Brighton Beach is an oceanside neighborhood in the southern parts of the New York City borough of Brooklyn. As of 2007, it has a population of 75,692 with a total of 31,228 households. It is known for its high population of Russian-speaking immigrants and as a summer destination for New York City residents due to its beaches along the Atlantic Ocean and its proximity to the amusement parks in Coney Island. The neighborhood served as the setting for the 1983 Neil Simon play Brighton Beach Memoirs, a coming of age story about a family living there during the Great Depression. More recently, it has been used as a setting for New York television shows such as Law & Order, Blue Bloods, and Person of Interest. In August 2011, a reality TV series, Russian Dolls, followed the lives of eight women living in the community.
Brighton Beach is bounded by Coney Island at Ocean Parkway to the west, Manhattan Beach at Corbin Place to the east, Sheepshead Bay at the Belt Parkway to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the south (at the Riegelmann Boardwalk/beachfront). It is patrolled by the NYPD's 60th Precinct.
Until the late 1860s, Brighton Beach consisted of little but farms carved out of sandy hills. It was known as the "Middle Division", a section of Gravesend, the only English town of the original six in Kings County. By the mid-1700s, the Middle Division had been broken up into 39 lots, the owners being descendants of the original European colonizers.
William A. Engeman developed the area as a resort in 1868; it was named by Henry C. Murphy and a group of businessmen in an 1878 contest to evoke the resort of Brighton, England. Working with — or, in some eyes, conspiring with — Gravesend’s surveyor, William Stillwell, Engeman acquired all 39 lots for the bargain price of $20,000.
The centerpiece of the resort was the large Hotel Brighton (or Brighton Beach Hotel), placed on the beach at what is now the foot of Coney Island Avenue and accessed by the Brooklyn, Flatbush, and Coney Island Railway, which opened on July 2, 1878. After a series of winter storms threatened to swamp the hotel, an audacious plan was developed to move it in one piece 520 feet further inland by placing railroad track and 112 railroad flat cars under the raised 460 ft. by 130 ft. building and using six steam locomotives to pull it away from the sea. Engineered by B.C. Miller, the move was begun on April 2, 1888 and continued for the next nine days, being the largest building move of the 19th century.
Adjacent to the hotel, Engeman built the Brighton Beach Race Course for Thoroughbred horse racing. In December 1887, an extremely high tide washed over the area, creating a new, temporary connection between Sheepshead Bay and the ocean. Wrote the "Brooklyn 'Daily Eagle": "Unless [Engeman] is very lucky the next races on the Brighton Beach track will be conducted by the white crested horses of Neptune."
Anton Seidl and the Metropolitan Opera brought their popular interpretations of Wagner to the Brighton Beach Music Hall, where John Philip Sousa was in residence. The New Brighton Theater was a hotspot for vaudeville. Visitors for tea at Reisenweber’s Brighton Beach Casino would be served by Japanese waitresses in full costume. And the Brighton Beach Baths was an enormous private club where members could swim, access a private beach, and play handball, mah-jongg, and cards.
The village was annexed into the 31st Ward of the City of Brooklyn in 1894.
In 1905, Brighton Beach Park opened its own area of amusements, calling it Brighton Pike. Brighton Pike offered a boardwalk, games, live entertainment (including the Miller Brothers’ wild-west show, 101 Ranch), and a huge steel roller coaster. It burned down in 1919.
Brighton Beach was re-developed as a fairly dense residential community with the final rebuilding of the Brighton Beach railway into a modern rapid transit line, known as the BMT Brighton Line of the New York City Subway c. 1920. The subway system in the neighborhood is above ground on an elevated structure. The opening of the BMT Brighton Line had conflicting consequences: although it made Brighton Beach viable as a year-round community, it was now much more feasible for visitors to return home in the evening rather than spend the night. This led to the closure of the Brighton Beach Hotel in 1924.
The years just before and following The Great Depression brought with them a neighborhood consisting mostly of first- and second-generation Jewish-Americans and, later, concentration camp survivors. Of the estimated 55,000 Holocaust survivors living in New York City as of 2011, most live in Brighton Beach. To meet the bursting cultural demands, the New Brighton Theater converted itself to the States’ first Yiddish theater in 1919.
