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- Living in Bay Ridge-



More for the Money, and Near the Water



by Jeff Vandam




   Sharon Milady and Mike Baker, a couple from Toronto, three weeks ago and moved into a limestone town house on 78th Street in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.


   Almost immediately, they found themselves being welcomed at a block party in their honor, and the gates between their backyard and the neighbors' were opened to allow their sons Matthew, 6, and Liam, 7, to skateboard with the kids down the way.  "How cool is that?" said Ms. Milady, 36.



   The family is one of many that have recently discovered Bay Ridge's gracious homes, ample shopping and harbor-front esplanade with views of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.  Located in the southwestern corner of Brooklyn, Bay Ridge is attracting home buyers who want the comfort and peaceful nature of brownstone Brooklyn but find the prices there out of reach.


   "My last 10 deals, with the exception of one, have been predominantly people from Park Slope or Manhattan," said Diane Henning, a broker for the Corcoran Group who works in Park Slope but lives in Bay Ridge and sells homes there. "People are coming and seeing what kind of value they're going to get in Bay Ridge."


   And while there are some new luxury apartment buildings, such as the Bridgeview Condominiums on 97th Street, zoning changes adopted in March have pushed demand for demand for housing higher, as developers are now limited in the sort of multifamily properties they can build.


   They can't really tear down a single house anymore and build six condominiums," said Susan Pulaski, president emeritus of the Bay Ridge Historical Society and an agent at Dyker Real Estate.  "That will force the prices up."


   For Ms. Milady and Mr. Baker, who were choosing between more expensive houses in Park Slope and those in Bay Ridge, the $845,000 they paid for their three-floor, three-bathroom town house was a bargain.  With its expansive back deck, exposed brick kitchen and finished basement, the house was still $500,000 less than comparable properties in brownstone Brooklyn.



What You'll Find


   Bay Ridge is nestled between the curves of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the Belt Parkway, through traffic noise is far from evident on its streets.


   The premier residential thoroughfare is Shore Road, which bends with the shoreline and is stocked with trees on its west side, evoking images of Riverside Drive in Manhattan.  Through it once contained a cavalcade of grand mansions, Shore Road now hosts a string of attractive apartment buildings.


   "The dedication of the people in the community for the preservation of the character and integrity of the neighborhood is the best that I've ever seen," said Craig Eaton, chairman of Community Board 10, which covers Bay Ridge.


   Life in Bay Ridge is a multiethnic affairs, as the neighborhood has a rich cultural history, with populations of Italians, Irish, Russians, Lebanese and Polish, among others.  There are also a number of Catholic churches, four of which have schools, in addition to synagogues, Greek Orthodox churches, Protestant congregations, mosques and Korean churches.



What They're Asking


   In the rental market, prices for one-bedroom apartments average $1,000 a month, and two-bedrooms range from $1,200 to $1,400 and up for units near the water's edge.


What To Do


   Bay Ridge offers one of the most  expansive waterfronts of any New York neighborhood, and the city is currently refurbishing a waterside running and jogging path to match it.  The path begins at Owl's Head Park to the north, where residents idle on the 69th Street pier, taking in views of downtown Manhattan and New York Harbor.


   A new skateboarding area within Owl's Head Park brings in youngsters, and cyclists take the path south past the towering spires of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.


   Bay Ridge also offers an array of restaurants and shopping, with 86th Street as the anchor for popular commerce.  There, bargain seekers flock to Century 21, the discount clothing store, and to several chain stores have outposts there as well.



The Schools


   The quality of local schools played a large role in Ms. Milady's and Mr. Baker's choice of Bay Ridge.  They were sold by a visit to Public School 185 at Ridge Boulevard and 86th Street, with its new library, a science lab with live animals and wall-to-wall student artwork.


   The school has reduced overcrowding in the last few years, and its students routinely score 30 to 40 percentage points higher on state and city mathematics and English language arts tests than city averages.  Students at P.S. 104, another elementary school, on Fifth Avenue, have improved their own test scores in recent years, bettering city averages by nearly 30 points in English and Math.


  Bay Ridge also offers a number of private schools, religious and secular, the most well-known of which is Poly Prep Country Day School, on Seventh Avenue.  Tuition costs from $23,850 to $24,650 a year.



The Commute


   Though Bay Ridge looks far from Manhattan on maps, residents say getting there is a breeze on express buses that take the Gowanus Expressway to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. The trip takes 30 to 50 minutes, depending whether the destination is downtown or Midtown.


   The subway to Manhattan via the R train takes about 30 minutes from 95th Street in Bay Ridge to Whitehall Street downtown.  Commuters can switch to the N train at 59th Street in Sunset Park for an express.



 The History


   Bay Ridge began life as Yellow Hook, a reflection of the yellow soil that used to cover the land in the 17th century.  While its neighbor to the north, Red Hook, kept its colorful name, Yellow Hook became Bay Ridge when yellow fever swept the country in the mid-19th century.


   After that, the neighborhood became a retreat for New York's elite, who built a string of homes along Shore Road.  Once the subway was extended south to Bay Ridge in the 1910's, a new group of immigrants moved into the neighborhood, spawning a wave of construction and bringing a new way of life.  Not long after, Bay Ridge became synonymous with working-class Brooklyn, with the opening of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in 1964 and the filming of "Saturday Night Fever" with John Travolta.









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