Archive for the tag 'history'

Coney Island, Manhattan Beach and Brighton Beach weren’t the only areas where the rich spent their leisure time in the late 1800s and early 1900s. During that time horse racing tracks were built in Sheepshead Bay, Gravesend and Brighton Beach, where the events were often packed with a “fashionable throng.” [pdf]

Looking through old New York Times articles, it becomes clear that the horse racing tracks in these areas drew the attention of much of the city and world, and the Times began reporting on it regularly. The tracks even brought Thomas Edison with his new gadget, the camera, to the Sheepshead Bay horse track in 1897.

While the horse tracks in these areas gained so much attention and dominated the neighborhoods there are few traces today on places like Ocean Avenue of the Sheepshead Bay track.

By 1915, the track in Sheepshead Bay had been converted into an automobile race track and soon after that the track became “doomed by the march of development and the demand for home sites,” according to a New York Times article from 1923. The end of the horse track era ended just as quickly as it began.

The change from sporting scenes to residential districts has happened in a very short time. It is a matter of only twelve or thirteen years ago that throngs of thirty, forty and fifty thousand people headed, day after day, to such well-known enclosures as the Sheepshead Bay race track, Gravesend and the parkway driving tracks.

The prohibition of gambling that went into effect around that time also helped kill the industry, as we wrote before in a post about the area’s history.

Even though the horse tracks were replaced with houses, the neighborhoods were never the same. Before the racing, Sheepshead Bay and the other areas were just small coastal towns where the middle and working class lived. With all of the money and attention the tracks brought, Southern Brooklyn would never be the same as more people began to move into the area.

“Today the sites of these same race tracks provide homes for just as many people,” from the same 1923 Times article.


A video has been going around the internets of a Kraft Music Hall program from August 9, 1968, hosted by legendary comic Don Rickles, and filmed entirely along Avenue M in Midwood around the subway station.

And that’s no surprise, it was an NBC program, and NBC Brooklyn Studios was once located at 1268 East 14th Street.

The video’s classic Rickles walking through classic Brooklyn: kids playing stickball, classic hot dogs, classic pickpockets – and classic businesses in the background (anyone remember Yen Fung Restaurant?).

Check it out!

Barbara Sukowa as Hannah Arendt. Source: IMDb

Barbara Sukowa as Hannah Arendt. Source: IMDb

The Beth El Jewish Center of Flatbush invites all to its fall film series, with a showing of the controversial biopic “Hannah Arendt,” about the journalist for “The New Yorker” who penned “Eichmann in Jerusalem.”

The film will be screened this Saturday, December 14, at 7:00 p.m. inside the synagogue’s daily chapel, 1981 Homecrest Avenue at Avenue T.

The film’s trailer can be seen here.

The series is free, and all are welcome to attend. For further information, call (718) 375-0120.

An original edition, from the author's personal collection, of the November 23, 1963 New York Times. Courtesy of Neil Friedman

An original edition, from the author’s personal collection, of the November 23, 1963 New York Times. Courtesy of Neil Friedman

BETWEEN THE LINES: The following is an excerpt from one of several speeches that Senator John F. Kennedy made in Brooklyn, on October 20, 1960:

I come over here to Brooklyn to ask your help. I run for the Presidency in the most difficult time in the life of our country, but with the greatest confidence, that if this country is given the kind of leadership which I believe it needs, if we are willing to go to work again, this country can meet any obstacle and can serve as an inspiration to freedom around the globe. So I come to Brooklyn to ask your help in this campaign, and if we are elected, we are going to go to work.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, one of the most alarming signposts in American history and a defining moment that echoes for many Americans over the age of 40, especially the post-World War II generation.

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John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, was also a watercolor enthusiast, and produced a painting of our beloved Sheepshead Bay waterfront while campaigning for the presidency.

Entitled “Sheepshead Bay, NY,” it and two other canvasses will be sold at auction by John McInnis Auctioneers in Amesbury, MA,  tomorrow, on the 50th anniversary of his assassination.

An avid sailor and yachtsman, Kennedy painted the waterfront and one of his favorite subjects – a sailboat – while seeking out votes in New York City in 1960.

If not for the historical importance of its painter, the canvasses themselves probably wouldn’t be worth much. Kennedy was just a hobbyist, after all, and even those behind the sale note that where he excelled in politics, he came up short in artistic talent.

“I don’t think he was necessarily the most talented person in the world” joked Dan Meader, the director of John McInnies. “When you look at the paintings in person, you can actually see how he water colored them and changed them.”

