The Joker would love these step streets in Bay Ridge
You can find them by strolling down Colonial Road.
One’s on 74th Street and the other’s on 76th Street. You can stroll down Colonial Road to find them — and do some dancing of your own without needing to elbow your way through all the visitors on the Joker’s Bronx stairs.
Colonial Road stretches from the northern border of Bay Ridge nearly all the way to the southern coastline. When you walk down it, besides the iconic step streets, you’ll find a representative mix of southwest Brooklyn housing stock. There are big suburban-style homes with large lawns, semi-attached houses on deep lots, century-old limestone rowhouses and a handful of apartment buildings.
From time to time, when you look south, you’ll glimpse the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, austere and beautiful.
The streets people most frequently recommend for north-south Bay Ridge walks are Shore Road, with its fine houses and glimpses of Upper New York Bay, and Narrows Avenue, where a landmarked mansion known as the Gingerbread House can be found. These are stellar choices for strolls. But Colonial Road deserves a lot of love as well. And if you walk there, you can detour into Owl’s Head Park.
One good way to get to Colonial Road is by riding the NYC Ferry. Its landing dock on the 69th Street Pier (aka American Veterans Memorial Pier) is just a few blocks away from Colonial Road’s starting point at the intersection of Wakeman Place. Or take the R train to its Bay Ridge Avenue stop.
Thank you, Eliphalet W. Bliss
Owl’s Head Park is located on the corner of Colonial Road and Wakeman Place. The 24-acre green space has the kind of dramatic hilly terrain you find few places in Brooklyn.
We have industrialist Eliphalet W. Bliss, who lived from 1836 to 1903, to thank for the park. It was his estate. In his will, he stipulated it should be sold to the City of New York for a discounted price on the condition that it be turned into parkland.
E.W. Bliss Co. owned factories in what’s now DUMBO. They produced machinery for manufacturers who made tin and sheet-iron products ranging from bird cages to typewriters.
Owl’s Head Park has an impressive variety of stately old trees including pines, locusts, oaks, maples, corks, beeches and tulip poplars, the city Parks Department’s website says. On a hilltop, a clearing affords a view of the water and Staten Island’s shoreline.
The park stretches down Colonial Road to the intersection of 68th Street. This is a great corner. When you turn your head towards the harbor, you can see the backs of the houses on a picturesque, one-block-long street called Bliss Terrace.
Turn away from the harbor and walk a short way up 68th Street. There’s an elegant cul-de-sac lined with Tudor-style rowhouses. It’s called Bay Cliff Terrace.
Bay Ridge has numerous one-block-long streets. In 2018, I photographed all of them.
Lots of Tudor rowhouses
Colonial Road is scenic and serene. Hardly any of the buildings have storefronts.
If you need a cup of coffee to fuel your walk, Colonial Deli is at 125 Bay Ridge Ave. at the intersection of Colonial Road. If you need a quick nosh, Rocky’s & Nicky’s Pizzeria is on the opposite corner, at 6824 Colonial Road.
Start strolling down Colonial Road again. At the corner of 70th Street, turn your head towards the harbor and you will see the entrance to another picturesque one-block-long street of rowhouses with Tudor details. Its name is Louise Terrace.
As you walk further, there are eye-catching things such as the beautiful Tudor details on the rowhouse at 7924 Colonial Road on the corner of Mackay Place.
And at the corner of 72nd Street, a fine tree is still flowering this late in the year in the side yard of 7202 Colonial Road. Across the street, a lovely limestone home at 105 72nd St. has a side wall covered with gorgeous ivy.
The 74th Street step street
I took a lot more photos than I’m showing you in this story. So it took me a while to get to the corner of 74th Street, which is where the block with one of Bay Ridge’s step streets is located.
The block is to your left as you walk down Colonial Road. On either side of the street, there are flat-faced rowhouses with distinctive stone lintels above the windows and decorative stonework below the windows.
Next to the front stoops, there are terraces surrounded by low walls. Generously sized front yards stand in front of the terraces.
Some of the houses have retractable awnings. Some of the homeowners are flying American flags. The leaves are autumnal red on the tree in front of the Colonial Road corner house, whose address is 101 74th St.
The best vantage point for looking at these lovely houses is half-way up the staircase. If you were taking a lunch break, you’d walk all the way up the stairs and head for Third Avenue.
