Come stroll the Brighton Beach Boardwalk
Eye on Real Estate
Borscht by the seashore.
Sometimes you really need a dose of Brighton Beach.
Coney Island gets all the love from tourists and selfie-snappers. But Brighton Beach is terrific too in its own quiet way.
The Boardwalk is a recreation area for Little Odessa, as the Atlantic Ocean shoreline neighborhood has been nicknamed since the 1970s because of a wave of Cold War-era Soviet immigration.
A couple blocks inland, Brighton Beach Avenue is a vibrant place to shop for Russian groceries and baked goods, Russian nesting dolls and more than 50 types of vodka. Yes, that’s really how many different varieties the local liquor store stocks.
We love the avenue’s shops, which for several blocks are tucked beneath the train trestles of the B and Q above-ground subway lines.
But the Boardwalk. Ah, the Boardwalk.
It’s where you find the sea.
And wide-open sky. And Russian cafes like Tatiana and Volna, which jut out from the ground floors of stolid, old-fashioned apartment buildings. That’s where the borscht comes in, along with pelmeni and other crave-worthy Russian dishes.
Brighton Beach’s Boardwalk is a serene, sunny place on weekdays when it’s too early in the spring for lifeguards, swimming or sunbathing. A stroll along the shoreline promenade calms our soul and lifts our spirits.
‘MaMa I Love You’
We headed there the other day after the city Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to designate the entire 2.7-mile-long Riegelmann Boardwalk as a scenic landmark. That’s the formal name of the famous span in both Coney Island and Brighton Beach.
We’d photographed the Coney Island end of the city-owned promenade in April.
The other day, we were longing to spend the afternoon on the walkway’s Brighton Beach section.
When you stand at its starting point at the end of Ocean Parkway and gaze in Coney Island’s direction, amusement-park landmarks like the Parachute Jump are so far away that they barely show up in photos.
The largest, most eye-catching structures along the Brighton Beach end of the Boardwalk are the salmon-hued facades of Oceana, the 15-building condo complex that Muss Development started constructing in 1999.
The day we took our Boardwalk stroll, flowering trees were blossoming just outside Oceana’s fenced-in lawns.
Nearby, senior citizens were sitting on benches in front of a wall that had been graffiti-ed up with a heartfelt message: “MaMa I Love You.”
Down where the Boardwalk ends at Brighton 15th Street, you can see a row of big houses at the edge of Manhattan Beach, the adjacent neighborhood.
Concrete the color of pureed creamed carrots
If you haven’t been to Brighton Beach in recent years, we need to give you a heads-up: Substantial swaths of the Boardwalk aren’t made of boards anymore.
One section of wood planks has been replaced with concrete slabs the color of pureed creamed carrots, if you added a lot of water and made them look reeeeally unappetizing.
Another section of Brighton Beach’s Boardwalk has fake-wood planks on one side of the span and concrete slabs on the other.
The kindest thing we can say about these parts of the Boardwalk is that they are not photogenic. We’re not allowed to use curse words in this newspaper, so we’ll leave it at that.
The fact that the Boardwalk was recently landmarked will not stop the city Parks Department from replacing more of the wood with concrete and plastic whenever it sees fit.
Parks Department decision-makers say non-wood is cheaper to maintain than wood.
Public Design Commission has veto power
The Landmarks Preservation Commission does not have the authority to tell the Parks Department no. The city Public Design Commission’s in charge of this matter — and it has okayed concrete and fake wood in the past.
Because of this situation, landmarking the Boardwalk was a futile gesture on the preservation agency’s part, the Historic Districts Council’s Executive Director Simeon Bankoff told us the other day.
He hopes the designation might inspire the Parks Department to rethink its use of plastic and wood. And he said something that made us think.
When the Boardwalk was built, it was raised up above the sand. You walked up flights of stairs to get onto it and enjoyed an elevated view of the beach and the ocean. There was space underneath it where you could seek shade if you didn’t bring a beach umbrella with you — space that inspired “Under the Boardwalk,” the Drifters’ 1964 song.
“In a perfect world, Parks might even consider restoring the Boardwalk’s position so that ‘Under the Boardwalk’ could actually mean something,” Bankoff said.
Wouldn’t that be a positive turn of events?