Introducing Brownstoner’s first-ever reader renovation diary based in Sea Gate. It will document the renovation of a 100-year-old oceanfront home on the edge of Coney Island. Our intrepid blogger can also be found at Brooklyn Beach House.


A Coney Island beach house. Yes! They exist.

I know, because we bought one a year ago. If you start at Nathan’s in Coney Island and head west toward the baseball stadium (keep the ocean on your left), in about a mile you will find that the boardwalk and Surf Avenue dead end into gates in the water and the street.

This is the beginning of Sea Gate, a 120-year-old gated community that boasts tiny bungalows, apartment buildings, mega-mansions, and everything in between. And the cool part is — despite the gate — anyone can live here!

After spending a delightful four years in a Park Slope brownstone on 6th Street just off the park, followed by an even more delightful seven years raising our new family in a large Queen Anne in Ditmas Park, I can honestly say THIS is Brooklyn’s best kept secret. (more…)

3030 West 32nd Street1

You can’t live closer to the Coney Island Boardwalk than this. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom condo at 3030 West 32nd Street is right on the boardwalk.

It has views of the beach, the boardwalk and the Atlantic Ocean. It’s also quite large at 1,500 square feet.

There are wood floors throughout, and it appears to get plenty of that beach light through the large windows and doors. This unit also has a balcony and a private roof deck. (more…)

2301 Neptune Ave, CI pumping station, Jim Henderson for Wiki

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Coney Island Pumping Station
Address: 2301 Neptune Avenue
Cross Streets: West 23rd Street and Bayview Avenue
Neighborhood: Coney Island
Year Built: 1938-39
Architectural Style: Moderne
Architect: Irwin S. Chanin
Other Buildings by Architect: Chanin Building, Century and Majestic apartment buildings, as well as Broadway theaters and Garment Center buildings, all Manhattan
Landmarked: No, but on National Register of Historic Places (1981)

The story: Way out on the northern side of Coney Island, the City of New York built a Pumping Station building for the Fire Department. The year was 1938, and the city was still awarding prominent city buildings to some of its most important architects of the day. The pumping station was necessary to maintain water pressure on this side of Coney Island, rather ironic considering that right behind it was the beginning of the inlet known as Coney Island Creek, part of the mighty Gravesend Bay.

The station is a one-story oblong building designed in the Moderne style of architecture, the beginnings of the American version of the sleek and modern International Style. This style was quite popular with Depression-era public buildings here in New York, and was hailed as an example of the new clean style of building that was replacing our dated reliance on Colonial Revival and other classical forms of public architecture. This was one of many government PWA (Public Works Projects) buildings constructed during the Great Depression. (more…)

3000 ocean parkway coney island 22015

Two 23-story rental buildings at the 1960s-era Trump Village in Coney Island have been completely gut renovated and rebranded and just hit the market. Rents start at $1,500 for studios, $1,650 for one-bedrooms and $2,332 for two-bedrooms. Many of the 880 apartments at the renamed Shorecrest Towers had been rent stabilized.

Andres Escobar handled the interior design. Now the apartments have stainless steel appliances, oak floors, high-gloss white lacquer cabinets and marble floors in the bathrooms. The lobbies, hallways, roof deck and lounge are also getting upgrades. is marketing the two towers at 2940 and 3000 Ocean Parkway.

Donald Trump’s father, Fred C. Trump, built the seven-building complex along the Coney Island waterfront in 1964, according to the Times. These two buildings on Ocean Parkway had always been rentals, and the other five consisted of affordable co-ops in the Mitchell-Lama program, where owners can now sell their apartments for big profits at market rates. Meanwhile, two blocks away on Neptune Avenue, the Trump Village shopping center connected to this development is slated to be replaced by a 40-story apartment tower, which locals strongly oppose.

Click through to see interior renderings. What do you think of the look, location and pricing?

Shorecrest Towers [Official] GMAP
Shorecrest Towers Listings []


Parachute Jump, SSpellen 3

Montrose is taking a much needed vacation this week. We hope you enjoy some of these older posts, beginning with an icon of summers past.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Parachute Jump
Address: Boardwalk at 16th Street
Cross Streets: In between Surf Avenue, Riegelmann Boardwalk, and 16th and 17th streets
Neighborhood: Coney Island
Year Built: 1939
Architectural Style: N/A
Architect: Invented by Commander James E. Strong, Architects for placement at CI – Michael Mario, Edwin W. Kleinert : Engineered by Elwyn E. Seelye & Co.
Landmarked: Yes, Individually landmarked in 1989