White beech trees that were nicknamed “the Twelve Apostles” were torn down to clear the site of the 74th Street staircase, an informative post on the news and culture blog Hey Ridge says. The staircase was constructed in the 1930s.
The 76th Street step street
I kept walking on Colonial Road. I was afraid it might rain and short-circuit my plan to take photos on every block.
Along the way, I noticed a pretty pair of enclosed porches at 7604 and 7606 Colonial Road.
The entrance to the block with the 76th Street step street has two big, beautiful houses on either side of it. One of them is 7523 Colonial Road. The other is 7601 Colonial Road.
Trees with lush foliage grow alongside this staircase. Your view of these fine houses is better on the lower steps than on the top ones.
Construction of the 76th Street steps was completed by 1924, Hey Ridge says.
The 76th Street steps are such a novelty, and so picturesque. I was tempted to sit for a couple hours and enjoy the tranquility, even though it did seem like it might rain.
The Green Man
Instead, I headed back onto Colonial Road. I was rewarded with the sight of a dog walker marching past the eye-catching stucco house at 7801 Colonial Road. Sweet-faced pooches walked right beside him, the way they’re taught to do in obedience school.
Two houses at the intersection of Colonial Road and 80th Street caught my eye. One of them is 7923 Colonial Road, with a stucco facade painted a delicate bluish hue and a fireplace made of stone. A retaining wall around the lawn is made of the same stone as the fireplace.
To give you an idea of what houses are worth on Colonial Road, this one was sold for $1.98 million in 2018, city Finance Department records indicate.
The other eye-catching house on an 80th Street corner is 8001 Colonial Road. It is made of pale-hued stucco and looks like an Italian villa.
A stone decoration over the front door depicts a man’s face with the beard made out of stylized leaves. Ropes of leaves and fruit hang from his ears.
This decorative motif, which is a symbol of rebirth and nature’s self-renewal, is known as the Green Man. It can be found on house facades in numerous Brooklyn neighborhoods.
In memory of Joseph John Hasson III
The corner of 81st Street has a lovely large home whose address is 8102 Colonial Road. The lawn is a small hill that rises several feet above the sidewalk.
Another house at this intersection, 132 81st St., is so pretty.
A block further away, on the corner of Colonial Road and 82nd Street, there’s a street co-naming sign that says “Joseph John Hasson III 9/11 Memorial Way.”
According to the NYC Honorary Street Names database, it runs between this spot and Shore Road and 92nd Street, which is just past the end of Colonial Road.
Hasson died in the terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center. At the time of his death, the 34-year-old Bay Ridge resident was an assistant vice president of sales at eSpeed, a subsidiary of financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald, a New York Times profile about him said.
The Kings County Inebriate Asylum
Further along, you’ll notice the handsome stand-alone houses on 85th Street just east of the Colonial Road intersection.
Then you’ll get to the intersection of 86th Street — which is of course the road that takes you to L&B Spumoni Gardens in Gravesend if you keep walking and walking.
Down on the corner of 88th Street, there’s a big, gorgeous stucco house painted creamy yellow. Except it’s actually a duplex. The home right on the corner is 8723 Colonial Road.
The other side of the property, which is painted a slightly different color and has shutters on its upstairs windows, is 8719 Colonial Road.
At the next Colonial Road intersection, the flowers at 8824 Colonial Road are still blooming.
Between 90th and 91st streets, tremendous trees tower over a wall that surrounds the grounds of Visitation Academy. The entrance to the school is on Ridge Boulevard. Did you know the property on which the academy was built was formerly the site of the Kings County Inebriate Asylum?
There are apartment buildings and a short row of houses on Colonial Road’s final block, which is between 91st and 92nd Streets.
After this trek, you’ll probably want a bite to eat. If you turn left onto 92nd Street and walk to Third Avenue, there are a zillion places for coffee, snacks and meals. Paneantico, a popular Italian cafe that makes excellent hero sandwiches, is right on the corner of 92nd and Third.
When you need to go home, the 95th Street R-train station is on nearby Fourth Avenue.
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Eye on Real Estate is veteran reporter Lore Croghan’s weekly column on Brooklyn’s built environment. Whether it’s old as Abraham Lincoln or so new it hasn’t topped out yet, if a building is eye-catching, Eye will show it to you.