Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

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Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

Yellow Hook
Streetscape in Bay Ridge
Streetscape in Bay Ridge
"The Ridge"
Location in New York City
Coordinates: 40°37′26″N 74°01′55″W / 40.624°N 74.032°W / 40.624; -74.032Coordinates: 40°37′26″N 74°01′55″W / 40.624°N 74.032°W / 40.624; -74.032
Country United States
State New York
City New York City
 • Council MemberJustin Brannan
 • New York State SenatorAndrew Gounardes
 • Total2.12 sq mi (5.49 km2)
 • Land2.12 sq mi (5.49 km2)
 • Water0 sq mi (0 km2)
 • Total79,371
 • Density37,000/sq mi (14,000/km2)
ZIP code
11209, 11220[3]
Area code(s)718, 347, 929, and 917

Bay Ridge is a neighborhood in the southwest corner of the New York City borough of Brooklyn. It is bounded by Sunset Park on the north, Dyker Heights on the east, the Narrows and the Belt Parkway on the west, and Fort Hamilton Army Base and the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge on the south.

The section of Bay Ridge south of 86th Street is sometimes considered part of a sub-neighborhood called Fort Hamilton.


Night view of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge from Shore Road
George Bradford Brainerd, Bay Ridge, c. 1872 – c. 1887 Brooklyn Museum

The first Dutch settlers began farming here in the 17th century.[4] Well into the 19th century, what is now considered Bay Ridge consisted of two sister villages: Yellow Hook to the north, named for the color of the soil, and Fort Hamilton to the south, named for the military installation at its center. The latter began to develop in the 1830s as a resort destination.[5] The former began to develop after 1850, when a group of artists moved to the area and founded a colony called Ovington Village; before that, it was mostly farmland.[6]

In the 1850s, the village changed the community’s name to avoid association with yellow fever.[7][8] "Bay Ridge" was suggested by local horticulturist James Weir after the area’s most prominent geographic features: the high ridge that offered views of New York Bay.[9][10] The natural beauty attracted the wealthy, who built country homes along Shore Road, overlooking the water.[11] Suburban development in Bay Ridge continued through the 1890s.[12] By World War II, almost all of these large houses had been replaced with apartment buildings.[11]

Development accelerated once planning began for the Fourth Avenue subway (today's R train), and was well underway by the time the section of the subway in Bay Ridge opened in 1916.[13] At the time, Bay Ridge extended northward to what is now present-day Sunset Park.[14] Industrial developments were constructed along the waterfront north of present-day 65th Street, such as Bush Terminal (now Industry City), and those were considered to be within Bay Ridge.[15] By the 1920s, the number of apartment buildings had increased fivefold, replacing old farms, homesteads and houses.[16]

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many Norwegian and Danish sailors emigrated to Brooklyn, including Bay Ridge and neighboring Sunset Park; Lapskaus Boulevard, referring to the salted Norwegian beef stew, was the nickname of Eighth Avenue in this area.[17]

Construction of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, which connects Bay Ridge to Staten Island, was completed in 1964. Though now an iconic structure, it was opposed by residents because it would require the demolition of many homes and businesses. Eight hundred buildings were destroyed, displacing 7,000 people, to make room for the bridge and its approach. Also destroyed was Fort Lafayette, part of New York City's defense system along with Fort Hamilton and Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island; it was replaced by the base of the bridge's east tower.[18]

The Senator Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.[19] The Houses at 216-264 Ovington Ave. were listed in 2007.[19]

Bay Ridge's Arab community is a strong and vibrant one, and its presence is evident in everything from coffee shops to Babel Barber Shop, pictured above in the wake of the January 2016 snow storm.

