’ll drive you to a random Indian restaurant.
Rachel: Excuse me, I’m the one person with the car here.
Ember: Shout out to Bombay grill.
Rachel: Wait, you have a car, Ember!
Ember: But I can’t drive it. It’s just decoration.
Rachel: Oh! (laughter)
Dan: This is representative of what Bay Ridge actually is. It’s 60%+ non-car owning and primarily renters. Yeah, I’m going to go into the car stuff…
Rachel: Wait, we basically have 60% non-usable car owning in this room right now!
Ember: It is not my car. I’m a car owner by association. I don’t have a license. Down with cars.
Dan: Brian Hedden is going to march into the room right now and join us so we can talk about banning cars.
Rachel: Then it would be 75% non-car owning.
Bay Ridge’s Ambassador
Dan: Anyway, Ember, the point of today’s episode is to talk about things you like to do in Bay Ridge. You’re the Bay Ridge ambassador. You’re the mayor. I’ve seen it online. People who are new to the neighborhood will go up to you and ask, “What do I do when I’m here?” Even if they’re just visiting. So let’s combine all that into a chaotic 45 minutes that no one will be able to decipher but hopefully will be fun to listen to.
Ember: Do you bleep F words on this podcast?
Ember: F*ck Yeah.
Rachel: Not always.
Dan: When it’s funny.
Ember: You know, it’d be even funnier if you were making that up, but you’re not. I get DMs on Instagram, DMs on Twitter, all the time. It will be from people saying, “Hey, I’m going to Bay Ridge for the first time” or, “My mom is in town, and we’re going to have dinner in Bay Ridge. Where do I go?” Even weirder to me are people that say, “I lived in Bay Ridge five years ago, and I’m coming to visit. Where should I go?” I was like… you should be telling me!
Rachel: It doesn’t change that fast.
Ember: Yeah, what do you think is happening? I mean, RIP Century 21. But besides that…
Dan: As if they were going there for fine dining or something.
Ember: Yeah, when I think fine dining, I think Century 21. Tweet at me about my dream of making Century 21 into a haunted house, by the way.
Dan: Ooh, that would be so cool.
Rachel: And if people do want to tweet at you, who should they be Tweeting at?
Ember: Oh yes. My handle is @Embernic.
Dan: And I can already picture some of the conservative haters for the show. Their heads are spinning.
Rachel: We are gonna get a whole new wave of trolls.
Dan: Because all of the people that they hate are slowly coming to this show.
Rachel: It’s like, “What!?” Is it transformers… or which one was it? Where they all became different parts of the thing?
Dan: Oh, there are so many of them.
Ember: Yeah, that’s a lot of things.
Rachel: Every eighties cartoon ever?
Dan: Yeah. But let’s get to Ember’s response to those questions she gets via DM… and let’s combine all those answers into a podcast. Because you did answer. I hope.
Ember: No, I was like, “leave me alone.” (laughs) No, I’m just kidding.
Things To Do In Bay Ridge
Ember: My favorite topic in the world is to tell people all the places I think they should go to in Bay Ridge. I’ve actually broken them into categories…
Rachel: She literally has a list in front of her right now.
Ember: I do. This is not a lie. I have a prepared list. But the funnier thing is: I actually have a copy-and-pasted message for this purpose. That’s how many times this has happened to me. So I always know where to get it in my Notes app and just send this to people. So I have it broken down between restaurants, bars (places where you can hang out for a while), dessert, and then what to do if you want to walk around or kill time or whatever.
Dan: Nice. And while this is intended for people who are new to the neighborhood, it is also for people who have been here for five years or more. Expand what you think Bay Ridge is!
Rachel: Get out of your apartment for the first time in a year and a half.
Get The Best Bagels
Dan: Yeah! Don’t do the same thing. Before we started recording, we were talking about bagels and how weird it is to say what your favorite bagel place is in Bay Ridge. Because it’s always the place that’s closest to you.
Ember: Right! Yeah.
Rachel: We have good bagels
Dan: …unless you’re driving to the bagel place. Number one: don’t drive to get your bagel. Just go walk. That’s why we have Third Avenue. And it’s why we have Fifth Avenue. Everything is walkable in this neighborhood.
Walk The Best Avenue
Ember: By the way, hot take: Third Avenue supremacy.
Dan: Ember and I are both Fifth Avenue people by proximity. But yeah, Third Avenue is great.
