Bay Ridge’s small-town vibe offers sense of community

Bay Ridge’s cozy, village atmosphere and affordability of one-family homes make an attractive alternative to more pricey areas of Brooklyn. Walled off from the rest of south Brooklyn by two highways, it’s full of civic engagement, a strong sense of community, and a small-town vibe, say its residents.

Jack La Torre, 61, a retired police lieutenant, has lived in the area his whole life.

“It’s close to Manhattan, but it’s far enough away from Manhattan to retain the small-town atmosphere,” said La Torre. His mom, sister and brother all live in the neighborhood, and former schoolmates own and run local businesses.

Ranked as one of the safest areas in the city, it has mom-and-pop shops aplenty and, in an effort to maintain the small-town atmosphere, zoning regulations were put in place in 2005 and 2007, designed to hinder new developments, though are a few popping up recently, such as an eight-story development on 95th Street and 4th Avenue.

As for real estate, it’s a good match for families, which can have an affordable one-family house, a carport and a bedroom for every child.

“For people who still have dreams of maybe owning a home and living in Brooklyn and don’t want to live in an apartment, this is a great neighborhood,” said Steven Laurelli, an associate broker with CitiHabitats in Williamsburg, who has lived in Bay Ridge all his life.

As of Sept. 12, the median sale price for properties in Bay Ridge was $500,000, compared to the $700,000 price for Brooklyn overall. And the median price of a co-op in Bay Ridge — $290,452 this year — is surely an incentive for those wishing to escape sky high New York real estate prices.

Though residents of Williamsburg and Park Slope have an easier commute to Manhattan, Laurelli says Bay Ridge might be worth it.

“Apartment-wise, you’re probably saving at least half, if not more, of what you’re paying in other neighborhoods,” explained Laurelli.

A downside is that Bay Ridge relies solely on the R subway line, and the commute to Manhattan is a full 30 minutes.

“I think grass grows faster than the R train runs,” said Council Member Vincent Gentile, who represents District 43. Gentile said that the new citywide ferry, which will stop in Bay Ridge, will cut the commute. However he couldn’t provide an exact expected time.

Once home to a large Scandinavian population, Bay Ridge now has a lively mix of ethnicities: Italian, Greek, Irish and, more recently, a Middle Eastern community. Main drags are Fifth Avenue, where residents can shop at a variety of Arab groceries, and Third Avenue, which hosts the Summer Stroll during the warmer months which Josephine Beckmann, District Manager of Community Board 10, listed as one of the highlights of the year, when 20 blocks are closed to traffic every Friday and residents gather on the streets with their neighbors. Other highlights of the nabe are the parks, and its riverfront park complete with a bike path and magnificent view of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

Bay Ridge’s nightlife attracts people from neighboring areas, according to Jasmine Farhat, 21, who works at Ho’Brah on Third Ave.

“In the daytime it’s family-oriented, but at nighttime it’s fun to go out. A lot of my friends come from Bensonhurst and Dyker and hang out in Bay Ridge because there’s so much to do,” she said. Farhat currently lives with her parents and has no plans to leave the nabe once she moves out of home.

“Everyone always says they want to get out of their town, but I feel like I’m always going to come back to Bay Ridge,” said Farhat. “I can’t picture myself living anywhere but here.”

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