I have been running these piers since I was 9 years old. My stubby legs scrambled on the gray pavement as I chased my dad during his daily runs. Today, as my feet beat briskly on the softer pavement and sand that lines Brooklyn Bridge Park, I am always awed by the history of my neighborhood. This singular cosmopolitan waterfront in Brooklyn Heights overlooking the East River has a colorful history marked by industrialization, immigration, military history, public works projects and civil rights.
The landscape has almost completely changed, yet I still return to this waterfront space. Perhaps it’s a dash of nostalgia or the simply the excitement of knowing that my story is one of many here.
Before Europeans claimed the land that would be known as Brooklyn, Lenape Native Americans used handmade canoes to traverse the tranquil waters of the East River. In 1814, Robert Fulton established a steam-powered ferry to transport passengers across the East River to Fulton Street. A century later, Brooklyn was a hub of immigration and diversity with multitude of ethnic groups – Irish, Arab, Italian, Syrian, Ukrainian, and Lebanese to name a few. After 1920, the subway line that Brookynites now call the R train had been established and allowed unencumbered travel between Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Before Brooklyn Bridge Park became the jewel of Brooklyn Heights, the piers were largely abandoned all year round until Fleet Week when sailors from all over the world flooded Atlantic Avenue. The Park has brought in more people and business into my childhood neighborhood. The landscape has almost completely changed, yet I still return to this waterfront space. Perhaps it’s a dash of nostalgia or the simply the excitement of knowing that my story is one of many here.
A lot of my life is spent in the mind: analyzing lab results, calculating IV fluids, diagnosing symptoms, deciphering complicated syndromes, planning and writing. This is one reason why I feel a sense of urgency and necessity when it comes to being physically active – namely, to offset the intellectual rigor of my daily grind, and to reintegrate myself into the larger more dynamic fabric of my existence beyond a clinic or hospital. My childhood Brooklyn Heights home is the ideal place to do just this. So I run to remember and to beat my own drum here in Brooklyn, which will always be my childhood home.