By way of Canarsie: New doc revisits ’hood’s halcyon days

The Brooklyn Paper
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Take a stroll down an unpaved memory lane.

A new documentary titled “A Walk Through Canarsie” captures the neighborhood in the 1880s and 1950s, when it was a quintessential seaside community, known for its yacht races and seafood — instead of the place you wake up in when you fall asleep on the L train. These were ’hood’s halcyon days, according to one of the film’s creators.

“It is really hard for me to say that anything great exists in Canarsie besides its past,” said Canarsie History Museum founder Ramon Martinez, who produced the film. “It is not even a quarter of what it used to be.”

The nostalgic flick, which will screen at the Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club on Aug. 17, interviews longtime locals who remember when the neighborhood was more back-roads than buildings.

“Everyone was saying how they remember dirt roads,” said Andre Riggins, the filmmaker who shot the documentary in three weeks. “One lady was saying she brought her furniture over with horses.”

Martinez, who has also written a book about Canarsie’s history, said the neighborhood — which has had more than 98 hotels throughout its history — was a tourist hotspot, self-sustained by its million-dollar fishing industry that supplied seafood to Manhattan, Long Island, and upstate New York.

“The waters were rich with sea life — lobsters, clams, oysters,” said Martinez.

Water pollution from local sewer systems and a dye company destroyed that industry — and Martinez said the water still hasn’t recovered. But one of the elders interviewed in the film said there are still great neighborhood niches, such as the Lions Club and the Holy Family Roman Catholic Church, where she said she spent many happy years.

“We had a very good time,” said Theresa Scalise, who lived in her Canarsie for 68 years. “So many friendly visits where we spent hours just talking and enjoying.”

“A Walk Through Canarsie” screens at Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club (77 Conklin Ave. between E. 93rd and E. 94th streets in Canarsie). Aug. 17 at 1:30 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Vanessa Ogle at or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow her
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Rich from Canarsie says:
Lived their from 1969-1990 was in the first graduating class of PS 276. Went to Canarsie High with Howard Schultz the founder of Starbucks. It was great always had fun at the Brook Sun and swim Club. Great memories until the neighborhood took a turn which made me very sad.
Aug. 15, 2014, 7:49 am
Marc from Canarsie says:
Lived there 1956-1976 I am the same age as you Rich I graduated CHS 71 with Schultzie. Canarsie is a skeleton of what it once was. All we have are the memories now to look back on. ITS ALL GONE ..What a Shame! you cant look back...
Aug. 15, 2014, 1:28 pm
Mr. Canarsie from Canarsie says:
To reminise I would suggest you visit this facebook page and view over 200 Albums of Canarsie Photos

Aug. 15, 2014, 3:01 pm
Hipster soon to be from Canarsie says:
Sorry to hear the hood has gone downhill. No worries, we'll fix that.
Aug. 15, 2014, 5:44 pm
Bklyn Child says:
Nice try, Hipster, but we all know once your type moves into "Canarsie," you'll change the name of the neighborhood into some never-before-heard-of nonsense. Like Southwest East New York or Bergen East. You'll never be "from Canarsie," even if you really were.
Aug. 15, 2014, 5:57 pm
david from sheepshead bay says:
Lived at 2 addresses in canarsie from 1966-2005. Was a typically nice neighborhood to grow up in. I witnessed the downward change it has taken in my time there. In fact, south shore - the high school I graduated from, no longer exists as it used to. I have some very nice memories of the place. Have seen some very old turn of the (20th) century pictures with dirt roads. Hard to imagine the neighborhood back then. Hopefully, canarsie can make some sort of a comeback.
Aug. 15, 2014, 8:02 pm
bkdude64 says:
Bklyn, they are not moving in. They couldnt even find it unless they looked at a map of Brooklyn. And even then, the bedford avenue bike lane doesn't go to canarsie. so no worries
Aug. 15, 2014, 10:01 pm
Hipster soon to be from Canarsie says:
Heeere we come! The place is a dump on the L train. Dumps on the L train get hipsterized. Get over it.
Aug. 18, 2014, 9:36 am

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