Sunset Park, Brooklyn is the only spot in the borough where you can stand on green grass and see the rest of America. The January issue of City Limits, now on newsstands, is devoted to a portrait of Sunset Park, the most interesting neighborhood you've never heard of in New York City. With Mexicans, Finns, Malaysians, Hondurans, Palestinians, and Puerto Ricans crammed into this old waterfront community–home to what must be the world's only Norwegian–Chinese diner-merciless change is the only constant. In the issue:
Joe Lopez, who runs a kid's karate school on 4th Avenue, is the neighborhood's one-man community development organization. Lopez–“Jo Lo” to his students–has spent 20 years in Sunset Park as a teacher, organizer, publisher, and all-around urban fix-it guy. For Lopez, routing gangs and starting a community newspaper is all part of the job.
Ka Ming Lau is just an ordinary Brooklyn kid–a 15-year-old from Hong Kong trying to learn English, do well in high school, placate his demanding dad and get in a little Saturday-morning handball with his buddies. Is this Gatorade-drinking, Hong Kong action flick-obsessed kid American or Chinese? “It's like half-half,” he says. “I think my home is here.”
Everybody blames master builder Robert Moses for destroying Sunset Park by ramming the Gowanus Expressway down 3rd Avenue. But nobody realizes that he accidentally turned the waterfront into an industrial field of dreams.
With the eighty-something Scandinavian widows of the Finntown co-ops, you'd better keep your Norwegian “Andersens” and your Swedish “Andersons” straight. You'd also better like your pastries sweet and your tea spiked with aquavit.
Plus: Window-shopping for health care on 5th Avenue. A Sunset Park after-dark photo essay. And reflections on how this diverse neighborhood hangs together.