Brooklyn is full of surprises. There are surprising facts, there are surprising legends and often there is the surprise of not knowing which is which. Not all of them belong in a mystery plot, so I plan to share some of the bits of weird and fascinating as I find them.
PARROTS: Brooklyn has them! There is a wild flock of tropical bright green parrots, called Quaker parrots or monk parakeets. These South American natives are just one more very colorful addition to Brooklyn’s diverse immigrant population. Their home is the Brooklyn College campus, though they often take an excursion over to historic Green-Wood Cemetery. Did they escape from an exotic pet shipment sent to JFK airport? Did a pet store on Flatbush Avenue go out of business and release the parrots in the 1980s? Are they descended from a flock in that lived in a Brooklyn Botanical Garden aviary many years ago? Everyone has a theory; that’s the Brooklyn way.
SECRET TUNNEL: Imagine a long lost underground tunnel, connected to a major transportation hub that is home to multiple rail and subway lines. Imagine it being lost, and its very existence doubted, for untold decades. Do you think there might be just a few legends around such a place? The tunnel was found again in 1980 under Atlantic Avenue, a major thoroughfare. Was it used by river pirates, with entrances from the Atlantic Avenue saloons? German spies? As a storage area for bootlegged booze during Prohibition? Did a great American poet write about it? Are the missing pages of John Wilkes Booth’s diary hidden in its depths? The tunnel exists. As to the rest – well….
BEAUTIFUL JENNIE JEROME: Winston Churchill’s mother was born a Brooklyn girl, beautiful socialite Jennie Jerome, of Cobble Hill. She was a daughter of Leonard Jerome, a speculator who made and lost several fortunes. There is some disagreement about exactly which house in Cobble Hill was theirs at the time she was born. (Does a theme seem to be emerging here?)
THE FIRST BROOKLYN LADY: The only colonial settlement founded by a woman was in Brooklyn. Lady Deborah Moody was deemed a “dangerous woman” in the Boston colony for her outspoken beliefs – the first in the long history of Brooklyn women with attitude! – but the tolerant Dutch allowed her a grant of land in a (then remote) section of New Netherlands. The town she founded and led is now a Brooklyn neighborhood called Gravesend, probably named for a town in England, and there is a monument to her there.