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Sheepshead Bay: Vibrant nabe known for its fishing industry still has a bite

Sheepshead Foot Bridge, a pedestrian bridge over Sheepshead

Sheepshead Foot Bridge, a pedestrian bridge over Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn (Anthony Lanzilote) Credit: Sheepshead Foot Bridge, a pedestrian bridge over Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn (Anthony Lanzilote)

Like many neighborhoods around New York City, Sheepshead Bay is no stranger to diversity or change.

The middle-class neighborhood located in southern Brooklyn boasts a melting pot of cultures from Russian and Turkish to Chinese and Italian.

But it is also unique for its generational range.

“This isn’t an area where you’ll only see young moms pushing strollers,” explained Theresa Scavo, a life-long resident. “If you come here on a Saturday night, you’ll see people from all walks of life and you’ll see young families alongside older people who’ve been here their whole lives.”

Scavo, who chairs Community Board 15, recalled the Sheepshead Bay she grew up in. The neighborhood was known then for its vibrant fishing industry, which many residents relied on make ends meet.

“Fishing was everything. You’d come here and they’d be selling fresh fish that was just caught at the waterfront,” she said.

While fishing is no longer done out of necessity to survive, it still remains a popular activity along the waterfront, which spans Emmons Avenue from Knapp Street to 15th Street.

The dock is currently filled with boats that offer commercial fishing trips. It is home to dinner and charter cruises, and a string of waterfront restaurants line Emmons Avenue.

“It has changed just like every other place in New York City but it has always been a place to walk by the waterfront, have dinner and enjoy the vista,” Scavo said.

Sheepshead Bay (called “The Bay” by locals) is named after the body of water which is located on its southern tip. The bay takes its name from the Sheepshead Fish, an edible species once found there but that no longer inhabits the area.

Though the nabe is slowly changing, remnants of its past linger. A number of long-time establishments have remained strong throughout the years. Places like Jordan’s Lobster Dock and Brennan and Carr — both of which opened in 1938, and Randazzo’s Clam Bar are frequented by old and new residents as well as tourists.

In spite of the presence of chain restaurants and retail stores, Sheepshead Bay also boasts many small businesses. A walk down any of the main avenues like Emmons, Ocean or Avenue U will take you by thriving family-owned businesses, many of whom have managed to open up shop again after Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath — a testament to the neighborhood’s resilience.

According to Real Estate Broker Peter Bacarella at Brooklyn’s Scenic View Real Estate, The Bay’s ethnic makeup has become more diverse in recent years with Chinese, Turks and Russians moving in. New families, young professionals and retirees are also attracted to the area, he said.

“When houses go on the market here they sell quickly,” he said, noting that most of the homes come with driveways, garages, and backyards. “But people don’t often change homes every five years here; they settle here.”

New condominium developments along corridors like Emmons, Voorhies and Ocean Avenues, as well as East 24th Street, are making up for the low inventory of houses for sale, he said.

Both Bacarella and Scavo say the only thing in store for Sheepshead Bay in the future is more growth. The recent condo developments were halted after Sandy but now construction has resumed, aiming to gain more residents.

“People want to live here; and they want to be able to walk to the beach and know that they are within walking distance of restaurants,” Scavo said. “For me, I have no intentions of leaving. When you call a place home, it’s home.”

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FIND IT
It’s bounded by Coney Island Avenue or Ocean Parkway to the west, depending on who you talk to. The angled eastern boundary includes Nostrand Avenue, Gerritsen Avenue and Knapp Street. To the north it’s bounded by Avenue R and to the south by Emmons Avenue (past the Belt Parkway.)

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TO EAT
Sheepshead Bay is well-known for its many restaurants catering to seafood lovers, but the area also offers a range of eateries from Russian to Turkish, Chinese, American, and Italian.

Jordan’s Lobster Dock, 3165 Harkness Ave. This family-owned-and-operated Jordan’s Lobster Dock has been “serving the finest quality seafood” in New York City since 1938. The restaurant, which also includes a clam bar, is always packed with locals digging in on their $20 lobster dinner special. 718-934-6300.

Randazzo’s Clam Bar and Restaurant, 2017 Emmons Ave. Another long-time neighborhood favorite, Randazzo’s has been in operation for almost 100 years. The clam bar offers Blue Point clams, stuffed lobster, broiled tilapia and a sautéed softshell crab sandwich, among others. The staff recommends that dishes like fried clams, calamari or steamed mussels be paired with their acclaimed Randazzo’s Tomato Sauce, created by the restaurant’s founder, Helen Randazzo. 718-615-0010.

