200 Flushing Avenue Full Circle


We love it when this kind of thing happens! Here’s an email we received earlier this week from a guy who read this recent post about the changes at 200 Flushing Avenue. Great stuff. Thanks for writing in, Rafael.

Dear Mr. Butler,

Though I live in Jackson Heights, Queens, my heart is still in Brooklyn and Fort Greene. I moved to Queens in 1969 when I was 13 years old with my mother. Between 1963 and 1969, I lived at 200 Flushing Avenue, directly across from the Brooklyn Navy Yard. I mention this because the building and cocktail lounge below it have been written about in Brownstoner.

Please let me give you some details from memory. I spent some of the happiest times of my childhood there (hard to believe). When I was growing up, my family lived on the top floor. The apartment had three bedrooms, one living room, a kitchen, a bathtub with lion paws at the four ends (no shower). There was also a smaller room with a corner fire escape facing Washington Avenue. Another family lived on the lower floor. On warm summer nights our terrace was the roof. The Navy Yard was still somewhat active, though it officially closed in 1966. Sailors still lived at the Naval Barracks between Vanderbilt and Clermont Avenues. The barracks has recently been demolished.

When we left in 1969…

…what remained of my family living there stayed until 1977. After that year, it looks like the family downstairs left. The building was abandoned. The area had become a bit dangerous. I went back with a friend in 2007 and noticed the For Sale posted. And of course the infamous Navy Yard Cocktail Lounge was there. I often wondered what would become of 200 Flushing Avenue? One hates to see memories of a childhood place demolished. With Steiner Studios as a neighbor, the area has changed and become better. I am thrilled to read that plans are for a restaurant and residential use of the upper floors. My former home will once again be lived in (wish it were me).

Finally, Alexander Nazaryan wrote an article pointing out that the Navy Yard Cocktail Lounge had probably been there since around 1907. With all due respect, this is not correct. I’m not sure the building was around in 1907. It can’t be that old. Since I lived above the spot, I would know if a lounge was there or not. There was however an Italian restuarant known as Jules and Jimmy’s. Sailors would eat there and employees of the Navy Yard. The restaurant was a family owned business by Jules and Jimmy Constantino (wife and husband). The landlord of the building where either named Goldman or Coleman Brothers. Thanks for taking the time to read my email. I just wanted to share my recollections with you.

Regards,

Rafael Ocasio

15 Comment

  • Blayze11

    So much rapid change, much of it not for the better. Glad to see there’s some history with Mr. Ocasio.

  • Blayze11

    So much rapid change, much of it not for the better. Glad to see there’s some history with Mr. Ocasio.

  • BrooklynButler

    Love this! Thanks for sharing the letter.

  • BrooklynButler

    Love this! Thanks for sharing the letter.

  • For most of my years in the area, this place was known as J.J.’s Navy Yard Lounge (see http://www.scoutingny.com/?p=108). Could “J.J.” derive from Jules and Jimmy? Or perhaps just a coincidence.

    More speculation: The Goldman Brothers, the real estate investors Sol and Irving originally from Red Hook, were fond of under-valued property with high long-term upside. A small assemblage at the intersection of two major streets, across from the Navy Yard, fits that pattern.

    • Thanks to “blayze” and emilyroebling for your generous comments about my letter. I do get a bit emotional. 200 Flushing Avenue has all of my happiest childhood memories right there. As I have noted, When I was 9 years old in 1966, I had no idea of the history of the area, Fort Greene and the New York Naval Yard (it’s official name). Brooklynites simply called it Brooklyn Navy Yard. Working as I do at the New York Public Library, I did research and found out that the USS Maine was built right across the street. The Civil War Ironclad USS Monitor’s hull was built at the Continental Iron Works in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn. The ship was launched from the Navy Yard on January 30, 1862. Sorry about the pop-up history lesson!!!

      Looking at this current picture of the apartment building, I see the entrance of 200 Flushing Avenue is still there on the lower right portion of the photo. I remember sitting on the “stoop” there in 1968 with my first transitor radio listening with one earplug (it came with the small radio) to “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon and Garfunkel. Funny thing, during the time I lived there, we were never once burglarized. The entrance was right off the street. Perhaps the fact that naval personnel were a constant presence detered the possibility. By the way, the entance door was locked at night and we had keys to get in.

      Finally, I am thrilled the building looks brand new since they’ve cleaned it. I only wish I could move back there. It’s become a bit pricey for me. At least I can say, without a doubt, I lived there once upon a time. I would LOVE to eat at the restuarant when it finally opens (and hopefully more than once). Good thing the B57 bus is STILL running its route on Flushing Avenue. Uh oh, looks like that’s a whole other memoir.

      • To g_man: It appears you are correct about J.J.’s Navy Yard Lounge. I suspect that Jimmy and Jules Constantino were one and the same at this location. Not sure about the actual name of the Italian restaurant, but I do remember the name Jules and Jimmy’s written across the front of their establishment. Just speculation, perhaps they changed it’s name at a later date. I moved to Queens with my mom in June 1969. Not sure how long J&J Constantino stayed there in business afterwards. In the 1970′s, the area got deserted and somewhat unsafe due to the lack of activity at the Navy Yard. Here’s another bit of information. There’s always been a bank at the corner of Flushing and Washington Avenues. I remember in 1966 it was called Manufacturer’s Hanover Trust. They had a billboard on top of its roof with the name and an arrow pointing downward to it’s location. Funny how certain memories come back after so long. Thanks for your addition to the J&J account.

  • Let me add to the chorus of thanks, Mr. Ocasio. That was really interesting.

  • The city’s tax photo from circa 1980 (available on PropertyShark.com) shows “Julia & Jimmy Constantino’s”, so they were there at least that long. The storefront and sign band are the same as they were until the recent demo – even the “Cocktail Lounge” sign at the corner was there. It looks like they just removed (or covered over) the old signs.

    • Hi wber. Thanks for the link to the PropertyShark.com photo. You have validated my memory of the individuals named on the restaurant sign. I was 99 percent in getting the Julia name right. I thought it was Jules. But that’s close enough! Keep them coming!!

  • The city’s tax photo from circa 1980 (available on PropertyShark.com) shows “Julia & Jimmy Constantino’s”, so they were there at least that long. The storefront and sign band are the same as they were until the recent demo – even the “Cocktail Lounge” sign at the corner was there. It looks like they just removed (or covered over) the old signs.

  • My step-great-grandfather was part of the original crew of the USS Pennsylvania, built at the Navy Yard. That’s where he and my great-grandmother met.

    • Hi babs…You have an historical naval connection to the Navy Yard. That’s important and vital. I hope more folks come forward to continue the link to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Thanks so much for sharing your connection.