Audubon Eco-Cruise of the NYC Harbor

Swinburne Island, with the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and Brooklyn behind

Of the approximately 900 bird species found in the United States, more than 200 frequent New York City on an annual basis. Yes, our concrete jungle is also a city of islands, with numerous parks and waterways, a place to encounter birdlife—and not just pigeons. 

To get a better look at some of the waterfowl that make their part-time or full-time homes in our city, Audubon New York offers summer and winter cruises of New York City’s waterways. The winter cruise, which I took in February 2013 and again this past weekend, also showcases harbor seals, which migrate south every year and can be found in our waters from November through May. Continue reading

New York City at its Best: Marathon Sunday


This month, I completed my second New York City Marathon. While many friends and family members congratulate me for what they see as an impressive accomplishment, I see the experience as a privilege.

Sure, it takes a lot of training to be able to run 26.2 miles in one stretch. I logged nearly 400 miles — and wore through a pair of shoes — in the four months leading up to the marathon.

But once training is out of the way, the marathon itself is a 26.2-mile-long block party, made possible not only by my training, but by the enthusiasm of the 2+ million New Yorkers who line the streets to cheer on total strangers by name and hand out water, bananas, bagels, saltine crackers, candy bars, pretzels and paper towels.

Because I had my name printed on my shirt, I heard “Go Vince, go Vince, go Vince!” for most of the five hours it took me to complete the course. I high-fived hundreds of spectators along the way. It’s no wonder I had a smile on my face as I ran through five boroughs, across five bridges and through countless neighborhoods, each with its own character.

This year, the winds gusted up to 40 mph, but the crowds were still out. And we runners were enthusiastic, too. Nothing can full convey the excitement of the starting line, but for an idea of it, check out this video I shot just moments after a cannon signaled the start for those of us in Wave 2.

Continue reading

What Does NYC Look Like on the West Coast?

Brooklyn Girl, San Diego

The hype of Brooklyn has reached San Diego, bringing to the neighborhood of Mission Hills a new representation of New York City.

This quiet neighborhood of historic homes and independent businesses sits a few miles above downtown San Diego. On frequent trips to Lefty’s Pizza, at Fort Stockton Drive and Goldfinch Street, I have always been intrigued by the restaurant across the street, Brooklyn Girl.

Who is trying to capitalize on the now-ubiquitous brand that is Brooklyn?  Continue reading

Wrestling with Moses: Anthony Flint’s Account of Jane Jacobs’ Saving Greenwich Village, SoHo

Gowanus Expressway, Brooklyn

Few places in the city are as dark, isolated and ugly as Third Avenue under the Gowanus Expressway in Sunset Park. There are no thriving businesses or pedestrian traffic in the vast highway shadow.

The pre-expressway Third Avenue that Robert Caro describes in The Power Broker bears no resemblance to the space today.

Lining it … were seven movie theaters, dozens of tiny restaurants … and scores of small, friendly “Mama and Papa” stores (the Northland Gift Shop, the Finnish Book Store, a hardware store that looked like a general store out of the Old West, a butcher shop that raffled off twenty-five big turkeys every Christmas) that occupied the ground floor of three- and four-story brickfronts in which Mama and Papa lived upstairs with children.

What many New Yorkers, especially more recent arrivals, may not realize, is that Robert Moses tried to impose a similar highway on to SoHo. He actually tried to impose several  cross-town expressways throughout Manhattan, but the Lower Manhattan Expressway, or LOMEX, nearly became reality.

The details of this plan were omitted from The Power Broker (as were chapters on The Brooklyn Dodgers, the Port Authority and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge) because Caro’s book became too long. But the 2009 book, Wrestling With Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took on New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City by Anthony Flint, fills us in on three Jane Jacobs-Robert Moses fights:

  • The proposed extension of Fifth Avenue through Washington Square Park
  • The proposed demolition of 14 blocks of the West Village under the guise of slum clearance to make way for affordable housing projects
  • The proposed LOMEX, which would have connected the Holland Tunnel with the Williamsburg and Manhattan bridges

The final struggle is especially compelling. The LOMEX project was touted as a needed economic boost to Lower Manhattan, and politicians were eager to make compromises to make the project happen—especially since the project would be funded almost entirely by the federal government. But Jacobs’ experience taught her that no compromises should be made, that concerned residents should accept nothing less than a full cancellation of the project.

