Coney Island: The Residential Area Behind The Bright Lights

February 9, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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By Raanan Geberer

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

CONEY ISLAND — When the average visitor thinks of the Coney Island area, he or she thinks of the Cyclone, the Wonder Wheel, Luna Park, the beach, Nathan’s and Cyclones minor-league baseball at MCU Park.

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Maybe, on his trip, he also goes to nearby Brighton Beach, where he eats shish kabob, blini or smoked fish at a Russian restaurant on the boardwalk.

But behind the amusement area in Greater Coney Island is a varied residential community that ranges from middle-income high-rises like Trump Village and Luna Park to lower-income housing projects on the west end of Coney Island to the gated community of Sea Gate.

These communities all fall within Brooklyn Community District 13 and are described in a study of the district that is part of a series of such reports (one for each community district) published recently by the Center for the Study of Brooklyn at Brooklyn College. The reports are co-sponsored by the Brooklyn Community Foundation.

The overall area has a higher percentage of seniors than the borough at large — 63.3 percent as opposed to 57.7 percent. The racial composition has stayed basically constant from 2000 to 2007-09: white (now 61.3 percent) followed by Latino (now 14.3 percent), Russian and Asian.

The top five places of birth in 2000 were New York state (45 percent) followed by Ukraine, Russia, Mexico and Puerto Rico. In 2007-09, these had changed to New York state (47 percent), Ukraine, Russia, China and Belarus.

In both the 2000 and the 2007-09 statistics, the top four languages spoken at home were English, Russian, Spanish and Chinese. In both cases, the percentage of foreign-born residents was between 45 and 50 percent, higher than the borough-wide average of 36 percent.

On a positive note, the number of “disconnected youth” (young people between 16 and 25 who are neither in school nor working) decreased between 2000 and 2007-09 from 21 to 8 percent.

Fifty-four percent of high school students graduated on time, a little less than the borough-wide average of 58.8 percent. But only 31.8 percent of the district’s high school seniors went on to college, less than the borough’s overall percentage of 48.2.

Twenty-eight percent of Greater Coney Island’s residents hold college degrees — almost identical to the borough-wide number.

The median household income rose from $29,966 in 2000 to $31,153 in 2007-09 — substantially below the borough-wide average of $43,755. The number of people living in actual poverty, however, dropped substantially, from 30 to 20 percent.

In 2000, the top five jobs among area residents were nurse/home health aide, administrative assistant, computer programmer, office clerk and accountant. In 2007-09, these were nurse/home health aide, administrative assistant, retail salesperson, accountant and bookkeeper.

As far as housing is concerned, 34 percent of owners paid more than 30 percent of their income for housing costs in 2007-09, compared with 44 percent borough-wide. And among renters, 53 percent paid more than 30 percent of their income, about the same as the borough-wide average.

The median gross rent in the district was $773, reflecting statistics for housing-project and Mitchell-Lama residents. Almost 30 percent of the people in Greater Coney Island lived in city-owned or subsidized housing.

As far as quality of life is concerned, there are seven community gardens in the area, but there are also quite a few “sites of environmental concern” and an asthma rate of more than 10 percent, according to the report.

Almost 80 percent of all residents reported eating fresh fruits and vegetables daily, and 66 percent of those asked said they had exercised within the past 30 days.

Still, in 2007-09, 18.9 percent reported smoking and 13.8 percent reported binge drinking — higher figures than any of the other neighborhoods the Eagle has profiled in this series. Similarly, 24 percent were obese, and almost 10 percent had diabetes.

The health statistics come from the United Hospital Fund’s Coney Island/Sheepshead Bay Neighborhood, which includes the neighboring Sheepshead Bay area in addition to the areas already named.

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