Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn
Gerritsen Beach is a small town/community in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, located between Sheepshead Bay to the west and Marine Park to the east. The area is served by Brooklyn Community Board 15.
Gerritsen Beach lies on a peninsula in the southeastern part of Brooklyn, near Marine Park; it is bounded on the north by Avenue U, to the east by Gerritsen Avenue, to the south by the Plumb Beach Channel, and on the west by Shell Bank Creek and Knapp Street. It is bisected, from west to east, by the Gotham Avenue Canal. The area north of the canal, known as the "new section" by local residents, has traditional city streets lined with stores, brick houses, and wide sidewalks. The area south of the canal (the "old section") is a popular spot for party boats and chartered fishing boats to be berthed. The typical size of the land lots in the community are 40 by 45 feet (12.19 by 13.72 meters) in the old section, 34 by 52 feet (10.36 by 15.85 meters) in the new section and 24 by 70 feet (7.32 by 21.34 meters) on the waterfront. The streets in Gerritsen Beach are in alphabetical order (that is, Aster, Bevy, Celeste, Dictum, etc.), and they are patrolled by officers of the New York Police Department's 61st Precinct.
The neighborhood is named for Wolphert Gerretse, a Dutch settler, who, in the early seventeenth century, built a house and mill on Gerritsen Creek (which is now part of the nearby Marine Park neighborhood). The three-hundred-year-old mill was destroyed by fire in 1931. The famous Whitney family owned property by the mill and built a mansion. The Mansion had horse stables, servant quarters,a carriage house, and a private race track. The Mansion was knocked down in 1936 for the Marine Park Building Developments but the carriage house was still left standing. The Carriage house was converted into a private home that is still standing today.
Until the early twentieth century, the area remained undeveloped except for a few squatters’ bungalows clustered at the foot of Gerritsen Avenue. In 1920, Realty Associates, a speculative real-estate builder, began constructing a middle-class summer resort there. The southwestern section of Gerritsen’s meadow was soon covered to one-story bungalows with peaked roofs and no backyards. The popularity of this venture spurred further growth. Some bungalow-owners made them suitable for year-round habitation; others built two-story houses with backyards; and, within a decade, there were fifteen hundred houses in Gerritsen Beach.
The neighborhood has a large Irish-Catholic presence in the community. A few long-standing residents of Irish descent refer to the community as being cois farraige, which is an Irish language phrase meaning "by the sea". The remaining percentage of the population is predominantly of Italian and German descent.
The neighborhood is also home of the New York City Department of Education's Public School 277, an elementary school known as the Gerritsen Beach School. Brooklyn Blue-Feather School, 2335 Gerritsen Ave. is for special-needs children operates in the former Resurrection school building.
The Gerritsen Ballfields, consisting of three baseball fields, two athletic fields for soccer or football, and one Little League field, are located on the east side of Gerritsen Avenue. In 1993, this site benefitted from a $192,000 renovation sponsored by Borough Council Member Herbert E. Berman. The park area also supports a "mini-airport" for motorized model airplanes; it is located at Seba Avenue and Gerritsen Avenue.
Recreational fishing is very popular with citizens of the community. Anglers can be found fishing along the shore at the southern end of Gerritsen Avenue and along the adjacent shoreline of the Gerritsen Creek-Marine Park "salt marsh". The Gerritsen Creek estuary and the adjacent salt marsh is also a major spawning ground for various species of marine fish. Riding of quads is also popular, as people ride around the beach and in the trails.
Volunteer Fire Department
The local Volunteer Fire Department (a.k.a. "the Vollies"), the last remaining volunteer fire department in Brooklyn, was organized in 1922 when Gerritsen Beach was a small summer-resort community. The name of the department is officially spelled Gerrittsen Beach Fire Department. In 1921, a damaging fire on Abbey Court demonstrated to the community that the city’s regular fire apparatus could not reach the beach in time to put out a fire. A mass meeting was called by the residents, and that resulted in the organization of the only volunteer fire department in Brooklyn.
Before the city added water mains under Gerritsen Beach streets, the Volunteers had to handle fires at least three times a week. The danger posed to Gerritsen Beach residents by fire was especially acute because most families relied on oil stoves and kerosene lamps, and the water to fight fires had to be pumped from wells. The city did not build Engine Company 321's firehouse at Gerritsen Avenue and Avenue U until October 4, 1930.
Members of the fire brigade, currently known as the Vollies, were, in earlier times, nicknamed "the Vamps". Members are not only trained to fight fires, but also to rescue people who are drowning and to assist in other medical emergencies. According to the Vollies 1976 anniversary booklet, the Vollies were approved by the New York State Department of Health as an Emergency Services Training Center. Although the community is now served by Engine Company 321, strong support for the "Vollies" continues.
The following historical events involved the Gerritsen Beach volunteers in actions outside their own neighborhood:
- The Vollies responded with medical aid to the victims of the jet airliner crash at 7th Avenue and Sterling Place, on December 16, 1960.
- Just three days after the New York air disaster, on December 19, 1960, the Vollies responded to the city’s call for assistance in fighting a blaze aboard the aircraft carrier USS Constitution at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
- During heavy fog, the powerful beam of the department's Mack searchlight is used at Kennedy Airport when requested.
- When there was a major oil fire in Mill Basin in 1962, the Vollies responded with foam to help put it out.
- On 9/11 The Vollies assisted FDNY Battalion 33 by temporarily relocating their apparatus to the Firehouse of Engine 321 on Gerritsen Avenue and Avenue U when E321 responded to the WTC. Doing so allowed the Vollies to cover the response areas normally covered by E321 such as Marine Park and Sheepshead Bay while continuing to provide service to the residents of Gerritsen Beach.
- During the blizzard of 2010, the department responded rapidly to Gerritsen Beach while the EMS system was heavily delayed.
The Gerrittsen Beach Volunteer Fire Department has one fire engine and one ambulance.
Movies filmed in Gerritsen Beach
- City Across the River
- Moscow on the Hudson
- The Departed
- Shaft (2000)
- She's the One (1996)
- Then She Found Me (2007)
Almost all homes in the Gerritsen Beach area were damaged and/or affected by seawater on October 29, 2012 from Hurricane Sandy due to its peninsula characteristics. Almost all of the residents did not leave the neighborhood before the flooding began. The flood waters reached a record 10–12 ft in some parts of the neighborhood. A bar from Deep Creek Marina floated into the neighborhood. The damage was so severe, it lead to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to reclassify Gerritsen Beach as Zone A.
- Mooney, Jake. "The Art of Hiding in Plain Sight," The New York Times, Sunday, August 19, 2012.
- Brooklyn Community Boards, New York City. express bus. Accessed December 31, 2007.
- Cohen, Joyce. "If You're Thinking of Living In/Gerritsen Beach; Secluded Peninsula in South Brooklyn", The New York Times, March 3, 2002. Accessed November 11, 2007. "The area, named for Wolfert Gerritsen, a 17th-century settler, was mostly marshland until around 1920, when a company called Realty Associates began building summer homes."
- Gershman, Jacob; Fleisher, Lisa (December 29, 2010). "30 Hours' Wait for Ambulance". 30 Hours' Wait for Ambulance.
- Locations Search for Bartlett Place, Gerritsen Beach (IMDb)
- NYC.gov - Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting - Sets in the City
- Shaft (2000 remake); IMDb profile
- She's the One (1996); IMDb profile
- IMDb profile