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Ditmas Park Tour Trivia & Pub Crawl Round-Up

New Yorkers think they’re too cool to take a tour. They already know everything about where they live, so why pay somebody to show them the same old stuff? Well we proved that notion wrong on Friday night when all four Levys banded together to produce a Ditmas Park Tour, Trivia and Pub Crawl. Co-hosted by the Ditmas Park Blog, we had 40 New Yorkers join us to learn all about their city!

Casa Levy, 2006, as the set for the indie film The Savages

Not only did they learn about the architecture and pop cultural history of Victorian Flatbush, but we Levys’ were bursting at our seams as we talked history and walked about our native neighborhood! Mark bought his beautiful three-story Victorian house on Marlborough road in the 1980’s and raised us three boys there. It still stands as the office for LUNY.

The tour route did not include Mark’s house but did pass by dozens of gorgeous turn-of-the-century homes, most of which were designed by a single architect! John J. Petit used varying Victorian styles – from Japanese to Swiss Chalet to Chicago Horizontal to Neo-Classic Colonial. Most of these breathtaking houses stand  on Buckingham Road, a street unlike any in Brooklyn. Our personal history intertwined nicely with the tour as Matt told the group about hanging out in the Italian Villa-Style mansion of 143 Buckingham with his high school buddy Scott Paris, who grew up there.

See that bell tower on the upper right? Thats where Matt hung out with his pal Scott

The tour got a caffeine jump at the intersection of Albermarle and Buckingham, when Mark pulled up with Irish coffee, served out of the back of his Honda CRV. Jonah began his section of the tour by telling stories about all the film and TV productions that have been shot in the neighborhood, but set elsewhere; Gossip Girl used Ditmas Park as the Hamptons, Law and Order used it as Nyack, NY and the Oscar nominated film The Savages used Mark Levy’s 106 year old house as a stand-in for Buffalo, NY!

Congratulations to the winners of the Trivia Contest!

Enough history and architecture – it was time for the bar crawl! Our first stop was the oldest watering hole in the neighborhood, 773 lounge on Coney Island Avenue.  In operation for almost 80 years, it’s a perfect dive to answer trivia questions and scarf down tacos from our favorite Mexican place, Cinco de Mayo. We admit that some of the questions were pretty tough (Who was Jacque Cortelyou?) but when we concluded the trivia contest at the local whiskey bar / florist down the block, Sycamore, our proud winners took home their prize – a Levys’ Unique New York! t-shirt. Hooray for Ditmas Park!

Whats more, some wonderful tour-takers put together an awesome video of our tour. Enjoy!

Ditmas Park Trivia Tour & Pub Crawl from Joey Azoulai on Vimeo.

By Jonah Levy

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Vintage Holiday Trains & Twas the Strike Before Christmas (in 2005)

Jonah, Matt, Mark and Gideon at Vintage Tea Party 2009!

For the past four years, the MTA has been treating its riders not to reliable subway service, or to low subway fares, but instead to classic subway cars on the F train line, every Sunday in December. While we’d certainly appreciate the first two, the third is a delightful throwback to the early days of fancy NYC mass transit, and so every year we Levys host a Vintage Tea Party on the Vintage New York Subway trains. (Which means we were doing Tea parties long before Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck!)

But five years ago, it was a very different story. That brisk holiday season in 2005, Roger Toussaint of the Transit Workers Union made good on his threat to shut down the subways and buses for three days, in the middle of the holiday shopping season. It was cause to complain, so Matt and I wrote a lovely Christmas-themed poem about the transit-screw-you. Enjoy! Regardless of how many service changes you have to deal with on the weekends!

By Gideon Levy
Photo by Sam Horine

Twas the Strike Before Christmas
By Matt and Gideon Levy
Originally published in NonsenseNYC on 12/23/05

Twas the strike before Christmas, and all through the city
New Yorkers everywhere seethed with self-pity.
The MTA and the Union, tucked in snug at the Hyatt
While 7 million commuters readied to riot.

Kalikow and Toussaint clashed over wages
Over long negotiations and through several stages.
The Authority said finding more money is hard;
We blew $50 million on Holiday fare cards!

TWU yelled “benefits!” MTA shrieked “budget!”
And at midnight on Monday, they both cried out “Fudge it!”
The subways shut down, the buses were parked
The engines cut off, and the stations went dark.

And all through the city, from Rockaway to the Bronx
New Yorkers listened to the shouts and the honks
Of cars caught in gridlock and road-rage galore
And piece-mealing carpools so as to reach four.

Then over at the Hyatt, interrupting the fights
Was a whoosh of the wind, and out went the lights,
When a monstrous vision that was both awed and was feared,
Some Victorian figure, an apparition appeared.

But it was no demon, no beast and no hellion
It was none other than the ghost of old George C. McClellan!
He cried: “I am the great mayor, from New York in ‘Ought Four
The year that this subway first opened its doors

“And I drove that first train from City Hall headed north
I didn’t stop. I couldn’t stop! Such was the force
Of this marvelous creation, our underground railway delight
So for the sake of New York, will you stop this damn fight?!

“You must quit these squabbles and come to a deal
So the buses and trains can return with true zeal!
On A train! On B train! On N train and Q!
On 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 train, too!”

With a whoosh and a gurgle and a clang and a sigh
The old Mayor went up to his City Hall in the sky,
Which freed up the meeting, and the fate of our home
When both sides agreed and threw us a bone.

So the strike ended there with an uneasy pact
But no one believed the other would clean up their act
And when the Post stopped shouting and you listened real close
You could hear the faint words of our benevolent ghost:

“To all those stuck in taxis and frozen on bikes
A Transit Strike to you all, and you can all take a hike!”

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