Brighton Beach was dubbed "Little Odessa" by the local populace due to many of its residents having come from Odessa, a city of Ukraine. An annual festival, the Brighton Jubilee, celebrates the area's predominant heritage. In 2006, Alec Brook-Krasny was elected for the 46th District of the New York State Assembly, the first elected Soviet-born Jewish politician from Brighton Beach.
The proximity of Brighton Beach to the city's beaches (Brighton Beach Avenue runs parallel to the Coney Island beach and boardwalk) and the fact the neighborhood is directly served by a subway station makes it a popular summer weekend destination for New York City residents.
As of 1983, Brighton Beach had a middle class, mostly Jewish, older population. 68.5% of Brighton Beach was non-Hispanic White. 17.3% was non-Hispanic black. 11.7% were Hispanic. 27% of Brighton Beach was of age 62 or older, while the national average of persons aged 62 or older was 13.9%.
The BMT Brighton Line has two stations, Brighton Beach and Ocean Parkway, serving the neighborhood. Both are located on an elevated structure over Brighton Beach Avenue. Buses serving in and around Brighton Beach include the B1, B36, B49, and B68.
Primary and secondary schools
Brighton Beach is served by the New York City Department of Education. Primary and middle schools within Brighton Beach include PS 225 The Eileen E. Zaglin School for grades K-8, and the P.S. 253 Ezra Jack Keats International School.
William E. Grady Vocational High School, a vocational high school, is located in Brighton Beach. Abraham Lincoln High School, an academic high school, is in Coney Island. In 1983 Lincoln was the zoned academic high school of Brighton Beach.
Nearby high schools include:
In 1983, the Community School District 21 operated PS 225, PS 253, and Junior High School 302. During that year, over 62% of its students read at or above their grade level, far above the national average.
Brighton Beach is considered a hot spot for the "Russian Mafia," though public perception has been that organized crime "has largely gone away." In the 1970s, the most notorious leg of the mafia was the Potato Bag Gang, which served as a robbery gang for larger Russian crime syndicates in New York City. Marat Balagula was a crime boss from Brighton Beach who denies having any connection to the American Mafia or the Russian-speaking Mafia.
In popular culture
- The Neil Simon play, Brighton Beach Memoirs, which won two Tony awards in 1983, and its subsequent film adaptation, are both set against the backdrop of Brighton Beach in 1937.
- The 1994 film Little Odessa is set in Brighton Beach.
- In Darren Aronofsky's 2000 film, Requiem for a Dream, the character Sara Goldfarb (played by Ellen Burstyn) lives in an apartment on Brighton 6th Street.
- In the film Lord of War, the main character, Yuri Orlov, played by Nicolas Cage, lives in Brighton Beach.
- In the 2007 crime drama, We Own the Night, the character Bobby Green, played by Joaquin Phoenix, is the manager of a nightclub in Brighton Beach.
- In the 2009 film Two Lovers, featuring Joaquin Phoenix and Gwyneth Paltrow, the action takes place in Brighton Beach.
- Brighton Beach is also featured in the 1990s Russian spy-comedy Weather Is Good on Deribasovskaya, It Rains Again on Brighton Beach.
- In the Russian crime film Brother 2, Danila, the protagonist, comes to Brighton Beach from Russia.
- In the 1998 novel In Every Laugh a Tear by Lesléa Newman, developments take place partly in Brighton Beach.
- In the 1998 trading autobiography The Education of a Speculator, speculator and hedge fund manager Victor Niederhoffer takes us back to his childhood in Brighton Beach during the 1950s.
- In the 2000 novel Vector by Robin Cook, disillusioned former Russian biochemical worker Yuri Davydov develops weapons-grade Anthrax in the basement of his Brighton Beach home.
- Brighton Beach is where Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character Neil McCormick was taken to be beaten and raped in the 2004 film, Mysterious Skin.
