Sunset Park/Bay Ridge for the brownstone-Brooklyn-loving single lady
August 19, 2014 10:08 AM   Subscribe

What in Sunset Park and/or Bay Ridge Brooklyn would make me want to live there? I'm going to go exploring, but give me somewhere to start.

I'm looking at exploring unfamiliar neighborhoods in the hope of perhaps moving to them in the near future. I'm very familiar with neighborhoods in North and Central Brooklyn, as well as somewhat familiar with many of the neighborhoods south of the Park (Ditmas, Midwood). But I know very little about Sunset Park and Bay Ridge. I'm a single woman in her early thirties, and I enjoy [by enjoy, I mean adore and love] the life provided by my current neighborhood (Clinton Hill), but I am soon to be priced out and need to expand my options for when my lease is over.

To give you an idea of why I like and dislike certain areas:

Fort Greene is my favorite neighborhood by far because it has most everything that I like--wine bars with gardens, good casual restaurants, film, books, parks, pretty streets with pretty houses and pretty trees, young families/young professionals, café culture. I detested Bushwick when I lived there because: underwhelming architecture, too many young party kids, very little natural beauty, the L train, dirty, dark. I've been looking at a lot at places in Crown Heights because I like a lot of what that neighborhood has to offer, but it is already mostly out of my price range. I've also been looking in Ditmas Park because I have friends there, and it's pretty, but it the vibe is almost a little too suburban for me. I'm poking around in Bed-Stuy and PLG, but I'm familiar with them and they don't really do it for me.

A few things:

The commute isn't too important to me--I work downtown convenient to most trains. Safety is important as I am a single woman. I'm pretty savvy when it comes to searching for apartments, so I don't need any tips specific to that (unless you want to give them to me, no harm in that).


So I'm hoping to hear some things from you guys that could get me excited about somewhere like Sunset Park or Bay Ridge, and pockets of those neighborhoods I can explore some day in the next few weeks. Short of going to Industry City Distillery once, I have had zero introduction to the area, so I'm looking for some tips of what I should check out before looking at apartments to move there.

posted by greta simone to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sunset Park: Green-Wood Cemetery and El Tenampa!
posted by moonmilk at 10:19 AM on August 19, 2014

Bay Ridge is considered to be safe although I still wouldn't recommend walking home alone at 1 A.M. Getting to downtown Manhattan takes about fortyfive minutes which is pretty nice.

Regarding the night life, there is an uptick in nice restaurants and new places as other people are also getting priced out of Park Slope so you'll be in good company.

As it's summer, having the option to ride or run along the water front has help me get back into shape and the folks here are pretty nice.
posted by cowlick at 10:21 AM on August 19, 2014

Your low rent, the safety of the area even late at night, the ample delicious food everywhere, your short commute to downtown, our local CSA on 4th ave at st michael's, the olympic swimming pool operated by nyc parks in the rec center in the park, century 21 in bay ridge, easy parking, the panoramic view of the whole nyc skyline and jersey ports from sunset park itself, the fact that you are safe from the next hurricane sandy (that park is the highest point in the borough)...i could go on and on...
posted by zdravo at 10:35 AM on August 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I love Bay Ridge! I lived there awhile some are neat parks and such to check out that I can recall off the top of my head:

The Narrows Botanical Garden

Owl's Head Park

American Veterans Memorial Bridge
posted by Shadow Boxer at 10:44 AM on August 19, 2014

Response by poster: zdravo: Please do go on and on--but I would love more recommendations of actual places to see/visit/eat at/drink at/shop. The suggestions so far are good!
posted by greta simone at 10:48 AM on August 19, 2014

Bay Ridge is nice for the views and the cheaper rent, but it doesn't have a lot going on culturally in the way Ft. Greene does. Walk around 86th St. and 4th Ave. and you'll see what it has to offer. Not sure how long you go back in NYC, but it very much reminds me of what Bensonhurst looked like in the mid-90s. The movie theaters show standard Hollywood fare, the restaurants are nothing to write home about save for a few, most of the bars have been there forever and are full of old Italian/Irish dudes, etc. What happened in Kensington/Ditmas Park (the sort of unobtrusive-but-nice gentrification-lite [as opposed to full-steam-ahead in Crown Heights]) hasn't happened there. I keep hearing how it's going to be the next big thing but honest to god I've been hearing that for ten years now.