For President Kennedy, painting was not a solitary hobby and often involved his family, friends and close political advisors.

“He usually did it as a group thing with Jackie standing right over his shoulder,” Meader said, adding that the painting was in fact titled and dated by Mrs. Kennedy since the President’s script was notoriously illegible. “That’s actually Jackie’s handwriting,” he pointed out.

Meader said bidding on the painting of Sheepshead Bay will start at about $5,000 to $8,000.

The artwork, along with family photographs and other personal items, was brought to John McInnis by a longtime friend of the Kennedys who asked to remain anonymous.

The three-day auction will kick off at 3:00 pm on November 22, marking the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination.

– Steven Volynets

The moon crossing in front of the sun, with the chartered plane's wing in the foreground.

The moon crossing in front of the sun, with the chartered plane’s wing in the foreground.

Space shuttle photographer and Manhattan Beach native Ben Cooper made history this weekend when he joined 11 other photographers aboard a privately chartered jet to get a rare glimpse of a “zero second” solar eclipse.

On Sunday, the moon passed between the Earth and the sun at a rare and perfect angle, to cause what’s known as a hybrid eclipse. During a hybrid eclipse, the moon is close enough that from certain points on the globe it appears to be a total eclipse, while from others the moon appears smaller, and leaves a bright ring around the disk of the moon.

While total solar eclipses occur every one- to-2.5 years somewhere along a thin path on the Earth, they only last a few minutes. Hybrid eclipses, on the other hand, are an even tougher find. They only occur once in a decade, and the total eclipse path is much more narrow, lasting less than 10 seconds in some areas.

Cooper, a former NASA photographer and professional spacecraft shooter, who we’ve featured previously for his photos of the Space Shuttle Enterprise passing by Southern Brooklyn by air and by sea, set out to capture the elusive moment of total solar eclipse. It would be the fourth total solar eclipse of his life.

It was most visible from parts of Africa, Europe and the eastern coastline of the Americas. But Cooper set his sights higher, much higher, and joined a group of international photographers on a historic flight to capture the total eclipse from above the cloud-line.

It’s not unheard of. During almost every eclipse, tourists and eclipse chasers will book flights, sometimes on jets as large as a 747, to catch a glimpse.

But the unique nature of this particular hybrid eclipse meant a very special flight path.

“Most of the time, what the plane does is go up and fly along the path of the eclipse and wait for the shadow to catch up from behind, making it fairly easy,” Cooper explained to Sheepshead Bites. “The geometry of this eclipse meant, that to see it out the windows, we had to intercept the eclipse at 90 degrees, like two cars meeting at an intersection. Except the cars are going 500-600 mph (plane) and in this case 8,000 mph (the eclipse where we were).”

Meeting the eclipse at that angle – perpendicular – was the first of its kind mission in human history.

It wasn’t a flawless trip. What they had hoped would be a seven-second eclipse got cut short due to minute variables in that mind-blowing geometry.

“To do this meant the plane had to get to one spot at one instant. We were, in fact, about one second off and so, instead of getting what we predicted to be seven seconds of eclipse, we got less than one. Maybe zero,” he said.

Still, at 42,000 feet over the Central Atlantic, the plane made a near-perfect intercept of the eclipse. Cooper said the sensation at that successful moment, even if it was for less than a second, was worth the effort of a last-minute shuttling to Bermuda, from where the chartered plane departed and landed.

“It was an amazing experience, not knowing whether we would get it right until it actually happened,” he said. :The navigator and pilots were amazing at getting us to the right spot at the right moment. I still can’t believe we did it successfully, even if a hair off!”

Below are the photos Cooper captured of the eclipse. Be sure to check out his website to see more photos from this and other shoots, and purchase your own prints.

Cooper caught the last tiny bead of sunlight poking through, forming the "diamond ring."

Cooper caught the last tiny bead of sunlight poking through, forming the “diamond ring.”

The eclipse path.

The eclipse path.

File:US Navy 081013-N-5758H-061 Navy Operation Support Center, Bronx Color Guard leads the 64th annual Columbus Day Parade.jpg

Navy Color Guard leads Columbus Day celebrations in Manhattan, 2008 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Today is Columbus Day, marking the 521st anniversary since Christopher Columbus landed on the shores of the New World, kicking off a succession of events that ultimately lead to the formation of the United States and nations throughout North and South America.

We hope you have a terrific day, and take a moment to reflect on the cultural heritage and diversity that has flourished in this land in the last half-millennium.

