The neighborhood is named after a bay that separates mainland Brooklyn from the eastern portion of Coney Island, which was originally one of the Outer Barrier islands but is now a peninsula. The mouth of the bay is about 1.0 mile (1.6 km) southwest of Marine Park.
The name "Sheepshead Bay" applies to the neighborhood north of the bay as well as the bay itself. Sheepshead Bay was named for the sheepshead, an edible fish found in the bay's waters.:183 Originally an extension of the town of Gravesend to the west, Sheepshead Bay was a secluded fishing and farming community until the 1840s, when residents of Brooklyn and Manhattan were drawn to the community as a summer destination. Hunters and fishermen started coming to Sheepshead Bay and various restaurants and hotels were erected.:184:2
Sheepshead Bay's allure as a fishing destination was further helped by the opening of Ocean Avenue in 1876 and the extension of the Long Island Rail Road's Manhattan Beach Branch in 1877-1878, which brought visitors both to the community of Sheepshead Bay and to the Manhattan Beach resort across the bay. The first of the community's farms was split up into several lots for residential development in 1877.:2 Three years later the Sheepshead Bay Race Track opened in the neighborhood, bringing even more visitors during the spring and fall. Near the racecourse, racing investor William Collins Whitney constructed a raining track.:2 A "Millionaire's Row" was built on Emmons Avenue east of East 27th Street, while socialites tended to go to restaurants such as Tappan's.:2
The track would continue to operate as a horse-racing course until 1910 when horse betting was criminalized in New York state.:2 Afterward it operated as an auto racing track from 1915 to 1919.:2 The decline of the Sheepshead Bay Race Track, along with the construction of amusement parks at nearby Coney Island and the proximity of Coney Island's attractions to the newly built subway, led to the decline of Sheepshead Bay as a tourist destination. Passenger rail service on the Manhattan Beach Branch ceased in 1924, and the line was formally abandoned in 1937. The former race track site was subdivided for the construction of housing, and Millionaire's Row was soon lined with bungalows. The closure of the race track resulted in a plethora of newly vacant plots in the community of Sheepshead Bay, and by extension, an influx of residents.:2
Filling of creek and waterfront development
Sheepshead Bay, facing east
The bay itself was originally the easterly entrance to Coney Island Creek, which was 3 miles (4.8 km) long and minimally navigable through the 20th century. A map from 1898 shows that numerous inlets protruded from the bay into the community. From the late 19th century through the early 20th century there were plans to turn the creek into the Gravesend Ship Canal. The plan including re-dredging the creek into a canal running in a straight east-west line and filling all the marsh land either side of the creek to expand the urban grid to the edge of the canal. However, this never happened.
With the development of the Sheepshead Bay community into a residential neighborhood, there were efforts to improve the facilities on the waterfront. The channel of the Sheepshead Bay waterway was dredged by 1916 to allow fishing boats to dock there; previously these craft had to dock at Canarsie.:2 In 1922 the New York City Dock Commission proposed to dredge the bays further, build bulkheads on the shore, and widen Emmons Avenue on the waterfront from 80 to 120 feet (24 to 37 m). 25 piers would be built on the south side of Emmons Avenue while 26 buildings, including a new Lundy's Restaurant location, would be built on the north side.:2 Residents expressed concerns that the bay might become a commercial shipping port, and local fishermen opposed the city's plan to establish a fish market there. A compromise to use Sheepshead Bay only for private and charter boats was reached in 1929,:2 and the city built several piers at an angle from the bulkhead to prevent trucks from loading onto these piers.
In 1931, the city condemned several buildings on the bay shore, including the original Lundy's Restaurant, to widen Emmons Avenue. The Great Depression delayed further progress, as these buildings would not be destroyed until mid-1934, and construction started on new buildings on Emmons Avenue's northern sidewalk.:3 At that point a newspaper article noted that Emmons Avenue had been "transformed by attractive looking restaurants and stores." In 1936, the city and the owners of the condemned buildings reached a monetary settlement, and by the following year, the channel had been dredged and ten docks had been constructed. The filling-in of the central part of the Coney Island during the 1930s, in conjunction with construction of the Shore Parkway portion of the Belt Parkway. Shore Parkway opened in 1941, and soon afterward, the last remaining farms in Sheepshead Bay were redeveloped into residential buildings.
Sheepshead Bay became populated by Jewish and Soviet immigrants during the late 20th century, similar to neighboring Brighton Beach. In 1978, in one of the largest disasters in Sheepshead Bay's modern history, six firefighters were killed while fighting a Waldbaum's supermarket fire. Sheepshead Bay did not undergo the white flight and high crime that afflicted other New York City neighborhoods. Lundy's closed in 1979, resulting in the closure of retail on Emmons Avenue. After the closure of Lundy's, Sheepshead Bay transformed from a predominantly Irish and Italian enclave into a more racially diverse neighborhood, and the population became increasingly elderly. Recreational fishing along the bay also started to decline in the surrounding community. In the 1970s, the city created a maritime zoning district on Emmons Avenue to promote waterfront development.