Owl's Head Park is really nice, though, and has a dog run. And everyone I know who lives in Bay Ridge very much likes it there because it feels like a neighborhood and not a part of town where everyone you know will move away in five years.
posted by griphus at 10:56 AM on August 19, 2014

Based on my experience of the two neighborhoods, I think you'd prefer Bay Ridge to Sunset Park. I find Bay Ridge to have more of the food and drink scene, nice buildings and parks, etc, than Sunset Park, though griphus's caveats definitely apply.

In terms of food and drink, Owl's Head is a nice wine bar, and if I lived in Bay Ridge I would probably go to Robicelli's every day. A thing that's nice about both businesses is that they're (relatively) new but run by people who grew up in the area. Tanoreen is also a delicious Bay Ridge institution.
posted by ferret branca at 11:09 AM on August 19, 2014

If you're at all interested in Manhattan, you might want to give lower/central Harlem a look. The area near 116th and Frederick Douglass (CPW) has really changed a lot in the past year or so and there are a ton of new restaurants, craft beer places, bakeries, etc., while still having ample brownstones and access to green space. 1BRs can be found (relatively easily) for under $2K. I have good friends who moved there recently and so I've walked around the area at various times of the night, and have felt completely safe. Lots of dogs, families, and 30-something professionals.
posted by melissasaurus at 12:36 PM on August 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I lived on 63rd street for several years, right on the Bay Ridge/Sunset Park border, in a brownstone. They were actually some of the happiest years of my life. Beautiful neighborhood, lots of great food, quiet, nice parks, family atmosphere. If I didn't live in my apartment now with my husband, I would move right back.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:24 PM on August 19, 2014

I live in Sunset Park currently, in the Northern part around the 30s and 40s. I can't say I know enough about the neighborhood to give you a tour, but feel free to MeMail me if you want a buddy when you come to explore the neighborhood. Here are the things I like:

1. Cheap rent
2. Great train access (the D is fantastic)
3. Costco within walking distance
4. Fairly safe neighborhood (I get catcalled regularly, but I don't feel unsafe walking around at night.)

These are all pretty practical things. Honestly, Sunset Park does not score high on some of the less practical things you mentioned:

1. It is not a pretty neighborhood. I used to live in Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill, so I think I have a feel for what you have in mind when you say "pretty." Sunset Park is gritty.

2. It's not within walking distance to Prospect Park. There is close proximity to Owl's Head/Coney Island. Greenwood Cemetery is also close and very nice, but you can't run or bike in it. Sunset Park is not big enough for significant running, though if you're into swimming it would be better for you than Prospect Park.

3. There are really no bars to go to. Melody Lanes is an interesting place to drink once or twice, but if you're looking for a good cocktail bar or regular watering hole, you're going to have to go to an adjoining neighborhood.

4. There's not really a young professional/young family atmosphere quite yet. I do know an increasing number of young professionals moving here, but they are still far outnumbered by the immigrant families/people I see in the neighborhood.

