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City Living: Canarsie serves up Caribbean spice with a quiet waterfront
Backyards, space, friendly neighbors and cultural diversity are just some things that make Canarsie residents proud of their southeastern Brooklyn neighborhood.
The area is known for its suburban feel with large yard space, well-kept lawns and tree-lined blocks.
These features are what convinced Pate Felix to buy here.
“When I was looking for a home, I heard about Canarsie as far as it being family friendly, but I was really looking for a backyard,” she said. “I didn’t want a square. When the realtor showed me the house, as soon as I saw the [backyard] I was sold.”
She, her husband, Fred, and two sons, have lived in Canarsie for 14 years. Both say the best thing about the nabe is its quiet atmosphere and the sense of community.
“The key to any neighborhood is the people; and we’ve met great people here,” Fred Felix said.
For Anthony Gallina who was born and raised and still lives in Canarsie, it’s also the convenience that keeps him here with his wife, Jessica.
“A reason why immigrants move to Canarsie is because it reminds them of home,” he said. “The neighbors here are nice and people stay for generations.” He likes that the residents, old and new, take time to interact with each other. “I know all the people in the corner stores, my neighbors; the residents look out for each other,” he said.
In addition to its suburban qualities, Canarsie is accessible by the L train, which takes residents into Manhattan in 30 minutes. Local buses run frequently. Most residents own cars but often park near the L train station to go to work. But many also take the express buses into the city.
According to “The Encyclopedia of New York City: Second Edition,” edited by Kenneth T. Jackson, Lisa Keller and Nancy Flood, Canarsie is situated within the former Dutch town of Flatlands. It was named after the Canarsie Indians who inhabited the land at the time of European settlement. The book states that the area was popular for fishing and farming for much of the 18th century.
By the 1920s the area was inhabited by Italian and Jewish immigrants. In the 1980s it attracted a heavy Caribbean population from Trinidad, Barbados, Haiti, Guyana and Jamaica.
Now, restaurants serving up Caribbean cuisine like Dougie’s Jamaican Cuisine, Bamboo Garden and Sally’s West Indian Restaurant, dot the main thoroughfares and coexist with older establishments like Armando’s Pizza and Original Pizza.
“It’s a growing and thriving neighborhood. There is a lot of community involvement here and tight-knit families,” said real estate agent Paul Schwartz of Fillmore Realty on Avenue L. “It’s a neighborhood where people settle down and stay.”
According to Schwartz, Flatlands Avenue separates “old Canarsie,” to the north, from “new Canarsie,” with homes built in the ’50s and ’60s to the south.
The other main corridors, Rockaway Parkway, Ralph and Remsen avenues, and Avenue L offer mom-and-pop stores selling apparel, electronics and furniture.
But residents also frequent the Gateway Center in nearby Spring Creek which houses big box stores like Target. Others head to the Brooklyn Terminal Market on Foster Avenue for foodstuffs.
Outdoor recreation is also big here. The Canarsie Pier gives residents a chance to relax or go fishing, and Canarsie Seaview Park is popular for picnics in the warm months.
“In that sense it is a bit under-served,” Schwartz said of indoor activities. “Every neighborhood should have a place where families can relax and get to easily.”
But he insists this is still a great place to live.
“The perception of Canarsie from some people is that it’s not as good of a neighborhood but that’s because there isn’t money being poured into development here,” he said. “This neighborhood has survived over 100 years and it is rich in history and culture.”
Gallina and Pate Felix said they have also encountered misconceptions about the area but added that much of it is still left over from when it had racial tensions.
“When people hear that you live in Canarsie the preconception is that of the past and it doesn't change unless they come here or know someone who lives here; that’s when they say, ‘OK, it’s nice here,” Felix said. “On the other hand, I think not enough people pay attention to us. But I don’t mind that – it’s like our little secret.”
Canarsie is bordered to the northwest by Avenue D and to the southeast by Jamaica Bay. Its northeastern boundary is E. 108th Street and to the southwest by Ralph Avenue and the Paerdegat Basin. More »
Buses: B6, B17, B42, B60, B82, B82 LTD, B83, B103, BM2, BM5; Trains: L to Canarsie Rockaway Parkway and East 105th Street More »
Brooklyn Public Library, Canarsie branch, 1580 Rockaway Pkwy. More »
USPS Canarsie Station, 10201 Flatlands Ave. More »
Canarsie is covered by the 69th Precinct at 9720 Foster Ave. In the week of June 23-29, robberies were down 85% with one versus seven in the same week last year. However, grand larcenies, or major thefts, were up 80% with nine in that week, up from five in the same week last year. Overall crime in the neighborhood is up 16% from last year. More »
Sally’s West Indian Restaurant
Homecooked-style Caribbean food awaits patrons at this well-loved spot. Oxtail, jerk chicken and various curry dishes are on the menu along with house-made sorrel, carrot juice and ginger beer.
Jake’s Wayback Burgers
Signature burgers like the Double Bacon Jake and BBQ Crunch join arms with monthly specials like July’s Firecracker burger and key lime milkshake at this Delaware-born franchise.
This Canarsie staple allows families to indulge in omelets of all kinds, Belgian waffles, French toast and pancakes for breakfast. Burgers, gyros, wraps and parmesan are favored lunch and dinner dishes.
Fish Eye Bar and Grill
Cocktails are served up alongside Caribbean fare that blends American and Italian flavors into some dishes at this popular chili spot. The happy hour offers $6 rum punches, $5 margaritas and $3 beers, Monday-Saturday from 4-8 p.m.
Chloe’s Restaurant & Lounge
This recently-opened trendy, intimate spot is prime for a relaxed night of sipping wine or cocktails while indulging in Jamaican cuisine.
Another establishment reflecting the Caribbean culture of Canarsie, Bamboo Garden opens late into the night on weekends for those who want to grab a late-night drink or dine on Guyanese-style Chinese food.
Brooklyn Terminal Market
Find domestic and imported fruit, produce, plants, and popular Caribbean products at this 72-year-old Canarsie staple.
This store sells school uniforms or casual clothing for newborns to kids age 8. It also carries games, toys, strollers and bedroom furniture and accessories.
Trendy clothing, shoes and accessories can be found at a more affordable price at this women’s apparel chain.
Part of the Gateway National Recreation Area of the U.S. National Park Service, the pier is popular for catching blue fish and fluke. Locals also visit to kayak, picnic or watch the planes from JFK Airport take off and land.
Canarsie Seaview Park
Many Canarsiens and residents from nearby neighborhoods play cricket, picnic, fly kites and play ball at this 132-acre green space.
Sebago Canoe Club
Located on Paerdegat Basin near to Jamaica Bay, this membership club allows canoeists, kayakers, sailors and rowers to store their boats and learn new skills. Sebago has been operating for 75 years and also offers community programs including weekly open paddle sessions, biweekly kayak trips on the bay, and sailing regattas.
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A shooting spike in Canarsie in the early part of 2014 is causing the NYPD to place more officers, some from the recent Police Academy graduating class, in the 69th Precinct. According to the precinct’s CompStat report, there have been 22 shooting incidents in the area in 2014 as of July 6, up from six in the year to date in 2013. More »
Carlo D’Arpa grew up in Armando’s Pizza after his dad bought it from its original owners in 1968. More »