When New Yorkers venture out of Manhattan and into residential Brooklyn, they typically stop heading south at Park Slope. Long time Bay Ridge residents rejoice, because they like the keep the neighborhood to themselves. Influxes of transplanted north Brooklynites and Manhattanites could mean increases in rent, property taxes, and crowds, but that doesn’t mean that Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights aren’t great places to live. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Bay Ridge, on the western coast of south Brooklyn, is a neighborhood that has it all. A greenway runs up the coast from the Verrazzano Bridge up to Owl’s Head Park, chock full of playgrounds, ball fields, and perfect picnic spots. The Shore Road promenade is an ideal bike riding spot, and any given sunny day will find cyclists, inline skaters, strollers, and joggers, all sharing the space and the glorious views of Manhattan, Staten Island, and the out to the Atlantic Ocean. With a ferry stop at the 68th Street pier, adventurers can take their bikes up the river and ride at any of the great, new greenways and green spaces, from Brooklyn Bridge Park to Battery Park, from Williamsburg and Greenpoint to Long Island City. When you go, check out the Narrows Botanical Gardens.
If you’re looking for fun, what better place that to get crazy on a Saturday night than where John Travolta’s 1970’s smash hit Saturday Night Fever was filmed. In summer, the bars and restaurants on 3rd Avenue spill out into the streets for Summer Strolls and festivals, and there’s plenty for both kids and adults to enjoy. The Norwegian Day Festival at Owl’s Head Park, complete with giant, interactive Viking ship and jousting competitions, is not to be missed. Nor is the Our Lady of Guadalupe procession every December at St. Andrew the Apostle Church, or the annual Ragamuffin parade, where neighborhood children dress up and show off their favorite school teams and marching bands.
Bay Ridge has a diverse, immigrant population, that mixes easily with old timers, who have been in the neighborhood since the last big European immigrant influx in the 20th Century. Norwegian and Italian newcomers way back when have given way to residents who claim ancestry from across the globe. This results in amazing cuisine options: Yemeni and Lebanese restaurants, Italian and Greek, Halal and Mexican food trucks, all make Bay Ridge a great place to eat. There are a variety of grocery stores as well, and the best way to shop in Bay Ridge is to hit the Chinese market Good Fortune for noodles, bok choy, and dumplings, Three Brothers 24-hour produce shop for fresh veggies and fruit, the Arab market Balady for all the spices and an unfiltered Lebanese olive oil.
Shopping on 86th Street is a great alternative to other city shopping districts. While you won’t find top tier designers stores or small boutiques along this strip, all the basics are taken care of. Century 21, The Gap, Banana Republic, Modells, and Foot Locker make it an ideal spot to shop for kids’ and adults’ essentials, without having to face Manhattan crowds.
Housing runs the gamut in Bay Ridge. If you’re looking for a large, stately home with luscious grounds and gardens, like the ones seen on tv’s Blue Bloods, you will find it in Bay Ridge. So too will you find affordable condos for purchase, and affordable apartments. You can expect to pay $2,000 for a rental with a back garden, or less for a one bedroom on one of the neighborhoods busy, consumer friendly avenues. Multi-family homes can be purchased for a little over a million, while straying across the highway that borders the neighborhood proper to the east will earn a drop in prices of a few hundred thousand. Before signing a lease or those closing documents, check GoHomeNy.com to make sure you know the ins and outs of the building or home you’re considering.
Bay Ridge has an active, involved, and dedicated City Council Representative in Justin Brannan, who not only grew up in the neighborhood, but made his life there. Typically one of the only Brooklyn neighborhoods to vote republican, the shifting population is changing the face of the representatives who look after the interests of the community. In 2018, long time republican State Senator Marty Golden was ousted in favor of democrat Andrew Gounardes, and Congressman Dan Donovan was replaced by democrat Max Rose. Having been a stalwart republican neighborhood for so long means that you will see signs like “Bay Ridge, where we still say Merry Christmas.” Beware traffic and parking tickets in Bay Ridge, as the meter maids and traffic cops are fierce.
Great for families with small children, Bay Ridge is in the School District 20. PS 102 has a great reputation, as do the other public schools in the neighborhood. But the neighborhood also has a rich tradition of private religious schools. Catholic Academies serve children from pre-K through high school, but a real neighborhood gem comes in the form of Leif Ericson Day School. It is affordable, accessible, with seamless DOE special education services integration and a tradition of academic excellence. Leif Ericson Day School comes from the rigorous tradition of Lutheran schools, and prepares children grades pre-K-8 for the educational and life expectations of the City’s top tier public and private schools. Though officially in Dyker Heights, a few blocks from Bay Ridge proper, LEDS is just one of the many excellent, educational options in the neighborhood.
Dyker Heights is a Bay Ridge adjacent neighborhood, accessible via bridges over the Belt Parkway. While Bay Ridge is definitely a very residential neighborhood, Dyker Heights lacks much of the shopping, eateries, and green space that is available closer to the water. Dyker Heights is decidedly residential, with only the basics. The Brooklyn Public Library is smaller but offers Mandarin story time and celebrations, the green space is more crowded with kids and adults simply because there’s not as much of it, and the restaurants are typically many blocks from each others. Once primarily a Greek enclave, the neighborhood has also benefited from high immigration. Chinese families have created a demand for high quality cuisine across the price spectrum, and there are restaurants that specialize in traditional dim sum, Hong Kong style noodles and roast meats, and family style feasts.
Dyker Heights is officially classified as a transit desert, because the subway lines that run serve it are at the edges of the neighborhood. The N train runs from Queens to Coney Island, and skirts the edge of Dyker Heights. Much of the neighborhood is accessible via bus lines, but since buses do not run on rails, they are way less predictable. The N train has been under a partial shut down between the Fort Hamilton and Bay Parkway stops for a few years, and this has meant large crowds at the 8th Avenue stop and on local buses. The R train that runs to Bay Ridge is accessible via a 15 minute walk.
The designation as a transit desert comes when subway stops are 15 minute or more away. Many residents have cars, and this makes for a game of musical parking spaces on days when alternate side of the street parking is in effect. If you live in Dyker Heights, you can expect to conduct much of your business, from banking to shopping, in neighboring neighborhoods, and you’ll probably want a car. Alternatives, such as grocery delivery, as possible via Fresh Direct and others, but delivery times fill up fast, so order early.
While Bay Ridge feels like a vibrant, residential, amenity-filled City neighborhood, Dyker Heights has a decidedly suburban feel. Some of the homes in Dyker Heights border on mansions, with private drives and internal courtyards. With tree lined streets and backyard gardens, Dyker Heights has very few apartment buildings. A large golf course takes up most of the southern edge of the neighborhood, and the annual displays of Christmas lights draw visitors from all over the City.
When considering a move to any of the neighborhoods in south Brooklyn, it’s essential that you visit the neighborhood and try out your commute. Find out how long it will take you to get to work, or out to see friends on weekends. Learn the options for getting home late at night, when public transit options tend toward intermittent late night schedules for ongoing endless repair work. A move to south Brooklyn will have a major lifestyle impact. Because it’s so far from the centers and fun districts of New York, you’ll find that friends are less likely to make the trek to visit you, and you’re less likely to want to schlep out of your desert to take the subway an hour just to grab a drink with friends. These neighborhood options are best for families with children, who are entrenched in school, church, and local community activities. If that’s what your looking for, this is the neighborhood for you. But if you’re not yet looking to settle down, stick to the northern Brooklyn and Manhattan neighborhoods.