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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.”

Find it

Bay Ridge is a waterfront neighborhood enclosed by
Photo Credit: Google Maps

Bay Ridge is a waterfront neighborhood enclosed by the Gowanus Expressway and the Belt Parkway.

Things to do in Bay Ridge

Narrows Botanical GardensShore Road between Bay Ridge Ave
Photo Credit: Daniel Avila/NYC Parks

Narrows Botanical Gardens

Shore Road between Bay Ridge Ave and 72nd Street

This 4.5 acre garden, staffed by volunteers, features a turtle sanctuary, modern rose garden and fragrant pathway. Located next to the Belt Parkway, it overlooks New York Bay and hosts an annual canine costume contest.

Bay Ridge Art Space

86th Street and 3rd Avenue

Run by two professional artists, this studio offers private lessons and group classes in oil, acrylic, and watercolor painting, as well as sketching techniques in charcoal and graphite mediums.

American Veterans Memorial Pier (pictured)

Bay Ridge Avenue & Shore Road

A well-loved fishing spot among Bay Ridge locals with views of the Manhattan Skyline, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and the Statue of Liberty.

Bay Ridge restaurants

Tanoreen (pictured) 7523 3rd AvenueRecognized by the Michelin
Photo Credit: Tanoreen

Tanoreen (pictured)

7523 3rd Avenue

Recognized by the Michelin Guide, this Palestinian restaurant has served up traditional delicacies from the Galilee region for nearly 20 years. Run by a mother-daughter duo, the menu features Middle Eastern classics such as baba ghanouge, tabbouleh and pistachio ice cream.

Gino's Restaurant

7414 5th Avenue

Feast on baked clams, filet mignon and seared scallops at this Italian eatery. A mainstay of the community for over 50 years, this family-run, fine-dining restaurant is complete with white tablecloths, private party rooms and valet parking.

Grand Sichuan House

8701 5th Avenue

Taste the famous flavor of the Sichuanese pepper at this no-frills Chinese restaurant. Dishes available include julienne jelly fish, double cooked pork, and spicy rabbit.

Bay Ridge real estate data

Median sales price: $500,000Number of units on market:
Photo Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

Median sales price: $500,000

Number of units on market: 266

Median rental price: $1975

Number of rentals on market: 1539

Q&A with Alssedieg Nassar

Owner of Yemen Cafe & RestaurantAlssedieg Nassar, 34,
Photo Credit: Rosa O’Hara

Owner of Yemen Cafe & Restaurant

Alssedieg Nassar, 34, has lived in Bay Ridge for four years, after previously living in Downtown Brooklyn. Nassar owns Yemen Cafe & Restaurant, which was opened by his father and uncle in 2012.

What are the best Yemeni dishes that you serve?

The farsoolya, it's white kidney beans with root vegetables. That's pretty much what everybody eats during breakfast. Or there's another dish called ful, which is mashed fava beans with tomatoes. And the most traditional is called the fasa or celta, which is usually just root vegetables stew, with a side order of roasted lamb.

What are some special to you about Bay Ridge?

It's pretty diverse these days, especially since rent is getting really expensive downtown. [The Middle Eastern community] is moving towards Bay Ridge. ... [It's pretty affordable, still close to the city, and it's a beautiful area. There was a huge Arab community downtown. Just recently, everybody's started to move to Bay Ridge, so Bay Ridge is known as "Little Arabia."

What's the best way for a newbie in Bay Ridge to familiarize themselves with the community?

The hookah lounges. You'll pretty much meet everybody there. There are a couple around the area that are well-known to everybody. And to shop for groceries, it's usually the shop next door. They've been here for 10 years and they are one of the originators of [the Arabic community in] Bay Ridge from the start. Balady, right next door. Everybody knew it, before they knew what Bay Ridge was, they knew this shop.

What's the best thing about living in Bay Ridge?

It sometimes feels like you're walking out of your house in Yemen, where you just see your neighbors, your friends, your culture. It's pretty cool because it's also diverse, so while you have a Yemeni store over here, next door there's an Italian shop. The community all gets along, we have no problems. It's great.


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