In the last decade of the 20th century, a real estate boom brought the reopening of Lundy's Restaurant, which was made a city landmark in 1992. Furthermore, Loehmann's proposed a store in Sheepshead Bay in 1993, the first major development in the area in several years, though the city rejected initial plans for the development after community opposition. After another proposal for a Loehmann's shopping center was rejected, Mayor Rudy Giuliani's administration approved a smaller version of the shopping center in the late 1990s. Meanwhile, the reopening of Lundy's in 1995 spurred a wave of development on Emmons Avenue. By March 1996, property owners reported that real estate prices had doubled and that vacant apartments were being occupied. With new development, housing prices in the area increased sharply, and there were concerns about a dearth of parking, since the new developments had collectively resulted in the removal of 2,000 parking spots in Sheepshead Bay.
Lundy's closed again in 2007; a shopping center now takes its place. Soviet-style restaurants/nightclubs, such as Paradise and Baku Palace, have opened along the waterfront. Sheepshead Bay has also experienced a growth of condominium developments, and on Emmons Avenue, the northern shoreline street along the bay, are piers boasting an active seafood market and tour boats.
Sheepshead Bay is mostly residential. Low-density, one-and-two-family attached and semi-attached houses are common near the western and eastern edges of the neighborhood. Higher-density condominiums and co-ops are more common near Ocean Avenue, at the center of the neighborhood.
Many homes like this were built in the 1920s
Based on data from the 2010 United States Census, the population of Sheepshead Bay was 64,518, a change of -78 (-0.1%) from the 64,596 counted in 2000. Covering an area of 1,459.24 acres (590.53 ha), the neighborhood had a population density of 44.2 inhabitants per acre (28,300/sq mi; 10,900/km2).
The entirety of Community Board 15, which comprises Sheepshead Bay, had 173,961 inhabitants as of NYC Health's 2018 Community Health Profile, with an average life expectancy of 83.7 years.:2, 20 This is higher than the median life expectancy of 81.2 for all New York City neighborhoods.:53 (PDF p. 84) Most inhabitants are middle-aged adults and youth: 21% are between the ages of 0–17, 28% between 25–44, and 26% between 45–64. The ratio of college-aged and elderly residents was lower, at 8% and 17% respectively.:2
As of 2016, the median household income in Community Board 15 was $61,274. In 2018, an estimated 19% of Sheepshead Bay residents lived in poverty, compared to 21% in all of Brooklyn and 20% in all of New York City. One in twelve residents (8%) were unemployed, compared to 9% in the rest of both Brooklyn and New York City. Rent burden, or the percentage of residents who have difficulty paying their rent, is 53% in Sheepshead Bay, slightly higher than the citywide and boroughwide rates of 52% and 51% respectively. Based on this calculation, as of 2018[update], Sheepshead Bay is considered to be high-income relative to the rest of the city and not gentrifying.:7
Sheepshead Bay is patrolled by the 61st Precinct of the NYPD, located at 2575 Coney Island Avenue.
The 61st Precinct ranked 5th safest out of 69 patrol areas for per-capita crime in 2010. With a non-fatal assault rate of 22 per 100,000 people, Sheepshead Bay's rate of violent crimes per capita is less than that of the city as a whole. The incarceration rate of 200 per 100,000 people is lower than that of the city as a whole.:8
The 61st Precinct has a lower crime rate than in the 1990s, with crimes across all categories having decreased by 88.2% between 1990 and 2018. The precinct saw 1 murder, 17 rapes, 150 robberies, 170 felony assaults, 169 burglaries, 584 grand larcenies, and 72 grand larcenies auto in 2018.
Engine Co. 246/Ladder Co. 169 – 2732 East 11th Street
Engine Co. 321/Foam 321/Brush Fire Unit 6 – 2165 Gerritsen Avenue
Preterm and teenage births are less common in Sheepshead Bay than in other places citywide. In Sheepshead Bay, there were 66 preterm births per 1,000 live births (compared to 87 per 1,000 citywide), and 12.4 teenage births per 1,000 live births (compared to 19.3 per 1,000 citywide).:11 Sheepshead Bay has a relatively high population of residents who are uninsured, or who receive healthcare through Medicaid. In 2018, this population of uninsured residents was estimated to be 4%, which is lower than the citywide rate of 12%.:14
The concentration of fine particulate matter, the deadliest type of air pollutant, in Sheepshead Bay is 0.0068 milligrams per cubic metre (6.8×10−9 oz/cu ft), lower than the citywide and boroughwide averages.:9 Seventeen percent of Sheepshead Bay residents are smokers, which is slightly higher than the city average of 14% of residents being smokers.:13 In Sheepshead Bay, 26% of residents are obese, 9% are diabetic, and 25% have high blood pressure—compared to the citywide averages of 24%, 11%, and 28% respectively.:16 In addition, 17% of children are obese, compared to the citywide average of 20%.:12
Ninety-three percent of residents eat some fruits and vegetables every day, which is higher than the city's average of 87%. In 2018, 70% of residents described their health as "good," "very good," or "excellent," less than the city's average of 78%.:13 For every supermarket in Sheepshead Bay, there are 25 bodegas.:10
Sheepshead Bay is covered by ZIP Codes 11229 north of Avenue X and 11235 south of Avenue X. The United States Post Office operates four locations nearby: the Bay Station at 2628 East 18th Street, the Homecrest Station at 2370 East 19th Street, a second Homecrest Station at 2302 Avenue U, and the Nostrand Station at 2934 Avenue X.
