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What is real Brighton Beach: a dream district within a huge metropolis

It is unusually interesting to read the reviews of Russian tourists about Brighton Beach. Without a doubt, almost none of them even guess what the spectacle is actually opening up before them. The main thing is that they are completely unaware that they are dealing not with wondrous exoticism, but, on the contrary, with the most typical corner of America. Because in America there is a mass ethnic zones with no less colorful originality. And how could they not be, because all peoples rushed and are rushing to America. This is and will be the Promised Land, and Brighton Beach is only a small part of it.

Photo: Shutterstock

Of course, there are some differences. For example, statistics show that among all immigrants, the number of returnees to their homelands averages 15–25%. That is, people openly come to earn money, and then Home Sweet Home. However, only a negligible part of those who returned returned to the Soviet Union or Russia. Moreover, the process emigration from most post-Soviet countries is only gaining strength. However, only in Russia did the contemptuous concept of “sausage emigration” gain a foothold for compatriots.

Do you know why America became a great country? Thanks to the initial phrase of the Declaration of Independence: “Everyone has the right to life, freedom and the achievement of personal happiness” (literally translated - even to “pursue” personal happiness). The above means that, without any false pathos, a person has the primary right to a dignified life for himself and his family. Everything else - even the homeland and patriotism - is all later.

And Brighton really can provide the full-blooded, and not just well-fed lives of its inhabitants.

It's funny to read reviews from tourists from Russia.

“People walk around the street in clothes reminiscent of the clothes that were under the Soviet Union, a mat is clearly heard, and there are a lot of gray displeased faces around”

“Time froze here, people are stuck in the past. It all looks depressing. Unsmiling people in Chinese consumer goods. ”

“The place makes you sad. Everything is very miserable and ugly. ”

“That's where the scoop left from our country.”

And at the same time, completely different reviews.

“I like the atmospheric place.”

“The place is very nice, it touches me. Grannies with styling and tattooing in expensive sunglasses. ”

“I do not agree with negative reviews. There is a special atmosphere of happiness, peace and prosperity. We walked awesomely along the ocean, admired the endless beaches and imagined how cool it is in the summer months! Then you immediately feel that you are at the resort. And free wifi. Be sure to visit another New York and take photos at local stores. Even across the ocean they are lower than our Auchanovskys. ”

Why are the reviews so different? The fact is that Brighton Beach is not only a geographic concept. It is also a symbol, sign, ideologeme, as it is fashionable to say now. By and large, this is a mirror. And the "scoops" in many respects consist of those tourists who come from that huge "scoop", which has not gone anywhere, it remained in the same place. And people see what is in them, they, poor fellows, are not at all aware of their wretched arrogance and arrogance (of imperial origin, of course).

To this is added a very funny confusion. It is on Brighton that the mass of visitors from the post-Soviet space is concentrated in order to earn money. They are illegal because they have no right to work. But heavy black unskilled labor is paid incomparably better here than even the work of professionals at home.

They save on everything in order to provide for themselves and their loved ones in the homeland for a long time. So they walk in Chinese consumer goods, and the expressions of their faces are not at all joyful. And that they populate the numerous eerie hostels of Brighton Beach Avenue.

Here is another reason for the “unsightly” street. Some tourists are not impressed by the stretch of Avenue somewhere from the first to the tenth crossing streets. In contrast to the streets crossing and leading to the ocean, it is here, on the Avenue, that those old 2-storey houses are located, where on the first floors there is a continuous strip of various businesses, and on the second there are the same hostels or other businesses.

Art Deco home on Brighton Beach Avenue. Author photo

At the same time, the majority of Brighton businesses are very, very successful, which is simply conclusive evidence of the overwhelming cost of commercial rents. It is here that the eternal cycle of people and ideas of an extremely active Russian-speaking community takes place. What is the greatest success of our immigration in America.

Once I fell into the hands of the number of the reputable Wall Street Journal for 1984 or 1985. An article summarizing the centuries-old experience of immigration to America was posted there. The conclusion was striking: it turns out that the diaspora from the Soviet Union was already the most successful. This was explained by the fact that our community was already self-sufficient then, and social dependency manifested itself in us much less than in other communities.