Rachel: I’m going to say something a little different. North Third and Fifth Avenues over South Third and Fifth Avenues.
Ember: These are hot takes, and these are the details that I like to dive into when I’m feeling especially patriotic about our nation’s capitol.
Dan: So why North Bay Ridge, Rachel?
Rachel: My first apartment here was on Ovington, so that’s where I was. But I think it’s a little more varied up here. You get different kinds of stores, and it’s not all just cute boutiques and cute little restaurants. Which, to be fair, are very nice. But I find that once you cross over 86th street, it just opens up a whole new world. And once you get to like 77th… 80th… it’s a shift. And you can kind of tell.
Dan: The Urban Planner in me wants to say: part of that is because of the area of the 80’s on Third. That area has the highest concentration of car owners, and it is the richest part of Shore Road. Thus fewer people walk in that area. So there is less pressure to have a walkable commercial strip around there.
And in Southern Bay Ridge, there are many car dealerships that interrupt the flow of businesses. For example, the BIDs (like the Fifth Avenue BID) primarily exist in Northern Bay Ridge.
Ride On The Travelator
Ember: The time has come, though. Because there’s a straightforward solution for the people that don’t like to walk.
I’d like to announce my dream of a travelator along the length of Third Avenue. If you don’t know what a travelator is, it is the conveyor belt-like things that shuffle people up and down the airport. I really feel like this is a dream come true.
Dan: We just need to replace the roadways.
Ember: That’s right.
Dan: You don’t need the buses anymore. You just need one long travelator.
Ember: Imagine it. You could throw your bed on the sidewalk, and it moved up the Avenue with you.
Rachel: For people who think the bike lanes are too dangerous… won’t they feel a travelator is too dangerous?
Dan: I mean, it’s slow-moving… I suppose you could rush it…
Rachel: Maybe it’s going to be a protected travelator?
Ember: But it’s not the bike lane that’s dangerous. It’s the cars that are dangerous. So step one is: abolish cars. Step two is: travelator up and down Third Avenue.
Rachel: Your true agenda.
Dan: Do you know how you feel like you’re like superhuman when you’re walking on a travelator? Imagine how power-drunk a car driver would feel if they were driving on a travelator.
Rachel: No, no, no, I mean, the car drivers will be driving, and the travelator would be kind of like where the bike lane would be. And then the car owners would just swerve into it.
Dan: Oh, I thought this would just be the whole length of the street.
Rachel: Oh, you’re talking replacing the road.
Ember: No cars. Only two-way travelator.
Ember: But we aren’t discussing the most important thing, which is: imagine how sexy we would all look on a travelator.
Dan: Yeah, cause you could like strike a pose.
Ember: Imagine your dress blowing in the wind, and you’re just not even walking. You’re just moving slowly towards a man coming in the opposite direction. Or a woman. Whatever. Anyone would look super hot on a travelator.
Rachel: So here’s my suggestion: when is participatory budgeting coming up? Because this seems like a capital improvement. It would last at least five years.
Dan: It starts up around fall. So any new people who want to submit capital improvement ideas, do it! You do not have to be in Bay Ridge very long to think about what can be changed.
Ember: Such as a travelator.
Rachel: And if you submit a travelator, I will 100% vote for it.
Ember: As mayor of Bay Ridge, I would like to declare that we’re going to have a travelator on Third Avenue.
Dan: As someone who has often been on the participatory budgeting board, I will absolutely fight for a travelator among the various committees.
Eat At The Best Restaurants
Anyway. Ember pulled out a list, and we proceeded to utterly ignore the list.
Ember: Yeah, well, I was excited about my chance to talk about travelators. Okay. So here’s the list that I normally give people. It’s certainly not exhaustive, but here’s the list. For restaurants, I always say that my favorite place to go is HoM.
It just occurred to me, I should have included where these places are. But my favorite restaurant is HoM. They have a very small menu with some breakfast and some lunch items. But the real reason I like it is because it’s an antique store in the front. So you’re just sitting around like a bunch of old lamps and jewelry and shit. It is so cool.
Dan: They have like a couple of jams you can buy, which they actually serve for lunch or breakfast. But the rest of it is just knickknacks.
Ember: I love it. I bought a lamp from there for my birthday. The people are super nice. The food is great. Whenever I walk in now, they immediately ask, “Do you want a mimosa?” Because that’s my brand.
Ember: Yeah, it’s incredible. You should go there. Another place that I really like to eat is Firefly. The food is amazing. They have live jazz on Saturday nights. You have all been there, I’m sure.
