Population: 117,971 people; population density 38,031 people per square mile (Brooklyn-wide: 34,917 people per square mile)
Adjacent Neighborhoods: Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, Midwood, Brighton Beach, Sheepshead Bay, Coney Island
Public Transit: F (Avenue P, Kings Hwy, Avenue U, Avenue X), N (Kings Hwy, Avenue U, 86 St.), D (25 Av., Bay 50 St.)
What’s Here?: With Coney Island, Bensonhurst, and Sheepshead Bay for neighbors, lesser-known Gravesend is a residential community with several lively commercial streets and some of the best subway access in this part of Brooklyn. Once a neighborhood of Italian, Irish, and Jewish enclaves, it’s now home to tight-knit communities of Chinese, Mexican, Russian, and Sephardic Jewish immigrants; you’ll find all of these groups represented in the neighborhood’s cultural and culinary offerings. Take a walk down tree-lined Ocean Parkway (designed by Frederick Law Olmsted), then sample the Italian specialties at the bakeries and salumerias on Avenue U. While the population of Gravesend is vibrant and evolving, this neighborhood also retains much of its storied history; some of the city’s oldest houses can be found here, and Old Gravesend Cemetery is the oldest surviving burial ground in the city.
Flat or Tall?: The residential streets of Gravesend are mostly lined with elegant single-family homes, while you’ll find brick apartment buildings and a growing number of condominiums on the commercial thoroughfares. Gravesend is also the site of some truly lavish brick-and-stucco houses, and the prices for such properties on the coveted blocks near the synagogue have skyrocketed in recent years, thanks to demand among the neighborhood’s Sephardic Jewish community; in 2012, one house was listed for $14 million, and homes in this section of Gravesend routinely sell for upwards of $4 million.
History: Gravesend is one of Brooklyn’s oldest settlements, one of the six original towns that comprised Kings County. It was founded in 1643 by Lady Deborah Moody-the colonies’ very first female landholder. For centuries it remained a sleepy settlement, until a trio of racetracks opened in the late-nineteenth century, transforming it briefly into a bustling resort town before the tracks closed their doors a few decades later.
Activities: Shopping, dining, waterfront strolls.
Check it out: Take a tour of Old Gravesend Cemetery, where Lady Moody is said to be buried beneath an unmarked gravestone, then walk down to Calvert Vaux Park (named for the co-designer of Central Park, who drowned in Gravesend Bay) with its baseball diamonds, playground, and bocce courts. From there, stroll to Coney Island and take in the sites and sounds of the boardwalk.