I have read (and highly recommend) The Power Broker, as well as Jane Jacobs’ most well known and influential book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, but Wrestling with Moses fills in a lot of gaps, relating stories that were not covered in The Power Broker.  Flint’s book told me a lot about Jacobs’ life that I would not have otherwise known.

For anyone who has ever enjoyed a walk through Washington Square Park, the West Village or SoHo, this book is a great reminder of the difference that a small group of residents made in preserving vibrant city life for subsequent generations.

Below are some more photos of the Gowanus Expressway over Third Avenue in Brooklyn and the forlorn space below.

Gowanus Expressway, Brooklyn Gowanus Expressway, Brooklyn Gowanus Expressway, Brooklyn

Where’s the Chicago Beef, New York?

Windy City Ale House, Bay Ridge

With more than 8 million residents, many of whom hail from all corners of the globe, there’s hardly an ethnic or regional specialty food that you cannot find in New York. From Norwegian to Sri Lankan, from Texas barbecue to Maine lobster rolls, we have it here.

But one thing we don’t have is a Chicago Italian beef sandwich. “You mean like a cheeseteak,” people ask me? No, more like a French dip. A Chicago Italian beef sandwich is thinly sliced roast beef piled onto an Italian roll, and then covered with—or better yet, dipped in au jus—with either sweet peppers, hot peppers or both.

As Carol Mighton Haddix, then food editor of the Chicago Tribune, wrote in Saveur magazine in 2007,

The Italian beef sandwich requires two hands, plenty of napkins, and, frequently, a repertoire of minor acrobatics for catching every last drip. The sandwich can be found at “beef stands” all over the city and in the suburbs; Mr. Beef, Johnnie’s Beef and Al’s #1 are three perennial favorites.

No one is quite sure where the Italian beef sandwich got its start. It most likely has its roots in the Depression years, when roast beef was a costly luxury and people looked for ways of making a little go a long way at banquets and weddings. Slicing the meat very thinly and piling it loosely on a roll or plate was a favorite method. In the years following World War II, Chicago-era meatpacking firms such as the Scala Packing Company on the Near North Side, picked up on this trend and began selling presliced roast beef to local restaurants, where early versions of the sandwich were presumably born.

I lived the first seven years of my life in Chicago, and even after my family moved to San Diego, beef sandwiches were always close by. My family owned a pizzeria, where we served thin-crust Chicago pizza (not all Chicago pizza is deep dish!), pasta, cold submarine sandwiches, and hot meatball, sausage and beef sandwiches. But in 2005, my family sold the business, and I moved to New York.

I’ve spotted Big Al’s Chicago Pizza in the Financial District, but from what I see online, it’s not as Chicago as the name of the business implies. The only promising establishment on this list of places to buy Chicago beef is no longer open.

A Chicago native opened up a beef sandwich shop in Linden, N.J., in 2006, but the shop did not last long. I reached out to the former owner last week, after being out of touch for several years, and he said he still makes special order Italian beef for those wanting at least 10 pounds of it—and that he would set some aside for me when he does his next order.

In the meantime, I look forward to my annual December trip to Chicago. My family has adopted a ritual: My aunt picks me up from O’Hare Airport. When I get into her car, we call my great uncle in Franklin Park, and he heads out to pick up several beef sandwiches. We all arrive at his house around the same time, and my feast begins.

I’ve also found Italian beef sandwiches in San Diego. And I’m sure they are available in Los Angeles, Phoenix and probably Florida, all homes to significant numbers of transplanted Chicagoans. But no Italian beef sandwiches in New York.

My eyes lit up when an acquaintance from Chicago, told me about Windy City Ale House in Bay Ridge. Its owners are from Chicago, and they serve Chicago-style hot dogs. “Do they serve beef sandwiches?” I asked. “No, but they said they would soon.”

The ceiling at Windy City Ale House is lined with Cubs, White Sox, Bulls and Blackhawks flags, along with the flag of the city of Chicago. Sports memorabilia and old black-and white images of Chicago fill the walls. The beer taps include several Goose Island brews. A lot of the guys at the bar last Wednesday were decked out in Blackhawk jerseys. And the menu included Vienna beef Chicago hot dogs (which I ordered), but no beef sandwiches.

