Calvert Vaux Park has gotten a pretty bad rap lately with the city’s failed revitalization promises and an ongoing homicide investigation after body parts were found there. However, so often, instead of embracing and claiming a park or neighborhood when things get a little sketchy, we abandon it, only making the problem that much worse. That’s why I am proposing we reclaim Calvert Vaux Park!
This park is beautiful in its grime and unkempt foliage — where else in Brooklyn do we get to see abandoned boat wrecks with the occasional seal hanging out on top? Calvert Vaux Park is named after the famous British American architect who helped design both Prospect Park and Central Park. One striking truth about this park is that one could wager that some portions of it are a good representation of what this region of Brooklyn would look like if it were never developed.
Calvert Vaux is home to a diverse range of native flora, migratory birds, and mammals, but it is also rich in local history and quirk. Here are seven good reasons to check out Calvert Vaux Park this weekend — and make sure to take your camera!
1. Birds N’ Stuff.
Calvert Vaux Park is home to a wide array of birds and mammals. If you look very carefully, you may even see the occasional turtle, frog, or snake by the pond when you first enter. The park is unique for combining rocky shoreline with marsh, fields, and forest growth, all in one fairly small spot, allowing for surprisingly diverse animal life. Very early in the morning, take a look at the fields, and you may see killdeer and other small shorebirds. During any time of the day, watch for the many terns and gulls that are feeding in the fish rich bay.
As the sun begins to set, and most of the birds are getting ready to roost, take a look overhead. Bats! Brooklyn is home to many species of bats and Calvert Vaux proves to be one of the best places to view them. Don’t worry, bats will NOT fly into your hair, suck your blood, or give you rabies. They actually want as little to do with you as possible.
There is a lot more going on than cockroaches and mosquitoes in Brooklyn! Come to Calvert Vaux Park to see what is perhaps the widest assortment of butterflies in Southern Brooklyn. Butterflies stick to their sunny appearance in their disposition, so look for them on bright days, delicately floating above the many flowers that surround the park.
Calvert Vaux is probably one of the LAST places in southern Brooklyn to see a wide array of native trees, flowers and other plants. See if you can find some of the beach plum shrubs or juneberry trees that spot the park. See if you can find the one tulip tree in Calvert Vaux. This tree species was one of the select trees used for canoes, totem poles and other Native American wood artifacts.
4. The View.
Calvert Vaux allows for some of the most beautiful views in all of Bensonhurst — or New York City for that matter! Nowhere else in Southern Brooklyn can you see the entire length of the impressive Verrazano-Narrows Bridge so easily. From this unique vantage point, you can truly respect the beauty and craftsmanship of this bridge, that was at one point the largest suspension bridge in America. The green hilly bluffs of Staten Island look particularly beautiful from here as well.
Many in Bensonhurst feel a bit left out when it comes to walking, running and biking paths but few seem to realize that Calvert Vaux is an excellent place for this! The park’s green-way trail runs a loop around the park and covers a comfortable mile and a third. This lovely trail brings you through many of the scenic points in the park.
This may seem like a silly plus for the park, but where else in Bensonhurst Brooklyn can you get some true silence? While Calvert Vaux has the highway running right near its entrance, once you get past the ballfields, all you can hear is the sound of waves, birds singing, and your own thoughts. That’s why Calvert Vaux Park is a choice place to practice tai-chi, yoga, and meditation.
Calvert Vaux Park is surrounded by a veritable ship graveyard. Even more interesting, is that it’s not entirely known where all these ships came from. Come to Calvert Vaux during the next low tide and observe nearly two dozen wrecks that encircle the coast, jutting from the creek edge dramatically.
According to historical research, some of these wrecks were present as docked boats since at least the 1930s, and many smaller wrecks made the creek their new macabre home after hurricane Sandy devastated nearby areas.
Perhaps most interesting story, though, is that of the yellow submarine that juts from the middle of the wreck line. In about the late 1960s, Jerry Bianco started crafting the submarine, named “Quester” with the intent to lift the Andrea Dorea, which was an Italian ocean liner that sank in 1956. Jerry Bianco had hoped to become rich off whatever the Andrea Dorea may have left in it, since according to Maritime law, the loot could go to anyone who was able to reach it.
In 1970, Jerry attempted to start his submarine but unfortunately, it quickly succumbed to the creek’s mudflats after being unable to stay upright. Today, the Quester is a popular hangout for the many gulls and cormorants of Calvert Vaux, and in the winter, seals have even been seen sunning themselves on top.
How To Get There
While this park is fairly easy to access within Bensonhurst, many have no clue where it is. Take the B82 local bus to Bay 44th street and walk right down the block until you see the pedestrian bridge over the Leif Ericsson drive. The pedestrian bridge leaves you right across the street.
Daniel Frazer is an amateur naturalist and birder born and raised in Southern Brooklyn. Daniel spends an inordinate amount of time birding around Brooklyn and is hoping to see every bird species this city has to offer. He writes a “wildlife and nature” column for Bensonhurst Bean. See more of his articles and photos here.