Rachel: They take reservations if it’s more than six. Is that the case?
Dan: I think so.
Rachel: ‘Cause I remember we tried to go and we didn’t have enough people.
Dan: I always try to go to Firefly and then realize they’re closed.
Rachel: Yeah, Monday nights. Don’t go Monday nights.
Dan: And that’s the day I have off.
Ember: This is more of a basic answer. I feel like this is everybody’s answer, but I really like Cebu. It’s a bit pricier. People do events and stuff there. It’s a good place if you’re going for some sort of occasion. I really like their duck spring roll specifically.
Rachel: I always think of Cebu as the fancy Manhattan brunch vibe place. And, advice: their bacon comes as three giant strips of bacon. It’s $5. But it’s delicious.
Ember: They have vegetarian stuff, too, if you’re not a meat-eater.
Dan: Yeah. Just don’t go on election day because invariably, one of the political people running is going to have rented out that place for election night watching. Or… absolutely go on those nights and get involved with local politics.
Ember: Yes, as you should.
Rachel: As a local hyper-local progressive political podcast, we should really be encouraging folks…
Ember: To stay away from politics? (laughter)
Run Into Local Elected Officials
Dan: Also, if you’re walking around Bay Ridge like we’re encouraging you to… you will meet the local politicians. They are walking around on the streets at all times.
Ember: Totally. Before we started recording, Dan and I were having a conversation about bumping into Andrew Gounardes. Just casually.
Dan: With his stroller and his new kid. Utterly adorable.
Ember: They’re out there. They live life. They’re eating. They’re living.
Rachel: And actually, if people @ us, sometimes we will come out and join you.
Ember: That’s true. I’m notorious for just tweeting, “I’m at Lockyard. Everybody come!” and then just a random smattering of people come to eat.
So I’ll skim through the rest of these… food.
My favorite Chinese place: I really like Chopstix.
Cry Into The Best Cherry Cokes
And then the place that I go when I’m sad to eat. I have very specific sad restaurants. My sad restaurant is Skinflints because they will let me sit there forever, and they don’t judge me. I sit outside, and I drink my tears in eleven Cherry Cokes. And I eat their Shepherd’s Pie until I feel happy again.
Dan: Growing up in Bay Ridge, Skinflints was the hip place. It totally is not that now. But it was hip because at that time (and still do) have their burgers on an English Muffin. No buns ever. They were the rebels of the Bay Ridge restaurant world.
Ember: I love people having a reputation simply for the existence of English Muffins.
Rachel: And going even further back, wasn’t that a soda shop? Didn’t we learn that in one of our early episodes?
Dan: Yeah, I think we learned that in one of our early episodes.
Rachel: And apparently, they’re still very good with the Cherry Cokes.
Ember: Yeah, so my favorite food is grenadine. And I’m telling you, Skinflints is not shy with the grenadine ratio. It’s like having a glass of grenadine and a spoonful of Coke.
Rachel: So wait, what are we doing after this recording session?
Ember: (laughter) Exactly right. And I already mentioned it earlier: I know y’all like Lockyard too. Lockyard is my favorite place to go if I have a lot of time to kill. Not that they take forever, I just like sitting there. Beautiful patio.
Consume The Best Ice Cream From The Grumpiest Man
Now for desserts: I love Cheesecake Diva. But my favorite ice cream place is Sweet Sofi. They do rolled ice cream. If you haven’t been there, it’s relatively new. The guy there, his name is Johnny, I think? It’s always the same grumpy-looking man. And I love him because his whole life is scooping ice cream, but he looks so mad. But then when you talk to him, suddenly he’s Santa Claus. He lights up, and he’s thrilled. So I love that place. My favorite flavor is Monkey Business, which is banana and Nutella.
See The Best Things
Now we’re at the best part of the list, which is: what to do if you’re not hungry in Bay Ridge.
Dan: Hah, food always seems to be the default. We do have two commercial avenues. We’re overabundant with commercial spaces.
Rachel: We’re a destination for Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst.
Dan: We are where people on Staten Island will drive out to. They want to be in the city. But they get over the bridge and shrug and say, “I’ve paid the toll. I’m in the ‘city’, and I’m going to go eat here.” That’s why we have so many great restaurants. Local tourists.
