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Thread: Behind Closed Gates - Gated Communities in New York

  1. #1
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Default Behind Closed Gates - Gated Communities in New York

    Behind Closed Gates

    Little-known gated communities in NYC draw controversy, lawsuits.

    by Shane Dixon Kavanaugh

    Sea Gate, one of the oldest private communities in the city, has been sequested for more than a century.

    Residents of Edgewater Park have described their southeastern Bronx community as timeless and unspoiled, a waterfront Shangri-La. Next door to them is Silver Beach Gardens, a “white-picket-fence fairytale,” as the Daily News declared last summer. But trouble struck these two communities last month when the Fair Housing Justice Center, an advocacy group, filed a lawsuit against both claiming racial discrimination.

    Edgewater Park and Silver Beach Gardens are private cooperatives, with closed-off streets and a single point of entry. They have security guards and signs that forbid loitering, trespassing or soliciting. They also, as the lawsuit points out, have very few black people living within their cloistered confines—less than 1 percent. The suit, filed February 4, has left these Bronx neighborhoods defending their insular, tight-knit ways. And it has left those outside their walls astonished that gated communities exist in New York City.

    But they are here, and not just in the Bronx.

    Slices of suburbia nestle along coveted waterfronts and isolated pockets of the outer boroughs, fenced off and often guarded from the rest of the city. Some have been around for more than a century. They began as mostly white, middle class enclaves. That is what they mostly remain to this day.


    The communities of Breezy Point, on the western end of the Rockaway Penninsula, are protected as much by their gates as by their isolation.

    Gates first went up around the western tip of Coney Island in 1898. To this day, the 830-home Sea Gate maintains its own streets and sewers and even has its own private police force, separate from the NYPD, stocked with guns and squad cars. In 1960, residents at the far end of the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens formed the Breezy Point Cooperative. Silver Beach Gardens finalized its own private co-op in 1973. Edgewater Park followed in 1988. These are the largest and most well known, but it is not uncommon for developers to put up fences around developments new and old, declaring them off-limits to outsiders.

    With beaches and mazes of private streets lined with bungalows or detached one-and-two-family homes, these gated communities hardly resemble Manhattan’s premier co-ops like Sutton Place or 740 Park Avenue.

    Nor do the residents enjoy the haughty, decadent lifestyle on display in Coto de Caza, the gated community where The Real Housewives of Orange County live. And yet these private sanctuaries do exhibit a similar world view.

    “Sea Gate is horizontal. Park Avenue is vertical,” said Tom Angotti, a professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Hunter College. “Physically the communities are different. Socially, they’re the same. The essential aspect is exclusion.” Gates and private security, Angotti said, send a message to people on the outside of these communities that they are not welcome.
    Not all gated communities are co-ops like Edgewater Park or Silver Beach Gardens, however. Nor are their practices seen as nefarious. “We’re a unique seaside community,” said Tami Smorto, manager for the Sea Gate Association. “Nobody knows about us. We’re so quiet about who we are.

    It’s like a little hidden gem.” She said Sea Gate’s somnolent streets, low crime rate, and relative obscurity attract people.


    A fence erected in 1989 to keep Coney Island beach goers from venturing onto Sea Gate property.

    While Sea Gate has a board of directors, it has nothing to do with the buying and selling of homes—anyone can move into the neighborhood. “Honestly, we are a fantastic mix of people,” Smorto said. “Jewish. Russian.

    So many different types of people. It’s like taking all of New York City and putting it right here.”

    Well, not quite. Census data for Sea Gate from 2000 shows that more than 75 percent of the people living there are white, 7.4 percent are black and 9.4 percent Hispanic. Those numbers for New York City as a whole are 44.7, 26.6 and 27 percent, respectively. In Breezy Point more than 99 percent of the residents are white. In Edgewater Park and Silver Beach Gardens, white residents make up 82 percent of residents. The neighborhood is 12 percent Hispanic, but only 1 percent black.