The 2007 Brooklyn tornado hit this area, specifically 68th Street and Bay Ridge Avenue between Third and Fourth Avenues.[20] Eleven houses had to be vacated after they suffered significant damage, and many of the trees on the two blocks toppled, landing on cars and stoops. The 4th Avenue Presbyterian Church had its very large stained glass window blown out.[21] As the tornado lifted, it peeled the roof of a nearby Nissan dealership and deforested 40% of Leif Ericson Park. The tornado has been rated an EF-2 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, with winds between 111 and 135 MPH.[22]


Based on data from the 2010 United States Census, the population of Bay Ridge was 79,371, a decrease of 1,168 (1.5%) from the 80,539 counted in 2000. Covering an area of 1,571.96 acres (636.15 ha), the neighborhood had a population density of 50.5 inhabitants per acre (32,300/sq mi; 12,500/km2).[2]

The racial makeup of the neighborhood was 66.4% (52,740) White, 1.8% (1,457) Black, 0.1% (83) Native American, 13.3% (10,530) Asian, 0.0% (19) Pacific Islander, 0.3% (265) from other races, and 2.1% (1,682) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 15.9% (12,595) of the population.[23]


Culture and demographic makeup[edit]

Bay Ridge is an affluent neighborhood. With its strong family presence, it is not uncommon to see third or fourth generation families living in the region. Until the early 1990s, Bay Ridge was a primarily Irish, Italian, Greek, Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian, and Norwegian[24] neighborhood. Its Nordic heritage is still apparent in the annual Norwegian Constitution Day Parade, also known as the Syttende Mai Parade, featuring hundreds of people in folk dress who parade down Third Avenue. The celebration ends in Leif Ericson Park, named for the Viking explorer, where "Miss Norway" is crowned near the statue of Leif Ericson. The statue was donated by Crown Prince Olav, Prince of Norway, on behalf of the nation of Norway in 1939.[25][26] Nordic Delicacies, a Norwegian gifts-and-groceries store, remained open until 2015.[27]

As of 1971, the 30,000-strong Norwegian community of Bay Ridge boasted that it was the fourth-largest Norwegian city in the world.[28] Residents also compared Eighth Avenue's string of Norwegian businesses to Oslo's Karl Johans gate.[28]

Bay Ridge's Norwegian heritage lives on today in the Valhalla Courts. While the Norse god Odin ruled the mythic hall from which the courts take their name, it is mostly local teenagers who rule these basketball playing areas.

Today, Bay Ridge's population is around 80,000[29] and maintains a sizable Irish, Italian, and Greek population. Like other areas in southern and southwestern Brooklyn, an influx of Russian, Polish, and Lebanese arrived later in the 20th century, as well as lesser numbers of Chinese. In recent decades many Middle Eastern and Arab Americans have moved to Bay Ridge. It has even been referred to as "the heart of Brooklyn's Arab community."[30]

Bay Ridge has many ethnic restaurants, especially along Third and Fifth Avenues, its main commercial strips. The neighborhood is said to have had more bars than anywhere in the world, according to neighborhood lore.[31][32]

Bay Ridge has a large elderly population. It has been called a naturally occurring retirement community (NORC) because many of its families have grown up in the neighborhood while their children moved away. In 2006, it was reported that 20% of the population of Bay Ridge is 60 years of age or more.[33]


Local newspapers include The Home Reporter and Sunset News and The Bay Ridge Courier. The neighborhood is also often covered by The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. (These papers publish other local offshoots: The Home Reporter also publishes The Spectator; the Courier's parent company also publishes The Brooklyn Paper; and the Eagle publishes a weekly digest called Bay Ridge Life.)


Development has been a passionate issue for Bay Ridge residents. In the 1990s and 2000s, many decades-old two-family houses were demolished and replaced by condominiums known colloquially as "Fedder Homes," after the branded air conditioners poking out from the buildings' facades. In 2005, local community leaders and community activists from across the political spectrum united to issue rezoning laws.[34]

The six-story apartment complexes lining Shore Road are among the tallest buildings in the neighborhood.[29]

Bay Ridge was chosen as an "Editor's Pick" in This Old House magazine April 2011 as a good neighborhood to buy an old house.[35]


Landmarks and points of interest[edit]

