A Brooklyn State of Mind – Prospect Park Zoo, Historic Lefferts House, The Carousel & Audubon Center

securedownload PP Zoo 3Spring is finally here and I could not be more excited. The beautiful weather will provide a perfect backdrop for today’s tour. Do you remember the places we visited during our first tour? We started our day at The River Café, spent some time downtown and ended at the new Barclays Arena on Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues. For more information, please refer to our first tour, A Brooklyn State of Mind, posted on March 4, 2013.

Since the Arena is close to all modes of transportation, this is the perfect point of departure for today’s tour. We will travel a little further into Brooklyn to the Prospect Park Zoo, the Historic Lefferts House, The Carousel and the Audubon Center at The Boathouse. To add to our day, I brought lunch from Juniors Restaurant, complete with cheesecake. There is a picnic area at the Zoo where we can enjoy our treats.

Let’s start by walking across Flatbush Avenue to the B41 bus stop, in front of Modell’s Sporting Goods Store. Depending upon traffic, the ride should take no more than 15 minutes. Along the way, we will see many new restaurants, sidewalk cafes, wine stores, pet shops and clothing boutiques, a true sign of Brooklyn’s rebirth. We can take the bus to the main entrance of the Zoo, but there are a few landmarks I want to show you. Instead, let’s exit at the Grand Army Plaza stop and walk the rest of the way.

We are going to walk across Flatbush Avenue for a closer look at the Brooklyn Public Library’s beautiful entrance.

photo BPL ENTRANCEConstruction began in 1912, but the Library was not completed until 1941, after World War II and the Depression ended. Shaped to look like an open book, one of the building’s most recognizable features is its 50’ high entry portico, which is flanked by two enormous pylons, highlighted with beautiful gilded relief sculptures. Centered within the pylons are huge bronze gates with gilt figures of literary subjects including Tom Sawyer, from the novel by Mark Twain, and Moby-Dick, from the novel by Herman Melville. The Library, which contains over one million cataloged books, magazines, and multimedia materials, serves as the major reference center for BPL’s 60-location system. For more information about membership, public resources and special events, please click here.

photo  SAILORS AND SOLDIERS ARCHNow, let’s walk back across Flatbush Avenue, where we exited the B41 bus. Before proceeding to the Zoo, I would like to take one last detour to the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch at Grand Army Plaza, which is also considered to be the main entrance to Prospect Park. Here will you see four 35’ high Doric columns decorated with bronze eagles, pedestals that support 14 painted bronze urns and two 12-sided granite pavilions. What a majestic tribute to such an impressive park.

We are now ready for our walk to the Zoo. As we walk along Flatbush Avenue, which is the outer perimeter of Prospect Park, we will pass the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, which is a tour for another day. We have arrived at our destination. Welcome to the Prospect Park Zoo.

securedownload PP Zoo 1The Zoo covers an impressive 12 acres. The present facility, which first opened in 1935, was operated as a City Zoo by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. The Parks Department was responsible for managing the Zoo until 1988, when it was closed for a major reconstruction which took five years and cost $37 million. Every part of the Zoo, with the exception of the buildings’ exteriors, was replaced. The newly reconstructed facility was re-dedicated in October 1993 as a part of the Prospect Park Wildlife Conservation Center, and is still affectionately called the “Zoo.” First, let’s find a picnic bench and enjoy our lunch from Juniors.

We are ready to begin our tour. There are several exhibits and attractions to choose from: Animal Lifestyles, where we will meet the Zoo’s mascots, a troop of Himalayan baboons; Animals in our Lives, which is two exhibits, Animals in Art and Amazing Animals highlighting some of nature’s muses; Discovery Trails, where we will see planted pathways and marshes, red pandas, dingoes, prairie dogs and kangaroos; Barns and Gardens, home to baby-doll sheep, pygmy goats and alpacas and the Sea Lion Court, which is the heart of the Zoo and home to some amazing sea lions from California. While we are on a self-guided tour, please keep in mind animal keepers are around to answer questions. The Zoo also has a wildlife theater, educational programs to engage children and volunteer programs to engage the local community.

Here are some photos of some of the Zoo’s amazing residents:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To learn more about days of operation, special programs, membership and other ways to enjoy this Brooklyn treasure, please click here.

We will end our tour here to allow enough time to visit a few additional sites: the Historic Lefferts House, The Carousel and The Audubon Center at the Boathouse.  Once outside the Zoo, we will make a quick right turn, bringing us closer to the interior of Prospect Park where the Historic Lefferts House stands ready to receive us. The former home of Continental Army Lieutenant Pieter Lefferts, this house was built in 1783 and originally located on Flatbush Avenue. In 1918 the Historic Lefferts House was moved to Prospect Park. In 1920 it opened as a museum with landmark status. The Historic Lefferts House is a part of the Historic House Trust, owned by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and operated by the Prospect Park Alliance.