I asked the owner if they might introduce beef sandwiches to the menu. He said the hot giardiniera peppers were his stumbling block. Unlike the hot peppers you find in Italian delis here, which are packed in water and vinegar, Chicago hot giardiniera are small green hot peppers, packed in a thick, spicy oil. The owner could not have them shipped from Chicago without ordering an impractical bulk amount.

I imagine, too, that the logistics of preparing the beef might also be a stumbling block for him. This is why I can’t make it at home. I can cook a roast and make a good au jus, but I can’t slice the beef that thin without a commercial meat slicer.

While I’ll continue to patronize the Bay Ridge bar, because it’s a little slice of home for me, the beef sandwiches will have to wait until my plane touches down at O’Hare.

Unless someone can tell me that I’ve left a stone unturned?

Windy City Ale House, Brooklyn Windy City Ale House, Brooklyn

Bensonhurst’s Festa di Santa Rosalia

Festa di Santa Rosalia, Bensonhurst

Yesterday marked the end of Bensonhurst’s annual Festa di Santa Rosalia, a street fair that honors the 12th Century patron saint of Palermo, Sicily. Held every year (except 2011, when a supposed paperwork error led to a cancellation of the event) on 18th Avenue between 68th and 75th streets for 70 years, the feast brings street vendors, carnival rides, music and a lot of food—Italian and non-Italian to this once predominantly Italian American neighborhood.

Though visitors to the 10-day feast will still see older men seated on folding chairs on the sidewalks outside old Italian social clubs, they will also see Muslim women walking down 18th Avenue wearing hijab, dozens of storefronts with Chinese writing and food vendors roasting flank steak under a Colombian flag. Eighteenth Avenue is still subtitled Cristoforo Colombo Boulevard, but even eight years ago, when I first visited the Festa di Santa Rosalia, the neighborhood had become a multicultural one.

Unlike the much larger Feast of San Gennaro in Manhattan, which is produced by a contracted company, the Festa di Santa Rosalia is still put on by a local group, the Santa Rosalia Society. The feast honors the patron saint of Palermo, who lived and died in solitude as a hermit on Mount Pellegrino, three miles from Palermo. In 1624, during a horrible plague, her remains were dug up and processed through the city, putting an end to the plague. Today, she is still honored every year by Sicilians around the world, from Palermo to Brooklyn.

Below are some images from this year’s Festa di Santa Rosalia.

photo 2 (15) photo 3 (11)  photo 3 (12)

photo 2 (16)

photo 1 (14) photo 1 (15) photo 2 (14)  photo 3 (10)

Park Slope Serves Coffee Roasted in … Staten Island?

From emu-egg mayonnaise to beard oil, the Brooklyn brand runs rampant in this city.

So imagine my surprise when, walking through the epicenter of it all last Sunday, Park Slope, I saw this sign outside of a cafe on 7th Avenue

Cocoa Bar

The proprietors of Cocoa Bar have apparently looked beyond their neighborhood to serve coffee roasted a good 13 miles—but really another world—away in Mariners Harbor, Staten Island.

Here’s a bit of history from Unique Coffee’s website:

In September of 1995 [James] Ferrara incorporated Unique Coffee Inc. Starting in the garage of his home with the help of his father Al and wife Toni; they started the business. It was a lot of work, not having a roaster in his garage Ferrara’s first account was a gentleman in Brooklyn who had a small shop roaster that he rented time on. He would buy his green coffee; pick it up at the pier; drive it to Brooklyn; roast it; bring it back to Staten Island; package it; load the van; and deliver it the next day all while doing his own sales while on the route.

At the time he was using his and his father’s garage along with their first Dodge van as storage; he then realized that it was time to move into a warehouse.

Unique Coffee moved into their first warehouse in the Mariner’s Harbor section of Staten Island in 1997 which is where they purchased their 60 kilo roaster and believed that they would never grow out of the then very large space.

While providing New York City with the finest coffee the business grew to a point where they again needed to find more space. In late 2000 Unique Coffee began the move to their current manufacturing facility and corporate offices where they operate today.