Ember: Absolutely. And I love walking in Bay Ridge unless it’s, like, pouring down rain. I take a pretty hefty walk almost every evening from where I live to the bridge going on Third. And then I come back home on Fifth.
Witness The Hole
Of course, I love walking on Shore Road like everybody else does, but I’m also obsessed with… (laughter)… I’m laughing ’cause I know this is ridiculous. But I’m obsessed with this place that I call “The Hole.” When I first moved here, I made my boyfriend go to The Hole. I just kept saying, “Come on, we’re going to The Hole!” I told him that it’s the number one tourist destination of Bay Ridge.
We’re walking and walking and walking. And it’s just this rectangular hole in the sidewalk that has fish in it. But I love it so much. It’s on Shore Road and Mackay Place or something.
Dan: Right near the Bay Ridge Botanical Gardens, and yes, we have a botanical garden. It’s a New York City park that a bunch of volunteers over decades have grown into their own little personal garden. It has a turtle sanctuary.
Ember: And The Hole, man!
Dan: There really isn’t a name for it. It doesn’t have a sign.
Ember: It does now. It’s The Hole. I’ll contact my local elected officials.
I actually do have a brief political story about The Hole. When I wanted to take my boyfriend there, I could not for the life of me remember where it was. And I asked Justin Brannan, verbatim, “Do you remember the cross-streets of the hole?” I had never called it this. And he was like, “Oh, yeah.” And sent them to me.
Dan: That is a preternatural ability. Cause there’s also a fake hole. There’s a false hole elsewhere.
Ember: Oh, the faux-ole?
Dan: Yeah, there’s a fole. Which isn’t filled with water and has no fish.
Seek Out A Clop
Rachel: Foal. Maybe it’s filled with horses?
Dan: That reminds me… remember the Cocoa Grinders? The coffee shops that are now closed? I think in our last Welcome to Bay Ridge episode, we recommended going to Cocoa Grinder, but now they’re all gone. But the guy who owns them had a horse. He would ride it occasionally at Summer Stroll.
Rachel: Wait, did he actually ride the horse?
Ember: Yeah, it comes to Summer Stroll.
Rachel: But like, to work?
Ember: Oh, I don’t know about that.
Dan: He lived on Staten Island, so I don’t know if he rode it to work. But he would ride it around outside of the Cocoa Grinders.
Rachel: That’s amazing.
Ember: It was the only horse you’d see in Bay Ridge. We don’t even really get clops, which is my affectionate name for horse cops. I don’t see them here very often.
Rachel: There are some.
Dan: But yeah, it’s pretty rare.
Rachel: I mean, given the way people drive around here, I don’t really blame them.
Dan: You’ll get an occasional antique car because so many people in Dyker Heights have a ton of antique cars. They need to like drive around and be seen. And Bay Ridge is where you’re seen.
Rachel: Dan, who was the guy you found that had 11 antique cars parked on the street?
Dan: Yeah, there was a video on Facebook three years ago or something. It was of this one guy on alternate side parking day moving 11 cars in sequence.
Rachel: How do you do that without getting a ticket?!
Ember: I love the way you say that. Like it’s a holiday. “On alternate side parking day.”
Dan: It is a holiday for 40% of Bay Ridge.
Rachel: It’s not a very good holiday.
Ember: I also want to add to all of these things: If you’re going to come to Bay Ridge and witness our alternate side parking day, I highly recommend that people take the ferry here. I think that’s an excellent experience.
Be Stopped By The Sixth Avenue Troll
Oh. And one last thing on my list that no one gets to experience but for me. I don’t know if you all know this. But we have a Sixth Avenue Troll here in Bay Ridge.
Rachel: Not Twitter trolls?
Ember: No, no, no. A real troll that makes you answer riddles to pass. We have one of those here. My next-door neighbor never speaks to me. We don’t cross paths very often, but when we do, he only greets me with a riddle and will not let me go anywhere until I answer it… or am very, very enthusiastic about what the answer could be.
Rachel: Good Lord.
Ember: I swear. This happens to me at least once every two weeks when I bump into him. My hand will still be on the doorknob, closing my door, and he will suddenly say, “What do you call a…” and I’m like, “Whoa, where did you come from!?”
Rachel: The neighbor vibe in Bay Ridge is very interesting. I’ve lived in two or three places in New York, and I’ve never had neighbors who want to just come out and chat as they do here.