    Part of the Fair Housing Justice Center’s lawsuit against Edgewater Park and Silver Beach Gardens alleges that a real estate agent for the two communities simply refused to show homes to a black couple that contacted her. According to the suit, the couple “were told of the strict reference policy, never even offered the opportunity to view available properties, and steered away from the properties because there are very few people of ‘any kind … of ethnic color’ living in the co-ops.” (Both coops declined to comment.)

    Recent history reveals how other gated communities in New York have remained exclusive. In 2003, a Breezy Point woman was arrested on hate crime charges after she assaulted a 12-year-old Hispanic girl. Meanwhile, Sea Gate, once open to foot traffic coming in from Coney Island, closed its streets to outside pedestrians in 1989. It then required residents to carry photo-identification passes. Eight years later, the community built a fence blocking a strip that allowed people from Coney Island to access its private beaches. The city took Sea Gate to court, claiming the beach strip was city property. The court ruled against the city.

    “People believe New York to be a melting pot where people live in harmony with one another,” said Tom Angotti, the professor of Urban Affairs at Hunter College. “That’s the image we’re sold and the myth we buy.”

    http://www.archpaper.com/e-board_rev.asp?News_ID=4322

    Old WNY thread: Gated Community of Ozone Park

  2. #2

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    Breezy Point is really creepy.

  3. #3
    Kings County Loyal BrooklynLove's Avatar
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    Breezy Point is the boro equivalent of Orange County California.

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    The article says: "They began as mostly white, middle class enclaves. That is what they mostly remain to this day." "...have very few black people living within their cloistered confines—less than 1 percent. "

    How would one describe 5th avenue and Park avenue from 59th to 96th? We would have to substitute the word "middle class" with "wealthy", but the result is the same. Isn't it?

    “Sea Gate is horizontal. Park Avenue is vertical,” said Tom Angotti, a professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Hunter College. “Physically the communities are different. Socially, they’re the same. The essential aspect is exclusion.

  5. #5

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    “Sea Gate is horizontal. Park Avenue is vertical,” said Tom Angotti, a professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Hunter College. “Physically the communities are different.
    Physically. That's the key.

    Socially, they’re the same. The essential aspect is exclusion.
    Socially, the neighborhoods are quite different. How a high-rise building is arranged demographically has much less impact on the street than an equivalent volume of low rise housing.

    Walking along Park Ave is a lot different than walking in Sea Beach or Breezy Point.

  6. #6

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    They also, as the lawsuit points out, have very few black people living within their cloistered confines—less than 1 percent.
    Forget about Park Avenue. Demographics for the entire Upper East Side of Manhattan: between Central Park and the East River....from 59th Street to 96th Street:

    "As of the 2000 census, there were 207,543 people residing in the Upper East Side." "The racial makeup of the neighborhood was 88.25% White, 6.14% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 2.34% African American",

    So Breezy Point has less than 1 percent.... while the entire Upper East Side of Manhattan has 2,34 percent.

    (What a difference that circa 1,34% makes...)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upper_East_Side

    --
    Last edited by Fabrizio; March 14th, 2010 at 04:59 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fabrizio View Post
    (What a difference that circa 1,34% makes...)
    See post #5.

  8. #8

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    Post 5: "Socially, the neighborhoods are quite different."

    Sorry but I agree with the Professor and I'll stick with post 4:

    “Sea Gate is horizontal. Park Avenue is vertical,” said Tom Angotti, a professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Hunter College. “Physically the communities are different. Socially, they’re the same.

    ( As I understand his quote, I am taking the words "community" and "neighborhood" to be interchangeable: A neighbourhood ... is a geographically localised community within a larger city, town or suburb.)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neighbourhood


    -
    Last edited by Fabrizio; March 14th, 2010 at 06:43 PM. Reason: clarity

  9. #9

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    I'm sure from an African-American perspective, both neighborhoods are socially equivalent. I'm white, and Breezy Point gives me the creeps.

