Brighton Beach

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Brighton Beach
Neighborhood in Brooklyn
Looking east along Brighton Beach Avenue from the corner of Coney Island Avenue
Looking east along Brighton Beach Avenue from the corner of Coney Island Avenue
Brighton Beach is located in New York City
Brighton Beach
Brighton Beach
Location in New York City
Coordinates: 40°34′39″N 73°57′41″W / 40.57750°N 73.96139°W / 40.57750; -73.96139Coordinates: 40°34′39″N 73°57′41″W / 40.57750°N 73.96139°W / 40.57750; -73.96139
Country United States
State New York
City New York City
Borough/County Brooklyn/Kings
Population (2007)[1]
 • Total 75,692
Time zone UTC−05:00
ZIP code 11235
Telephone area code 718, 347, 929, and 917

Brighton Beach is an oceanside neighborhood in the southern portion of the New York City borough of Brooklyn, along the Coney Island peninsula. As of 2007, it has a population of 75,692 with a total of 31,228 households.[1] Brighton Beach is bounded by Coney Island proper 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 along the beach and boardwalk.[2] It is known for its high population of Russian-speaking immigrants[3] 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.


Early development[edit]

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.[4]

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[2] 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.[4] 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 by 130 feet (140 m × 40 m) 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.[5]

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."[6]

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.[4]

The village was annexed into the 31st Ward of the City of Brooklyn in 1894.

Early 20th century[edit]

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.[4]

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 (B Q services) 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.[4]

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, Holocaust concentration camp survivors.[7] Of the estimated 55,000 Holocaust survivors living in New York City as of 2011, most live in Brighton Beach.[8] To meet the bursting cultural demands, the New Brighton Theater converted itself to the States' first Yiddish theater in 1919.[4]

Soviet immigration[edit]

The "Millenium Theater", now the "Master Theater"

For a very long time, until the end of the 20th century, the area was not considered prestigious. There were dirty streets, high crime rates, and many illegal immigrants. During the summer, though, people from all around the city went to Brighton Beach's beach next to the Atlantic Ocean.

The collapse of the Soviet Union, and the subsequent significant changes in the social and economic circumstances of post-Soviet states, caused thousands of former Soviet citizens to immigrate to the United States. Many of these Soviet immigrants came to Brighton Beach during the late 1980s and '90s. Brighton Beach had a heavy influx of emigrants due to low housing prices. The new residents spoke mainly Russian, so a large number of firms, shops, restaurants, clubs, offices, banks, schools and children's play centers speak Russian and are intended mainly for Russian-speaking clients.[9]

Very quickly, the area flourished. A few meters from the ocean, a Russian-speaking theater, the Master Theater (ru), featured famous actors from the US, Russia and other countries.[10] In the early 2000s, on the shore of the ocean, the expensive Oceana condominium complex was constructed.[11] Many rich businessmen, senior officials and popular entertainers from the former Soviet Union bought units in the Oceana complex. Accordingly, the prices of houses in the area have risen.[9]

Since the early 2010s, more Central Asians were also coming to Brighton Beach.[9]


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.

Russian-speaking cultures[edit]

Because Brighton Beach's original Russian-speaking population arrived in the 1940s and '50s and were primarily Jews from Odessa, Ukraine, Brighton Beach is sometimes known as "Little Odessa".[12] During this time, Brighton Beach came to be known as "Little Odessa" and later "Little Russia".[13] An annual festival, the Brighton Jubilee, celebrates the area's Russian-speaking heritage.[4]

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.


