Sometimes it's easy to jump from a first impression to a conclusion, to write something off out of impatience or ignorance.
And that brings my directly to today's topic, Sheepshead Bay, a very large, very diverse neighborhood in Southern Brooklyn.
My first impression of the neighborhood was negative, but it was a fuzzy, poorly formed impression at best. The year was 2016, and I was headed to a (now closed) Uyghur-Uzbek-Korean cafe in Brighton Beach to meet my friend Sherri. I had some time to kill, so I got off a stop or two early and went for a walk. The subway station where I disembarked was called Sheepshead Bay.
Anyone who has lived in a city knows that urban planners often demonstrate a callous disregard for pedestrians, cyclists, neighborhoods, and all manner of things that make living in an urban environment more bearable and nice. In particular, everything I would value as an urban dweller is thrown out the window when it goes to highway planning.
There are highways that go between Sheepshead Bay and Brighton Beach, reducing walkability, and leading to a quite unpleasant atmosphere should one wander along the roads that contort and pass over the highway.
Given this setup, you can safely assume that my path from the Sheepshead Bay station to the restaurant took me over the highway. I didn't even see the neighborhood's eponymous bay. And thusly the journey inscribed in my memory an image of Sheepshead Bay as an unpleasant. I knew the neighborhood was full of things that would interest me, but I hadn't really felt that energized to check it out again.
Fast forward to July 2021, and I finally got around to checking out a few former colleagues' most highly recommended Turkish restaurant in the area. Actually, I got distracted by a nearby Ciğ Köfteci. And a cafe. And the bay proper. It goes without saying, but what a beautiful neighborhood.
And what a lousy first impression.
And what a great second impression.
So, I wandered back a day or two later with my camera, and now I can gladly share my third impression.
I realized that there was a small Holocaust Memorial Park nestled among the bayside. I wasn't expecting much, but I was really impressed -- it's a beautiful and poignant sculpture in a very contemplative space, which really honors the many Holocaust survivors who found themselves living in the neighborhood.
I was also more than happy to do some bird watching from the pier. I'm not sure if any of you have yet seen the rare rock pigeon?
I like to pretend that I'm observant, that I see things, that my impressions are accurate reflections of the reality around me.
But my first impressions are wrong more often than I'd like. That's okay. It's getting second and third impressions and paying heed to them that matters.
And as I walked back from my third visit to Sheepshead Bay, up and over the highway, I really did think about the value in spending a longer time at a place, and not accepting my first impressions.
All photos are unedited JPEGs.
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