OPINION: Bay Ridge—a Brooklyn success story
A recent Brooklyn Daily Eagle article by Paula Katinas states that “Bay Ridge is such a desirable neighborhood to live in, people will do anything to live there.”
Many buyers are purchasing one- or two family homes, gutting them, then transforming them into multi-family housing with as many as eight apartments. In some cases, says Katinas, the buyers claim they’re only making minor improvements, get permits for the work, but then redo the house from top to bottom.
If they are caught doing so, they should pay the penalty. But the question remains—what is it about Bay Ridge that makes the area so attractive? It’s common to see third- or fourth-generation residents living in the area – something that can’t be said about most neighborhoods.
One reason is that Bay Ridge has a mix of private homes, two-family houses and apartment houses. The smaller houses range from spacious wooden homes to row houses that in many cases are as appealing as those in Park Slope and nearby areas. The apartment houses are generally solidly built, many are elevator buildings, and they are generally well maintained. This is not the situation in some nearby neighborhoods where the single-family homes are well cared for, but many of the older apartment houses are somewhat rundown.
Another factor in Bay Ridge’s success is its nightlife. The bars and restaurants of Bay Ridge don’t feature famous singers and musicians, but they make the neighborhood as lively at night as during the day. If a neighborhood has crowds of people walking around at night, crime is less likely to occur. The clubs and bars contribute to a sense of community, and many of the bands have a local fan base. If one particular bar is a problem, the community moves into action, but the majority of them are solid, law-abiding enterprises.
In addition, Bay Ridge and nearby Dyker Heights have a very high number of people who are actively involved in local affairs. Political clubs (of both types), churches, Boy Scout troops, PTAs, youth baseball leagues, amateur arts groups, community gardens and more all have very high rates of participation.
Why this is the case I don’t know, but this type of cohesiveness may easier to maintain when you have large numbers of people who have grown up together and known each other for many years. One Bay Ridge resident who works for the Eagle once told me that most residents know who their local politicians are. By contrast, when I went petitioning to get my assemblyman back on the ballot in my own neighborhood, quite a few passers-by didn’t know who he was – even though he’d been in the Assembly for more than 25 years.
Finally, Bay Ridge is a community where small business thrives. A case in point is Hinsch’s, now known as Mike Hinsch’s Greek-American Diner. There used to be hundreds of places like Hinsch’s all over the city, but it’s not an accident that Bay Ridge is where this one has survived. Yes, chain stores are making inroads on 86th Street and other Bay Ridge arteries, but not as much as in some other neighborhoods.
This type of small-town living isn’t for everybody, but it appeals to enough people to make Bay Ridge a Brooklyn success story. No, builders shouldn’t cheat to get more people in – but we understand why they have such a healthy market in Bay Ridge.
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Raanan Geberer, a freelance writer, recently retired as Managing Editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. He had been Managing Editor of the Brooklyn Daily Bulletin until 1996, when the Brooklyn Daily Eagle was revived and merged with the Bulletin.
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