Seaside Stories

IV. Bensonhurst Boys

As the sun starts to heat up the streets of Bensonhurst, men share in a collective nostalgia fortified by the afternoons they spend together. On nearly every block, old-school traditions remain strong as cliques of familiar neighbors enjoy arguments over cups of espresso, compete with quiet intensity at the chess tables, or play hoops and handball until twilight. No matter the pastime, nearly every male in Bensonhurst has an unmistakable swagger that could have only been passed down from grandfather to grandson.

When a little boy ran past these men outside Ciccio’s Pizzeria, Andrew (far left) called out “Hey Bambino!” and it’s a good bet that the little one will be saying the same thing in 2043.

Starting in the spring, the asphalt at the closest basketball court becomes a second home for the players.

With a few ear-splitting whistles from middle-schooler Vivian (on shoulders), the Sethlow Park Crew swarms together.

According to this Russian gentleman, my incessant chatter caused him to lose this game. Maybe that’s why you won’t find a single woman among the horde of men playing chess, checkers, dominoes, or cards.

Taking a break from selling expensive sneakers, Keith watches passersby intently. On 86th street, there is always someone in a doorway watching over the block.

If there is anyone you don’t want to be on bad terms with in Bensonhurst, it’s the man who slices the trays at L&B’s. A summer in Brooklyn is incomplete without devouring at least a dozen Sicilian squares and twice as many spumoni ices.

Ken boasts of his “down-South flavor” while sipping Sprite and syrup.

Anthony grew up in Sicily around his father’s canaries; after moving to Brooklyn he decided to raise and race pigeons, flying them at sunset along the Narrows.

Tommy bought a Nikon F1 for 45 cents in Japan in 1967 while on break from a Special Forces tour in Vietnam. He moved to Bensonhurst after the war from his hometown in South Carolina, where he left behind hundreds of slides from 'Nam, never viewing them again because of their gory nature. Not all pasts are worth keeping.


Saskia Kahn

SASKIA KAHN is a photographer from the coast of Brooklyn (