Portions of this article have been updated.
Bay Ridge is known to most New Yorkers either as the place where the Verrazano Narrows Bridge is, the community 60 blocks past Park Slope, or the neighborhood where John Travolta danced his way to fame in Saturday Night Fever. And while technically correct on all three counts, longtime residents will quickly point out that although the ’70s disco film was shot in Bay Ridge, it actually portrayed nearby Bensonhurst. So what’s the difference, you ask? Decades later, vodka and caviar have replaced anisette and anchovies as the mobster food of choice in Bensonhurst. The Ridge, on the other hand, remains steadfastly diverse and middle-class. Not the place for new trends, it nevertheless offers safety, affordability, and community pride—not to mention the highest concentration of restaurants in Brooklyn—as just a few of its many charms. “We have it all right here in our merchant strips, our parks, our transportation services, and our schools,” says former city councilman and state senator Marty Golden, who also owns Bay Ridge Manor, a local catering hall (476 76th Street). “I am proud to call Bay Ridge home.”
Population: Bay Ridge is home to around 30,000 senior citizens—the highest concentration in both the city and state of New York—many of whom are lifelong residents. Predominantly Scandinavian until the ’60s, the neighborhood now boasts just about every ethnic group, with strong Greek, Arab, Irish, and Italian populations, as well as a growing Chinese influx.
Boundaries: 61st Street to the north, 86th Street to the south, Gowanus Expressway to the east, and the Belt Parkway to the west.
Transportation: Take the R train to Bay Ridge Avenue, 77th Street, 86th Street, or 95th Street; about 45 minutes to midtown if you transfer to the express N train. The X27 and X28 buses run express to Manhattan; approximately 35 minutes to Union Square or 50 minutes to midtown. A free 30-minute ferry operates out of Pier 4 (58th Street and First Avenue), making morning and afternoon trips to Wall Street.
Main Drags: The business districts of 86th Street and Third and Fifth avenues offer shopping, restaurants, bars, and more bars.
Average Price to Rent: Studios, $700 to $900; one-bedrooms, $900 to $1500 ($900 to $1200); two-bedrooms, $1500 to $1800 ($1400 and up)
Average Price to Buy: Studio condos, hard to find ($60,000 and up); one-bedroom condos, $200,000 to $500,000 ($90,000 and up); two-bedroom condos, $200,000 to $500,000 ($200,000 and up). One-family houses start in the $475,000 (sell in the $400,000 range), while mini-estates can go as high as $4 million.
Green Space: A city-regulated and -managed skate park in the city, the Millennium Skatepark in Owl’s Head Park (Wakeman Place and Colonial Road) draws skaters from near and far, and has even been used as a set for a scene on Saturday Night Live.
Community Events: The annual Third (late September) and Fifth Avenue festivals (early June) draw huge crowds, and feature music, food, and games. Children in costume march along Third Avenue to cheering admirers at the Ragamuffin Parade, held the day before the Third Avenue Festival.
Famous Residents: Silent film star Clara “the It Girl” Bow was born here, and several supporting cast members of The Sopranos live in Bay Ridge, including Tony Sirico, a/k/a Paulie Walnuts, and Joseph Gannascoli, a/k/a the guy who whacked Jackie Jr. Gannascoli also owns Soup as Art (8321 Third Avenue), a local bistro that makes a mean lobster bisque.
Best Restaurants: Nino’s Pizza (9110 Third Avenue) makes a pan eggplant pie to die for, Lento’s (7001 Ovington Avenue) serves a thin-crust gem (get it with hot sausage). Other faves include Bangkok Thai House (6735 Third Avenue) for incredible tom yum soup and appetizers like spring rolls and sate, and Casa Pepe (114 Bay Ridge Avenue) for brunch, paella, and frozen drinks. There are many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cafés as well.
Best Bars: Jocks gather at Bean Post Pub (7525 Fifth Avenue), where the beer mugs fly when the team loses. The older set drink stellar Bloody Marys at O’Sullivan’s (8902 Third Avenue) or play What’s My Line? at T.J. Bentley’s (7110 Third Avenue). Skinflints (7902 Fifth Avenue) serves good pub grub,including big, juicy, charcoal-broiled burgers.
Politicians: Assemblywoman Joan Millman, Councilman Vincent Gentile, both Democrats, and Assemblyman Matthew Mirones, State Senator Marty Golden, and Congressman Vito Fossella, all Republicans.
Crime Stats: The 68th Precinct serves Bay Ridge. As of September 25, 2005 it reported 1 murder, 4 rapes, 99 robberies, 94 felonious assaults, and 277 burglaries. (As of January 12, it reported 0 murders, the same as last year; 0 rapes, the same as last year; four robberies, down one; 20 burglaries, up eight; and three felonious assaults, down two).