Translated into everyday language, it simply meant achieving prosperity, even prosperity. This can be seen by moving further along Brighton Beach Avenue in the direction of increasing numbers. After crossing the glorious Coney Island Avenue, “High” or “Noble” Brighton begins. Immediately overlooking an impressive colony of 17 modern elite buildings of the Oshean condominium.

Oceanana is a complex of 17 high-rise buildings on Brighton Beach Avenue - Boardwalk. Photo by the author

Then there are two high-rise prestigious buildings of the Sixcost Towers, then various cooperatives in the eye-pleasing Art Deco style (spacious rooms, high ceilings) follow, and, finally, all this turns on the one side into Corbin Place, and on the other - into the brilliant super-elite neighborhoods of Manhattan Beach.

Two houses of the Seacoast Towers cooperative. 92% of Russian speakers. Author photo

Photo by the author

Photo by the author

The long Corbyn Place with rows of cozy private houses was named after the wealthy landowner August Corbyn, who lived a century and a half ago (just at the time of the intensive settlement of South Brooklyn). Recently, a scandal erupted: it turned out that this type protested and resisted the settlement of Jews here. We decided not to change the usual name, but officially consider that we are talking about another historical figure - Margaret Corbin, the heroine of the War of Independence. Political correctness, however.

On the other side of Brighton begins the main highway of the Manhattan Beach - Oriental Boulevard. Strictly perpendicularly it is crossed by streets, completing with one of the best places already on the scale of all of New York.

Very wealthy people live here in their luxurious villas and cottages. Among them, there are extremely many of the same representatives of our community. And yes, here at every step there are architectural, if not masterpieces, then at least the most beautiful examples of different styles and their different combinations. Amazingly, genuine palaces are also found. Everyone knows that they belong to our nouveau riche or, if you want, outstanding talents who have achieved everything, of course, solely thanks to their own dedicated work.

Manhattan Beach is picturesquely bordered by the narrow and long ocean Sheep's Head Bay. This historical name has passed to another fashionable area - Sheepshead Bay, which is also a natural and closest continuation of Brighton Beach.

Here, the romance of the sea is clearly felt: along the long row of piers, a variety of vessels moor. They are intended for fishing lovers, for walks in the ocean and flowing rivers, for family celebrations, etc. In the evenings, you can buy the freshest fish right here from the fishermen, they will also clean it for you. And the coast here consists of expensive condos and excellent restaurants that serve seafood from a daily catch.

Very good local views: straight Mediterranean panorama, Cote d'Azur. Naturally, housing here is expensive, but ours cope. It is so beautiful here that even a large flock of swans in the bay does not fly away for the winter.

Unlike beautiful swans, many of us migrate to the south for the winter. Senior citizens, of course. They get so many benefits, "benefits", benefits (sometimes, moreover, without even working for a day in America) that it is quite accessible to them. A significant number of Brightonites, and not only the elderly, have their second apartment in Miami, where they fly all year.

Actually, there is no great need for this: the climate in New York is mild, the city is located at the latitude of Sochi, Tashkent, Nice - even a little to the south. You can swim in the ocean for three months for sure. Beautiful clean beach - it is interesting to watch how late in the evening a cavalcade of cleaning combines move along the beach, resembling ... ships of the desert.

Another advantage of the Brighton beach, which is extremely rare for the ocean coasts, is the almost complete absence of waves - this place is, as it were, closed on three sides. And the water is so clear that on the edge of the beach fishermen gather to drive off bathers.

A little further down the coast along the mouth of the river, which flows into the ocean, are private houses in the Mill Basin zone, where the owners' yachts are moored directly to the flooring of the houses, you can fish from the same flooring without leaving the house.

Generally speaking, small yachts are quite affordable, comparable in cost to an average car.

