Close-Up on Brighton Beach, Brooklyn


A joke holds that Brighton Beach is conveniently located near . . . the United States. Russian immigrants began arriving in the late ’70s, and area thoroughfares are a forest of Cyrillic signage, a time warp from the days of Brezhnev. For many, Brighton Beach may recall the alienated wintertime ghetto of diamond merchants and mafia fixers in James Gray’s 1995 film Little Odessa. This scarcely resembles the strip of regaling nightclubs, nail salons, corset shops, bakeries, greengrocers, and Russian traiteurs along Brighton Beach Avenue, which is whipsawed by an Atlantic wind. Named after the dissolute British seaside resort, Brighton Beach still has a number of original art deco apartment buildings that once had piped-in seawater for therapeutic baths.

Population: The presence of Uzbeks, Indians, Mexicans, Ukrainians, Pakistanis, Afghans, and East Asians is reason enough for misguided visitors to lose those stupid sable hats. “We have Martians living here, too,” jokes Pat Kessler, a realtor with her husband, Arthur, at Kessler Realty (3087 Brighton 5th Street).

Boundaries: Neptune Avenue to the north, Corbin Place to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the south, and Ocean Parkway to the west

Transportation: Take the Q train to the end and wake up; 35 minutes to midtown.

Main Drags: Brighton Beach Avenue, Coney Island Avenue, Neptune Avenue

Average Price to Rent: Availability is scarce beyond word of mouth. Studio, $600 to $750; one-bedroom, $750 to $1,000; two-bedroom, $1,000 to $1,200; three-bedroom, $1,300 to $1,700.

Average Price to Buy: Cottages are being demolished to make way for luxury condos selling at $350 per square foot. Russians apparently did not come to America to live like socialists. Two-bedroom co-op, $175,000 to $200,000; one-family house, $200,000 to $300,000; two-family house, $350,000 to $450,000; three-family house, $400,000 to $500,000; four-family house, $500,000 to $600,000.

Bookstores: The Black Sea Bookstore (3175 Coney Island Avenue) sells Russian popular music on CDs or cassettes, Harry Potter in translation, and some books in English.

Local Institutions: The New York Aquarium (Surf Avenue at West 8th Street, 718-265-FISH) is touting its new “Alien Stingers” exhibit of “sea jellies” that promises to thrill the squeamish.

Green Space: The boardwalk runs several miles along the beach, joining the neighborhood with Coney Island.

Local Landmarks: To make way for luxury condos, developers demolished the famed Brighton Baths and dismantled a century-old carousel. “The horses had long since been vandalized and stolen,” says local assemblywoman Adele Cohen. However, the aquarium says it plans to reassemble the carousel house as a visitor center.

Famous Residents: Comedian Yakov Smirnov claims to have spent two weeks in Brighton Beach upon arriving in the U.S. Pat Singer, of the Brighton Neighborhood Association (1121 Brighton Beach Avenue), rattles off former residents Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, and Louis Gossett Jr.

Best Restaurants: From the boardwalk, enter the rather plush Café Tatianna (3145 Brighton 6th Street), or Café Volna next door. They serve Russian dishes, including oysters, caviar, tongue, and pickled beef and herring. Café Pushkin (504 Brighton Beach Avenue) is “Russian traditional,” according to Gregory, the manager, who adds, “delicious Russian borscht, Ukrainian borscht, fish soup, old-fashioned salads . . . this is something you have to experience!”

Best Bars/Clubs: De Ribas Night Club (706 Brighton Beach Avenue) has jazz every Tuesday. The National (273 Brighton Beach Avenue) is at once a Russian café, bakery, grocery, restaurant, and nightclub.

Happenings: Pat Singer organizes the annual “Jubilee,” a street fair with live music scheduled for August 24. This summer will mark the 25th year that Borough President Marty Markowitz has organized Thursday-night seaside concerts at Asser Levy Park, next to the aquarium. Performances run from July 10 to August 21, and in the past have included Frank Sinatra Jr. and Willie Nelson.

Politicians: City Councilman Domenic Recchia, Assemblywoman Adele Cohen, State Senator Carl Kruger, congressmen Jerrold Nadler and Anthony Weiner, all Democrats

Crime Stats: The 60th Precinct serves Sea Gate, Coney Island, Brighton Beach, and Bensonhurst. As of April 20, it reported four murders, up four from last year; nine rapes, up two; 106 robberies, up three; and 75 felonious assaults, up 11.