I have a neighbor who owns a driveway. Lucky people. And one day, I accidentally had my car a little too far into their driveway. They wrote me a really nice note. He came out and was so pleasant. I was really apologetic. And then the next time I saw him crossing a street, he was like, “Hey, how are you?” Now we’re best friends because I parked really badly in front of his house one day. And then he jump-started my car another time! And Ember, you have this lovely neighbor who asks you riddles and detains you…
Ember: Shout out to Chris, who I guarantee isn’t listening to this.
Rachel: Dan, you have some fun neighbors too.
Dan: There’s a lot of teachers in Bay Ridge. My current neighbors are teachers, and they’re absolutely lovely. I have no idea if they even know that I do this podcast or if they’re listening. But if you guys are listening…. thank you so much for being so cool about dealing with that time I was learning piano. Because I had the piano pushed up against the wall of our shared apartments…
Rachel: Oh dear.
Walk By The Parrot Man
Ember: I used to be fortunate enough to live across the street from Parrot Man. I don’t know what his real name is, but… *silence* … I can’t tell if you’re excited or if you don’t know what I’m talking about.
Dan: I know of a parrot man, but I’m not sure if it’s the same parrot man.
Rachel: It’s Bay Ridge! There could be two.
Ember: I hope we have multiple parrot men. But yeah, I used to live over on 77th between Third and Fourth, and there was a guy there. I could hear…
Dan: (Suddenly) It’s the same parrot man.
Ember: (Laughter) Oh man. Well, THE parrot man was my neighbor. And from my bedroom in the morning, I would hear squawking. And I wasn’t even mad. I loved it. I would come outside, and he has lattice on his porch, and there would just be parrots crawling up and down it. It was sick.
Rachel: How many parrots are we talking about here?
Ember: Like two or three.
Dan: At least two or three. And that’s just on the outdoor patio that you can see.
Ember: It’s like two doors before the VFW [Editors Note: American Legion] or whatever that is right there.
Explore Bay Ridge’s Waterfalls
Dan: If you’re walking in Bay Ridge, as we said, walk the avenues first, absolutely. But then, just walk random streets. Because you will find such cool shit.
Do the step streets. They’re fun. My mom knows someone who lives right next to one. She says they’re always afraid for the safety of people who come down when it rains to take photos of the waterfall.
Ember: It was about to say, don’t try this at home, kids. But it’s worth it at least once to go look at it when it’s raining. It is pretty cool. You shouldn’t come down the steps when it’s raining. Go around via another street and look at the rain.
Rachel: You know, I’ve never seen this.
Ember: Oh, it’s really cool. It looks like a huge waterfall when it’s torrential downpouring down the stairs.
Rachel: Like it was raining the last two nights?
Ember: Yeah. I almost walked down there, but it was raining too much, even for me.
Rachel: We’re recording this two days after the bulk of Henri.
Check Out All Of Crete
Dan: One place I love, I forget the exact… Actually, I’m not going to say I forgot the address. I’m going to say that you should go find it out for yourself! But there’s another street where this guy from Crete and has built an entire self-enclosed model of the island of Crete in pebbles, HO scale model sets, and found beach objects. It is the weirdest thing. I think he might’ve passed, and someone else’s taking care of it. It’s starting to deteriorate a little bit. So go see it. But it’s really fun.
Rachel: I remember the first time I saw that was when I was knocking doors in 2018. I was just walking along with my packet canvassing… and then it’s like, wait, what the f*ck is that? It’s so cool.
Dan: It looks like it’s a greenhouse sized for a cat. Three or four feet tall. But it’s big for what it is. And when you peer inside, it’s this elaborate diorama!
Rachel: A hundred percent not what you’re expecting from a street in Bay Ridge.
Ember: I definitely do recommend walking down just random streets. There’s so much stuff like that.
Like, I don’t remember where they are, but there are hitching posts you can find here too. It’s a pole with a horse head at the top.
Dan: I was doing research for an episode that was going to be about shared sacrifice in Bay Ridge, talking about COVID. I was reading about how, during World War Two, we still had trolley tracks in the neighborhood. During World War Two, we had rationing. And the local kids went up and tore out all the unused trolley tracks to donate the metal to the war effort.
Ember: Oh wow.
Dan: Like, yeah, we used to have a ton of trolleys coming through here. The ferry is cool because the ferry is just a reincarnation of the original ferry before we had a bridge. That was how we got to Staten Island, and now it’s how you get down to Downtown Brooklyn.
Watch People At The Gazebo
Ember: In addition to seeing cool things, there’s also so much people-watching in Bay Ridge.
