When you hear the name of the place, it would be reasonable to assume that it is somewhere along the Hudson or East Rivers. But don’t let the name fool you. Manhattan Beach is not on, or near, the island of Manhattan. In fact, this neighborhood is located on the narrow peninsula that forms the southernmost boundary of Brooklyn.
Physically, Manhattan Beach is about 12 miles from Manhattan Island and less than two miles — straight down the road — from the bright lights, clatter and raucous throng at Coney Island. But culturally, economically and spiritually, Manhattan Beach is a world unto itself.
The area was first developed as a summer resort by the Manhattan Beach Improvement Company. In 1877, the company opened two luxury hotels here along the sparkling sand. By the time World War I erupted, the hotels had both been torn down and the land sold to a residential developer. Soon the quiet stretch of beach, only three blocks wide, was filling with single family homes, many of them lavish enough to be described as mansions.
Today, the neighborhood, where the streets are in alphabetical order, is one of the wealthiest, quietest and safest in New York City. Since 1955 it has included a 40 acre public park that boasts fountains, playgrounds, picnic tables, two baseball diamonds and tennis, volleyball, basketball, and handball courts.
In fact, the most significant change to the stability of this enclave of about 7,000 people has been an influx of newer residents, many of them immigrants from Russia, during the past decade.
Many of the newcomers have purchased older houses, torn them down and replaced them with larger, showier, more elaborate places. Quite a few of these new residents tend to favor architecture reminiscent of The Sopranos or Las Vegas. But they, just like those who have lived here for generations, adhere to the neighborhood’s unspoken creed: they are fiercely protective of their property, their privacy and their community.
An armed private security force, the Beachside Neighborhood Patrol, drives through these wide, quiet, shady streets, keeping an eye out for trouble. A significant number of the homes prominently display burglar alarm signs, security cameras, keypad locks. Houses and yards are hidden behind impenetrable hedges (both natural and artificial), high fences, locked gates.
And yet … this is no exclusive, gated community that is locked away from the world. The residents of Manhattan Beach are sophisticated, dedicated urbanites who have consciously chosen to live in the most populous borough in the largest city in the US.
Here, behind the thick hedges, beyond the manicured lawns, they enjoy the best of both worlds: the richness, diversity, art and culture of the city, along with the space, tranquility, peace and quiet of the country — and all of that, just steps from the ocean and public transportation.
Hedge and wall ensure privacy