Boynton’s Bicycle Railroad, via Wiki Commons
As Labor Day draws near and New Yorkers run to squeeze a few more beach days into the end of the summer, packed trains and ferries carry crowds to the city’s sandy shores. But, beachgoers of yore weren’t simply piling onto the Q train to get out to Coney Island. They reached the southern tip of Brooklyn via a much more zany (or visionary?) mode of conveyance: Boynton’s Bicycle Railroad. In the summer of 1890, Boynton’s Bicycle, so named because it featured two rails, one beneath the train and one above it, shuttled passengers between Gravesend and Coney Island via an abandoned section of the Sea Beach and Brighton Railroad.
The Story Rolls on This Way
“The area seen in these views was later filled with sand from the Bay and the new circumferential highway.” 1930; via NYPL
In the curve of Brooklyn between the Narrows and the borough’s southwestern edge at Sea Gate, there is a lesser loved body of water called Gravesend Bay. The boundary of what was once Gravesend Town and is now simply Gravesend, among other nabes, was along a wetland of sandhill dunes before it became an oil-saturated trash marsh. Now, it’s home to a relatively scenic portion of the Belt Parkway, where the Verrazano Bridge emerges from around the bend or Brooklyn’s tip juts into your vision, depending on your direction.
Dated photos from the New York Public Library reveal–as old New York photos tend to– a Bay apart. In part it’s likely because the smells and oil sheens of today’s bay can’t be experienced in these vintage pics. The unimpeded openness of the water, kept from humans only by what appears to be a single giant tube, however, clearly belongs to a Brooklyn long past.
See the Bay back in time
Although Gravesend is a neighborhood way out in South Brooklyn, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good place to find a deal. In fact, the area is known for its multi-million dollar real estate because of its large Sephardic Jewish population–homes near synagogues and Jewish Community Centers have asking prices that soar into the millions. This house at 8738 23rd Avenue is asking nearly $1.5 million. It’s a freestanding four-bedroom property with a funky, cottage-like exterior and a few interior quirks.
Take a look
Image: Nest Seekers International
When people talk about expensive Brooklyn real estate, the conversation often revolves around the well-kept townhouses in Brownstone Brooklyn, the waterfront condos of Williamsburg, the freestanding mansions of Prospect Park South. Gravesend is not a neighborhood that’s on most New Yorkers’ minds. But this South Brooklyn enclave, bordered by Sheepshead Bay, Midwood, Bensonhurst and the waterfront, sees some of the highest home sales in all of Kings County. Here, it’s not uncommon for selling prices to break the $10 million mark. Two years ago, a home hit the market for $14 million.
So what’s happening in Gravesend? Simply put, this is not your average New York City real estate market. This neighborhood is home to the largest Sephardic Jewish community in the United States, and real estate is dominated by proximity to synagogues and Jewish Community Centers. That pressure for proximity has driven real estate prices into the multi-millions.
Learn more about the unique Gravesend real estate market…