- In the 2008 video game Grand Theft Auto IV, Brighton Beach is represented by the neighborhood of "Hove Beach". This is in reference to Brighton, England's proximity to, and relationship with, neighboring Hove. The two, having city status, are officially known as Brighton and Hove.
- In the songs "Xero Tolerance" and "Hey Pete" by Type O Negative, Brighton Beach is mentioned as the place where Pete is going to kill his cheating girlfriend. The D-train is his means of transportation in these songs. The full title of the band's faux-live album on which these songs appear is "The Origin Of The Feces - Not Live At Brighton Beach".
- In the video game, XIII, Brighton Beach is one of the first settings of the game's complex plotline.
- The French electronic music group Telepopmusik has a song on their album Angel Milk entitled "Brighton Beach".
- In the space flight simulator Orbiter, there is a fictional base on the moon named Brighton Beach.
- On the TV series The West Wing, Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff) hails from Brighton Beach.
- On the TV series Bored to Death, unlicensed private detective Jonathan Ames investigates a case based at a Russian nightclub in Brighton Beach.
- A Lifetime reality TV show called Russian Dolls, documenting the lives of young Russian-Americans and a group of Brighton Beach housewives spending time in a popular Russian nightclub, Rasputin Restaurant, premiered August 11, 2011.
- In an episode of the CBS's Blue Bloods the storyline revolves around the murder of a Russian Mob associate who lived in Brighton Beach. Several scenes are shot on and around the boardwalk.
- In Haley Tanner's debut novel "Vaclav and Lena" (2011) action takes place in Brighton Beach
- In the episode "Witness" of the TV series Person of Interest (2011), Reese has to protect a Brighton Beach high school history teacher who's being hunted by the Russian mob.
- In the Season 2 episode Deep in Death of the TV series Castle Russian speaking Detective Kate Beckett explains that when she is bored she likes to go to Glechik Cafe in Little Odessa and pretend to be Muscovite.
Brighton Beach is mentioned:
- In a Rilo Kiley song "Close Call", in which the lyrics "She was born on a Brighton pier to a gypsy mother and a bucket of tears..." are sung.
- In a Little Brazil song "Brighton Beach", in which the lyrics, "I first met her Brighton Beach back in 1973..." are sung.
- In two songs on gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello's album Multi Kontra Culti vs. Irony: "Smarkatch" and "Let's Get Radical".
- In the 2002 film 25th Hour during Edward Norton's rant about New York City.
- In the German soap opera Verbotene Liebe (Forbidden Love), when Christian Mann and Oliver Sabel return to Düsseldorf from New York. Christian claims to have learned a new recipe while in "Little Odessa".
- In the song "Brooklyn's Here" from the Tony Award Winning musical Newsies (musical).
- In the 2004 film Mysterious Skin in the scene on Christmas Eve.
- In the song "Brighton" by Neil Sedaka [it's about Brighton Beach]
- In the song "Brooklyn by the Sea" by Mort Shuman (who wrote many hits with Doc Pomus)
Notable current and former residents of Brighton Beach include:
- Marat Balagula (born 1943) neighborhood mob boss during the 1980s
- Eddie Daniels, clarinettist and saxophonist
- Howard Greenfield (1936–86), songwriter
- David B. Hollander (1913-2009), longest active Rabbi in America
- Vyacheslav Ivankov (1940–2009), alleged crime boss
- Jack Kirby (1917–1994), comic book artist, co-creator of Captain America during the early 1940s and the Fantastic Four, X-Men, and Incredible Hulk in the 1960s
- Lea Bayers Rapp (born 1946), author, journalist, playwright
- Lynn Ross (stage name), dancer in original 1957 Broadway production of West Side Story
- Neil Sedaka (born 1939), songwriter
- The Tokens, vocal group formed in 1955 at Abraham Lincoln High School
- Alfred Harvey Wernikoff, founder of Harvey Comics
- Jerome Wurf, U.S. labor leader and president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) from 1964 to 1981.
- Dolan, Dolores. "IF YOU'RE THINKING OF LIVING IN: BRIGHTON BEACH." The New York Times. June 19, 1983. Retrieved on October 15, 2012.
- "About Russian Dolls".