Sheepshead Bay generally has a higher ratio of college-educated residents than the rest of the city. A plurality of residents (47%) have a college education or higher, while 15% have less than a high school education and 38% are high school graduates or have some college education. By contrast, 40% of Brooklynites and 38% of city residents have a college education or higher.:6 The percentage of Sheepshead Bay students excelling in math rose from 49 percent in 2000 to 66 percent in 2011, but reading achievement dropped from 54% to 52% during the same time period.
Sheepshead Bay's rate of elementary school student absenteeism is about equal to the rest of New York City. In Sheepshead Bay, 16% of elementary school students missed twenty or more days per school year, less than the citywide average of 20%.:24 (PDF p. 55):6 Additionally, 82% of high school students in Sheepshead Bay graduate on time, more than the citywide average of 75%.:6
The Brooklyn Public Library has two branches in Sheepshead Bay. The Sheepshead Bay branch is located at 2636 East 14th Street, near Avenue Z. The branch has occupied four buildings since it was founded in 1903. The current 7,475-square-foot (694.5 m2) building opened in 1963.
The Kings Bay branch is located at 3650 Nostrand Avenue between Avenues W and X. It opened in 1951, and has occupied its current location since 1959.
The main shopping and business thoroughfares are Emmons Avenue, Sheepshead Bay Road, Ocean Avenue, and Nostrand Avenue. Emmons Avenue is at the west end of the Shore Greenway which lies between Shore Parkway and Jamaica Bay, connecting eastward and northward to Canarsie and Cross Bay Boulevard. Emmons Avenue is a waterfront road with piers from which yachts and boats offer day trips for fishing and dancing.
^Segal, David. "A Bully Finds a Pulpit on the Web", The New York Times, November 26, 2010. Accessed July 26, 2016. "Vitaly Borker lives in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood of Brooklyn, in a large brick house. His welcome mat is emblazoned with a Russian phrase that roughly translates to 'go away.'"
^Wilson, Michael. "Reed Coleman Writes of Crime and Brooklyn", The New York Times, May 15, 2006. Accessed September 10, 2019. "The name of the bank has changed, as with most of this block of Jerome Avenue in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. But it's still a bank, and the building next door is still a post office, and Reed Farrel Coleman can still hear the gunshot and see the man lying there in the street more than 30 years later."
^Leibowitz, Howard B. "Q-104’S Ken Dashow: Keeping It Real After All These Years", Brooklyn Roads, December 5, 2014. Accessed September 10, 2019. "Growing up in a music-loving household in Sheepshead Bay helped set the stage for Ken Dashow’s future as one of New York radio’s most enduring and popular deejays."
^Meglin, Nick. "Frank Frazetta at Bat", American Artist, May 1976, Vol. 40 Issue 406, p. 38., Watson-Guptill Publications. Accessed July 26, 2016. "Frazetta was born and raised in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn, and displayed great natural ability in both drawing and athletics at a very early age."
^Garland Jeffreys - Biography, Billboard (magazine). Accessed August 3, 2016. "Jeffreys was born in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn, New York in 1944. Of African-American, Puerto Rican, and European heritage, he was raised in a multi-cultural household and a neighborhood that was not always accepting of his family's racial diversity."
^Mead, Rebecca. "Mr. Brooklyn; Marty Markowitz-the man, the plan, the arena.", The New Yorker, April 25, 2005. Accessed August 3, 2016. "Markowitz was one of those Brooklyn children who rarely went to Manhattan: he grew up in Crown Heights, where his father worked as a waiter in a kosher delicatessen; his main entertainment was hanging out on the streets with other kids. His father died when he was nine, and several years later Markowitz's widowed mother moved to public housing in Sheepshead Bay with Marty and his two younger sisters."
^Lippert, Barbara. "Punchin' Judy", New York (magazine), June 15, 1998. Accessed September 10, 2019. "It’s a patho-litigious world out there, and now we have our very own legal mascot: Judge Judy. An unlikely TV star at 55, Judith Sheindlin, née Judy Blum of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, is the tart-tongued, bouffant-headed fury whose show is now tied for No. 1 in the ratings with Oprah."
^Eligon, John. "A Case That Will Test a Lawyer’s Bond With the Police", The New York Times, January 11, 2009. Accessed September 10, 2019. "Joseph Tacopina, a former prosecutor from Brooklyn, was the legal voice in the courtroom; the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association was the ever-present voice of unconditional support for its officers.... He grew up in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, the son of Italian immigrants."
^Wilkinson, Tony. "Bob Thiele", Black Cat Rockanilly. Accessed September 10, 2019. "Born in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn in the roaring twenties, he became attracted to the glamour of the entertainment industry when in 1935, his father took him along on a business trip to Los Angeles and he became acquainted with the Hollywood life style."