Tuesday, November 21, 2006

In the ghetto...

One thing this blog isn’t about is where or how far I biked on my latest ride. I don’t care about your ride. I don’t expect you to care about mine.

But Saturday night a friend was over with a bike I gave him (see oh those sexy french ladies' frames below. I wasn’t going to do shit with that bike, so I gave it to him. He’s French, too. How appropriate.) He arrived in New York about two weeks ago and moved to East New York one stop from the end of the 3 Train. Only a man who doesn’t know New York would do that. But good for him, I say.

I’ve never been to East New York, Brooklyn. It’s perhaps the most dangerous part of New York. I like bad neighborhoods. I don’t want to live in one. But the city lover and sociologist in me is always drawn to them. Rich neighborhoods are kind of the same everywhere. If you want to know a city, go to the “bad” part. And no better way to do that than by bike.

So at 2 a.m. I decide to bike back with him. I actually love the idea of a tipsy 2 a.m. ride to the ’hood via a route I’ve never been. Really. I used to take a lot of late night rides in Boston. I miss them. And I love being places I’ve never been. So with a handy NYC bike map we set off and made it there in more-or-less a straight line. Not perfectly straight. But good enough. Through a dark park. Past a national cemetery. And over hills, which I don’t associate with NYC.

It took an-hour-and-a-half there and 45 minutes coming back. 10 miles each way. I biked a bit faster coming home and it’s always easier to find home. Basically Miller St to Jamaica Ave to Cypress Hills St. to Fresh Pond Road to 58th St. to Broadway. The roads are well paved and traffic was light.

So I’ve never been to East New York and no white person I know ever has (present French company excluded). You say ghetto and I think East Baltimore. But ain’t nothing as bad as East Baltimore. I have to say, I didn’t see East New York during the day time, and maybe there’s nowhere to buy fresh vegetables, but the block he lived on (Miller St just north of Livonia) looked as good as Astoria. No vacant buildings. Houses kept up. In some ways I’d prefer to live there than the “nicer” neighborhoods in Queens I biked through to get there. At least subways—a few of them—go through East New York.

If that’s the worst New York has to offer, we’re doing OK.

Two nights later (tonight) I got two flats biking to Coble Hill, Brooklyn. I can only handle one flat. A second leaves me walking. I’m happy it didn’t happen in East New York. One flat in Williamsburg and another in Fort Green. I had to take the G to get where I was going. Only on the train did I notice my $45 rear tire was kind of blown out. I’ve had it two years and obviously should have replaced it earlier. On the plus side, for the return trip, I discovered my bike can fit in the trunk of a cab. Never has $28 and 15 minutes been so well spent.


Matt said...

You're right that nothing is as bad as East Baltimore (at least most parts). I didn't think that East NY was that bad but I don't know the city that well.

I was in Queens recentely (Roosevelt St. area) and see why you love biking around the area. It's not ridiculously crowded like Manhatten and has a neighborhood feel.

On a related note, I'm trying to figure out if I can commute to my new job. What would you suggest as the furthest distance acceptable to bike in wintertime/snow-ridden roads? Especially when I have to wear business attire. I'm thinking I'm fine with anything around 8 miles or less, but imagine that I'd come sweating to work in the summertime.

Fotaq said...

I too would say about 8 miles. But it helps me tremondously that I have a private office at school and can change clothes at work.

Good food under those tracks on Roosevelt Ave in Queens!

Fotaq said...

Matt, you should check this out: http://twowheelgear.com/index.php. If I had to travel with business attire, I would get this. It's not cheap, but I think it's the best out there. I would love to hear a first-hand account.