    When you're buried in statistics, you not only sometimes miss the point, but fail to properly read.
    Quote Originally Posted by Fabrizio
    So Breezy Point has less than 1 percent.
    They were talking about Edgewater Park. The African-American percentage in Breezy Point is one-tenth of one percent.

    To continue this silliness: There are four African-Americans living in Breezy Point, probably in one household. More silliness: The African-American percentage in the upper East side is 23 times that in Breezy Point.

    Or you can forget all that, and...

    Quote Originally Posted by ZippyTheChimp View Post
    See post #5.

  10. #10

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    Zip: I stand by my post (4) which is simply agreeing with the observations of the prof. My post:

    "The article says: "They began as mostly white, middle class enclaves. That is what they mostly remain to this day." "...have very few black people living within their cloistered confines—less than 1 percent. "

    How would one describe 5th avenue and Park avenue from 59th to 96th? We would have to substitute the word "middle class" with "wealthy", but the result is the same. Isn't it?

    “Sea Gate is horizontal. Park Avenue is vertical,” said Tom Angotti, a professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Hunter College. “Physically the communities are different. Socially, they’re the same. The essential aspect is exclusion.”

    --------------

    And I believe the demgraphics for the UpperEast Side only further support that. "2,34%"... it's an entire swath of the city.

    I think the silliness began after post 4.

    --
    Last edited by Fabrizio; March 14th, 2010 at 08:45 PM.

  11. #11

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    The point I'm contending is that the neighborhoods are socially (from an ethnic perspective) the same. An individual building on the Upper East Side that has the same racial makeup as Breezy Point may be socially the same, but not the neighborhood itself. You see ethnic people in the Upper East Side; you see almost none in Breezy Point. Actually, I've never seen anything but white people.

    You have to wonder if the professor spent any time in the gated communities, or just drawing conclusions from numbers.

    There's another neighborhood in western Rockaway that probably has similar racial percentages - Neponsit. Even with its suburban vibe, it is nothing at all like Breezy Point.

  12. #12

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    As I see it the profs quote is about the residential make up of the area..

    Certainly you'll see people of all varieties of people on Park Ave in middle of Manhattan than on the western end of the Rockaway Penninsula, we know that.

    The entire Upper East Side has 2,34% of black residents.... yet in those communities mentioned (Edgewater Park and Silver Beach Gardens) there is a lawsuit : "....the lawsuit points out, have very few black people living within their cloistered confines—less than 1 percent".

    So yes, I see your point that the Park Ave. neighborhood is different in that all sorts of people are passing through... but I agree with the profs point ....which I believe is about the residential make up of the two: on that, comparisions can be made.

    --
    Last edited by Fabrizio; March 14th, 2010 at 09:34 PM. Reason: clarity

  13. #13

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    If the point was to illustrate housing discrimination, then the percentages are valid. From a legal basis, I don't think there's much merit in the lawsuit.

    But similar housing stats doesn't make them socially similar. That's why you may get complains about denied housing in individual buildings, but there aren't too many complaints about walking in the neighborhood, or access to retail establishments.

    The gated communities are a completely different animal. There's a sense of insider-outsider. A non-white is going to be regarded as not belonging.

    I always had in the back of my mind - this would be a bad place to get into an argument.

  14. #14
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    July 27, 2008

    Living in Breezy Point, Queens

    Beach Living, 22 Miles From Manhattan

    By C. J. HUGHES





    slide show

    STORMS can roll in quickly across Breezy Point, Queens, which sits on a low-lying spit at the borough’s southernmost edge, dangling into the Atlantic Ocean.

    When they do, Susan Hines, a therapist and part-time photographer, grabs her camera and heads to the stone jetty at Rockaway Point, hoping for that perfect shot of swirling clouds and waves.

