Trying to guess which neighborhood is going to catch fire – and getting in early before condo and apartment prices skyrocket – is an obsession among New Yorkers.
Before scampering off to the Bronx, though, you might try looking at Brooklyn's Bay Ridge in the shadow of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, an undiscovered gem, according to Justin Brannan, his hometown's chief cheerleader.
Brannan, a musician and small-business owner, is the founder and and sole member of the Bay Ridge Department of Tourism.
“It’s really just an idea I always had and it started as a goof with the name,” Brannan said while laughing. “Usually you have a department of tourism in Bermuda or Barbados, so having your own neighborhood department of tourism is just to promote the really unique values of Bay Ridge.”
Besides being at the tail-end of the R train, Bay Ridge is a bit of a bedroom community with avenues lined with mom-and-pop businesses.
“Bay Ridge really still has the small-town-in-a-big-city feel,” Brannan explained. “It’s very vibrant, very diverse, very inclusive.”
If you’re looking for a backyard, affordable rent, good Italian or Middle Eastern food, a community protected by down-zoning, beautiful waterfront parks, Bay Ridge has it all, Brannan says.
You justy have to not mind the remoteness which helps keep Bay Ridge different from other neighb orhoods in Brooklyn, he says.
In 2013, the Citizens Committee for Children, which describes itself as “New York City's oldest city-based, multi-issue child advocacy organization,” published a report of the best neighborhoods in the five boroughs for children. According to the report, Bay Ridge ranked as one of the lowest risk areas for children and teens in Brooklyn.
In 2015, the nonprofit again included Bay Ridge on its top 10 list of communities safest for children.
“It’s funny because the more I tell people about Bay Ridge, I have friends that say, ‘Justin, please stop telling people about Bay Ridge,’” he said. “It’s flattering, but at the same time it’s like, 'Look, it’s a great place.'
"It’s like your favorite band in high school and then they got popular and you were upset that everyone suddenly loves your favorite band, but the reason why the band got popular is the band was great! You could only keep a secret for so long.”
Brannan's suggests the following stop in any tour of his favorite place:
1. Fort Hamilton – New York City’s only active Army post.
2. Sunset Park – 41st Street through 44th Street between 5th Avenue and 7th Avenue. Attraction: gorgeous views.
3. Shopping – Between 84th and 89th streets along 3rd Avenue.
4. Middle Eastern food – Hazar, 7224 5th Avenue – Turkish kebab house. Serving the city's best falafel, according to The Village Voice and New York Magazine. Tanoreen, 7523 3rd Avenue – Zagat's highest rated Middle Eastern restaurant in New York City.
6. More food and drink – Ho Brah, 8618 3rd Avenue, a surf taco joint; The Owl’s Head, 479 74th Street, a wine bar; and Bon Chovie, 7604 3rd Avenue, the brick-and-mortar version of the popular Smorgasburg food stand