Bay Ridge was originally known as Yellow Hook for the hue of the yellowish soil observed by the original Dutch settlers. This name was changed in 1853 after yellow fever struck the area and residents realized what an ill fit it was, given the circumstances. The new name was given due to the proximity of the neighborhood to New York Bay, excellent views of which were visible from the ridge that has now become Ridge Boulevard. These views attracted wealthy people, who built extravagant summer homes along Shore Road overlooking the water, many of which are still standing today and worth multiple-millions of dollars. Once the BMT Fourth Avenue Line (now the R train) was extended in 1915, however, many Manhattan workers looking for quieter surroundings began to flow in, transforming the area into a middle-class neighborhood.
Construction of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which connects Bay Ridge to Staten Island, was completed in 1964. Though now a totemic structure beloved by many, it was bitterly opposed by residents upon the announcement of its construction, for it would require the demolition of many homes. In a rare loss for local activists, the challenges failed: the bridge was built and the homes destroyed. The area of the neighborhood around Ovington Avenue (aka 70th Street) was once known as "Ovington Village"; it was ultimately swallowed up as Bay Ridge. Also destroyed was Fort Lafayette, part of New York City's defense system along with Fort Hamilton and Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island, replaced by the base of the bridge's east tower.
The 2007 Brooklyn tornado hit this area, specifically 68th and 69th streets between 3rd and 4th avenues. Eleven houses had to be vacated after they suffered significant damage, and many of the trees on the two blocks toppled, landing on cars and stoops. The 4th Avenue Presbyterian Church had its very large stained glass window blown out. As the tornado lifted, it peeled the roof of a nearby Nissan dealership and deforested 40% of Leif Ericson Park. The tornado has been rated an EF-2 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, with winds between 111 and 135 MPH.
Landmarks and points of interest
Hurricane damage in Owl's Head Park
69th Street Pier
Step streets are streets that are composed entirely of steep steps. As a rule they were placed on hills that were too steep to build a road, yet in a rare concession to pedestrians, it was determined to allow them access to the streets denied to motor transportation", at 74th and 76th Streets, recalling the Montmartre section of Paris.
Owl's Head Park (also known as Bliss Park), in the neighborhood's northwest corner, was previously the private estate of the Bliss Family, the namesake for nearby Bliss Terrace. Before them, the property was owned by Henry C. Murphy, a United States senator for whom the nearby Senator Street is named. Remnants of their estate were still visible into the 1970s, when they were finally demolished, having fallen into considerable disrepair. The park has a dog run and the first concrete skatepark built in Brooklyn.
69th Street Pier at 69th St. and Shore Road, is the community's key seaside recreation spot. Sports fishermen travel across the borough and from the other boroughs to fish the waters of "The Bay Ridge Anchorage" and along the seawall promenade that runs south from the pier to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and east along Gravesend Bay. Years prior to the construction of the bridge, commuter ferry service was operated between this Bay Ridge pier and the St. George Ferry Terminal in Staten Island.
Farrell House, which has been at 125 95th St. since the early twentieth century, is one of many old mansions in Bay Ridge, and it is now an official landmark. An accompanying structure, thought to have been used as a barn, was unable to be saved and was demolished. Legend has it the house was turned so that its "widow's walk," a balcony that traditionally faces the sea so women left at home could watch for their husbands' ships, would no longer face the Narrows.
Bay Ridge is a largely middle-class neighborhood. With its strong family presence, it is not uncommon to see third or fourth generation families living in the region. Until the early 1990s Bay Ridge was a primarily Irish, Italian, and Norwegian neighborhood. Today, Bay Ridge maintains a sizable Irish, Italian, and Greek population, but like other areas in South/Southwest Brooklyn, late in the 20th century it saw an influx of Russian, Polish, and Lebanese, and lesser numbers of Chinese. In recent decades many Middle Eastern and Arab Americans have moved to Bay Ridge. Bay Ridge has many international restaurants and bars, especially along 3rd and 5th Avenue, its main commercial strips. Many refer to the community as "Little Palestine" due to its large Palestinian population and "Brooklyn's Gold Coast."
Bay Ridge has a high elderly population. It has been called a NORC or a naturally occurring retirement community because many of its families have grown up in the neighborhood while their children move away. In 2006 it was reported that 20% of the population of Bay Ridge is 60 or over. Local newspapers include The Home Reporter-Sunset News, The Spectator, The Bay Ridge Paper, The Bay Ridge Courier and The Bay Ridge Eagle.
68th Precinct, NYPD
Firehouse on Third Avenue
Bay Ridge was chosen as an "Editor's Pick" in This Old House magazine April 2011, as a good neighborhood to buy an old house.
Fort Hamilton, an active military base near the Verrazano Bridge, houses one of the neighborhood's few cultural attractions, The Harbor Defense Museum. Another popular neighborhood attraction is the 69th Street Pier, at Bay Ridge Ave (aka 69th Street) and Shore Road. It features a sculpture that emits a beam of light as a memorial to those who lost their lives during the terrorist attacks of September 11. This popular pier is a favorite to the local fishermen who fish there daily. Until the middle 20th century a ferry to Staten Island operated from this pier for a nickel fare. Very close to the pier is Owl's Head Park. This park was once the home of Senator Murphy of the City of Brooklyn and it was also the Bliss Estate. It is a 27-acre (110,000 m2) walking park that has a state of the art skate park, dog run, children's playground and basketball courts.
Additionally, there are MTA express bus routes X27 and X37, which mainly serves for the commute to Manhattan, but also runs during off-peak hours on weekdays. The X27 also runs on weekends. The routes X28 and X38 also serve the eastern part of Bay Ridge. Many Bay Ridge commuters opt for the relative comfort and convenience of the express bus. Bay Ridge is readily accessible by car, encircled by the Belt Parkway and Gowanus Expressway. Local bus routes include B1, B4, B8, B9, B16, B37, B63, B64, B70, S53, S79 SBS, and S93.
Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) operates the Bay Ridge Library. The Bay Ridge Reading Club first organized the library in 1880. It opened on its present site in 1896 and became a BPL branch in 1901. The current two story facility opened in 1960. In 2004 it received a $2.1 million renovation, including new furniture and shelving, new lighting equipment, a new roof, and 27 additional public access computers. A smaller renovated public library is the Fort Hamilton Library, built with money gift from Andrew Carnegie in 1906.
Development is a passionate issue for Bay Ridge residents, as in recent years they saw many of the decades-old two-family houses being demolished, replaced by condominiums known colloquially as "Fedder Homes," after the branded air conditioners poking out from the buildings' facades. In 2005, local community leaders and community activists from across the political spectrum united to issue rezoning laws.
Steven Seagal has many scenes in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights in the action film Out for Justice which takes place in these neighborhoods, and is home to one of the movies actors, Sonny Hurst, who plays "Tattoo" in the infamous scene in the pool hall where he gets his teeth knocked out with an eight ball.
Parts of Then She Found Me with Bette Middler and Helen Hunt were shot in Bay Ridge (76th Street)
In an episode of Law & Order: SVU, Det. Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) references he is from 89th and Shore.
NYPD Commissioner Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) on CBS-TV's Blue Bloods lives in Bay Ridge. His home near Fort Hamilton High School is seen in each episode.
In the television program Ugly Betty, the character of Justin is shocked that Hilda and Bobby have found a place in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and instead explains that Manhattan is much more realistic due to the recession.