One of the largest and grandest of Orthodox churches in New York City is the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Transfiguration of Our Lord. Although I am not an Orthodox Christian, I can admire the ancient architecture of this Cathedral, as if it was an over-sized gift from Russia. While it looks like a church in Russia, or even Ukraine, it is located at 228 N 12th Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It was built in 1921. The style of the cathedral is pretty typical of Russian Orthodox churches, mixing Byzantine and ancient Slavic architecture, most notably the characteristic onion dome.
In fact, the Cathedral looks so Russian, I probably could have fooled some of the people reading this into thinking I just got back from Russia. Williamsburg, Brooklyn is just across the east river from Manhattan, so it’s a short subway ride away, or if you prefer, you can walk across the Brooklyn, Manhattan, or Williamsburg bridge. Or if you’re a good swimmer, just use the river.
In recent years, Williamsburg, and the neighborhoods surrounding it have been on the rebound both economically and culturally, with hipsters, yuppies, and bohemians flooding into these formerly rundown industrial areas. The Cathedral is situated at the border between Williamsburg and Greenpoint, which is often called “Little Poland” because of the large Polish Catholic community in the neighborhood(there are many Slavic peoples in the area, but Poles are the largest group). Williamsburg, on the other hand, has a large Orthodox Jewish community as well as a very ethnically mixed area with a thriving arts and music scene, which extends into Greenpoint. Greenpoint also has a growing Hispanic community.
A little further south, the neighborhood of Parkslope, which is adjacent to Prospect Park, also has a thriving arts scene, but is more upscale. In spite of resistance from long-time residents, who tend to be opposed to the construction of condos, Parkslope has become very “yuppified” in recent years, feeling more like Manhattan than Brooklyn in many ways.
Increasingly, many vegan and vegetarian restaurants have been sprouting up like alfalfa sprouts in the neighborhood, along with many Asian restaurants. Prospect Park is basically Brooklyn’s version of Manhattan’s central park, so it’s a terrific place to joggle or for bird-watching. Some areas of the park have been set aside for reforestation and are off-limits to homo sapiens, but not to squirrels or birds. The neighborhoods to the east of the park suffer from a lot of violent crime which sometimes spills over into the park, so be careful.
There is so much more to discover in Brooklyn, this is just a small slice of it.