Surprising Sea Gate
Sunday 10/29, Run #74: Coney Island and Sea Gate
Distance: 10.24 miles
Weather: sunny & very windy
click on image for interactive map
Unique Miles Today: 6.72
Total Unique Miles: 582.36
Percent of Brooklyn Run: 33.42
For the complete route, click here
Notes: The one constant in all my runs thus far has been the ability of Brooklyn to surprise me at almost every turn with the unexpected, the unusual, or the just plain weird. Thankfully, most of these surprises have been good ones, and today's run was one of the best. That's because I headed out to Sea Gate, the small gated neighborhood at Coney Island's western tip.
Because it seems to operate more or less independently from the rest of the borough, I'd put off running there for months, figuring it would be something of a hassle. But with the rest of southern Brooklyn filling up on my "big map," I decided it was finally time. And so, on what will probably go down as the windiest day of the year, I made my way down there.
I had imagined the area as some kind of super-luxe spot with lots of enormous newly-constructed mansions (kind of like parts of Manhattan Beach, on Coney Island's other end), but what I found was an unassuming and almost cozy neighborhood with a tangible sense of place. There was enormous architectural diversity, with houses of dozens of different styles and sizes next to one another, but no commercial buildings as far as I could tell. It wasn't completely residential, though, as I also saw a few modest synagogues, and, at the westernmost end, Norton's Point lighthouse -- apparently, the last manned lighthouse on the east coast, until its former keeper died in 2003. The whole neighborhood is surrounded by water except on its eastern border, of course, and though much of the beachfront belongs to individual property owners there was some public access as well (with excellent views of the Verazzano-Narrows Bridge). And the place has quite a colorful history, too -- from hideout for famous gamblers, gangsters, and even discraced politicos (it's where Thomas Nast nemesis and Tammany Hall boss William Tweed laid low after he escaped from a Manhattan jail in 1871) to at least part-time home to figures as diverse as Woody Guthrie, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Beverly Sills, and even Soupy Sales. The entire place seemed pleasant and mostly quiet, and had -- no doubt due to its geographical situation (and the fact that I visited early on a Sunday morning) -- remarkably little vehicular traffic. I even saw one or two other runners!
All told it was a great run (despite the wind, which did its best to provide me with a natural dermabrasion via violently blowing sand on the boardwalk on the way down there). Though it's a small and entirely residential neighborhood, Sea Gate was yet another surprise in a borough that's teeming with them. Finally, I need to give a shout out to Sergeant Walsh of the SGPD, who was helpful, friendly, and filled me in with some background on the neighborhood and its history -- including which house used to be the hotel where Al Capone stayed. Thanks!
And almost lost among all of this is the fact that I hit a milestone of sorts: I went over the one-third mark for running all of Brooklyn. BTW, the number 33 1/3 reminds me of the antique musical medium of vinyl long-playing records (completely pointless trivia: the first LP I bought was Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, in 1977; the last was Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, in 1988 -- after that it was all CDs until a year or two ago, and now I get most of my music via download or from the library). Also, Sea Gate and Coney Island are now complete -- two more neighborhoods down!
For more on Sea Gate, check out this article from the Voice, this slightly older one from the Times, or consult your local library. Otherwise, a few pictures from this morning:
Wind-driven sand on the Coney Island boardwalk
The view from Norton's Point
This was in someone's front yard (though I don't recall the exact street)
Norton's Point Lighthouse, between Beach 47th and Beach 48th Streets
Not the NY Public Library (Mermaid Avenue)
At the end of Lyme Avenue
Former hotel on Atlantic Ave, reputedly where Al Capone stayed