5. If ethnic eats are your bag, then you're in luck, but cafes and hip restaurants are still few (though increasing).

Like I said, I lived in Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill area before this, and Sunset Park feels very different from those neighborhoods.
posted by unannihilated at 4:23 PM on August 19, 2014

I lived at 71st and Colonial Rd in BayRidge for a bunch of years. Would have stayed there in a heartbeat if I could have bought a bigger place. Aside from being at the far end of the R train, I can think of no negatives unless its changed radically in the past 10 years. (I'm sure some stuff has, obviously)
It was always safe, mellow and pleasant. Express Bus service to Manhattan was my preference and although more expensive, was way easier than the subway.
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:38 PM on August 19, 2014

food in sunset: tacos matamoros. tacos el bronco. floridita. ALL OF BROOKLYN CHINATOWN on 8th ave...pacificana...hand pulled noodles...vietnamese...thai.

stuff to do: the boxing gym on 4th & 32nd. harbor fitness. sunset park rec center. the buddhist temple on 8th. st michaels on 4th. the farmer's market in bay ridge on saturday morning. if you want to run outside, the loop around greenwood cemetery is about 4 miles and is quite nice.

i think a lot of our brownstone blocks are pretty although there are also some gritty blocks. memail me if you want someone to explore with you.
posted by zdravo at 6:46 PM on August 19, 2014

I've lived in Sunset Park for a little over three years, now, and I ADORE it. Sometimes while walking down the street, I'll randomly turn to my husband or roommate and say, "Jesus, I fucking love Sunset Park." I've lived in NYC since 1999 and I've had apartments in Windsor Terrace, Park Slope and Flatbush, and while all of those neighborhoods had great things to offer, this particular arrangement is my favorite so far.

I'll get into some specifics in a second, but most of what I love about Sunset Park can be boiled down to: it's convenient to all of the things I love about Brooklyn without being ridiculously expensive.

First off, the D train is fantastic and very reliable. Most of Sunset Park is also extremely convenient to the B65, which is a fantastic magical bus that's rarely crowded and runs very frequently up and down fifth ave. (You can also track it on your smartphone using "Bus Time," which lets you know where the next few busses are and helps you decide if it's worth waiting or if you may as well just walk down the hill to the R train.)

I love food and cooking, and Sunset Park is great for both. Brooklyn Chinatown runs all along 8th avenue, starting as a trickle of restaurants around 39th Street and getting denser and denser as you head south, culminating in a huge Chinese supermarket around 63rd street. And if you head down the hill to 5th Ave, you'll find dozens of Mexican restaurants and groceries with all sorts of different specialties. I could give specific recommendations, but honestly, there's just SO MUCH food! It's insane! And the vast majority of it is inexpensive and delicious.

It's also just...I don't know, a really solid Brooklyn neighborhood? The Key Food at the bottom of the hill on 44th and 5th is great, Sunset Park itself has a great public pool and lots of pleasant spots to sit and enjoy the excellent view of Manhattan, Pizza by the Park is totally respectable and the guys who work there are super nice, there are a couple of decent liquor stores, tons and tons of places deliver when you don't feel like going out. We even have a decent, freelancer-friendly coffee shop now -- the Green Fig, on 36th street just west of 5th Ave. I work from home, and if not for a couple of regular appointments in Manhattan and Park Slope, I could happily go entire weeks without ever getting on the subway.

And when we feel like we want something different -- to go to a cocktail bar, to get a fancy Italian dinner, whatever -- we just hop on the bus or the train and shoot up to Park Slope in a half hour or less. Or sometimes we just walk up along 5th Ave! There are a bunch of new-ish bars and restaurants in Greenwood Heights/South Slope -- just north of the Graveyard, basically -- that are about a twenty minute walk from our apartment, which is perfect for when you want to get out and get some exercise....and later, walk the edge off of whatever it is you just ate or drank.

We also walk or take the B70 down to Bay Ridge a decent amount -- there's a pretty good movie theater, some great restaurants, it's a little more suburban than I prefer but it's fine to visit for a few hours.

Basically, if you like the idea of a low-key but vibrant neighborhood with lots and lots of shops and restaurants within walking distance, as well as easy access to fancier neighborhoods, Sunset Park is hard to beat.

Hope some of this was helpful!
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:30 AM on August 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh...and if you like bubble tea? There are about a billion places in Sunset Park to get it. (Also a really excellent frozen yogurt place on 8th and 46th)
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:46 AM on August 21, 2014

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