Close-Up on Sunset Park, Brooklyn

Only thirty minutes from Union Square, Sunset Park's Eighth Avenue could make anyone think they should have brought their passport. For twenty blocks in this Brooklyn neighborhood one can choose from a myriad of Chinese, Malaysian, and Vietnamese restaurants or barter for exotic raw meats and strange produce from omnipresent street hawkers. Over on Fifth Avenue Latino music serenades customers at area taquerias as residents socialize on street corners. These two Asian and Latino arteries define Sunset Park: The cement between them is a virtual Pacific Ocean.

The area's history becomes tangible at nearby Green-Wood Cemetery. Since 1838 fallen Civil War heroes, infamous mobsters, victims of murder and scandal, and a Warhol protégé have come to call this 438-acre man-made lot home. Less conspicuous is the apartment building on Forty-Third Street. Built in 1916 by Finns, the building is one of the first city cooperatives. Many current residents descend from Northern European stock. Together with the one hundred thousand plus residents of Sunset Park they call this part of South Brooklyn home.

Boundaries: Although opinions vary among residences, most place Sunset Park between Prospect Expressway to the north, 65th Street to the south, Upper New York Bay to the west, and Ninth Avenue to the east.

Main Drags: Fifth Avenue contains the area's Latino businesses and restaurants. Eighth Avenue is home to Brooklyn's Chinatown.

Mass Transit: Subway: N; R; M; D. Since 9/11, ferry service from the Brooklyn Army Terminal to Wall Street runs every 20 minutes during rush hours.

Average Rents: Prices vary according to the area. Studio $750 and up; one bedroom $850 to $1000 and up; two-bedroom $1200 and up.

Average Price to Buy: Two-family homes run between $650,000 and $850,000.

Landmarks: Ghosts of the city's past reside in the Green-Wood Cemetery (main entrance 500 25th Street). Notable among the 560,000 interred here are abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher, Pan American Air Airways founder Juan Trippe, women's rights crusader Margaret Sanger, toy store founder F.A.O. Schwartz, graffiti artist Jean Michel Basquiat, and musical composer Leonard Bernstein.

By the waterfront between 28th and 65th streets looms the Brooklyn Army Terminal. Designed after World War I, it became the place for troop deportation during World War II. A large waterfront park by the nearby Bush Terminal is planned for later this year.

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Sunset Park: A 'hood with a view
photo: Jessie Pascoe

Spread over twenty-four acres of elevated land, Sunset Park offers amazing views of the New York Harbor. Aside from summer concerts, the east side of the park contains an Olympic-size pool and a community center that hosts programs for youth and adults alike.

Community Organizations: The Brooklyn Chinese-American Association on 5000 Eighth Avenue coordinates this area's tourist activities, such as Brooklyn's Chinese New Year Parade. Community Board 7, 4201 Fourth Avenue, meets once a month to give surrounding communities "a say in local decisions." The United Puerto Rican Organization of Sunset Park, 5417 Fourth Avenue, provides services and programs for youth, family, and community empowerment.

Shops: For clothes, head over to Spoiled, 5005 Fifth Avenue, where you can indulge your inner-teeny bopper with revealing tops and tight denim. Spend hours browsing Lider Music, 4715 Fifth Avenue, or Rocio International Inc., 477 60th Street, for a diverse selection of Latino music. Also for hard to find Asian movies browse through Rainbow Disc Inc., 5117 Eighth Avenue.

Restaurants: Eighth Avenue is home to numerous culinary treasures. Key among them are restaurants that specialize in banh mi, Vietnamese sandwiches served on baguettes made from rice and wheat flour. Try Ba Xuyen, 4222 Eighth Avenue, An Dong, 5424 Eighth Avenue, or Thanh Da, 5624B Eighth Avenue. For dim sum try Chinese Ocean Restaurant, 5606 Eighth Avenue. For a taste of Scandinavia, head on over to the Danish Athletic Club Public Restaurant, 65th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues.

Over on Fifth and Fourth Avenues Mexican restaurants abound, testifying to this country's growing presence. For delicious tacos try Rico's Tacos, 505 51st Street or tamales at Speedy's on Fourth Avenue at 59th Street. Finish any meal up at Mas Que Pan, 5401 Fifth Avenue, where ornate cakes will satisfy any sweet tooth.

Bars: Kakala Café, 5302 Eighth Avenue, is a sign of new times. With the slogan "New Generation on 8th Avenue," its modern décor distinguishes itself from the more traditional joints freckling this area. Aside from Chinese cuisine, it showcases a most impressive daiquiri selection from sesame, to mysterious yin yang. For a relaxed neighborhood bar try Soccer Tavern, 6004 Eighth Avenue, or Irish Haven on Fourth Avenue and 58th Street.

Local Politicians: Councilwoman Sara M. Gonzalez, Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, State Senator Martin Connor, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, all Democrats. In the past years police violence and post-9-11 immigrant detentions have sparked community protests.

Crime Stats: As of this year, the 72nd Precinct, which includes Windsor Terrace, reported 1 murder, 3 rapes, 13 robberies, 14 felonious assaults, and 16 burglaries. In 2005 it reported 6 murders, 22 rapes, 309 robberies, 235 felonious assaults, and 365 burglaries.

 
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