29 October 2006

Surprising Sea Gate

Sunday 10/29, Run #74: Coney Island and Sea Gate

Distance: 10.24 miles
Time: 1:20
Pace: 7:49
Temp: 46
Dewpoint: 24
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, coney island
Wind-driven sand on the Coney Island boardwalk

view, sea gate
The view from Norton's Point

monkey, sea gate
This was in someone's front yard (though I don't recall the exact street)

lighthouse, sea gate
Norton's Point Lighthouse, between Beach 47th and Beach 48th Streets

lions, sea gate
Not the NY Public Library (Mermaid Avenue)

houses, sea gate
At the end of Lyme Avenue

former hotel, sea gate
Former hotel on Atlantic Ave, reputedly where Al Capone stayed


At 5:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the historical lowdown and the great pix. Oh, and I'm so glad your readers don't need to spend another second wondering what the first and last vinyl LPs you purchased were. Now we know.

Wind was an issue in Detroit today, too...especially for the struggling marathoners. I jogged from point to point on the course to cheer and spectate, which may not have been such a good idea. Looking at runners' pained faces around 24-25 miles was a sobering reminder of how I'll no doubt be looking on 5th Ave. next week. Gulp.

(Will you be running Brooklyn next Sunday, or taking in the sight of 37,000 marathoners stampeding through your borough?)

At 5:13 PM, Anonymous humbled said...

Anonymous is really humbled. Yet again. This time because she hit "publish" without signing her name.

At 5:27 PM, Blogger Gary said...

Thanks, humbled!
The forecast for next Sunday (admitedly, a long way off, and any runner knows how worthless meteorlogical prognostication is more than 24-36 hours out) is for an almost marathon-perfect sunny with a high in the 50s. That said, I'm indeed altering my schedule a bit this week in order to take race day off. Believe it or not, the course goes right by my building (I'm near the halfway point, I think), so I'll be out front cheering folks on and generally enjoying being a spectator for once... I'm really looking forward to it! And good luck!

At 5:56 PM, Anonymous Michael said...

As a life long Brooklynight, you should know that Al Capone stayed in more places than George Washington.

At 10:40 PM, Blogger Feminist Runner said...

You chose the windiest day so far this season to run Sea Gate? It was brutal out there.
You have seen what so many of us wish we could see, mostly so the shoreline could be connected all the way to Coney Island. Publicly at least.

Greenpoint is an awesome place to see the marathoners; they've broken up into "I'm in for a quick death!", "I feel awesome!", "Please someone just kill me now, or buy me that slice of pizza." and dead-man shuffling pace groups by then. If you can see them approaching the Pulaski Bridge then you see some really priceless faces.

At 12:30 AM, Blogger stephanie said...

Man, these keep getting better and better! It makes me wish I had covered more territory when I was in Brooklyn (and I thought I had covered a lot compared to everyone who runs laps in a park). Glad to see that you are still plowing through the borough. (I'm reading religiously through Google Reader these days). Perhaps I'll see you on Manhattan Ave during the marathon!

At 2:43 PM, Blogger Gary said...

You're not kidding about the wind. I ran down to Sea Gate from the train along the boardwalk, and I literally had to run bent over at almost a 90-degree angle to avoid being knocked over, and had to keep my eyes closed 90% of the time to keep my corneas from being sandblasted. It was only a little over a mile to Sea Gate, but that was one of the more difficult runs in memory (at least when I ran back in Iowa one winter morning when it was -14 out it was sunny and there was no wind).

And thanks, Stephanie! On race day I'll be hanging out near Norman -- I know it'll be crowded and hectic, but I hope to see you!

At 1:12 PM, Anonymous Miss E said...

As a former resident of Seagate, I am so happy to have read this! Beautiful shots!

At 8:49 PM, Blogger Shalomrav said...

It's a legend that Capone stayd here, and unlikely. But it is definitely where Isaac Singer rented a room when he arrive...I think in the late 1930's. In a documentary about Singer you see him returning to that house and speaking to the landlord. I was raised up the street on Atlantic Av. in Sea Gate.

At 11:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading about Sea Gate, as I grew up there and lived there from shortly after my birth until I graduated from college and got married, a period encompassing 1939 through 1960. I do take issue with one of your comments, however. Unless there has been a dramatic change in beach access, the beach does not belong to individual property owners. All residents could buy a beach pass for the summer, for a nominal fee, and have complete access to the beach. Propery owners were given two free passes to the beach each summer. Just thought I'd set the record straight.

At 12:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually the house on the bottom was where Isaac Singer lived for a while. Al Capone stayed in the Halfmoon Hotel (now destroyed) which was just outside of Sea Gate on Surf Avenue.

At 11:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Before the Current owners took over . It was a Hotel called The "Floridian" And In the Lobby was the Desk, And over the Desk was a Photo Of a Young Al Capone Standing under the Entrance canopy. And That My Friend is NO Legend.

At 11:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I lived in the Floridian for 30 years from 1973. It had 20 apartments, mostly studio apartments and a few one bedroom apartments. It was owned by the Steinberg family until they sold it in 2003. As someone else commented, the beach along Sea Gate is not owned by individual property owners, but by the Sea Gate Association.


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