Brooklyn hot spots

Manhattan Beach Memoirs

By Elyssa Goodman


Originally from South Florida, I grew up a little spoiled by my proximity to the beach (30 minutes on a busy day). But when I moved to New York, I knew things would be different. I knew I needed a beach relatively close (which, by New York standards meant the shortest commute of 1.5 hours), that I could get to with my MetroCard, and that I didn’t have to pay for. Did you know there are beaches in the area you have to pay for? I was shocked and appalled. I mean, it’s the Atlantic Ocean, for goodness’ sake! That’s like charging for air!


Just the same, I found that three beaches, all in Brooklyn, were within my parameters: Coney Island, Brighton Beach, and Manhattan Beach. I would soon discover, though, that Manhattan Beach was my favorite.


Originally founded as a beach retreat for wealthy New Yorkers—it was once called the “World’s Largest Privately Owned Playground” by Life magazine—the beach is fairly secluded, but now of course welcomes everyone. The beach is actually nestled inside a park, so you walk past a playground and basketball court to get to it. There are also handball, volleyball, and tennis courts available for use, as well as a baseball diamond, picnic tables, and barbeques if you’re so inclined.


To get to Manhattan Beach, you take the B or Q trains at Brighton Beach. If you’re like my friends and me, you like to first stop and get lunch goodies at Brighton Bazaar, a fabulous Russian grocery store (1007 Brighton Beach Ave). I personally recommend the mushroom or cherry blinis for beach noshing. They’re a steal at only $4.99 a pound. A friend and I got an entire lunch for two—blinis, potato salad, spinach turnovers, and borscht—with drinks for about $15. And everything was delicious.


What’s cool about going Brighton Bazaar, too, is that it’s a cultural experience. I come from an Eastern European background and was familiar with a good amount of the prepared foods available, but the friend I went with had no idea what most of it was. It was an added bonus to our beach day to share part of my cultural experience with her, but going there even if you don’t know what anything is is also a delight. Much of the signs on the food are in Cyrillic, and you just have to try something new!


After Brighton Bazaar, we took a short trip on the B1 bus heading toward Manhattan Beach. I like to get off at the Falmouth Street stop, because that’s the area of the beach with less people, generally. The beach itself stretches from Ocean Avenue to Mackenzie Street along Oriental Boulevard, only about a quarter mile long. We set up camp, as it were, and made our way to the water. Surrounded by families, it was completely safe to leave our belongings unattended. The water was cool and calming in the 90-degree weather, also perfect solution for the 106-degrees I heard it was on the L train platform the other day.


New York in the summer can be, shall we say, daunting. You can practically see the heatwaves staring you in the face, challenging you to go on living your life as a semi-functional adult. So it’s nice to be able to escape that even for a little bit, to wade in the water not exploding with people as it is by some other beaches. Dare I say Manhattan Beach is a staycation of sorts? And you don’t even have to take any vacation days off to get there.


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