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%.[14] Since the '90s, however, the neighborhood's ethnic demographics have been changing, with a large influx of mainly Muslim immigrants from Central Asia, such as Uzbeks.[15] In subsequent years, the proportion of whites and Hispanics leveled out, but the proportion of the black population decreased significantly, while at the same time, the proportion of the Asian population greatly increased. As of 2010, increasing numbers of Muslim Central Asians were moving into Brighton Beach, and due to Soviet influence, they also speak Russian.[15][16]

According to the 2010 United States Census, Brighton Beach had 23,431 residents. Of these, 11,135 were men and 12,296 women. The area is distinguished by the high average age of the population; the average age of men was 47.5 years and that of women was 53 years. The population density in Brighton Beach was 52,109 people per square mile, almost twice the average population density of New York City—27,012 people per square mile. The average household size was 2.1 people, lower than the city average of 2.6 people.[17]

The standard of living of most of the population of Brighton Beach is low as of the 2010 census. The average income of households in the area was $36,574; the average income in the whole city is $55 217. In Brighton Beach, 29.4% of the population lives below the poverty line, compared to only 14.4% citywide. There are half as many cars per capita in Brighton Beach compared to the city average.[17]

Most of the population of Brighton Beach are immigrants. Less than a quarter (23.3%) of Brighton Beach residents were born in the United States, and nearly three-quarters were born abroad (72.9%). Because of this, English language proficiency in Brighton Beach is lower than the city average. More than a third (36.1%) of the population of Brighton Beach does not speak or understand English, while citywide, only one in fourteen people (7.2%) cannot speak or understand English.[17]


The Brighton Ballet Theater, established in 1987, is one of the most famous Russian ballet schools in the United States. More than 3,000 children have trained in ballet, modern and character dances, and folk dances here.[18]

The Master Theater, also in Brighton Beach, has also featured famous actors from the US, Russia and other countries.


Brighton Beach is patrolled by the New York City Police Department's 60th Precinct.[19] Between January 1 and September 14, 2014 in the 60th Precinct, there were 8 murders, 16 rapes, 168 robberies, 226 felony assaults, 125 burglaries, 417 grand larcenies, and 53 grand larcenies auto.[20]

It is also considered a hot spot for the "Russian Mafia,"[21] though public perception has been that organized crime "has largely gone away."[22] In the 1970s, the most notorious leg of the mafia was the Potato Bag Gang,[23] 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. The major Russian criminal element in Brighton Beach was the international Russian mafia group, known as vor v zakone or "vory". The first vory crime boss in Brighton Beach was Evsei Agron, who controlled the area's crime during the 70s and 80s until his death in 1985. After the fall of the Soviet Union in the 90s, many ethnic Russian criminals illegally entered the United States, coming especially to Brighton Beach. During this wave arrived the infamous vor Vyacheslav Ivankov, who dominated the Brighton Beach underworld until his arrest in 1995.[24]


The BMT Brighton Line (B Q trains) 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, B68.


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,[25] and the P.S. 253 Ezra Jack Keats International School.[26] 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.[14]

Schools near Brighton Beach within Coney Island are PS 100 The Coney Island School for grades K–5[27][28][29] and Intermediate School 303 Herbert S. Eisenberg.[29][30][31]

William E. Grady Vocational High School, a vocational high school, is located in Brighton Beach.[32] Abraham Lincoln High School, an academic high school, is in Coney Island.[29][33] In 1983 Lincoln was the zoned academic high school of Brighton Beach.[14]

Nearby high schools include:

Brooklyn Public Library also operates the Brighton Beach Library.[34]

P.S. 253 Ezra Jack Keats International School/The Magnet School of Multicultural Humanities 
PS 225 The Eileen E. Zaglin School 

In popular culture[edit]

The neighborhood has been mentioned or appears many times in popular culture.




  • In Robin Cook's novel Vector (2000) , disillusioned former Russian biochemical worker Yuri Davydov develops weapons-grade Anthrax in the basement of his Brighton Beach home.




  • Brighton Beach has been used as a setting for the New York television show Blue Bloods.[citation needed]
  • On the TV series Bored to Death, unlicensed private detective Jonathan Ames investigates a case based at a Russian nightclub in Brighton Beach.
  • Brighton Beach has been used as a setting for the New York television show Law & Order.[citation needed]
  • In the Netflix original TV show, Orange is the New Black, Red's family lives in Brighton Beach and owns restaurant in Queens.
  • Brighton Beach has been used as a setting for the New York television show Person of Interest (Season 1 Episode 7 Witness).[citation needed]
  • In the USA original TV series "White Collar", Episode 506, titled Ice Breaker, Peter and Neal must infiltrate the criminal underworld of Liitle Odessa to uncover a dangerous smuggling ring. (Originally aired 11/21/2013)
  • 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.[35]

