How to Shop at the Brooklyn Home Depot Without a Car

Let's face it: Manhattan isn't really known for its hardware stores. Sure, there are numerous little shops that copy keys and sell replacement doorknobs, and most neighborhoods have somewhat larger hardware stores for paint and tools. But big old-fashioned nuts-and-bolts hardware stores seem to be a rarity. In my neightborhood, Kamenstein's, once located on 3rd Avenue between St. Marks Place and Stuyvesant Street, is long gone and sorely missed.

Much of the rest of the country shops at Sears or massive Home Depot stores, which stock virtually everything hardware-related. By sheer size and inventory, Home Depot has earned a reputation as a one-stop solution whether you're fixing a leaky faucet or building your own home from bricks and lumber. (I am not exaggerating.)

Manhattan doesn't have a Home Depot, of course, but there's a full-fledged Home Depot in Brooklyn, open 24 hours and located just 2½ miles (as the pigeon flies) from South Ferry. If you look at a map, it's just to the west of where the Gowanus Expressway makes a sharp turn heading south at 3rd Avenue and Prospect Avenue.

Despite its proximity to Manhattan, this Home Depot is surely designed for automotive access only. The actual address of the store (550 Hamilton Avenue) tells the pedestrian almost nothing. The store locator on the Home Depot web site doesn't give directions for users of mass transit, and the driving directions—involving the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and the Gowanus Expressway—are not adaptable by pedestrians.

Fortunately, getting from Manhattan to the Brooklyn Home Depot by subway is actually fairly straightforward and involves only moderate walking. It's exciting as well, for you feel as if you're conquering a territory whose access has been long forbidden.

Take the R train1 to Brooklyn, and get off at Prospect Avenue. Youíll be on 4th Avenue in Brooklyn between 16th and 17th Streets. Walk south (the direction the train was going when you exited) to 17th street and look towards your right. Youíll see the orange roof of Home Depot through the trees. (Actually, itís the orange roof of a food wholesaler called Jetro, but that building is connected to Home Depot and theyíre both the same color.) Thatís your destination: Home Depot is on the other side of 3rd Avenue, which is one block west of 4th Avenue and runs underneath the Gowanus Expressway.

Please donít attempt to cross 3rd Avenue at 17th Street. Itís much safer to walk a few blocks south on 4th Avenue until 20th Street. Turn right on 20th Street and walk to 3rd Avenue and cross at the traffic light.

Once youíve crossed 3rd Avenue, turn right and head back north. At 19th Street, you can make a left and enter the Home Depot parking lot through the back. Just walk west on 19th Street until you see the big Home Depot sign with the arrow. Or you can continue walking along the metal fences past 17th Street and enter the parking lot from the front.

If you buy too much stuff to carry, Home Depot will let you rent a vehicle to drive it back home. Or, if you're headed back to the subway, you can see for yourself why I recommended that you not cross 3rd Avenue at 17th Street. The avenue makes a crazy curve right there and it's very hard to see the oncoming traffic.

If you have more time to spend in Brooklyn, the beautiful and peaceful Greenwood Cemetery at 5th Avenue and 25th Street is very close. (The R train also stops at 4th Avenue and 25th Street.) Many famous New Yorkers are buried there including2 Henry George, William M. "Boss" Tweed, Peter Cooper, Elias Howe, Lola Montez, Margaret Sanger, Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Leonard Bernstein, Horace Greeley, Albert Anastasia, Joey Gallo, and Samuel F. B. Morse.

1Manhattanites are accustomed to thinking of the R and N trains as interchangeable. In Queens, however, the R and N trains go separate ways, and in Brooklyn the N trains makes express stops middays and rush hour during the week. Prospect Avenue is not an express stop. If you find yourself on the N train zipping past the Prospect Avenue stop, get off at the next express stop, which is 36th Street and enjoy the leisurely walk back up 4th Avenue to 20th Street.

2List from article "Green-Wood Cemetery" in Kenneth T. Jackson, ed., The Encyclopedia of New York City (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 509-510.

Charles Petzold
October 2000

© Charles Petzold, 2000