One of my favorite places to sit in Bay Ridge is the gazebo in Cannonball Park. If you go during the day (especially on the weekend), people are always taking wedding and family pictures there. It’s really nice.
Dan: If you have to Google it, Cannonball Park is John Paul Jones park, right?
Learn The Weird Names For Things
Dan: There are local place names for everything. So we got “The Hole” and “Cannonball Park.” And those are the only two things in Bay Ridge with unique names. (laughter)
Rachel: There are three categories. There’s the actual name, the Bay Ridge name, and then Ember’s name.
Ember: I have a few names that aren’t right, like “the big white place.” That’s Omonia Cafe. Shout out to Omonia Cafe’s hot chocolate.
Dan: Other places to people watch and wander: the parks are amazing. Owl’s Head Park…
Ember: You mean Bliss Park.
Dan: Bliss Park. That’s what all the old-timers call it. Meh. It’s Owl’s Head Park. I mean, come on.
Stand On The Abandoned Subway Tunnel
Rachel: I heard something really interesting the other day. I actually wanted to ask you about it, Dan. It’s about the old train out to Staten Island that they were going to build? The thing terminates in Owl’s Head Park or something?
Dan: If you go down to the very base of Owl’s Head Park there’s a bike lane. It veers off Shore Road into some foliage eastward, right next to Owl’s Head Park. If you stand there, you are on top of the secret tunnel down to the subway that they were building to cross the Narrows. It was partially built, and that was the service shaft. They capped off.
Some more history: if you come into Bay Ridge on the R train, which 60% of you are, look out the subway car window as you’re leaving 59th street on your right. There is a little bit of a turn in the track and a tunnel that is empty. And then it just dead ends. That was supposed to be where one of the trains would go to Staten Island. That’s where a train was supposed to go down beneath the Narrows before it reached Bay Ridge.
Rachel: Wait, they were just going to bypass Bay Ridge on the way to Staten Island?
Dan: Yeah. They were going to take that as the Narrows. And then eventually they were going to try to take 95th street and make that where it dived down, to where the Verrazzano Narrows is now. I think that’s why 86th street is built to be an express stop, even though we have no express trains.
Rachel: I’ve always thought it would make a lot of sense to have something go from like 95th street or 86th street, and then turn to Bensonhurst and like connect us to that whole Coney Island branch.
Dan: Oh yeah. If we close Fort Hamilton, we can extend the subway underneath Fort Hamilton. We could have a new subway stop and affordable housing out there. But that’s a different episode.
Ember: I’m down for that.
Search FoHam Real Estate Listings
Rachel: Wait, didn’t we read something about Fort Hamilton the other night?
Ember: Oh, you mean FoHam?
Dan: FoHam. Yep, as long as we’re using fake names for things… shout out to Allison Robicelli, who apparently originated FoHam as a joke with a friend. We have to give that proper credit. She’s no longer in Bay Ridge, but I hope she’s listening.
Rachel: Take notice, realtors.
Ember: Big FoHam fan.
Rachel: Wasn’t there something about one of the barracks having some residents who…
Go To A Haunted House
Dan: Oh yeah, let’s start talking about our future plans…
Ember: Oh, I have so many future plans. It’s already Halloween here in Vibetown Mansion. I decorated yesterday, which was August 22nd. So…
Rachel: It is very extensive decorations. I walked in. I was like, wow, she wasn’t kidding.
Ember: Oh, I’m not even done.
Rachel: I believe that.
Ember: This is two boxes out of five. But yeah, I’ve been doing some research the last couple of days into supposed haunted places in Bay Ridge. And our boy FoHam, it’s got a couple of them. A lot of barracks stories. So…
Rachel: It’s actually really funny that it’s in the barracks. The one haunted place I have ever slept was Old Fort Niagra up in Buffalo. And there was a whole story about a guy who got his head chopped off, and it went down the well. And they put all the Girl Scouts in the next room. So yeah, I can’t handle that.
Ember: My brain didn’t process that fast enough. So my brain was like: “Oh, they chopped a man’s head off, and Girl Scouts were in the next room.” Like, at the same time. Wow. That’s an unfortunate trip. (laughter)
Dan: If you go back to my Racist Monuments in Bay Ridge episode, there’s a bunch of stuff that happened to Robert E. Lee’s family while he was here in Bay Ridge.