And now let's return to Brighton and walk along the embankment - "Boardwalk". Oh, how beautiful this genuine pearl is! Where else in the vastness of a gigantic big city can you breathe so well, no, drink the air saturated with the freshness of the sea breeze. And this is not a poetic image - it has long been proven that the number of negative ions beneficial to health decreases exponentially with distance from the coastline in an arithmetic progression. Can you imagine what advantages the Brightonians have over even the Manhattan snobs? ..

Retirement home on Boardwalk. Author photo

But this is not the main advantage of the “Boardwalk”, far from it. Its value is that here you can meet friends, chat with friends, sit in a cafe, ride a bike, roller skates, scooters, admire our wonderful kids.

A definition has long been found for all this - “the luxury of human communication”. Yes, we are most interested in communicating with our own. There is nothing unusual here. All peoples in America communicate very closely with their own. At the same time, most Brightonians work in American enterprises and institutions, make friends with Americans, marry them and even more often in romantic relationships.

But America is great in that we can enjoy American well-being here, while preserving our everyday and high culture. This unique opportunity delights and makes our life complete, comfortable, eliminates depression and all sorts of complexes. There are clubs with interest groups, such as Shorfront, their own theater and concert hall, Master Theater. There were meetings with E. Ryazanov, V. Voinovich; the entire troupe of the “Theater of the Modern Play” presented its wonderful version of “The Seagull”. And more than three thousand pupils passed through the Brighton Ballet Theater. On the already mentioned Corbin Place, the house of the brilliant Konstantin Kuzminsky (compiler of the 9-volume “Anthology of Contemporary Russian Poetry”; he is also the guru of the famous St. Petersburg Mitki) was preserved, there was an extensive hall in the basement, where cultural life was in full swing.

Photo by the author

Here is such a "soviet ghetto"! And all this is an expression of love for Russian culture. Do Russian tourists really not appreciate their own culture ?!

To what extent New York is respectful of cultures other than English, this example shows: a few years ago American parents from the city department of education came to the parent meeting of one of the local schools. They began to convince the parents of Russian children to send them to bilingual classes so that they would not forget their native language.

How different this is from what was in the Soviet Union. Here is an indirect, but very indicative example: right up to Perestroika, the only point of culture of the vast Ukrainian diaspora in Moscow was a tattered Ukrainian book store. And that’s it.

For the sake of completing the cultural review of the Brighton, we will return to Boardwalk and proceed in the opposite direction from the “high” Brighton. After a series of tall buildings with heavily subsidized housing (mainly for our seniors), we will approach the huge building of the New York Aquarium (the oldest in the United States, occupies 6 hectares), recently expanded and improved. Immediately after it begins historically the very first amusement and amusement park in America.

For a century and a half, the legendary Luna Park, Dreamland (Dream Country), Stipleschez Park, Astroland (Space Country) existed here in parallel or replaced each other. Especially on weekends, hundreds of thousands of people flocked here, and these parks were known all over the world, all the classics of American literature mentioned them. Even Gorky and Mayakovsky spoke of them with admiration. During the world wars and the Great Depression, the parks faded away, but later they revived and make us happy even now.

By the way, it is a myth that parks calmed down during general disasters; in fact, their competitor was progress and all sorts of innovations: first cinema, then television, two World Exhibitions EXPO, Rockefeller Center, Lincoln Center ... The parks were rapidly becoming obsolete, because they were the legacy of the almost medieval tradition of fair booths.

Another beautiful myth is also not true: the Disneyland idea was not born here in Coney Island parks. In fact, Disney parks are a completely pioneer ingenious concept of one of the country's outstanding figures. America is a country of discovery, this is its greatness.

However, the parks were so good that they attracted even prominent politicians and national heroes; Charles Lindberg’s statement about his stronger impression of Coney Island’s attractions than his first ever transcontinental flight to Europe is known.

It must be admitted that, nevertheless, a powerful modernization potential was laid in the idea of ​​local attractions: entertainment here was not passive, as before, but became active for their participants. This has already given in our time the possibility of bringing the attractions to a modern look. However, the former well-deserved sights, now with an official status, are also lovingly preserved here: the Cyclone rollercoaster - roller coaster; Wheel of Miracles - Ferris wheel; Parachute Tower (not yet restored, though).

