Thursday, December 19, 2013

Best Hill in New York City

If you ask this New Yorker what’s his favorite hill in New York City: the bluff in Owl’s Head Park just north of 68th Street and Shore Road in the Bay Ridge neighborhood. The vista from this property has been the subject of art and photography for three centuries. Henry Cruse Murphy who helped found the Brooklyn Eagle and became Mayor of the city of Brooklyn built an impressive estate on this scenic glacial ridge overlooking the Narrows.

The bill authorizing the Brooklyn Bridge was composed and signed there in 1866. The second owner, Eliphalet W. Bliss, sold the land to the city and the property became a park in 1928. Unfortunately, the house was demolished in the 1930s.

When you think about this perpetually changing town and sweat over how little of it is left as you remember it, take the R train out to the Bay Ridge Avenue stop and walk due west past Third Avenue, Ridge Boulevard until you get to the corner of 68th Street and Colonial Avenue and enter this beautiful park and hike your way up to the top of the hill past the ancient trees where you see the bay open up before you.

Turn south and see the tops of the Verrazano Bridge towers, turn north and Manhattan’s skyline decorates the horizon, turn east on a snowy night and watch a young boy and his father sled a monstrous hill, the best one in Brooklyn, all by themselves. Stand alone at the park’s peak on a cold clear evening and see what Henry Murphy saw in the mid-19th century, the finest panoramic view in New York City. It’s easy, blink away the structures, roads and buildings, and see only the water and the surrounding topography. You’re looking at the main artery to the New World.

This is my weekly column in  Ask A New Yorker.

Here are photos from Owl’s Head Park:

Owl's Head Father & Son

Manhattan from Owl's Head Park

Owl's Head

Owl's Head
Owl's Head
city from Owl's Head
Narrows from Owl's Head Park

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