For example, his kid got his hand caught in the hay thresher, and it lopped off his hand. We could go see if we can find the ghost of Robert E. Lee’s kid’s hand. I don’t think it’s actually on the army base. It would have to be somewhere in the nineties or aughts, close to the water. That’s where he had his actual house.
Ember: I don’t want to give away all of our upcoming surprises, but I do think it will be a very fun episode. Hopefully, we’re going to get our ghost hunting on, you know.
Dan: And in addition to Halloween, we’re going to do more stuff about places to eat. Things to do. That sort of thing.
Be Served By The Most Attractive Waitstaff
But before we end, this is an incredibly hot take that everyone is going to hate… but the best Italian food in the neighborhood is actually Piccante. It’s a tiny hole in the wall with a blue awning on Third Avenue in the seventies. Amazing pasta. It’s all they do… plus risotto. They’re the absolute best. Don’t waste your time with an Italian place that has more than five tables.
Ember: Now that we’re talking about Italian, that reminds me that I didn’t go into a very important category, which is which place has the hottest waiters.
And the answer is both Vesuvio as well as Cebu.
Dan: So you have a North Bay Ridge and a South Bay Ridge option.
Ember: That’s right. Yeah. The people at Cebu actually don’t look like real people. They were sculpted out of clay and beauty.
Dan: That is a Manhattan thing. When everyone there is a struggling actor trying to get their shot on Broadway.
Ember: Yeah, when you walk in there, you can tell it is a prerequisite to be extremely sexy to be hired here.
Dan: Well, you have to be sexy to be allowed into Bay Ridge in general. So there’s a certain bar that has to be cleared anyway. So if you’re listening to the show, you’ve already reached a certain level of attractiveness.
Support Every Delivery Worker
Ember: (laughter) That’s absolutely right. Don’t forget, though: don’t harass your waiters and tip 30%.
Rachel: Somebody posted this morning that during the hurricane, Uber was giving like $20 off orders or something like that. All the comments were saying, “Well, we hope you tipped the waiter who you made go out there in life-threatening wind conditions.” [Editors Note: This was even before Hurricane Irene!]
Dan: Yeah. The royalty of Bay Ridge should be our delivery drivers. Give them as much space and time as they need. They are rushing food to absolutely everyone from our plethora of restaurants.
Ember: But Dan, you know, how much easier it’s going to be to DoorDash when we have a Third Avenue travelator?
Dan: It’s going to be so much easier …
Rachel: They can just put your food on there!
Dan: Just put the food on the travelator.
Rachel: Actually, they could get those little locking boxes people put outside that are opened with a keypad. You would just go wait by the travelator, and your food would come, and you’d hit the keypad…
Dan: How long until Amazon figures out that this is a thing and starts stealing our idea.
Rachel: If we install a travelator in Bay Ridge, then we will be able to make them pay us royalties.
Ember: I’m confused, Dan, because it seems to me that you’re implying that Jeff Bezos doesn’t listen to every episode of Radio Free Bay Ridge.
Dan: He does. I have the tracking information. (laughter) No, no, we don’t track anyone through this show. [Editors Note: Really. We are super serious about internet privacy]
Rachel: The only problem with Amazon coming in and taking our travelators: Nicole Malliotakis would probably excuse them from paying any and all sales tax.
Ember: Verrazzano travelator.
Know Our Local Slimeballs And Politicians
Dan: Oh, yeah, that reminds me. If you’re new to Bay Ridge, you should know our local politicians. We should just name them.
Rachel: I love that you say politicians and not elected officials.
Ember: Know our local slimeballs. (laughter)
Rachel: First of all, our city councilman.
Ember: First of all, local slimeball, City Councilman Justin Brannan. No, he’s nice. We love him.
Dan: (Laughter) Please harass him online.
Ember: Please Tweet mean things at him. No. He’s good.
Dan: No, he’s a lovely man. Andrew Gounardes, who is our State Senator.
Ember: Also good.
Rachel: Very effective.
Dan: Nicole Malliotakis…
Ember: Not good. Slimeball.
Dan: Not good slimeball. Actual, not a joke.
Rachel: Terrible. Actual fascist. Voted to overturn the election. Voted down $30 billion in federal funding for public transit…
Dan: Welcome to Bay Ridge, folks!
Rachel: …Voted against the Equality Act. Voted against the ProAct in the most heavily unionized district. And I will stop now, even though I could go on.