And then begins the paradise for sports enthusiasts, the latest baseball stadium Kispen.

Brighton has a unique advantage: where else on the planet in direct access to the resort (50 minutes by metro to the center of Manhattan) there are museums, halls, palaces of the greatest capital, you can say, figurative and performing art.

Bordvok ends (4,6 km from the beginning) with another super-elite zone: Seagate, Sea Gate. This is a completely closed isolated zone of hundreds of private houses with its own yacht club and others, one would like to say, nishtyaks.

But it's not just the Brighton elite. Is it not obvious evidence of the abundance of the broad masses according to such statistics: 38% of local children attend paid private schools, compared with 13% on average in New York.

And since we mentioned New York again, the most important positive feature should be noted the whole metropolis, it is called decentralization. This means complete autonomy in terms of self-sufficiency. We do not need to go to the "Center of the Universe", that is, to Manhattan. We have enough jobs, and in terms of service, trade, business, medicine, we will give odds to other areas of the city.

Residential building immediately after Brighton. Author photo

In conclusion, one of the fundamental myths about Brighton should be debunked. Allegedly in its present form it was created and settled by Odessa residents, because they could not imagine their life without the sea. In fact, it all started much earlier.

The exodus of Jews from the Russian Empire to the United States from 1870 to 1915 amounted to almost 3 million people unprecedented in history. People fled not only from terrifying pogroms, but also from inhuman laws. Few people know (although many have read Tevye the Milkman) that Jews in Russia were consistently banned from living in both cities and villages, dwelling was allowed only in the so-called places. In fact, this meant dooming the whole nation to hunger and poverty. And the Exodus began.

After the initial settlement in Manhattan in the very cramped Lower East Side, Jews rushed to the then least populated area of ​​Brooklyn farthest from Manhattan - Coney Island (to which Brighton belongs geographically). Even the newly built Brooklyn Bridge became known as the Juish Highway. After the Second World War, Brighton was home to most of the 55 Holocaust survivors who ended up in New York.

But America has long had a very clear pattern: each ethnic community initially holds on tightly to a life together, and having risen to its feet and achieved prosperity, it settles throughout the country. This is what happened with Brighton during the golden age of the 50-60s. Here the emigration from the Soviet Union arrived. But we must take into account that in America, along with government agencies, relevant ethnic organizations are actively involved in the reception of immigrants. Here the latter decided to fill Brighton’s emerging Jewish deficit with Jewish refugees from the USSR.

However, it was a long time ago. Strong demographic changes have occurred. Even 20 years ago, the Jewish presence was reduced to about 15%, but with a new force a surge from the whole post-Soviet space surged. Has worked old paradigm of forced Russification of peoples. Remember how with the beginning of Islamic resistance in the CIS and in the world, the Russian language very often became the unifying tool of combatants. So in Brighton there were many Ukrainians, Georgians, Uzbeks, Belarusians.

And so it will continue in the foreseeable future. It all depends on the immigration policy of the United States. How much will be allowed, so much will come.

Photo by the author

But here it is impossible to refrain from commenting on, to put it mildly, the strange policy of the Russian leadership. In the city of New York, there are 600 thousand Russian-speaking, and together with the suburbs - there are already 1 million 600 thousand. And there are such organizations in New York as "Maison de France", "Casa Italiana", "Austrian Center", German "Goethe House", "Ukrainian Institute (Center) of America" ​​- they are innumerable. But there is not even a semblance of any hypothetical center of Russian culture capable of uniting people and peoples and at the same time really promoting their cultural values ​​and achievements.

And again, returning to Brighton, for objectivity, it should be noted disadvantages. We obviously lack racial diversity. So, before the Soviet settlement of Brighton, 13% of African Americans lived here, now there are only 1%. How useful would be the well-known Soviet and Russian sincere love for black people!

Another circumstance noted in the reviews about Brighton is that there are many old people here. Everything is very simple. They live longer in America, much longer. In addition, even very elderly people here are extremely mobile, they are not locked in four walls and lead an active life.

Well say goodbye. I will say in Odessa: “So that you live as you live on Brighton!”

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