Wandering and meandering without a clear destination is a noble activity. When I am exploring in a small or local area, I do this regularly - setting out with no agenda. Traveling further, however or by vehicle, the risk of disappointment becomes an issue as well as time used.
So I turn to maps. I do love maps and always use them wherever I travel to get a lay of the land and a sense of breadth and compass. Even in New York City where I have lived for 40 years, when traveling by car, a five borough street map is always at my side. GPS is great, however, if you want a large and detailed overview of an area, only a full size map will do the job.
I have been amiss in exploring the Bronx and have very few stories in this website. So, it was time to look at a map and see what might have potential. I love the tips and edges, i.e. the outer limits, where often one finds exceptional features, views and unique villages. Looking at the Bronx section of my street map of New York City, my eye was drawn to a peninsula with an area marked "Silver Beach," situated between the Throgs Neck and Bronx-Whitestone Bridges. A little reading looked like this would be just the place to satisfy my wanderlust.
What started out as a whimsical choice of a travel destination ended up being one of the most remarkable residential enclaves I have seen in the five boroughs. Sitting on a bluff, 50-60 feet above the river, Silver Beach Gardens is a network of small lanes and 451 homes, established as cooperatives - residents own their homes and lease the land from owners’ collective. To buy, applicants must have three letters of recommendation from current residents. In the early 1900s, the neighborhood developed from summer waterfront bungalow colonies on large estate to the neighborhood it is today. See my photo gallery here.
The highlight of the day was my walk on Indian Trail, a narrow footpath flanking the edge of the bluff with beautiful vistas of the beach below, the river and the skyline of Manhattan framed by the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge. The homes had decks perched on the cliffs, with the beach is accessible by stairways.
It was here that I met Paul and his wife, busy with springtime yard work. He was extremely friendly, having greeted me first. When I told him that I would be doing a story, he told me how the community was displeased over an article in the New York Times which reported a lawsuit based on racial discrimination in real estate sales.
Properties for sale in Silver Beach Gardens come very infrequently and typically sell by word of mouth. A small community like this with privately owned single family homes, extremely low turnover, remotely located, little known to outsiders and with strong ethnic history will be slow to change and see the diversity found in a much larger community with rentals and large multi-unit apartment buildings. Silver Beach Gardens is predominantly Irish, German, and Italian. I was reminded of Broad Channel, another extraordinary residential enclave situated on an island in Jamaica Bay. See my story and photo gallery here.
So, for a little change and some pleasant surprises in your exploring, pull out a map and whether city or state, look for those Outer Limits :)