Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Census Report: Brooklyn's Sunset Park & Green-Wood Cemetery

When I saw Tinatin this afternoon after spending several hours in the field for my gig with U.S. Census, she giggled when I announced that I had a fabulous day. "No, really," I said. "This is every bit the adventure I hoped it'd be." Truly. I ventured out today with my supervisor O and fellow Crew Leader D to lock down a couple sites for "enumerator" training in April. These are the folks that we Crew Leaders will send from apartment to apartment, tracking down info from those that fail to return their questionnaires.

There are specific nabes where we're coming up short for training facilities, so today, in O's's car, we set out to tackle Sunset Park, an area of Brooklyn that I've never seen. We targeted churches—and I managed to nab one, after a tenacious conversation with Pastor Cruz, who turned me down, until I started "preaching" about "contributing to your neighborhood and community." It was a total sales job. And in the end, he agreed to lend space for the Census, five days, 40 hours, free of charge. Score!

The particular area we focused on looked like New York City in the 1970s: dedicated local businesses; an ethnic focus, depending on the block, of Chinese (I never knew there was a Brooklyn "Chinatown"), Latins or Muslims; and a mix of beautiful old brownstones and older, crumbling apartment buildings and potential crack houses (sniff that one above left), with numerous churches and public schools. Tell me that's not a fucking adventure. Loved every minute.Below: Note the Police security camera looking over the block. I thought these things only existed in movies.O, D and I were so empowered by the accomplishment that we decided to take a detour to the Green-wood Cemetery, founded in 1838, a national historic landmark that's several blocks southwest of Prospect Park, between the nabes of Park Slope, Windsor Terrace and Sunset Park. In addition to its grand entrance, it boasts the highest point in Brooklyn, where you can actually see the Manhattan skyline, along with 600,000 graves—including toy retailer FAO Schwarz, code dude Samuel Morse, musician Leonard Bernstein, gangster Boss Tweed and glass guy Louis Tiffany—across an expansive, hilly 478 acres.Above: The grand entrance, so tall that cars drive underneath.The cemetery's chapel.Can't fool me: Cats are disciples of the devil. This pussy is here to suck the soul from the living.Below, the view inside a mausoleum! Like they need an illuminated Jesus to light their way?One of the coolest sites is the monument for Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, perched high on Battle Hill, the cemetery's peak. It was built by Charles Higgins in 1920, in honor of the Revolutionary War Battle of Long Island, the first major battle after the Declaration of Independence. Her waving hand is reciprocated directly 3.5 miles to the West by Lady Liberty’s upraised torch. The girls actually wave to one another, which you can see here, if you squint really hard. Maybe. (Better bet: Click on the image and you'll see Lady Lib in the distance.)D peaking inside a mausoleum. Boo!The Civil War Memorial... with markers that were obviously quite recently put in place, since they actually sit on top of the grass. I realized that I'm probably not particularly welcome here, since I grew up in Virginia. That makes me a Confederate—on Yankee soil. Oops. At least I didn't smoke over any of these guys.