Notable residents[edit]

Notable current and former residents of Brighton Beach include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Brooklyn". Retrieved November 4, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Jackson, Kenneth T.: The Encyclopedia of New York City: The New York Historical Society; Yale University Press; 1995. pp. 139-140.
  3. ^ "The Everything Guide to Brighton Beach". Retrieved November 4, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Williams, Keith. "Brighton Beach: Old World mentality, New World reality". The Weekly Nabe. Retrieved July 29, 2012. 
  5. ^ The New York Times, April 4, 1888
  6. ^ "High Tides". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. December 7, 1887. Retrieved July 29, 2012. [dead link]
  7. ^ New Immigrants in New York. 
  8. ^ "The Plot to Cheat Germany's Holocaust Survivors' Fund". Time. November 13, 2010. 
  9. ^ a b c 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 February 4, 2014.
  10. ^ Home
  11. ^ Residential resort village in Brighton Beach - NY Daily News
  12. ^ Brennan Ortiz (January 23, 2014). "NYC's Micro Neighborhoods: Little Odessa in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn". Untapped Cities. Retrieved September 9, 2014. 
  13. ^ Johnstone, Sarah (2005). Ukraine. Lonely Planet. p. 119. 
  14. ^ a b c d Dolan, Dolores. (June 19, 1983). "IF YOU'RE THINKING OF LIVING IN: BRIGHTON BEACH". The New York Times. Retrieved October 15, 2012. 
  15. ^ a b Larson, Michael & Liao, Bingling & Stulberg, Ariel & Kordunsky, Anna (September 17, 2012). "Changing Face of Brighton Beach Central Asians Join Russian Jews in Brooklyn Neighborhood". The Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved October 15, 2012. 
  16. ^ "Races Little Odessa in Brooklyn, New York". 
  17. ^ a b c "2010 United States Census" (PDF). 2012. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ "60th Precinct, NYPD". Retrieved November 4, 2014. 
  20. ^ 60th Precinct Stats, NYPD
  21. ^ Raab, Selwyn (August 23, 1994). "Influx of Russian Gangsters Troubles F.B.I. in Brooklyn". The New York Times. 
  22. ^ "Undercover Look Inside The Russian Mob". CBS News. 
  23. ^ Orleck, Annelise; Elizabeth Cooke (1999). The Soviet Jewish Americans. Greenwood Publishing. p. 116. ISBN 978-0-313-30074-5. 
  24. ^ "Reputed Russian Crime Chief Arrested". June 9, 1995. Retrieved November 4, 2014. 
  25. ^ Rich, Motoko. "In Web Age, Library Job Gets Update." The New York Times. February 15, 2009. Retrieved on October 15, 2012.
  26. ^ "100TH DISTRICT." The Poughkeepsie Journal. October 24, 2004. A9. Retrieved on October 15, 2012. "As a PTA mom at PS 253, Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, […]"
  27. ^ 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,"
  28. ^ "Home." PS 100 The Coney Island School. Retrieved on October 17, 2012. "2951 WEST 3 STREET, BROOKLYN, NY 11224"
  29. ^ a b c 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
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ "Home[dead link]." I.S. 303 Herbert S. Eisenberg. Retrieved on October 17, 2012. "501 WEST AVENUE, BROOKLYN, NY 11224"
  32. ^ "Student, 17, Is Shot in Brighton Beach." The New York Times. June 6, 2012. Retrieved on October 11, 2012.
  33. ^ "Home." Abraham Lincoln High School. Retrieved on October 17, 2012. "2800 OCEAN PARKWAY, BROOKLYN, NY 11235"
  34. ^ "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"
  35. ^ "About Russian Dolls". Russian Dolls (Lifetime). 
  36. ^ 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."
  37. ^ Kensington Books[dead link]
  38. ^ "Broadway World". Retrieved November 4, 2014. [dead link]
  39. ^ 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."
  40. ^ "Vocal Group Hall of Fame". Retrieved November 4, 2014. 

External links[edit]