The story: When I first started collecting books about Brooklyn, it used to annoy me no end that much of my reading and research seemed to take the position that you got off the Brooklyn Bridge and there was the Coney Island of the Past. There seemed to be the implication that aside from the bridge, Coney Island and the Dodgers, there really wasn’t all that much else to write about. I had to go to Coney Island a couple of times, and really get into the history, as well as present day state of the place, to grow to appreciate the meeting of real estate, history, society and nostalgia that is Coney Island. And you can’t go there without seeing the Parachute Jump towering over the boardwalk. (more…)

coney island film festival

Tons of Brooklyn and New York City-themed films are screening at the Coney Island Film Festival this weekend, exploring topics from the history of the Thunderbolt to a 40-year-old pizza shop in Sunset Park. There will also be showings of horror movies, children’s films, experimental music videos and a documentary on the history of the drive-in movie. And of course, they’re screening the Warriors on Saturday and Sunday nights. You can also check out a live burlesque show and open bar on Friday night for $25 or attend individual screenings for $8. Head over to the Film Festival’s site to see the full schedule, which starts on Friday at 7:30 pm and runs through Sunday evening at 6 pm.

Photo via Coney Island Film Festival

coney island whip postcard

Green-Wood Cemetery will host an exhibit next month celebrating the life of William F. Mangels, the master mechanic and designer of several turn-of-the-century Coney Island rides, including The Whip, The Tickler, The Wave Pool, and The Human Roulette Wheel.

“William F. Mangels: Amusing the Masses on Coney Island and Beyond” will feature plenty of historical Coney Island artifacts, such as a Marcus Illions carousel horse, original sketches and vintage photos,  a 22-foot-long shooting gallery, a Whip car, a Pony Cart, a Speed Boat, and fire engines. The exhibit will open September 7 in Green-Wood’s chapel and run through October 26.

Image via Green-Wood Cemetery

coney island parachute jump sunset

Learn about Coney Island’s honky-tonk past and its present-day struggles to balance historic preservation and development on a walking tour organized by the Municipal Arts Society. Local historian and preservationist Joe Svehlak will lead the tour, which will happen this Saturday at 10:30 am. It will touch on the new Thunderbolt coaster, older amusement rides, and the memorials at MCU Park commemorating Jackie Robinson and 9/11. Tickets cost $20 or $15 for MAS members, and can be purchased here.

Photo by Michael Tapp

BBG, Neptune Ave, CI, Showroom,1933 MCNY 8

In 1944, Mary E. Dillon was appointed the head of the New York City Board of Education. She was still the President of the Brooklyn Borough Gas Company, Coney Island’s independent gas company since the late 1800s. Miss Dillon had been an employee of the company since 1903, and had risen through the ranks to become the first female president of the utility in 1926. She was the first female president of any utility in the world. She was well equipped for the job, and ran BBG for a total of 23 years. When tapped for the position at the Board of Ed, she was already a long-time member of her local School Board 39.

She still remained president of BBG when she took the position at 110 Livingston Street. Used to being a first, she was the first woman to head the NYC Board of Education, too. Not bad for a woman who had to leave Erasmus Hall High School in her senior year to go to work to support her family. She never graduated from high school, which never stopped her from achieving great heights.

Brooklyn Borough Gas was one of the last hold outs in the great consolidation of utilities. Brooklyn Union Gas, the borough’s giant, had long ago absorbed almost all of the other gas utility companies in Brooklyn and was still looking to grow. Mary and BBG withstood several offers from BBG and other utility giants to consolidate. There are advantages to being smaller, but there are also restrictions. BBG needed several rate hikes over the course of the mid-20th century, and none of them were well-received, especially during the Depression and the early years of World War II.

Under Mary Dillon’s leadership, they had a new headquarters built at 809 Neptune Avenue, at the corner of Shell Road, which was opened in 1930. It was a beautiful state of the art campus, stretched along a large plot of land, and included company offices, a showroom and demonstration laboratory, repair rooms, garages and utility buildings, and the huge gas tanks that stood behind it all. It was the most beautiful utility complex in New York City, and it belonged to little Brooklyn Borough Gas. (more…)

Brooklyn Boro Gas complex. 1933 MCNY 1

In March of 1926, Mary Estelle Dillon became the new President of the Brooklyn Borough Gas Company. She was the first woman in the world to head a utility company. From her office in Coney Island, she was running a five million dollar company with five hundred employees and a customer base of 170,000 residents of Coney Island, Gravesend, Sheepshead Bay and surrounding neighborhoods. Although the gas company had started back in the days of gas lights and coal stoves, Brooklyn Borough Gas had grown into a modern 20th century utility company, supplying gas to its customers for appliances and home heating.