    If in the rush she forgets to shut the windows of her 2,600-square-foot contemporary home, which Ms. Hines built in 1983 on a lot opposite her parents’ summer getaway, a neighbor is likely to go in and do it for her.

    “You’re not going to be thrown in jail for coming in, because you’re just being kind,” Ms. Hines said. “It’s beach living out here, so it’s different.”

    With its abundant nature, overlapping generations of residents and drum-tight sense of community, Breezy Point — a neighborhood of about 1.9 square miles — does seem unique, much farther in spirit from Lower Manhattan than 22 miles, the distance by car.

    Bicycles, piloted by bare-chested men with wraparound sunglasses, practically outnumber cars.

    Security gates block almost all side streets, which are posted with intimidating no-trespassing signs. There’s even a distinct lingo: “Dinks,” the many powder-blue-shirted security officers, make sure that D.F.D.’s, or people who are “down for the day,” don’t use areas reserved for “Pointers.”

    And that seems within their right: All Breezy Point’s private land belongs to a large co-op, which, like most Park Avenue apartments houses, curtails access. Here, though, annual charges are typically less than $2,000, for tap water, beach cleaning and basketball court maintenance, residents said.

    In 1960, when the neighborhood went co-op, Breezy Point was mostly a summer retreat for middle-class families from Brooklyn, particularly Marine Park, Sheepshead Bay and Flatbush. In the late 1990s, according to brokers, hundreds of residents began razing one-story bungalows and building year-round dwellings.

    Today, among the 2,836 homes, full-timers have a 3-to-1 advantage over seasonal residents, according to the Breezy Point Cooperative, which controls about 420 of the area’s approximately 1,200 acres. Still, the population of almost 5,000 swells by a few thousand in warmer months, thanks to part-time stalwarts like Jane Kelly, 86, a Bay Ridge resident who has been summering in the area since 1925, when ice was delivered and lamps used kerosene.

    Ms. Kelly’s plastic-shingled ranch, her third home in Breezy Point, has two bedrooms, a bath and 900 square feet of space. In 1933, the house cost $750, but it might sell for more than $400,000 today, based on comparable listings, Ms. Kelly said, since Breezy Point has no buildable lots left.

    Many of Ms. Kelly’s family members own homes in Breezy Point or visit in the summer — 23 relatives were milling around in late July — so change hasn’t been all bad. “I don’t miss the old days,” Ms. Kelly said. “The community’s a lot more active.”

    WHAT YOU’LL FIND

    Breezy Point contains three enclaves: Breezy Point and Rockaway Point on the western end, and, separated by a mile-long thicket of brush and stunted trees, Roxbury to the east.

    Each is crisscrossed by narrow concrete pedestrian-only paths, bearing names like Bath and Neptune Walks.

    The houses, with just a few feet between them, represent a crazy-quilt patchwork of styles. Stucco-finished Mediterraneans nuzzle wood-sided contemporaries whose dormers resemble lighthouses. Hip-roofed cottages flank yellow saltbox-roofed colonials.

    Most homes have many windows, to capture the generous dawn-to-dusk light, and porches, shaded by pergolas or adorned with spinning pinwheels.

    If the architecture is diverse, the population is not: Breezy Point is 99 percent white, according to the last census. The main ethnic group is Irish, at 53 percent, followed by Italian, with 15 percent, and German, 7 percent.
    Breezy Point is surrounded by Gateway National Recreation Area, a 36-year-old federally owned set of parks. It accounts for about two-thirds of the neighborhood’s area and includes Fort Tilden and, nearby, public beaches like Jacob Riis Park.

    WHAT YOU’LL PAY


    The average home in Breezy Point costs $750,000; that buys a year-round contemporary with three bedrooms, two baths and an outdoor shower, brokers said.

    Slightly less expensive properties can be found in Roxbury, where $300,000 might buy a nonwinterized cottage on a 1,000-square-foot lot. Other deals can be found among the older cottages in an area known as “the wedge,” bounded by Oceanside Avenue, Breezy Point Boulevard and Utica Walk.