That current office is at 3075 Richmond Terrace in Staten Island. According to this article in DNAinfo New York,

Unique Coffee typically roasts 8,000 to 12,000 pounds of coffee during an eight-hour shift. They bag it by hand, then sell it  from their website and in 4,000 retail stores around the country, including Stop & Shop, T.J. Maxx, Bed Bath and Beyond, Marshalls and Homegoods.

Their beans can also be bought from 350 stores in Canada, 17 countries in Scandinavia and recently Korea and China.

In addition to coffee under the Unique label, the roaster grinds private-label java for several supermarkets and gourmet shops in Manhattan. They also sell coffee to several local shops, including Royal Crown Bakery in South Beach and Pasticceria Bruno in West Brighton.

Who knew that coffee roasted in Mariners Harbor was shipped around the world—and across the Narrows?

Signs of Spring in New York City

Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
Daffodils in bloom between Shore Road and the Belt Parkway in Bay Ridge

The first signs of Spring are evident throughout the boroughs this week. While daffodils have been in bloom for a few weeks now, tulips are on the verge of opening, and many pear, cherry and plum trees seem to be at their prime.

The Spring colors have been striking. Here are some photos I have taken over the last week in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Tulips in Washington Square Park
A field of tulips in Washington Square Park prepares to open into a sea of yellow.
Narrows Botanical Gardens in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
Daffodils and forsythia add a splash of Spring color to the Narrows Botanical Gardens between Shore Road and the Belt Parkway in Bay Ridge.
Cherry blossoms in Prospect Park
Cherry blossoms frame Grand Army Plaza at the entrance to Prospect Park
Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Though these trees have yet to respond to Spring’s mild temperatures, the residents of Brooklyn have. Many were out enjoying Prospect Park last weekend.
Pear blossoms in Red Hook
Pear blossoms on Conover Street in Red Hook.
Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn
OK maybe Spring isn’t everywhere. I couldn’t find a single Spring blossom along the Gowanus Canal from my vantage point on the Union Street Bridge.


Old World Traditions Alive in Brooklyn

Most stories about Brooklyn these days have to do with gentrification, displacement and hipsters. But during Holy Week, the streets of Carroll Gardens felt more like the heel of Italy circa 1920 than the land of cupcake stores and American Apparel.

Court Street Pastry displayed marzipan lambs in its windows since before Palm Sunday. On Holy Thursday, a bus led pilgrims on a traditional visit to several local churches. And on Easter Sunday, sidewalks were filled with tulips, hyacinths and hydrangeas for sale.

But the most impressive tradition was Sacred Heart and St. Stephen’s annual Good Friday procession through the streets of Carroll Gardens. I have wanted to attend this event since I moved here eight years ago; this year, I finally did.

What I imagined would be a walk through three or four blocks of the neighborhood was instead a two-hour trip that zig-zagged as far as Court Street, 4th place, Degraw and then back to the steps of the church. Leading the procession was a statue of the body of Jesus, encased in a glass coffin. This was followed by a statue of Maria Addolorata, or Our Lady of Sorrows, dressed in black and pierced in the heart with a sword.

The statuary symbolizing both the Body of Christ and Mary the Mother of Jesus, under the title of Our Lady of Sorrows, have been used in the parish procession for 60 years and have both been restored in recent years. In a scene only experienced by many in a movie, the two figures are carried on the shoulders of the faithful accompanied by singing and music as they pass through the crowded streets. In conclusion, the bearers that carry the statuary through the streets re-enact the death of Christ by having the coffin of Jesus met at the feet of Mary three times before returning into Church.

Congregation of Maria Addolorata

Women dressed in black carrying electric candles sang Italian hymns and prayed the Rosary in Italian, followed by a marching band playing traditional Italian hymns. Neighbors and surely scores who have left the neighborhood followed, often greeting old friends. And residents watched from their windows, sidewalks and front porches. 

It’s good to see that some traditions still thrive in Brooklyn.

Good Friday Procession, Carroll Gardens

Good Friday Procession, Carroll Gardens

Good Friday Procession, Carroll Gardens

Good Friday Procession, Carroll Gardens

Baklava at Waterfalls in Cobble Hill

Baklava at Waterfalls, Brooklyn


Last week, I ate dinner at Waterfalls on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. While I was impressed with all the dishes, from the fatoush salad with crispy bits of pita and faint scent of dill to the eggplant stuffed with ground meat and served over a light tomato sauce, the dessert took me by surprise.

