Sunday, October 8, 2017
The five boroughs of New York City are difficult to think of in terms of having summits, or even high points for that matter. I have personally lived in two of the five boroughs, and although I know there are some locations that a city dweller might consider a hill, the elevation change involved is all of perhaps 50 or 60 feet in gain.
At this point in my project, I had yet to check off any of the “lowest” 7 counties, which are Kings (Brooklyn), Queens, New York (Manhattan), Bronx, Richmond (Staten Island), Nassau and Suffolk (the latter two being on Long Island). So when I was planning to visit a friend in Brooklyn, I asked her if she’d be interested in going over to Greenwood Cemetery with me to visit Battle Hill, and fortunately, she was game.
After parking in front of my friend Helen’s apartment on 17th Street in Sheepshead Bay at 8:30am, our first order of business was to go get breakfast.
So at her suggestion we hit a local diner, and I had my usual diner order of two eggs over easy with corned beef hash, and a side of fries with gravy. Suffice it to say that the food really hit the spot, and supplied me with all the energy I would need to climb the behemoth that is Battle Hill, which is wedged between the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Sunset Park and Park Slope.
So Helen drove us from the diner to the entrance of Greenwood Cemetery, which is perhaps New York City’s most expansive and famous burial grounds.
The building at the main gate is akin to a European fortress. We were met there by a park employee, and when we told him we were there to find Battle Hill, he was kind enough to give us verbal directions, and then supplement those instructions with a printed cemetery guide, which included a map of the property.
Onward we drove, and in less than two minutes we found ourselves on Battle Avenue alongside Battle Hill. Parking the car roadside, Helen and I walked uphill about 70 meters where a large mausoleum clearly marked the highest ground in the cemetery.
Although we now stood only 220 feet above sea level, the location offered somewhat of a birds-eye view of northwestern Brooklyn, and in the distance to the west you could see lady liberty standing tall in Upper New York Bay.
After a couple of minutes of taking in the view, we went back to the car and took 20 or 30 minutes to tour more of the cemetery. We visited the grave site of Leonard Bernstein, which was admirably understated, and included the graves of at least 5 other family members. Instead of a gaudy mausoleum, it had several sets of perennial shrubs that rimmed the site, and it impressed upon me the humility that this great artist brought not only to his life, but to his death.
As we were on our way out we encountered a raccoon in the middle of the roadway. Knowing that raccoons are typically nocturnal, and noting that this particular creature was sluggish and disoriented, we concluded that it might be rabid, and reported it to the staff on our way out.
After departing the cemetery, I convinced Helen to join me for a beer at Greenwood Park, a local watering hole with great craft beer. And to be sure, craft beer is always the best way to celebrate a summit, no matter how big or small.