The Prospect Park Carousel was one of 6,000 constructed in the United States in the early 20th century. It is one only 200 that exist today. The animals for this Carousel were carved in 1912 by Charles Carmel, who was trained in Coney Island by the most renowned carousel artists of the time. Upon completion, the Carousel was installed in Coney Island, where it remained until 1952, when it was moved to its current location. Once in Prospect Park, the Carousel was in operation until 1983, when it was closed for much needed-repairs and maintenance. This beloved attraction reopened in 1990 after undergoing extensive restoration. For more information about the Carousel, please click here.

photo (1)  CAROUSEL

After a quick ride, we are off to our final stop for today – The Audubon Center at the Boathouse. We will need to go further into Prospect Park but not too far. Once inside, the Center is a quick walk across the East Drive.

The Audubon Center is the result of a trailblazing partnership between the Prospect Park Alliance and Audubon New York. The first urban-area Audubon Center in the nation, it is a place of active discovery with hands-on exhibits and innovative programming for children and adults. This is also a good place to pick up information on future events from the Prospect Park Visitors Center, which is also located here. We cannot leave without visiting the Con Edison Discover Nature Theater and the Verizon Learning Lab. Remember this Center is a “living” museum filled with live animals. Like any museum space, the exhibits change frequently and provide a constant source of amazement. Let’s stop for a picture on the balcony overlooking the Lullwater to share with our friends and family.  For more information about the Center, please click here.


We at Brooklyn Legends thank you for joining us for another walking tour. There is so much more to see in Prospect Park. I encourage you to plan another visit. Please remember to check back often for future tours of Brooklyn.

We will walk back to Flatbush Avenue where public transportation awaits. The B41 bus will take you downtown or to Kings Plaza Shopping Mall. The Prospect Park Subway Station is a couple of blocks away. Or, you can also take a taxi. Enjoy the rest of the day!

Brooklyn Public Library background information and photos – bklynpubliclibrary.org
Soldiers and Sailors Monument bacground information and photos – prospectpark.org
Prospect Park Zoo background information and photos – prospectparkzoo.com
Historic Lefferts House background information and photos – prospectpark.org

A Brooklyn State of Mind

For the past few weeks, I have focused on the contributions of some very impressive women from Brooklyn.  Today I would like to give you a glimpse of some of very impressive places in Brooklyn.  You can treat today’s post as a mini “guided” tour.  However, given how large Brooklyn is, additional tours will be added throughout the year.

We will begin in Dumbo and proceed to Cadman Plaza.  From Cadman Plaza we will journey downtown and stroll along Fulton Street before heading to Flatbush Avenue.  Once on Flatbush Avenue, we will travel to Atlantic Avenue where today’s tour will end.

Imagine riding in a taxi, from Manhattan, across the Brooklyn Bridge.  It is a beautiful spring day and you are heading to Brooklyn.  Our exit, Cadman Plaza West, is just ahead.  Your cab driver will take Old Fulton Street to Water Street.  We are going to The River Café at One Water Street.

securedownload daytime river cafre

Inside The River Cafe

Once inside The River Café, you will quickly notice each table offers a beautiful view of the Brooklyn Bridge and the East River.  You will find the staff to be gracious and courteous.  They love to talk about Brooklyn.  After enjoying your meal, I encourage you to spend a little more time on Water Street before heading to the next destination.

Just a few steps down from The River Café is another Brooklyn treasure you will not want to miss, Jacques Torre Chocolate, also known as Mr. Chocolate.  I love the truffles!  They are some of the best in New York City.  If there is a line, please try to wait.  You will not be disappointed.

securedownload choclate

Jacques Torres Chocolate

If you are not in a hurry, I recommend a quick detour to Brooklyn Bridge Park.  You are so close!  After leaving Jacques Torre, walk east on Water Street toward Main Street.  Turn left onto Washington Street.  Take Washington Street to Plymouth Street and turn right.  You should be on Plymouth and Main Streets.  The Park is a few steps away.  There you will find a breathtaking view of Manhattan, so try to take a few photos.  Another “must see” is Jane’s Carousel which is a hit with children and adults.

securedownload carousel

Jane’s Carousel

Now let’s stroll back to The River Café where you can hail a taxi, or take the bus, to Cadman Plaza where the driver can leave you.  The trees and flowers should be in full bloom so please enjoy the scenery while you are here.  There are two historic buildings you will want to take pictures of: the main Brooklyn Post Office and the Brooklyn Business Library.

