Photo via Wikimedia Commons by multiplicitous
Welcome to our new Untapped Cities series on NYC’s Micro Neighborhoods, where we delve into long standing ethnic enclaves.
Brighton Beach, Brooklyn
In the southernmost parts of Brooklyn, nestled between Coney Island and Manhattan Beach, one can find New York City‘s very own Ukraine, far from Russia of course. Little Odessa, as it has been traditionally coined due to the great number of immigrants from Odessa, is a nickname for Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach. Although the neighborhood has seen a recent influx of different ethnicities ranging from Hispanics, to African Americans and Chinese, the area is known for its predominantly Russian-speaking population. If you ever wondered where the Russians are in New York, Little Odessa is the answer.
Little Odessa holds among the highest concentration of Russian immigrants outside the eastern hemisphere. This vibrant, beachside enclave was the site of the Russian immigration wave to New York City, which dates back to the 1800s. Yet, even today, Russian newcomers find themselves settling in this strange and yet culturally familiar neighborhood of New York. Currently, there are an estimated 700,000 Russians living in New York City. A trip to Little Odessa will bring you to the center of the Russian community of New York. Other neighborhoods Russians call home include Sheepshead Bay, Bath Beach, both in Brooklyn along with Staten Island‘s South Beach.
The neighborhood, which can be accessed at the Brighton Beach subway station via the B and Q trains as well as Ocean Parkway, served by the Q, can be a distance away from outer borough residents. Nonetheless, it is a rewarding commute. Here one can dip their feet in the waters of authentic Russian lifestyle. Whether it be from delighting in the many Russian delis or cafes, sampling the local clothing boutiques or visiting a Russian nightclub or bar, you can experience the every day lives of the Russian diaspora in Little Odessa. Brighton Beach Avenue is the main thoroughfare of Little Odessa, whereas the boardwalk can serve as a lively substitute in warmer weather.
The waterfront neighborhood also offers the beach as an attraction, sharing its waters with Coney Island. Still, it is important to remember that Brighton Beach was hit hard in Hurricane Sandy. Residents and businesses are still battling mold issues as a result of the storm, and ConEd billing snafus are hitting them hard.
If in Little Odessa, be sure to check out Winter Garden along with numerous other locals to get a real taste of Russian-style cuisine and lounging. If it’s a more theatrical form of culture you’re craving, Brighton Beach is home to the Millennium Theatre which features many Russian traveling theater groups. The grand theater holds performances exclusively in Russian ranging from musical performances, to comedy troupes. These are just a glimpse of the many cultural events and attractions worth discovering in Little Odessa.