Miss Dillon knew the gas business from top to bottom, and had really been running the day to day operations of the utility for years. She knew that gas may seem to be a man’s business, but it was used by women. Gas powered stoves and other appliances were the moneymakers for the company. Why not bring women into the gas company itself, by designing a headquarters and showroom where women could come in, examine and buy the latest gas-powered appliances, and learn new recipes and techniques in how to use them? She didn’t have to pitch this to anyone higher except the board of directors. They thought it was a great idea, and plans for a brand new headquarters for Brooklyn Borough Gas were put into motion in 1929, and the facility was completed in 1931.

The new facility was built near the old, on Neptune Avenue at Shell Road. The architects and engineers of the project were the Manhattan firm of Block & Hesse. They were quite busy in the 1920s and ‘30s, designing all kinds of commercial, residential and institutional projects throughout the city. The new facility had a business office where customers could pay bills, or speak to representatives. It had a laboratory for testing appliances, and a very spacious showroom where the newest appliances could be viewed and purchased. The “laboratory” was a huge test kitchen, where classes and demonstrations were given for not only stoves, but washers, dryers, fireplaces, heating stoves and other gas-fueled appliances. The company’s executive and business offices were here too. (more…)

Bklyn Boro Gas, 1933, Neptune Ave, MCNY

The Brooklyn Borough Gas Company out on Coney Island was the little utility that could. After the Civil War, local gas companies sprang up all across Brooklyn to service a growing population with gas for lighting, heat and other uses. As time passed, the stronger companies absorbed the weaker ones. By the end of the century, most of the remaining gas companies decided to join together to form Brooklyn Union Gas. But not Brooklyn Borough Gas. They were not owned locally, their majority stockholders were a group of men from Philadelphia, and were able to resist Brooklyn Union Gas’ influence.

The company carved out its niche on Coney Island, servicing the communities of Gravesend, Coney Island and Sheepshead Bay. They were content with that, and settled down to strengthen what they had. By 1903, they had a young lady working in the office as a junior clerk. She was the only woman working in any capacity at Brooklyn Borough Gas at that time. Her name was Mary E. Dillon, and she was 17 years old. She had taken her sister’s place in the company when her older sister quit to get married, and Mary didn’t know anything about gas. Her sister had been BBG’s first female employee. For more background, please read Chapter One of this story.

Mary Dillon had determination and she was smart. She spent the next few years taking on any task in the company they offered her, and through that, became both office manager and an expert in all areas of the ever evolving gas business. By 1912, she was assistant to the general manager. She remained in that position until he decided to leave the company in 1919. By then, it was obvious that 33 year old Mary Dillon was the right person to succeed him as general manager.

During the late ‘teens, Brooklyn Borough Gas was trying to expand within its territory. Electricity had made gas light obsolete, but had opened up new technologies for gas production and use. Of course, like any utility, in order for them to change and grow to serve more customers, they wanted a rate increase, and that was not going down well with customers or local officials. (more…)

BBG, Mary E. Dillon, Composite

Utility companies are one of the great constants in our lives. Very few of us live in a world where we don’t have to pay Con Edison, National Grid, or another supplier for electricity and gas. Today, natural gas is used primarily for appliances and heating, but throughout much of the 19th century, gas was THE utility, supplying light, heat and power.

As its use spread throughout the city of Brooklyn, gas companies were established to supply this increasingly necessary utility. Almost every neighborhood had its own gas company, with some neighborhoods served by competing carriers. Each had their own local gas plants, and their own lines which ran below the street and up into individual homes and businesses.

The competition, as you can imagine, was fierce. Everyone wanted to control their neighborhood completely and solely, and most of these companies were looking to expand into other neighborhoods and take them over as well. The more ambitious companies did just that, and by the end of the 19th century, Brooklyn had gone from many gas companies down to only a handful. In 1895, seven of them consolidated to form Brooklyn Union Gas. They reigned in Brooklyn as the largest gas utility until 1998, when Brooklyn Union Gas merged with the Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO) and became the Key Span Company.

Brooklyn Union Gas took over almost all of Brooklyn’s gas utility business. Almost, but not all. There was one holdout – a company that serviced far off Coney Island. This company was not power hungry, and didn’t want to take over other territory; it just wanted to be left alone to service Coney Island, the nearby beach communities and Gravesend. It was called the Brooklyn Borough Gas Company, and it had its headquarters and gas plant on Neptune Avenue in Coney Island. (more…)