As the less rowdy sister to Coney Island, Brighton Beach was designed with families in mind.
The sea-faring neighborhood was originally part of the English town of Gravesend. The area was used primarily as farmland until the development of restaurants and hotels in Coney Island in the 1820s drew in vacationers. Developers soon recognized Brighton Beach’s real estate potential.
Its first development came from William A. Engeman, who wanted to build the neighborhood’s first pier, a hotel and a bath house on the beach. Crowds of Brooklyn family vacationers flocked to the area after the completion of the Ocean Hotel in 1873 and construction of Ocean Parkway three years later.
Brighton Beach later featured amusements like a giant rollercoaster and a carousel, whose building still stands today. With nearby Coney Island as the amusement capital of Brooklyn, Brighton Beach began to seem more attractive as year-round residence to immigrants and New Yorkers from more crowded neighborhoods.
Thus, developers built more than 30 six-story apartment buildings to compensate and by the 1930s, Brighton Beach was a year-round residential area.
Its heavy Russian community, today the largest in Brooklyn, came about in the 1970s when the Soviet Union eased immigration policies, leaving many young Russians eager to leave their mark on New York.