Always wanting to try something new, I asked the owner what he would recommend, fully expecting him to suggest one of the more esoteric dishes on the dessert menu, such as basbousa. Instead, he recommended the one dessert I was quite familiar with, baklava. He did so with such confidence that I obliged, reluctantly. And when I had a taste, I could see why he recommended it without hesitation: The baklava was not sickeningly sweet as it can be in some restaurants. The flavors were delicate, and I could distinctly taste beyond the butter and honey to orange flower water in the pastry and the crushed pistachios that covered the baklava.

Afterward, I told the owner how pleased I was, that I have had baklava a hundred times but this was probably the best I had ever had.

If you haven’t been to Waterfalls, it’s worth a try, whether you know Middle Eastern food well or not. Be sure to bring your own wine. And be open to the owner’s suggestions.

Postcards of Old New York

Old New York postcards

Though not a huge fan of antique markets, I do love to look through old postcards. Last month, I spent at least a half hour looking through New York postcards at the Antiques Garage Flea Market.

I bought three, each sent between 1905 and 1912 (postage was one cent then). Each bears an image of a New York City landmark no longer standing: Coney Island’s Dreamland, the old Pennsylvania Station and the Hippodrome.

Today, we send pictures and notes instantly, to hundreds at a time via social media. Will these digital messages interest people in the 22nd Century as much as these early 1900s postcards interest me? Each is handwritten of course, and hand stamped with the date and even hour that the post office processed it. And 100 years later, I am buying three of them for $12 and holding them in my hands, reading the messages and admiring the almost-forgotten landmark images.

One tells a friend of a new address, 3 West 29th St. and hopes for a visit: “Thought sure I would see you this summer. See how popular you are. It’s dandy that you can go home for Thanksgiving.” Another talks about March weather: “Am feeling very well and having fine weather today changes sudden may not be tomorrow.”

I’d like to display these postcards somehow, but how—especially if I continue to collect them?  photo 1 (4)

Fairway in Red Hook Reopens

photo 3 (2)

Last week, a truck with a giant TV screen on the side of it drove down Court Street, loudly announcing that Fairway in Red Hook would reopen March 1, after being devastated by Hurricane Sandy. I didn’t think the publicity was necessary. And I was right.

This morning, two days after a grand reopening that drew Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Sen. Chuck Schumer, the auxiliary parking lot across Conover Street from the store was filled beyond capacity, with cars struggling to navigate the tight lot as they waited for fellow shoppers to unload their carts into their cars and free up needed spaces. Last year, the lot usually had a dozen cars at most on Sunday mornings.

A sign outside the main parking lot announced: “Established 2006 · Devastated 2012 · Reborn 2013 BROOKLYN STRONG(ER)” An employee at the entrance handed out free bottles of apple cider, thanking customers for returning.

The newly reopened Fairway has a new layout, which, while confusing at first, is far more easier to navigate than the old store. (Am I the only one who thought the old produce section was a frustrating maze?) To help shoppers find their way around the new store, employees handed out maps near the entrance.

Sandy’s storm surge damaged everything inside the store, overwhelming it with 5 feet of water. But the Civil War era building that houses Fairway is made of brick, so structurally, it remained sound. Here’s more about the building itself from current owners, the O’Connell Organization:

The 5-story Red Hook Stores, originally known as the New York Warehouse Co.’s Stores, was built by William Beard in the 1870s as part of the major expansion of storage and warehousing inside Erie Basin and along the Red Hook waterfront after the Civil War.

Like many warehouses of its kind, the building was set back from the bulkhead with the long façade facing the water so that ships could unload goods for storage directly onto the adjacent docks. The building’s dramatic brick façade features row upon row of arched windows with iron shutters. It’s heavy timber mill construction was typical of mid- to late 19th-century industrial buildings; massive square yellow pine columns fitted into cast iron “shoes” support heavy girders over 20 feet long.

Days after Hurricane Sandy, Fairway Founder Howie Glickberg showed hot air being circulated through the empty store so that he and his team could rebuild and reopen. He predicted that when Fairway did finally reopen, it would be stronger and more efficient, and customers would come in with smiles on their faces.

