Sea Gate Brooklyn NY
Makes Progress from Superstorm Sandy Damages
by Harold Egeln, Jr.
Historic for being the city’s first private gated-community and home to the famous Coney Island Lighthouse, Sea Gate, with about 5,000 middle class residents in one and two family homes, is recovering in steps after super Hurricane Sandy damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes, sea wall fences and beaches in late October 2012, amounting to $45-million in damages.
In September 2014, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a $2.8-million plan to rebuild the Sea Gate Lundy Gate bulkheads that Sandy damaged. “Advancing the project will help Sea Gate and Coney Island continue to recover from the storm and help to defend against ones in the future,” Cuomo said in his statement.
Armed with a $25-million plan provided through the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a “Navy Sea Wall” plan. Strong timber piles will be placed along the affected beaches, with timber piles rising 10 feet above the ground and 15 feet under the ground. Much of the damaged fences and piles remain on the beachfront.
Previously, not long before Sandy struck, the federal government secured $130-million in funds for beach sand replenishment and protection. The work in the gated community that was founded in 1892 by Alrick Man on the site of the Norton’s Point Casino and incorporated in 1899, all comes from the direction set by the Mayor’s Resiliency Plan to accomplish that goal.
Sea Gate, dominated by Victoria Era-type houses, has its own police and police station, which was damaged by the storm, and home owners pay dues to the Sea Gate Association that help maintain the community. Former Community Board 11 District Manager Howard Feuer was a longtime resident and moved out a few years before Sandy.
For eight weeks after Sandy struck, Sea Gate was without electricity and gas. Repairs on roads have been slow, but the light at the end of tunnel of trouble is getting brighter with a long way to go, according to media reports within the past year.
According the Trulia real estate website, 83 homes are currently for sale. The Sea Gate Association (SGA) real estate firm, at 3700 Surf Avenue and West 37th Street, manages the property. The new SGA community manager is Joanna Croe, who succeeded Tami Maldonado, and the SGA president is David Wayne.
The median age of residents is about 38 years and the median income was $41,660 as of the 2000 U.S. Census. Among several famous residents were Met Opera singer Beverly Sills, Isaac Bashevis Singer and the late NYS Governor Al Smith, according to Wikipedia, and actor George Reenes, famous for his star role in the 1950’s “The Adventures of Superman” TV series lived for one summer at Sea Gate.
Sea Gate, sometimes referred to as “Hampton’s West,” has a Sea Gate Garden Club and Beach Club, two parks, and was home to the Atlantic Yacht Club until it burned down in 1933.
THE SEA GATE LIGHTHOUSE AS A MUSEUM?
The 75-foot Sea Gate Lighthouse, opened in 1890 on Norton’s Point at the west end of Sea Gate during Sandy had sea water pounding its base and its companion house, once home to the light station’s families, that latest which was the Schubert family.
Frank Schubert was the last lighthouse keeper, and he passed away in 2003 at age 88, 14 years after the lighthouse was automated in 1989. Shortly after his death, his son said, “The pipes in the (light station’s) house froze over in the winter, and the house was flooded and damaged. Eventually the Sea Gate Association did start to fix up the house and it is actually in much better condition now. When Sandy hit, the house was luckily not really damaged except for the outside.”
The first lighthouse keeper was Thomas Higgenbotham from 1890 to 1910, and the Adrien Bousvert with a family of seven children was keeper in the1940’s and 1950’s. Frank Schubert, who lived 65 years in Sea Gate, was keeper from 1960 until his death in 2003, and he was known as “the last of the country’s civilian lighthouse keepers” and was featured in National Geographic magazine in 1986.
A video was made in 2014 about him by Columbia University journalism school students – “The Last Lighthouse Keeper of Coney Island” and it can be seen on Scott Schubert’s Lighthouse website at www.coneyislandlightstation.com.
“Since it is the lighthouse of Brooklyn, and because of the rich history of Coney Island and New York City’s maritime history, I think it would be amazing if we could turn the lighthouse into a museum,” said Scott Schubert, and the Coney Island History Project Executive Director Charles Denson concurs.
That would shed even more bright light on historic Sea Gate and its valuable land, on the rebound to full recovery from Sandy.