Brian McCormick is one of those people where life and work are almost one and the same.
As a co-founder of the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative, and a longtime resident of the Columbia Waterfront, he lives where he works. Indeed, the Greenway makes its way along Columbia Street, which is also where the organization's offices are.
Access to the waterfront, which is just beyond the Greenway and the working piers, is McCormick's primary goal.
"When I first moved to New York access to the waterfront wasn't apparent. You knew it was there, but it was kind of in an abstract way," he said. "I started venturing around and found Red Hook, and I could touch the water in Red Hook."
McCormick was born and raised in Mystic, Conn., where the waterfront is everything. His identity and life's work was surely inspired by his early years, though McCormick is quick to say that Mystic was too much of a small town. Interestingly, the small town feel of the Columbia Waterfront is also what he loves about his neighborhood.
Questions for Brian McCormick
1. What do you like best about the neighborhood?
"I like the small village quality, in the best possible way. When you ask people why they came here, [to New York] they say they were trapped in a small town. This is like a small town but it's so diverse on so many different levels in a compressed geographic area. It's a melting pot in so many different ways. It's a small village but it's not oppressive in anyway. It's quiet here, which is kind of surprising. You can't beat the open sky, the waterfront breezes, the spectacular sunsets..."
2. Currently, what is your favorite restaurant in the neighborhood?
"It's an interesting question because i'm more of a grab and go guy. I go to local restaurants every once in awhile. But I love the sandwiches at the Brooklyn Heights Deli, they balance ingredients beautifully. It's hard to achieve balance on a sandwich. I really like the Grandma's Pie at . It's a rectangular pie, it has mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, it's very spare and not the heavier New York slice one thinks of. for falafel sandwiches. I like to grab one and walk down to Brooklyn Bridge Park. It's the best. There are surprises in that sandwich. And of course 's for bacon, egg and cheese. I love the rolls."
3. Where do you like to shop for food?
"Trader Joe's for quality and value. The Met for convenient, quick runs to get staples. Fairway for diversity and specialty products. And the mom and pop's: of course, , for coffee, for bread."
4. Are you afraid of the Gowanus Canal?
"Am I afraid of the Gowanus Canal? Absolutely not, emphatically! I've been splashed a few times and my skin is still intact and looks like healthy skin should look! I had a moment, but I got over it. The key is to avoid exposure, and i've got that covered.
"I'm more afraid of crossing the BQE at Kane Street. Tha't what I'm afraid of."
5. What's the best (or worst) change you've witnessed during your time in the neighborhood?
"The best change, that's an easy one. It's the new entrepreneurs adding so much vitality to the street. In the 90s there were so many vacant lots and storefronts. It was a ghost town at night. It had qualities that were appealing but no services. Now we're entering a fourth wave of new businesses and it's very exciting to see the vitality... We're seeing new and old businesses survive and thrive.
"I hate to say the worst but it's development. I'm not anti-development, but it creates competitition. A segment of the population is turning over and can't afford to live here anymore. There are some ill thought out structures. But my attitude is look toward the future. That's all you can do."