It appears his prediction rang true.

photo 2 (2)   Fairway, Red Hook, Brooklyn

Locations from “Wiseguy” and “Goodfellas”

Though I had seen Goodfellas as a teenager, it was only this month that I watched the movie as a New Yorker. And as a student of New York City history, I immediately downloaded Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family, the Nicholas Pileggi book on which Martin Scorsese based his 1990 film.

A former crime reporter with the Associated Press and New York magazine (and husband of the late Nora Ephron), Pileggi made it easy for me to pinpoint many of the book’s locations, from the taxi stand in East New York, Brooklyn, where, at the age of 12, Henry Hill began his work with Paul Vario, to Hill’s home in Rockville Centre, where he was arrested in 1980. Though much of the action takes place in Brooklyn and Queens, Manhattan and Staten Island make some appearances as well (for example, Jimmy Burke did time as a teenager at Mount Loretto Reformatory on the South Shore of Staten Island—the same Mount Loretto that Francis Ford Coppola used for exterior shots from the baptism scene at the end of The Godfather).

I made a Google map of locations mentioned in Wiseguy. You can access it here or see it below. Fans of the film might also be interested in this map assembled by Eater that shows many of the restaurants used in the filming of Goodfellas.

Finding Family Roots in a Carroll Gardens Church

Sacred Hearts-St. Stephen's, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
Sacred Hearts-St. Stephen’s sits on Hicks Street in Carroll Gardens, just above the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

On my first real visit to New York, some 10 years ago, a leisurely walk through Brooklyn Heights and its surrounding neighborhoods brought me to Sacred Hearts-St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in Carroll Gardens. Designed by Patrick Charles Keely in the late 19th Century, this Gothic revival church  suffered a devastating fire in 1951. By then, the parish was largely Italian American—as evidenced by the names on the stained-glass windows.

One of the stained-glass windows, however, stopped me in my tracks.

The name inscribed in the window is Crescenzo Orlando. My mother’s maiden name is Di Crescenzo. And her paternal grandmother’s maiden name is Orlando. Both names are common in the town my grandfather was born in, Guardiagrele, in Abruzzo, not far from the Adriatic Sea.

Though family members on both the Di Crescenzo and Orlando sides of the family tell me that relatives of ours worked on sewers and aqueducts in New York City around the turn of the 20th century, I have no evidence that anyone from the family settled in New York City. The Orlandos moved to Putnam Valley, N.Y., while the Di Crescenzos settled on the south side of Chicago.

Surely, however, there has to be some family connection, or at least a connection to Guardiagrele. A local historian suggested I look at neighborhood census records around the time the church was restored after its fire. But thus far I have not undertaken that task.

Only two years ago did our side of the family learn that my great great grandparents are buried in Putnam Valley. It was good to learn that I had a family connection to the state of New York. I’d love to find out whether I also have a family connection to Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.

Sacred Hearts-St. Stephen's
Sacred Hearts-St. Stephen’s stained-glass window

Turnstile Tour of Williamsburg’s Most Holy Trinity Church


Though most known for its weekend tours of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Turnstile Tours also offers a tour of Williamsburg’s Most Holy Trinity Church in December and January. The tour benefits Trinity Service Center, a social outreach program of the parish.

This past December, I joined the Christmastime church tour, led by Turnstile founder Cindy VandenBosch and Most Holy Trinity’s Parochial Vicar, Father Tim Dore. Starting outside with an overview of the once-German neighborhood, the tour brought us inside to the Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine beside the altar, down to the crypt under the church, where the parish’s founding pastors are buried, and then all the way up to the dizzying tower (with an opportunity to step outside and take in the view of the Manhattan skyline in the distance).

The next tour won’t be until the end of the year. But in the meantime, check out the parish’s website. It is full of historic information about the parish and the surrounding neighborhood (including stories about tunnels, ghosts and an 1897 murder inside the church!).

Finally, though not part of the tour, Turnstile’s website tells us that this church is mentioned as a “miniature cathedral” in the 1943 novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn:

“Francie thought it was the most beautiful church in Brooklyn. It was made of old gray stone and had twin spires that rose cleanly into the sky, high above the tallest tenements. Inside, the high vaulted ceilings, narrow deep-set stained-glass windows and elaborately carved altars made it a miniature cathedral.”
– Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, published in 1943