Friday, August 20, 2010


Is Sea Gate the only gated community in New York? The policeman (or more accurately, the private security guard) who wouldn't let us in to see it said that it was. But surely there are some on Staten Island, right? Googling around, there are references to it being the "first" gated community, the "oldest" gated community, and the "largest" gated community: all of these adjectives imply that there are or will be others.

A New York Observer article makes the case that Manhattan's new luxury rentals--"clean, secure, exclusive (but not out of reach), and outfitted with amenities like grill stations, manicured rooftop lawns, and foosball tables"--are New York City's gated communities. Others have argued that there is no real difference between a gated community and a coop (especially a coop with strict coop boards, as you are likely to find on Park Avenue). Gramercy Park is private and gated: does it count?

Here's what we can piece together: outside of Staten Island, New York City has four "real" gated communities: Sea Gate, Breezy Point, Edgewater Park, and Silver Beach Gardens. Sea Gate is indeed the oldest: its gates went up in 1898. All four are "coop communities:" communities in which residents own their homes but lease the land from owners’ collectives (owners pay a monthly maintenance fee for streets, common areas, and, in these cases, beaches). All four are also (surprise) very white. A recent Architect's Newspaper story on the topic notes that in 2000, 75 percent of Sea Gate are white, 7.4 percent are black and 9.4 percent Hispanic. "In Breezy Point more than 99 percent of the residents are white. In Edgewater Park and Silver Beach Gardens, white residents make up 82 percent of residents. The neighborhood is 12 percent Hispanic, but only 1 percent black."

We visited Sea Gate (or anyway, Sea Gate's perimeter) on a very warm, sunny, August Sunday, when, presumably, the guards are on high alert from insurgent sunbathers. We were surprised at how militaristic it looked and felt

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