Broadcast journalist Rick Karr is intrigued by the various overlays time has brought to his densely populated neighborhood of Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Franklin Street, which he describes as a “gentrified stretch” with boutiques and wine shops, is also where, by many accounts, actress Mae West was born (the gothic residence is at 184 Franklin, between India and Java streets).
Also of note on Franklin is Astral Apartments, a huge apartment building on the National Register of Historic Places. Looking at this Queen Anne-style pile, it’s hard to believe this was built in Victorian times as “affordable housing.”
At Kent and Dock streets is the former Eberhard Faber factory, once the largest pencil-making plant in America. Look for decorative pencil designs worked into places in the brickwork.
Another of Karr’s oddities is the Rite-Aid store at 788 Manhattan Ave. It was once a cinema and the small storefront was the lobby: Follow the ramp down and you’re in an enormous round theater that could seat 2,000. The center of the high ceiling sports an ornate dome – above the razor blades and shaving cream area – tricked out in the 1980s with a disco mirror-ball.
The entrance is next to a Karr must-try: Peter Pan Donuts, a small but busy sit-down with $1 donuts (including a red velvet variety) and $1 coffee.
“These are classic 1950s donuts,” Karr says, “and some say they’re the best in New York City, tied with some place in Staten Island.”
“30 Rock” star Tina Fey gave Peter Pan a bump last year in an Esquire interview. She didn’t recall the name of that Staten Island place, either.