The mermaid and her flippered college buddies from the old days decided to head south for their yearly “retreat,” which as you might have guessed left King Triton to roam the local waters doing what he likes best — wandering aimlessly! But my wandering actually had purpose this time as the temperatures started to head upwards. So when you live at the beach and the sun finally appears, what do you do? If you are me, you head into Brooklyn to visit a cemetery where you know absolutely no one buried!
Evergreen Cemetery actually sits on the boarder of Brooklyn and Queens and there are several ways to get there, but listening to my GPS, the mapped route was through Brooklyn. Now I live in Rockaway and have been here for almost forty years, but I consider myself a Brooklynite. I think that’s probably true of many transplants like myself. But the route the GPS took me on was so foreign that I have to admit; I didn’t know where the heck I was. It seemed to me that this part of New York, this part of Brooklyn had been completely forgotten.
When the city talks of rebuilding affordable housing, I wonder if they even know this is still part of the city. The Mayor should really get out of Park Slope and take a look. What was probably beautiful farmland when the Dutch, English and Germans lived here, gave way to row houses that eventually fell into disrepair and remain so. So what route did I take? Well I left Rockaway over the Marine Park Bridge down Flatbush to Utica to Kings Highway to Eastern Parkway to Bushwick Avenue and made a left into Evergreen. The neighborhoods changed from Marine Parkway to Flatlands to East Flatbush to Brownsville. The last few neighborhoods I was pretty unfamiliar with being a northern Brooklynite.
The ride took all of twenty-six minutes from Rockaway, and when I entered the Bushwick Avenue entrance into Evergreen Cemetery I was transported into a totally different world, one that was probably at least three hundred years old! The temperature was touching almost seventy degrees, and the gemetery was totally empty, and I have to say I felt completely safe as I parked by the old Dutch House that acts as the office. I grabbed a map and began to hike through the grounds. The warm air brought out all the robin redbreasts and several other brightly colored birds. While the cemetery is home to residents from the 1860s, several of those interred there were born in the late 1700s! And the monuments that people made to their loved ones are almost as stirring as the huge trees that are everywhere in Evergreen. I walked up to what I felt was the highest elevation and was treated to a great view of Manhattan. The area has rolling hills and slopes and gives a glimpse of what this beautiful place looked like in yesteryear. I felt angry with those that decided to make the surrounding areas into such an urban desert. Not that it cannot be revived like Williamsburg or Bushwick, but someone has to care. Affordable housing? Start here!
Anyway, you know I like cemeteries, because they have trees and birds and residents that don’t argue with me. They are peaceful places to walk and collect your thoughts, but they also house the history of places. I have reported on the history of Greenwood Cemetery where parts of the Revolution were fought. But did you know that Evergreen is where the Rockaway Pass is? What’s the Rockaway Pass you say? Well, when General Washington was leading his ragtag army against the mighty British forces in the early days of the war, the battle for New York was key. General Howe of the British forces decided to pursue Washington but didn’t want to use the Jamaica Pass and tip off the pesky Americans, so he opted for the old Indian trail, known as the Rockaway Pass and used it to attack Washington. Spoiler alert: Washington got away through the cover of night from Brooklyn Heights across to Manhattan, where he stopped for a beer at Fraunces, and then hightailed it up to Harlem and across the Hudson where apparently he slept in a lot of houses. You know the rest. But this historic site is only twenty-six minutes from Rockaway. Wow! Who knew? Now, you do! See you out there.