West Midwood or Argyle Heights?

West Midwood Is On the Map!
Geo-coordinates 40°37'52.2"N  73°57'57.8"W

2016: Google Search For West Midwood Yields Image Above


2016: Google Maps

Google Maps displays West Midwood as a neighborhood name now thanks in part to Chaudry Mohammad's excellent Wikipedia entry earlier this year, to which the search results link.

And yet I can't help thinking that defining ourselves in relation to somewhere else may not be the optimum choice, raising as it does all sorts of existential questions as to who we really are. That's why I prefer another name that embeds an observed topographical  elevation into our communal name...Wuthering Westminster, Rugby Ridge...
2016: The Q Train Begins to Ascend Argyle Heights

The land ascends from Newkirk Avenue until it crests near Avenue H. The middle block is Argyle Road. So combining Argyle and H, I prefer to call this area west of the Brighton tracks and north of the LIRR cut, Argyle Heights. It's so...so...lofty!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi there, Joe, this is Chaudry. You are correct that the Wikipedia article was the linchpin in getting our neighborhood labeled. I made a request to the Google Maps team and referenced the Wikipedia article as a primer. It worked and now I chuckle when I see real estate listings referring to “West Midwood.”

As for Apple Maps, despite my best efforts and direct contact with an Apple Maps product manager, our neighborhood remains unlabelled. Every few months, I query the gentleman and hear back that the fix is in the works, but that there is no timeframe. I imagine they can’t believe that West Midwood is *north* of Midwood.

Until we moved into the neighborhood in 2013, we lived nearly our entire lives across the street on Coney Island Ave. I never knew what to call the area I lived in. It seemed as if it was Midwood but it also looked to be Kensington. The Kensington Branch of Brooklyn Public Library seemed just as far as the Midwood Branch of Brooklyn Public Library, but we were served by the Midwood Post Office. When MapQuest came into the picture, I learned incorrectly that I lived in Midwood Park. It sounded like a nicer section of Midwood so I stuck with it.
After we moved across the street in 2013, I came across your blog and learned that we lived in “West Midwood” which for some reason is north of Midwood and west of South Midwood. It was another existential crisis. I remember taking seriously the lightheartedness of “Argyle Heights” and proposing to you that we change our name. Looking back it was quite a childish suggestion. As I came to accept our neighborhood name I felt we should codify it by putting it on the what I reckon to be the most viewed map, Google Maps. And so that’s the backstory.

Joe Enright said...

Thank you for your wonderful back-story!

As I've written over the past 15 years, the original home-owners here struggled with a name until they settled on "West South Midwood." That was because the entire development that spread from Flatbush to Coney Island Avenues was called South Midwood, a name that the Germania realtor/developers coined because it sounded more bucolic than "South Flatbush" (Midwood was the original Dutch settlement within what became more widely known as the town of Flatbush, so "Midwood" had fallen out of common usage when "South Midwood" was born in 1897, only to be reinvigorated to describe the area south of Avenue I in the 1950s, supplanting "Manhattan Terrace" and "South Greenfield" because "Midwood" had become so much more desirable a name...although it should be noted that the phone exchange covering the area as far back as 1912 was MIdwood and the Midwood Theater on Ave J opened in 1916, so it was not uncommon to see "Midwood" used to describe ANYWHERE south of Foster Avenue prior to World War I - but NEVER prior to the birth of South Midwood).

But to differentiate themselves, the smaller enclaves in the Germania-developed 100-acre spread originated their own more specific names, while retaining "Midwood" in the label so as to not lose sight of the overall location that had become widely known outside the community. Hence, the neighborhoods of South Midwood, Midwood Park and West South Midwood were born. But if only our fore-settlers had chosen Glenwood Glen or Rugby Ridge or Argyle Heights!

Seriously, though, having grown up in Brooklyn it always struck me how realtors would re-define an area by simply calling it something else that was "more charming" (i.e., "more sellable). And so what was once a tough, declining crime-ridden section called "South Brooklyn" became the bucolic "Carroll Gardens"!

I thought when we moved here in 1988 (and our property values declined by 20% over the next two years!) that if we simply started calling ourselves something else (i.e., changing the community association's name, talking to politicians, press, realtors, and publicizing events using the new name), it might take a generation but the new improved name WOULD eventually come into common usage. By the time I started blogging about this, the property values here were SOARING so my original concerns had morphed into satire - hence my writing had a farcical vein - but I was astonished at the reaction: some folks took serious exception to my joke. There are many old-time residents who WANT to be associated with Midwood! Being a stubborn Irishman with a sardonic streak, this only made me even more eager to write about "Argyle Heights" and its being 70 feet about sea level!

Anyway, I am sure you are aware of most of this already, so I apologize for going on about the Argyle Heights back-story, which as you can see is much more wordy than your elegantly precise prose, Chaudry. Because of the digital world we inhabit, it would be much harder - nay, I would argue almost impossible - to shake off the name "West Midwood" now. We are what the digital world says we are. Thanks to your work, we have at last managed to separate ourselves from our neighbors and have therefore achieved a measure of self-identity, lessening our existential crisis, although not lessening the confusion of the press and other outside observers unfamiliar with the granular details of our history. Thanks again, my friend!