Bergen Beach was developed as a modest-scale summer resort in comparison to neighboring Coney Island and Rockaway Beach. The coastal neighborhood has retained its relaxed feel, being composed of primarily large family homes, some with private docks on East Mill Basin.
The area was long a refuge for the Canarsee tribe and later fell within the Dutch town of Flatlands. In the 1850s, it appeared on maps as Bergen Island until around 1918 when the island was connected to the mainland as part of a landfill project.
Entrepreneurs Percy Williams and Thomas Adams Jr. were the first to develop the site with a resort to attract seafaring New Yorkers, but competition from Coney Island’s many attractions stifled their success.
A residential community was planned in 1925 but was never completed, leaving the land nearly untouched until the 1960s, around two decades after the completion of the nearby Belt Parkway.
Bergen Beach finally became a popular residential area in the late 1980s and early 1990s, giving home to mostly older residents that can sometimes be seen riding horses at the local stable.
How Bergen Beach Got Its Name
This neighborhood, along the shoreline of Jamaica Bay in southeast Brooklyn, once was an island inhabited by the Canarsie Indians before the arrival of any Europeans.
When the Dutch started settling the area in the 1600s, it was a Norwegian shipwright named Hans Hansen Bergen who bought farmland there, when it was within the town of Flatlands. Bergen — who also gave his name to Bergen St. — was the son-in-law of Joris Rapelje, the second husband of Sarah Rapelje, who is believed to be the first European female child born in the New World.
The area was then known as Bergen Island.
Descendants of Hans Hansen Bergen subsequently sold the land to entrepreneurs Percy Williams, a theater builder, and Thomas Adams Jr., of Chiclets chewing gum fame, who built an amusement part on the Bergen homestead and developed the area into a summer resort.
Around 1918, the island was connected to the mainland of Brooklyn by a landfill project, then developed to attract seaside vacationers. Its name changed to Bergen Beach and it became a popular residential area in the 1980s, well after the 1939 construction of the Belt Parkway which abuts the neighborhood.
Bergen Beach includes the smaller neighborhood of Georgetown, which was developed in the 1960s.
Boundaries of Bergen Beach are Ralph Ave. and Veterans Ave. on the west, Bergen Ave. on the east and north, and Avenue Y and East Mill Basin on the south.
Brooklyn-born Norm Goldstein is retired, after working 44 years for the Associated Press, the global news agency, where he served as a reporter, feature writer, editor, author and administrator. He also worked for AP as director of Educational Services and editor of the AP Stylebook.
He graduated from Brooklyn College and the Penn State Graduate School of Journalism.
He currently lives in Brooklyn Heights.