OPINION: Make Sheepshead Bay a tourist destination
This is a tale of two “seaside resorts” within New York City, the similarities and the differences. The first is City Island, off the coast of the Northeast Bronx and accessible only by a narrow bridge.
The second is Sheepshead Bay, which should be familiar to all readers of this newspaper. It’s the northernmost one of the “trio” of waterside destinations in southern Brooklyn, the other two being Coney Island and Brighton Beach.
Both communities are home to fishing fleets, seafood restaurants and a yacht club. In Sheepshead Bay some of the familiar seafood restaurants of yesteryear, such as Joe’s Clam Bar, have closed and have been replaced by Russian, Uzbek, Turkish or Asian restaurants.
Yet, City Island attracts more tourists than Sheepshead Bay. Looking at TripAdvisor, both destinations mainly have posts from people in the New York area, with some from elsewhere (Florida, Connecticut, Virginia, etc.). Yet, City Island has 47 pages of comments, but Sheepshead Bay has only eight.
While both City Island and Sheepshead Bay are on the water, they are geographically different.
City Island is right off I-95, but extremely hard to get to by public transportation unless you’re already in the Bronx. Sheepshead Bay is fairly easy to get to by public transportation — there’s a Sheepshead Bay stop on the Q and B trains – but while it’s fairly near the Belt Parkway, that thoroughfare is notably crowded. While City Island overlooks Long Island Sound with dramatic views, Emmons Avenue, Sheepshead Bay’s main commercial and recreational strip, basically overlooks the narrow bay (which local Russian-Americans call “the canal”).
In a certain sense, they are also culturally different. City Island hosts several coffeehouses and art galleries and has an artsy-craftsy sort of vibe, while Sheepshead Bay is a big draw for people from the former Soviet Union.
All in all, these areas are not in competition with each other. New York City and its environs are big enough to have several such “seaside resorts,” including Sheepshead Bay, City Island, the Rockaways and even Long Beach.
Brooklynites, especially those from the southern half of the borough, already know about Sheepshead Bay. But how can we get more tourists and out-of-towners to visit the area?
One way is to encourage more tours. There are already quite a few walking tours, which are great but which mainly attract New Yorkers. As far as out-of-town tourists are concerned, I would like to see some package bus tours that include the three aforementioned adjacent: Coney Island, Brighton Bay and Sheepshead Bay.
Current Brooklyn bus tours, as far as I know, focus mainly on Downtown and Central Brooklyn, covering an area roughly stretching from DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights to the Brooklyn Museum and Prospect Park. There are many important attractions here, but some tourists are missing out on Coney and its nearby areas, which are fascinating in their own right.
Put together a tourist bus trip that combines Coney Island, Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay, and you’ll see interest in these neighborhoods — including Sheepshead Bay — explode. People from coast to coast already know about Coney Island, and hopefully someday they’ll know about Sheepshead Bay, too.
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