- Jackson, Kenneth T.: The Encyclopedia of New York City: The New York Historical Society; Yale University Press; 1995. pp. 139-140.
- 60th Precinct, NYPD
- Williams, Keith. "Brighton Beach: Old World mentality, New World reality". The Weekly Nabe. Retrieved 29 July 2012.
- The New York Times, April 4, 1888
- "High Tides". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. 7 December 1887. Retrieved 29 July 2012.
- "The Plot to Cheat Germany's Holocaust Survivors' Fund". Time. November 13, 2010.
- Johnstone, Sarah: Ukraine, Lonely Planet, 2005. P.119.
- Larson, Michael, Bingling Liao, Ariel Stulberg and Anna Kordunsky. "Changing Face of Brighton Beach Central Asians Join Russian Jews in Brooklyn Neighborhood." The Jewish Daily Forward. September 17, 2012. Retrieved on October 15, 2012.
- Rich, Motoko. "In Web Age, Library Job Gets Update." The New York Times. February 15, 2009. Retrieved on October 15, 2012.
- "100TH DISTRICT." The Poughkeepsie Journal. October 24, 2004. A9. Retrieved on October 15, 2012. "As a PTA mom at PS 253, Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, […]"
- Fertig, Beth. "Test Driving a Pilot Teacher Evaluation System." SchoolBook. The New York Times. March 14, 2012. Retrieved on October 15, 2012. "Ms. Moloney has been testing a new framework for evaluating teachers this year at the school, which is actually in Brighton Beach,"
- "Home." PS 100 The Coney Island School. Retrieved on October 17, 2012. "2951 WEST 3 STREET, BROOKLYN, NY 11224"
- Scharfenberg, David. "Safety Belts On? Renewal Has Its Hazards." The New York Times. November 19, 2006. "Coney Island, which has a residential population of about 53,000, is bounded by the Belt Parkway to the north, Ocean Parkway to the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the south." - Map, Archive
- Hughes, C. J. "Waterfront Living That Doesn’t Break the Bank." The New York Times. April 30, 2010. p.2. Retrieved on October 15, 2012.
- "Home." I.S. 303 Herbert S. Eisenberg. Retrieved on October 17, 2012. "501 WEST AVENUE, BROOKLYN, NY 11224"
- "Student, 17, Is Shot in Brighton Beach." The New York Times. June 6, 2012. Retrieved on October 11, 2012.
- "Home." Abraham Lincoln High School. Retrieved on October 17, 2012. "2800 OCEAN PARKWAY, BROOKLYN, NY 11235"
- "Brighton Beach Library." Brooklyn Public Library. Retrieved on October 15, 2012. "Brighton Beach Library 16 Brighton First Rd. at Brighton Beach Ave. Brooklyn, NY 11235"
- Raab, Selwyn (August 23, 1994). "Influx of Russian Gangsters Troubles F.B.I. in Brooklyn". The New York Times.
- "Undercover Look Inside The Russian Mob". CBS News.
- Orleck, Annelise; Elizabeth Cooke (1999). The Soviet Jewish Americans. Greenwood Publishing. p. 116. ISBN 978-0-313-30074-5. Retrieved 2008-09-13.
- Berger, Joseph. "Vintage Pop Star With the Soul of a Bar Mitzvah Boy", The New York Times, May 24, 2004. Accessed September 23, 2009. "Several years before enrolling in Juilliard, he had been introduced to a neighbor with a touch of the poet, Howard Greenfield, and they became a songwriting team for the next 20 years."
- Kensington Books
- Broadway World
- Dettelbach, Cynthia. "From angst-ridden teenager to world-class music star", Cleveland Jewish News, July 30, 2004. Accessed September 23, 2009. "That includes instant face and name recognition, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a place in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and even a street named after him in his native Brighton Beach, Brooklyn."
- Vocal Group Hall of Fame
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.|
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Brooklyn/Coney Island and Brighton Beach.|
- Brighton Beach Business Improvement District
- Brighton Beach Neighborhood Association
- Russian Community Life Center
- Brighton Beach News Russian-American newspaper
- NY Mag Everything Guide to Brighton Beach