Hurricane damage in Owl's Head Park
69th Street Pier
Historically speaking Bay Ridge has long been opposed to ball playing, and traces of this staunch position remain to this day on side streets stretching off of Fifth Avenue.
From harbor
The park strip between the shore road and Narrows
  • The American Veterans Memorial Pier (commonly referred to as the 69th Street Pier) at Bay Ridge Avenue and Shore Road is the community's key seaside recreation spot. Sports fishermen travel to fish the waters of "The Bay Ridge Anchorage" and along the seawall promenade that runs south from the pier to the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge and east along Gravesend Bay. The pier features a sculpture that emits a beam of light as a memorial to those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. Commuter ferry service operated between this pier and the St. George Ferry Terminal in Staten Island from 1912 until 1964, the year the Verrazzano Bridge opened.[36] Ferry service to Wall Street and points along the western coast of Brooklyn began in 2017 from the pier as part of NYC Ferry's South Brooklyn route.[37]
  • Farrell House, which has been at 125 95th St. since the early twentieth century, is one of many old mansions in Bay Ridge, and it is now an official landmark. An accompanying structure, thought to have been used as a barn, couldn't be saved and was demolished. Legend has it the house was turned so that its "widow's walk," a balcony that traditionally faces the sea so women left at home could watch for their husbands' ships, would no longer face the Narrows.[38]
  • Fort Hamilton, an active military base near the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, houses one of the neighborhood's few cultural attractions, the Harbor Defense Museum.[39]
  • Owl's Head Park (also known as Bliss Park), in the neighborhood's northwest corner, was previously the private estate of the Bliss Family, for whom nearby Bliss Terrace is named. They sold what remained of the estate to the city in 1928 for $850,000, after Eliphalet Williams Bliss specified in his will 25 years earlier that he wanted the city to buy the land and convert it into parkland. Before them, a portion of the property was owned by Henry C. Murphy, a former Mayor of Brooklyn, ambassador, congressman and New York State Senator for whom the nearby Senator Street is named. Remnants of the estate—mansion, stable, observation tower—were still visible into the 1930s and 40s, when they were finally demolished, having been left to fall into disrepair.[40] It is a 24-acre (97,000 m2) walking park[41] that has a state of the art skate park, dog run, children's playground and basketball courts; it has the first concrete skatepark built in Brooklyn.[42]
  • Step streets are public staircases in the middle of a street. As a rule they were placed on hills that were too steep to build a road for cars but still allow access to pedestrians. [43]
  • St. John's Episcopal Church[44] was where Robert E. Lee served as a vestryman and where his future "right hand," Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, was baptized.[45] The building no longer hosts services.[46]

Fort Hamilton Army Base[edit]

Historic Fort Hamilton Army Base is located in the southwestern corner of the New York City borough of Brooklyn, with gates in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, and is one of several posts that are part of the region which is headquartered by the Military District of Washington. Its mission is to provide the New York metropolitan area with military installation support for the Army National Guard and the United States Army Reserve. The base is considered to be part of Bay Ridge. The children stationed at the base are zoned into Bay Ridge schools.


Bay Ridge is patrolled by the New York City Police Department's 68th[47] Precinct. It is served by Engine 241, Engine 242, and Ladder 109 of the New York City Fire Department. Bay Ridge is also served by a BRAVO Volunteer Ambulance.


The area is served by the R train on the BMT Fourth Avenue Line of the New York City Subway between Bay Ridge Avenue and 95th Street.[48]

Additionally, there are MTA express bus routes X27, X37 which mainly serve for the commute to Manhattan, but also run during off-peak hours on weekdays. The X27 also runs on weekends. The routes X28, X38 also serve the eastern part of Bay Ridge. Many Bay Ridge commuters opt for the relative comfort and convenience of the express bus. Bay Ridge is readily accessible by car, encircled by the Belt Parkway and Gowanus Expressway. Local bus routes include B1, B4, B8, B9, B16, B37, B63, B64, B70, S53, S79 SBS, S93.[49]

The freight-only Bay Ridge Branch connects car floats to the Long Island Rail Road.

