63 years old
We caught up with Howard Cross as he walked by Fowler Square holding a cane. Wearing leopard print glasses accompanied by his handlebar mustache, he was hard to miss. We sat down and asked him about living in the neighborhood, his unique style and retirement.
What is your name?
My name is Howard Cross, but my friends call me JB.
How did you get the nickname JB?
Well, do you know how your family gives you a nickname? My sisters gave me this nickname and it just kind of stuck with me.
Where are you from?
Originally North Carolina and I lived in Washington D.C. for over 30 years. I lived here 40 years ago and moved back recently once I was retired. I went to D.C. in 1976. I was mugged here and stabbed in 1973 and I stayed here three more years then moved. New York had filed bankruptcy in ’73 so I couldn’t get a job. When I moved to D.C. I got a job right away.
When did you move back to New York City?
I have been back here a year living in Fort Green on South Portland [Avenue] and Fulton [Street].
What did you do for a living?
I was in accounting in the field of accounts payable. Now I’m retired for the last 3 years.
How do you spend your time now that you are retired?
I do a little sketching, I walk around and I meet people.
Do you enjoy retirement?
I love it. When I retired, it wasn’t because of the job it was because I got tired of the commute. I had to take a bus and two trains. I worked in Virginia and lived in Silver Spring, Maryland. The commute would get to me. I got to the point where I would be grouchy after I got there and that is not my personality. I just decided to retire.
What do you like about this area?
The convenience. You can walk downtown really quick and if you need to go to Manhattan you can take the C train and you are there in 10 to 15 minutes. It is in a great location.
What is your favorite part of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill?
I like this area around Fowler Square. You can walk around here and it’s nice and safe. You can walk in the middle of the night. What I really love about Brooklyn and New York in general is that it is a 24-hour town. If you get hungry you can always find somewhere to go eat. There is such nice variety and soul. It is truly a melting pot.
Any favorite food spots locally?
I like Academy [Restaurant]. They make everything there. It’s a family business and everything is home made. They make the best gyro ever and the cheeseburger is delicious too. They don’t cut short on the extras and it isn’t a frozen burger.
Where did you live the first time you were living in New York?
I lived on Adelphi Street and Fulton still right in this same area.
Are you married?
My wife died. It will be 4 years ago on Christmas Day.
Do you have any children?
I have a son from my first marriage who lives in the Bronx.
Why do you use the cane?
I was hit by a car about 2 years ago, close to 3. My ankle was broken. About 6 months after it healed, I was coming from work and it jumped out of place. I had to go find a stick in a wooded area to get myself home because I couldn’t put any pressure on it. Every now and then it gives out like that so I keep this around. It is more of a safety blanket.
How long have you worn your facial hair like that?
All my life. I call it the horseshoe but the asians call it fu manchu and they believe it is for luck. I like it this way. I used to wear a goatee but every now and then I got one side crooked so I said “to hell with it.”