Gerritsen Beach – The Land That Time (And Gentrification) Forgot

The Land That Time (And Gentrification) Forgot

By Jeff Vasishta September 28, 2016
Photo courtesy of Flickr

[otw_shortcode_dropcap label=”I” font=”Bowlby One SC” color_class=”otw-black-text” background_color_class=”otw-no-background” size=”large” border_color_class=”otw-no-border-color”][/otw_shortcode_dropcap]f you were under the impression that every single paving stone in Brooklyn has been over developed, Gerritsen Beach has news for you. Or perhaps it doesn’t. The sleepy self-contained peninsula in far south Brooklyn (east of Sheepshead Bay, flanked by Shell Bank Creek, Plumb Beach Channel and Marine Park) has a reputation of laying low, hiding in plain sight. You won’t find too many Gerritsen Beach old timers lobbying for a subway, a new road or a ferry. Or, anything to disrupt the quiet beach community for that matter.  Gerritsen is often likened to a quaint little New England fishing village.

Related: Is Nowhere Safe? Next Stop For The Gentrification Express—Whitestone, Queens

Mudflats, a private beach, cheek by jowl seasonal bungalows on roads so narrow they could pass as sidewalks. It’s is the kind of old school New York community that seems to belong to a bygone era. Take a wrong turn in the summer and you could be mistaken for thinking that you’ve entered into a time warp, a land of sepia toned memories, GI’s returning home from the second world war, endless Oldsmobiles that chug like steam engines.

A 2002 The New York Times article remarked on the remote location of Gerritsen Beach, noting the insider joke that residents sometimes directed wayward outsiders to a ferry that didn’t exist. There’s an insular vibe around the place and it’s hardly surprising to learn that many residents are multi-generational. Also Gerritsen Beach is whiter than a family of polar bears in a snow storm. Hard to imagine then that it exists in such a multicultural borough as Brooklyn. A glance over the skyline to midtown’s skyscrapers is a reality check. The price to of real estate—a cool half million for a modest semidetached house is another reminder. Even for a down at the heels shack, you’re likely to pay a quarter of a million.

Wonderful news if you own your place and like to keep things the way they are but it seems about as welcoming for new businesses as a visit by the Black Lives Matter’s crew at a Trump rally. Perhaps the last facility you’d expect to find in this chilled out watery locale is a kickboxing gym. But should you wish to vent your frustrations about the lack of public transportation, you could pop into Champions Fitness Center, which has called the area home for 11 years and is run by kickboxer and all round bad ass Drea DeAngelo.

“People in the neighborhood work to make ends meet and they work hard,” says DeAngleo. “There is no real functional way of transportation in Gerritsen Beach. The bus that does come down the avenue is very sporadic and I always see people waiting for an extended period of time. As far as train stations, there’s Sheepshead Bay and that is still pretty far… People who try to get to my gym from other places that don’t drive have a very difficult time getting there in less than two hours because there is very limited MTA down Gerritsen Ave.”

Photo courtesy of Flickr

That said, there is a method in DeAngelo’s madness of choosing to locate her business there. She has a captive audience.

“The main clientele at our gym Champions Fitness Center is pretty even. We have a ton of kids and we have a ton of adults. Primarily from the Gerritsen Beach neighborhood.”

Geographically and culturally isolated, Gerritsen Beach seems caught in a whirlpool of time. It’s quiet streets and seaside vibe add yet another uniquely New York experience for those in the know. Just don’t move there and ruin it.

Jeff Vasishta



Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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