    The higher-end properties, listed for up to $1.5 million, are generally near Rockaway Inlet and have sweeping waterfront views. Built in recent decades, these 2,000-square-foot structures offer top-of-the line finishes like energy-efficient windows, marble counters, central air and whirlpool tubs, brokers said.

    In the last few years, real estate prices have dropped in Queens, including in Far Rockaway, about 11 miles away, where many homes have lost 15 percent of their value, said Bob Tracey, owner of Tracey Real Estate.

    In Breezy Point, prices are only 5 percent off, he said, adding that it is difficult to measure because there’s no multiple listings service. “We’re less affected,” he said, “but not immune.”

    WHAT TO DO

    Visitors to Breezy Point who want to get their feet wet can pick up a free day-use permit at the Moorish-style visitors center at Jacob Riis Park. It will allow them to park at the 30-car lot just beyond 22nd Street, at the end of Rockaway Point Boulevard, where a short path leads through the dunes to water.

    Breezy Point residents, though, have it easier, as their private beaches are never more than a short stroll away. For pool access, many residents join the Breezy Point Surf Club, where adults pay $470 for the season, or the Silver Gull Club, where they pay $455.

    Largely hidden from the road, a few restaurants are scattered throughout the area. The Sugar Bowl, which hosts volleyball tournaments, serves pulled pork sandwiches with duck sauce. And Kennedy’s on the Bay offers a half-dozen draft beers at its U-shaped bar. Visitors in a car need to get a pass at the security gate to get close.

    THE SCHOOLS

    Breezy Point has no public schools. The nearby Belle Harbor School teaches prekindergarten through eighth grade. Enrollment this year was 823 students. On 2008 state exams, 96 percent of fourth graders met standards in reading and 98 percent did in math. Thirty-two percent of eighth graders met standards in reading and 75 percent did in math.

    For Grades 9 through 12, many students head to Beach Channel High School, where enrollment last year was 1,607. The school has struggled in recent years — the 2007 graduation rate was 53 percent, according to the city figures.

    Average SAT scores in 2007, meanwhile, were 435 in reading, 434 in math and 420 in writing, compared with statewide averages of 502 in reading, 515 in math and 494 in writing.

    Catholic schools are an option. The co-ed St. Francis de Sales in Belle Harbor, for example, offers kindergarten through eighth grade. Tuition is $3,600 a year.

    For high school, girls may attend Fontbonne Hall Academy in Bay Ridge, where tuition next year is $7,400. For boys, Xaverian High School, which costs $9,700, is nearby.

    THE COMMUTE

    In May, New York Water Taxi began running ferries from Manhattan to the pier where Fort Tilden’s armaments were once unloaded. The hourlong ferry trips, which leave Breezy Point at 5:45 a.m. and 7:45 a.m. each weekday, drop passengers at Pier 11, just south of Wall Street. Tickets are $6 each way and $216 for a pack of 40. Return trips are made at 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

    Otherwise, the area is underserved by public transportation. The Q22 bus runs to Rockaway Park, about three miles east, where a shuttle for the A train stops, while the Q35 heads into Brooklyn along Flatbush Avenue. The Blue Goose, a co-op-owned bus, runs back and forth through Breezy Point for a $1 fare each way.

    THE HISTORY

    In 1960, the buildable land not purchased by the co-op, about 400 acres, was snapped up by the Atlantic Improvement Company. The developer planned homes, a supermarket and a marina on the property, much of which abuts Roxbury, said Arthur Lighthall, the Breezy Point Cooperative’s general manager.

    High-rises were actually under way in 1979 when the city stepped in, ultimately demolishing them. A new park planned for the site never materialized. The huge rubble piles left behind are now buried under sand, Mr. Lighthall said, and the area is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/27/re...te&oref=slogin

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