Sheepshead Bay/Manhattan Beach (Brooklyn by the Sea: Part 1)

Cross the slatted wooden footbridge that spans Sheepshead Bay and enter Brooklyn’s most picturesque quarter. (Some call it the Brooklyn Riviera.) The bay is a concrete rectangle, a man-made concoction, but there’s a storybook aura here, with swans and ducks and gulls and pigeons galore (and more bird shit—some of it in mounds, mixed with pieces of mollusk shells—than you’ve ever seen in one place, spread like a patina over the concrete piers and bulkheads.)

Stroll through Holocaust Memorial Park in Manhattan Beach, then down Oriental Boulevard to the beach, where on hot days the adjacent park is dense with picnickers and you can almost float out to sea on clouds of fragrant smoke wafting up from the assemblage of grills. Then head over to scenic Kingsborough Community College, where another, more private beach reminds you of some place far from Brooklyn, maybe down south or across the country. Walk the campus perimeter, hugging the shore, passing shoals and seaweed, even a lighthouse (which doubles as an academic building).

Walk up Shore Boulevard, a long stretch of nouveau riche temples, and back across the footbridge. Then walk down Emmons Avenue, where the fishing boat touts beckon with blunt offers of ocean excursions: “All night blues, porgies, bass . . . Half-a-day or all the way.” No poetry from them (that last one’s mine), or nautical lore. And the Randazzo’s waitresses are hardbitten too: What’ll it be hon, please eat and run . . . to the train back to elsewhere, someplace more accommodating, but certainly less picturesque.

SLIDESHOW – Brooklyn by the Sea (Flickr)