Pips Comedy Club (Source: / Inset: Marty Schultz

Pips Comedy Club (Source: / Inset: Marty Schultz

Marty Schultz, the former owner of Emmons Avenue’s legendary Pips Comedy Club, and last surviving son of the club’s founder, passed away on October 1 at the age of 58 in Las Vegas.

Marty and his brother, Seth, took over ownership of Pips – regarded as the oldest comedy club in America until its closure in the mid-2000s – after the passing of their father, George in 1991. They had already been running the joint for many years, raised to be part of the family business.

The club opened in 1962, named after George’s dog, Pip, becoming the launching pad of many of America’s greatest comedians, including Rodney Dangerfield, David Brenner and Andrew Dice Clay. It regularly played host to legends like Woody Allen, George Carlin and Andy Kaufman.

2005 Emmons Avenue, the former location of Pips Comedy Club.

It was also known as one of the roughest crowds in the comedy club circuit, a place “where even bartenders heckled,” according to one New York Times report. And when budding comics took a beating on stage, it was Marty and Seth who provided encouragement.

Seth died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound five years ago, leaving Marty as the last surviving son of the club’s founder. Marty passed away last Monday, leaving behind a daughter, Georgi, named after his beloved father.

While Seth was better known as the front man, booking the talent, glad-handing the patrons and warming up the crowd with his stand-up bits, Marty was the behind-the-scenes operator who kept the business running.

As the club struggled in the early 90s, with the rise of comedy clubs in Manhattan and the surge in crime in Southern Brooklyn, it reeled even more after the death of their renowned father. Seth and Marty sold the club to Michael Palmiero in 1995. It was sold to comedian Joey Gay in 2004 and shut down shortly after, replaced by a sushi restaurant, as so many things in Sheepshead Bay have been.

On Marty’s death notice on, Palmiero wrote:

I had a special place for Marty in my heart. I bought Pip’s Comedy Club from Marty back in 1995. I became the 2nd owner of the oldest Comedy Club in America. This is a great loss. I developed the same love for Pip’s Comedy Club as Marty had for Pip’s Comedy Club.

My heart goes out to Georgi for the loss of her dad. I hope someday I may meet Marty’ s daughter and share my experience with her father. I pray for Marty in heaven and may he bring laughter and comedy to all those who are not with us today.

Seth bounced around after the closure, spending a decade trying to make it as an actor. He produced several videos – mostly weird – and was known as the only man who could get Andy Kaufman to “be himself” on camera. Yet he never found the success he yearned for.

Marty moved on to Las Vegas, rising from a low-level position as a blackjack dealer in the Golden Nugget to management level at various Vegas staples, including the Palms Casino Resort and Tropicana Las Vegas.

Friends and family gathered for Marty’s funeral service this morning, at the Kraft-Sussman Funeral Services in Nevada. The family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations to help support Georgi’s college fund may be sent to Georgi Schultz, 3241 Dusty Daylight Court, Henderson, NV 89052 or deposits may be made at any Wells Fargo, Account No. 2950319646.

Keep reading for a few videos we found featuring the Schultzes and Pips.

Bronislaw Huberman, founder of the Israel Philharmonic. Source:

Bronislaw Huberman, founder of the Israel Philharmonic. Source:

The Beth El Jewish Center of Flatbush invites all to its fall film series, kicking off with a screening of the documentary “Orchestra of Exiles,” Monday, September 30 at 7:30 p.m. inside the synagogue’s daily chapel, 1981 Homecrest Avenue at Avenue T.

The film tells the story of the founding of the Palestine Philharmonic — which grew into the world famous Israel Philharmonic — in the 1930s by Bronislaw Huberman, a Polish musician who worked to saved fellow musicians from the impending Holocaust. The film combines Holocaust history with an appreciation of great music.

The series is free, and all are welcome to attend. For further information, call (718) 375-0120.


Believe it or not, it wasn’t always Randazzo’s Clam Bar – and only Randazzo’s Clam Bar. Sheepshead Bay had a couple of clam bars, and while time clearly favored the hot marinara we still know today, many people thought Joe’s Clam Bar was the real prize.

As for me, Joe’s goes back before my memory does. I know they were still open as of 1987, as an employee was on hand to give a reporter some background info on the apparent gangland killing of an employee at another old Sheepshead Bay seafood joint – Rubino’s Crab House.

Do you know when it closed? And what other clam bars do you remember populating the Bay?

Man, I could go for some good raw littlenecks right about now…

Photo courtesy of Marc Hollander via Facebook.

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