A trek to Manhattan Beach before the summer crowds arrive
Eye On Real Estate
Hark — can you hear that?
The strains of a John Philip Sousa composition, “Manhattan Beach March,” are wafting on the winds of memory.
Once upon a time in the 19th Century, the famed bandmaster’s fine tune was written for, and performed on, this Brooklyn peninsula with an Atlantic Ocean shoreline.
Manhattan Beach was a summer resort in those days, built by developer Austin Corbin. There were fancy hotels, which, old as we are, we never got to see because they were torn down so long ago.
Today, the well-to-do residential neighborhood of Manhattan Beach occupies the easternmost end of the peninsula where Coney Island and Brighton Beach are located. Manhattan Beach is surrounded on three sides by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Rockaway Inlet and Sheepshead Bay.
Manhattan Beach continues to serve as a summer beach-goers’ refuge, minus the hotels. Forty-acre Manhattan Beach Park, which has an excellent sandy shoreline, is a big draw for day-trippers and local residents.
This city Parks Department facility will open on Memorial Day weekend.
The other day, when the sun came out in B’KLYN, we heard the Sousa march in our mind’s ear. (We’re semi-borrowing that phrase from Shakespeare’s hero Hamlet, who uses the expression “in my mind’s eye.”) Anyway. We decided it was time to take a good long look at Manhattan Beach — the park and the neighborhood — before the summer crowds arrive.
For those who want to make similar visits, we suggest going to the beautiful beach late in the afternoon to snap pre-sunset photos.
Start your stroll as we did, on the wooden footbridge across Sheepshead Bay, the body of water, that connects Emmons Avenue in Sheepshead Bay, the neighborhood, and Manhattan Beach.
Silky-feathered swans swimming near the footbridge are an irresistible photo op. When we leaned in for snapshots, a pair of them hissed their sinister swan hiss.
On the Manhattan Beach side of the footbridge, there’s a wide sidewalk called the Shore Boulevard Mall between the water’s edge and Shore Boulevard. From the mall, sailboats moored in the bay look so picturesque — and photos are equally interesting whether the sun is out or storm clouds loom.
Kingsborough Community College occupies the eastern end of Manhattan Beach, but don’t plan on strolling there. Only people with school IDs are allowed on campus.
Wherever you roam in the neighborhood, you can tell that you’re close to water. Seagulls perch on rooftops. The breeze is briny.
Eight blocks dead-end on the Atlantic Ocean, with glimpses of the sea at the end of these streets adding special charm. Eighteen streets end at Shore Boulevard, with its broad view of the bay and Emmons Avenue. Manhattan Beach’s remaining dozen blocks are midway between ocean and bay.
The houses in Manhattan Beach are a unique brand of waterfront eye candy.
For the past two decades, prosperous Russian immigrants have been moving to Manhattan Beach, especially from Brighton Beach, and enlarging the homes they purchase or demolishing the houses and building big new ones.
A 1998 New York Times story reported that “affluent Manhattan Beach is fast becoming the Scarsdale of Russian New York.”
There are a fair number of sleek stucco homes that look a bit like what you’d expect to find in Miami Beach as well as stone mini-palaces with elaborate roofs. And the build-bigger trend continues to this day in Manhattan Beach.
Nevertheless, the neighborhood also has a mix of handsome brick homes on manicured lawns, sweet Spanish haciendas and tasteful Tudor houses. There’s a pleasant visual surprise or two on almost every block.
By the way, some of the Manhattan Beach properties behind construction fences aren’t development projects — they are homes that were damaged by Superstorm Sandy.
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