Dan: Bay Ridge always gets news articles about how we’re supposedly a conservative place. What is it, the pastry place…
Dan: Roccos just put up a “We will serve everyone… vaccinated or not” sign.
Rachel: They did an event with what’s his name? The guy who’s opposing Justin.
Ember: Brian Fox.
Rachel: I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of hearing his name on the podcast, but OK.
Ember: Our listeners are new. They need to know.
Rachel: Okay. That’s true. All right.
So Brian Fox, who held a protest outside Gracie Mansion, that hyper-local hotspot many miles from Bay Ridge, was screaming “Lock him up” at Justin Brannan because our City Councilman thinks people should get vaccinated.
Dan: Good God. So yeah, there are some places to not go. Clearly. They’ll make themselves really obvious.
Register To Vote Locally
Rachel: One place to definitely go if you’re a progressive is the voting booth! Because we have really close elections here!
Ember: Yeah! Pokemon Go to the polls.
Dan: Absolutely get involved in local politics. Cause stuff actually matters here. It’s so much fun being in politics in Bay Ridge.
Rachel: I’d be so bored anywhere else.
Dan: I’ve never lived anywhere else. I can’t imagine what it’s like to live somewhere where the Democrat always wins and all I need to worry about as the primary. That does not happen here.
Rachel: Sometimes, we have very intense primaries. I will say that.
Dan: True, we do.
Meet Other Progressives
Ember: In all seriousness, though, Bay Ridge does have a reputation for being conservative. But that’s really the truth. Blue Ridge all the way! There are progressives here. If you’re progressive and you really did just move to Bay Ridge, or you’re thinking about it, don’t be afraid. We’re here. Your people are here.
Rachel: [email protected]
Ember: You can learn more about local progressive organizations on the website. We’re here. You’re not alone.
Dan: Yeah. Go through our back catalog of episodes.
Ember: That’s right.
Dan: We’ve been here for a while.
Rachel: And we’re mostly friendly.
Ember: Yeah, most of the time.
Dan: Just because Republicans drive out here to eat doesn’t mean that it’s a red neighborhood.
Rachel: Just because every so often one of our local politicians on the Republican side hosts the Proud Boys, we’re not that bad.
Dan: And we kicked that guy out.
Rachel: We did.
Anticipate Dan’s Ugly House Tour
Dan: You can go down to the really Richie McRicherson part of Shore Road with all of the mega-mansions and gawk at the gold-lined pools. But remember: they’re a tiny part of the neighborhood.
Rachel: The 1%.
Dan: And if any of our Patreons are listening, I really should do our ugly housing tour of Bay Ridge, where I make fun of McMansions.
Rachel: You’ve been promising this…
Dan: I’ve been promising it for so long.
Rachel: Since before the pandemic.
Dan: I know.
Ember: McMansion? Bad. Vibetown Mansion? Good.
Dan: We could just move our studio over here. It’s really nice.
Ember: Thank you. You’re always welcome here!
Rachel: I particularly like the skeletons hanging from the ceiling. I hope that’s a year-round thing.
Ember: They weren’t, but they are now.
Join The Podcast
Dan: Anyway, Ember, thank you for joining the show!
Ember: Thank you for having me.
Dan: And thank you for joining permanently. You are now officially a contributor to the podcast.
Rachel: Our first new addition in quite a while.
Dan: If anyone else is listening and you’re thinking, “I could never join a podcast…”
Rachel: You can!
Dan: You absolutely could.
Ember: You can. Just tweet enough, and they will come to you.
Dan: Yeah. Or go to Ember’s house and cry… we will let you in.
Ember: Come to me. Cry. If your crying is good enough, I’ll think about it.
Rachel: She’ll refer them up the chain.
Dan: Until next time, everyone. Welcome to Bay Ridge if you’re new! And if you’re not, explore some new stuff about Bay Ridge. We’re going to have some cool things coming up on our social media with Ember, more than just this episode. So, stay tuned for that secret stuff. Wink, wink.
But until next time, everyone…
Rachel: Stay Free, Bay Ridge.
Ember: Our nation’s capitol!
This episode was recorded on August 20th, 2021 with Daniel Hetteix, Rachel Brody and Ember Ollom at Vibetown Mansion located in beautiful Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. All post-production and editing was done by our producer, Daniel Hetteix.
I loved this, and I’m in Minneapolis. My only Brooklyn time was in 2019 in Williamsburg for work, and on a super tight schedule, so no time for wandering. I know where my next visit will be now.