securedownload post office

Brooklyn’s Main Post Office – Cadman Plaza

There is another gem that I highly recommend, the Brooklyn Historical Society.  When leaving the library, walk along Court Street and turn right onto Pierrepont Street.  Travel one block until you reach Clinton.  The building is on the left.

securedownload historical society

Brooklyn Historical Society

We are now half-way through our tour.  If you walk back to Court Street, you will be a few minutes away from Brooklyn Borough Hall.  There are two entrances, The Plaza is on Court Street and the main entrance is on Joralemon Street.  In the summer the Plaza hosts some of Brooklyn’s finest musicians, singers, poets and dancers.  You may even see Borough President Marty Markowitz mingling with fellow Brooklynites.

securedownload borough hall

Brooklyn Borough Hall – Main Entrance

Another popular Brooklyn destination is Brooklyn Law School, just a few steps down from Borough Hall’s main entrance on Joralemon Street.  Some of the country’s most celebrated attorneys and scholars have attended Brooklyn Law School, including former New York City Mayor David Dinkins.

securedownload bklyn law school

Brooklyn Law School

We are now on Fulton Street which is home to many shops including The Gap, Lane Bryant, Macy’s, Armani Exchange and Forever 21.  Take your time and walk the full length of the street.  You will see many new buildings going up, a sure sign of progress in the downtown area.  As you approach Flatbush Avenue, walk to the left onto DeKalb Avenue.  You will soon see the sign for Juniors Restaurant, where I am sure you will find a treat to enjoy.

securedownload juniors

Junior’s Restaurant

After a well-deserved break, let’s gear up for the last leg of our tour.  You have walked for a bit, so it is time to hail another taxi.  As you stand on Flatbush Avenue Extension, you will notice the Brooklyn Campus of Long Island University, one of the finest colleges in the country.  Before LIU purchased this building, the old Paramount movie theater occupied the first three to four floors.  Here is a photo of LIU in its early days.

securedownload LIU

Long Island University & the old Paramount Theater

You are now riding up Flatbush Avenue to our next stop, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM).  The driver will need to turn left onto Lafayette Avenue.  You will see BAM on the right.  You will also notice a new building, on the other side of Lafayette, home to the Mark Morris Dance Group.  When I see these two buildings, I appreciate the seamless manner in which Brooklyn has integrated modern architecture along with the borough’s iconic landmarks.

securedownload BAM

Brooklyn Academy of Music

Just around the corner from BAM, on One Hanson Place, is the former Williamsburg Bank building, affectionately known as “the clock tower building.”  This was Brooklyn’s first skyscraper.  A few years ago, the clock tower building was fully renovated and is now a condominium.  The building also has an elegant entertainment space and is home to some of the most popular parties in Brooklyn.

securedownload Williamsburg

Williamsburg Savings Bank Building

Just across from the “clock tower,” you will find a new office tower, Two Hanson Place.  A few steps away are the new Atlantic Avenue rail terminal and the Atlantic Avenue mall.  Both of these buildings are tours for another day.

The last building I will point out to you is the new Barclay’s Arena, on Atlantic Avenue, across the street from the Atlantic Avenue mall.  The new Arena has become a hub of activity since it opened last fall.  In addition to serving as the new home for the Brooklyn Nets, the Arena has presented legendary performers including: Jay-Z, Barbra Streisand, Kirk Franklin and Fred Hammond.  To know more about future performances, sign up for e-mail alerts at http://www.barclayscenter.com.  You will also be able to purchase tickets as soon as they become available.

securedownload Barclays

Barclays Arena

I hope that you have enjoyed this tour of some of my favorite places.  If something has caught your attention, why not come back for a visit?  If I can be helpful in any way, please drop me a note.  I will be happy to respond.

See you around Brooklyn!
The River Cafe photo courtesy of Valetmag.com.  One additional note – due to Hurricane Sandy, The River Cafe is still renovating.  They will re-open soon.
Jacques Torres Chocolate photo courtesy of mrchocolate.com
Jane’s Carousel photo courtesy of huffingtonpost.com
Brooklyn Main Post Office at Cadman Plaza photo courtesy of trixrosenphotography.com
Brooklyn Historical Society photo courtesy of demel.net
Brooklyn Borough Hall photo courtesy of flickr.com
Brooklyn Law School photo courtesy of google.com
Junior’s Restaurant photo courtesy of google.com
Brooklyn Academy of Music photo courtesy of myhabitat.com
Williamsburg Bank Building photo courtesy of brooklynhistory.org
Barclay’s Arena photo courtesy of dezen.com