Brennan & Carr, 3432 Nostrand Ave. Another beloved neighborhood haunt, this small sandwich shop has been around for 75 years. The cash-only establishment is known for its roast beef sandwiches, with both bread and beef double-dipped in a salty broth, and patrons praise the onion rings. It attracts New York’s Finest and Bravest in addition to other locals, tourists and Adam Richman, host of The Travel Channel’s “Man v. Food.” It offers sit-down or take out. 718-769-1254.

TO PARTY
Esquire Lounge, 1629 Sheepshead Bay Rd.
Whether it’s a get together or a date, Esquire Lounge’s small and charming space aims to set the right tone. A deejay mixes house music and they also offer bar appetizers, entrées and desert. 718-646-5000.

Anyway Café Bar, 1602 Gravesend Neck Rd. The Sheepshead Bay location of this quaint café, which pays homage to Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky, his homeland Russia, and France, offers a quick escape for those looking for a low-key night. Enjoy dishes such as pelmeni and braised lamb shank or deserts like crème brulee, sweet crepes with mango and raspberry coulis, and melba. They offer live music every night from 9 p.m. to midnight. 718-934-5988.

Opera Café Lounge, 2255 Emmons Ave. This Turkish/Mediterranean spot has wide floor-ceiling windows that never let you miss out on what’s happening at the waterfront docks on Emmons Avenue. And while inside you can also focus on the myriad of Turkish dishes from dana cop sis (beef shish) to kuzu sote (lamb sautee). 718-676-2992.

TO SHOP
Downtown, 2502 Ave. U
This clothing store carries well-known brands and styles for men and women, including Moncler, Lacoste, Polo, True Religion, Seven for All Mankind, and BCBG, among others. The boutique also sells shoes and accessories. 718-934-8280.

Loehmann’s, 2807 E. 21st St. The discount department store offers designer women’s and menswear, accessories and shoes. Brands include Michael Kors, Kenneth Cole and Kate Spade. 718-368-1256.

House of Jeans, 2118 Ave. U This small boutique is known in the area for its affordable prices and selection of denim for men and women. Well-known sneaker brands are also sold there. 718-891-3758.

TO DO
Fishing
Sheepshead Bay has always been a great fishing spot. Charter boats like the Brooklyn VI and Captain Midnight Fishing line the waterfront along Emmons Avenue offering an authentic Sheepshead Bay fishing experience. For more information visit brooklynvifishing.com or captmidnight.com.

Catch a movie On a rainy night, see a movie at the United Artists Sheepshead Bay Stadium 14 & IMAX at 3907 Shore Parkway. Afterward, grab a bite across the street at Jordan's Lobster Dock or TGI Friday’s. 718-615-1053.

Charter cruises Charter boats like the AmberJack V, the American Princess and Freedom Cruises can also be seen docked at various piers off of Emmons Avenue.
There, corporate groups or families can host private functions and sail out into the bay for a number of hours. The Amberjack V yacht remains docked and offers a restaurant-style seating from 11 a.m. to midnigt most days unless a private charter takes it out on the water.

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THE BUZZ
In addition to parking being a problem in Sheepshead Bay, the area is also has some of the city’s fastest drivers. According to statistics released by the NYPD in March, the 61st Precinct gave out the second most speeding tickets in Brooklyn last year, the exact number: 198.

Lawmakers and officials are pushing for the installment of speed-enforcement cameras, especially in the wake of numerous hit-and-run accidents across the city. And Senator Martin Golden of Bay Ridge sponsored legislation that aimed to increase penalties for hit-and-run drivers who leave the scene of an accident from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class E Felony. Drivers who flee a scene where someone was killed would be hit with a Class C Felony.

The state Senate approved the bill in February but it still awaits a vote from the Assembly. Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, who represents Sheepshead Bay, is the bill’s Assembly sponsor.

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Q&A with Theresa Scavo

Theresa Scavo has lived in Sheepshead Bay for 61 years. She raised two kids in the neighborhood and still resides there with her husband.

How have you seen the neighborhood change in the years you’ve been here?
It went from all fishing boats to now a lot more of the large-scale recreational dinner and booze cruises. Now you could go along Emmons Avenue and get food from any place in the world — it’s gourmet land from one end to the other with a variety of food.

What do residents do for fun in Sheepshead Bay?
Herds of people come out to the water on the weekend and they love people watching; it’s a very popular pastime. People sit for hours on end outside having dinner and watching people pass by.

Are there any drawbacks to living here?
We need more parking. It’s the main issue here. If you come down here on a Saturday at 7 p.m. you’re going to ride around for a period of time unless you want to walk 10 blocks.

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