They call it Midwood, but, weekday mornings, it might as well be midtown. On Avenue J, cars inch along, maneuvering past legions of double-parkers. If you drive in on a Sunday, bring quarters for the parking meters: Orthodox Jewish residents are the majority in Midwood, so city parking regulations mandate that meters also rest on Saturday and work on Sunday. Because of perceived pressure on all shop owners to close by 3 p.m. Friday for Shabbos, there have been mutterings from the non-Orthodox. Linda Goodman, executive director of the Midwood Development Corporation, says she’s not aware of pressure being exerted. “Some people, Jews and non-Jews, are not comfortable with seeing that so much of the neighborhood is Shomer Shabbos [observant of the Sabbath],” she says, adding that the neighborhood remains diverse. In fact, the mix includes many immigrants from Russia, China, and Haiti as well as some from Pakistan, India, and Iran. One thing all parts of the neighborhood share is a devoutly middle-class aura. One-family homes, from the modest to the palatial, predominate on its tree-lined residential streets, and well-maintained apartment buildings rise along the avenues. It’s still a bit of a hike to Manhattan, which the Q express has shortened to 30 minutes to Union Square, but you’re also a long way from Manhattan rents. And you’ve got only a short hop to Brighton and Coney Island beaches—fewer than four stops on the Q or three miles by bike on the Ocean Parkway bicycle path, the oldest bicycle greenway in America.
Boundaries: Avenue I and the Brooklyn College campus to the north, Kings Highway to the south, Flatbush Avenue to the east, and Ocean Parkway to the west (tradition has the neighborhood ending at Coney Island Avenue, but real estate brokers say it now extends at least to Ocean Parkway, if not beyond).
Transportation: The Q train stops at Avenue J and Avenue M, and the Q and Q express stop at Kings Highway. There’s also a network of express buses into Manhattan.
Main Drags: Kings Highway, Avenue J, and Avenue M boast groceries, restaurants (Russian, Italian, Chinese, kosher delis), doctors, CDs, a tanning salon, and a glatt kosher Dunkin’ Donuts. Coney Island Avenue, a little less busy, features Judaica shops, glatt kosher restaurants, and a fitness club that advertises itself as “the only kosher gym in the world.”
Average Price to Rent: studio, $600 to $1000; one-bedroom, $800 to $1200; two-bedroom, $900 to $1600; three-bedroom, $1100 to $2300; one-family home, $2000 to $5000
Average Price to Buy: one-bedroom co-op, $90,000 to $150,000; two-bedroom co-op, $130,000 to $300,00; houses, $375,000 to $4 million
Best Restaurants: The best pizza in all New York is at Di Fara’s (1424 Avenue J), where, for decades, owner Dominic DeMarco has been making sauce from scratch, fresh and tangy, to go with an extraordinary crust and flavorful cheese. Adelman’s kosher deli (1906 Kings Highway) serves up lean, juicy pastrami piled high inside meltingly fresh Jewish rye. At Olympic Pita (1419 Coney Island Avenue), you can feast on terrific lamb kebabs and hummus.
Green Space: The two grass- and tree-lined medians on either side of Ocean Parkway, running the length of the neighborhood and beyond, are where tout Midwood promenades, kibitzes, and bicycles.
Community Groups: The Midwood Development Corporation offers many services, including after-school and teen programs, neighborhood beautification projects, and tenant and home-owners counsel.
Cultural Institutions: Although not, strictly speaking, inside Midwood, Brooklyn College’s 26-acre campus provides its northern border, along with theaters, lectures, and athletic facilities open to the community.
Famous Residents: Woody Allen grew up here, only a few miles north of the Coney Island roller coaster, which rattled over the home of Annie Hall‘s Alvy Singer. Sandy Koufax, “the Man with the Golden Arm,” grew up here in an observant home. He refused to pitch the opening game in the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur.
Local Landmarks: Watch the limos pull up at the nondescript building—part of the old Vitagraph Studios, a 1906 movie company—that houses the NBC studio (at Avenue M and East 14th Street) where Another World is taped.
Politicians: Councilman Michael Nelson, Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, State Senator Carl Kruger, and Congressman Major Owens—all Democrats
Crime Stats: The 66th Precinct serves Borough Park, Midwood, and Kensington. As of October 20, it reported 3 murders, up 2 from last year; 13 rapes, the same as last year; 201 robberies, down 33; 137 felony assaults, down 45; and 440 burglaries, down 3.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 19, 2002