In June 2017, Bay Ridge became the terminus of NYC Ferry's South Brooklyn route.[50][51][52]


Breaking ground on Bay Ridge High School, 1914
High School of Telecommunications

Primary and secondary schools[edit]

New York City Department of Education operates area public schools. Educational institutions in Bay Ridge include; P.S. 102,[53] P.S. 170, P.S. 127, P.S. 185[54] (Walter Kassenbrock Elementary School), P.S. 104[55] (called the Fort Hamilton School), Lutheran Elementary School, St. Anselm's Roman Catholic School, P.S./I.S. 30[56] (also known as Mary White Ovington), I.S.259 (also known as William McKinley Junior High School) Angels Catholic Academy[57] Holy Bay Ridge Preparatory School,[58] Fort Hamilton High School, High School of Telecommunications (originally all-girls Bay Ridge High School), Poly Prep Country Day School, Visitation Academy, Adelphi Academy, Fontbonne Hall Academy, St. Patrick Elementary School, D., G. Kaloidis Parochial School,[59] and Xaverian High School. Fort Hamilton High School, between 83rd and 85th streets, was erected in the 1940s on the grounds of the Crescent Athletic Club, a country club. The High School of Telecommunications was formerly Bay Ridge High School, which was once an all-girls school.

Public libraries[edit]

Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) operates the Bay Ridge Library. The Bay Ridge Reading Club first organized the library in 1880. It opened on its present site in 1896 and became a BPL branch in 1901. The current two story facility opened in 1960. In 2004 it received a $2.1 million renovation, including new furniture and shelving, new lighting equipment, a new roof, and 27 additional public access computers.[60]

A smaller public library is the Fort Hamilton Library, built with money given by Andrew Carnegie in 1906. The current branch's predecessor was founded over 100 years ago. It became a part of the BPL system in 1901 and moved to its current location in 1905. Since then it has gone through numerous renovations. The most recent renovation was completed in March 2011, with a ribbon cutting ceremony held on April 11, 2011.[61]


For many years Bay Ridge was regarded as a relatively conservative enclave of Brooklyn.[62] Mike Long, Chairman of the Conservative Party of New York, resided in Bay Ridge. The community was considered a Republican stronghold through most of its history. An exception was Democrat Sal Albanese, who was elected to the neighborhood's City Council seat in 1983, defeating the 21-year incumbent Republican-Conservative Minority Leader Angelo G. Arculeo, and went on to represent the district for 15 years. This political landscape began to change with population shifts over the 1990s and early 2000s, when the mostly-white population began to diversify.

The community supported the Democratic Party during many presidential elections.[63][64] In the 2010s, the neighborhood has increasingly supported Democrats, such as City Councilmember Justin Brannan, who was elected in 2017.[65][66] During the 2018 general election, the neighborhood strongly favored Democrats Max Rose and Andrew Gounardes in their electoral victories in New York's 11th Congressional District and New York Senate District 22, respectively.[67][68]

The neighborhood is represented in the New York State Assembly by Democrat Mathylde Frontus of New York Assembly District 46[69]and Republican Nicole Malliotakis of New York Assembly District 64.

The neighborhood is served by Brooklyn Community Board 10.

Notable people[edit]

In popular culture[edit]



Television shows[edit]

  • NYPD Commissioner Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) on CBS-TV's Blue Bloods lives in Bay Ridge; his home at 8070 Harbor View Terrace, near Fort Hamilton High School, is seen in each episode[94]
  • The 2012 reality series Brooklyn 11223 was set in Bay Ridge [95]
  • In an episode[clarification needed] of Law & Order: SVU, Det. Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) states that he is from 89th Street and Shore Road
  • Peggy Olson, the Norwegian-American copywriter on AMC's Mad Men, is from Bay Ridge[96] In the second episode of Season One, she declared, "I'm from Bay Ridge. We have manners."
  • Parts of the show Rescue Me are set in the neighborhood
  • In the television program Ugly Betty,[clarification needed] the character of Justin is shocked that Hilda and Bobby have found a place in Bay Ridge, and instead explains that Manhattan is much more realistic due to the recession


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Further reading[edit]

  • Rygg, Andreas Nilsen. Norwegians in New York, 1825–1925 (Brooklyn, New York: Norwegian News Co. 1941)
  • website. Bay Ridge & Bensonhurst From 1524 Up 'Til Today (Brooklyn, New York: Peter Scarpa, Bay Ridge Historical Society)