The Neighborhoods of Brooklyn / Edition 2 available in Paperback
Brooklynfamed for its bridge, its long-departed Dodgers, its Botanic Garden, and its accentis the most populous borough in New York City and arguably the most colorful. Its many neighborhoods boast diverse and shifting ethnic enclaves, an abundance of architectural styles, and an amazing number of churches and festivals. Generously illustrated with both historical and contemporary photographs, The Neighborhoods of Brooklyn is an indispensable and entertaining guide.
Begun as an offshoot of The Encyclopedia of New York City, which provides much of the historical background, the book takes its character from the neighborhoods themselves, as detailed by the Citizens Committee for New York City and Brooklyn Borough Historian John Manbeck. Taking us on a tour of some 90 neighborhoods (including ghost neighborhoods that no longer exist), the book identifies the boundaries of each one through a neighborhood profile and a street map. There is also an essay on each neighborhood as well as an insert with practical tips on subways, buses, libraries, police precincts, fire departments, and hospitals. In addition, each entry includes eclectic neighborhood facts: Erasmus Hall Academy, in Flatbush, boasts such famous graduates as Barbra Streisand and Bobby Fischer; during Poland’s 1990 elections, more than 5,000 absentee ballots were postmarked Greenpoint. The introduction by Kenneth T. Jackson gives an overview of Brooklyn, while an index allows readers to locate key sites within the borough.
In 1898, when it was the third largest city in the United States, the City of Brooklyn merged with New York City to become one of its five boroughs. A century later it is time to salute this unique community in a book that will be an essential resource for past, present, and future residents.
The Neighborhoods of Brooklyn is the first in a series on New York’s five boroughs.
About the Author
The Citizens Committee for New York City has been active for more than two decades in providing information, skills, and funding to help New York’s citizens build and improve their neighborhoods. Kenneth T. Jackson is the Jacques Barzun Professor of History and the Social Sciences and chairman of the history department at Columbia University. He is the author or editor of many books, including The Encyclopedia of New York City, published by Yale University Press.
Read an Excerpt
The Neighborhoods of BrooklynSecond Edition
By Kenneth T. Jackson
Yale University PressCopyright © 2004 Kenneth T. Jackson
All right reserved.
Ocean breezes drying lines of clothing, backyard rosebushes, hanging chimes --all evoke the feel of today's Bath Beach, a small, quiet seaside neighborhood tucked between Fort Hamilton and Gravesend. Bath Beach, named for the English spa of Bath, was developed as a retreat for well-to-do families who escaped the city on weekends to sail, sunbathe, and swim.
Bath Beach was a part of the original Brooklyn town of New Utrecht, and before its heyday it was rural and sleepy. By the turn of the twentieth century, however, New York's elite had learned of its beautiful shore. Fashionable villas and yacht clubs soon dotted the coast, and mansions sprawled on inland lawns. For fun, residents could wander down to the Captain's Pier at the end of Bay 19th Street to dine at a restaurant of the same name, watch daredevil high divers, or swim. They could also hop on the Brooklyn, Bath, and Coney Island Line (opened in 1862) and head for the beach. Nearby Coney Island entertainments beckoned, but Bath Beach also had its own amusement park. Opened in 1893 by the Ulmer Brewery of Brooklyn and advertised as a "family resort," Ulmer Park offered rides, a dance hall, and swimming. A residential community grew up around it that remained after the park closed in 1899.
With more rapid rail transit in 1916 and 1917, Jewish and Italian families from the Lower East Side of Manhattan began to settle in Bath Beach. The stock market crash of 1929 accelerated this shift in population and caused Bath Beach to change focus. As mansions were abandoned and the condition of other grand houses declined, smaller homes and apartment buildings were constructed to match the housing needs of immigrants from Italy and elsewhere. The completion of the Belt Parkway in 1939 stimulated even greater neighborhood growth, as did landfill development along the shore of Bath Beach. The Shore Haven Apartments, at 21st Avenue near the Belt Parkway, were built in 1949 as part of Bensonhurst-by-the-Sea but are now considered part of Bath Beach. The Contello Towers, three high-rise apartment buildings opened in 1960, 1963, and 1967, are situated on this reclaimed land. But residents do not feel hemmed in by the new developments: Bath Beach still offers a sense of space with its 19-acre Bensonhurst Park and the nearby 73-acre Dreier-Offerman Park.
Among residents of other nationalities, many generations of Italian Americans have made Bath Beach their home. Services at the Catholic churches of St. Finbars and St. Frances Cabrini attract large crowds each Sunday. More recently, Russian Jews and Asian immigrant families have contributed to the area's rich history.
The history of Bay Ridge and Fort Hamilton, two neighborhoods overlooking New York Bay, illustrates how innovations in transportation have reshaped Brooklyn and underlines the importance of preserving vital landmarks. Both Bay Ridge and Fort Hamilton were transformed by the building of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, an experience that has inspired residents to develop a shared, positive vision of their area's future.
The colonial history of Bay Ridge began in 1652, when the Dutch West India Company acquired the land from the Nyack Indians. The Dutch settlers originally referred to the area, which was part of the town of New Utrecht, as Yellow Hook (and sometimes Yellow Ridge) for the color of the clay found there. But after the yellow-fever epidemic of 1848-49, residents chose to rename their community to evoke instead the beautiful surrounding bay and the glacial ridge that runs along what is now Ridge Boulevard.
Wealthy industrialists and businessmen were drawn to the area as a summer retreat and built mansions on the Bay Ridge bluffs. Two examples of these extraordinary homes remain. The Howard E. and Jessie Jones House, nicknamed the Gingerbread House by local residents, is a landmarked stone building with a pseudo-thatched roof on Narrows Avenue and 83rd Street. Built in 1916-17 in the Arts and Crafts style rarely seen in New York City, the house offers a glimpse of the fanciful summer cottages that filled Bay Ridge during those years. The second mansion that remains, the current home of the Fontbonne Academy, a private girls' school, is a relic of Bay Ridge's heyday as a summer rendezvous for members of high society. Local legend has it that this house was once purchased for the actress Lillian Russell by the high-living financier "Diamond Jim" Brady.
Bay Ridge has given new life to other unusual buildings of this early era. What is today Fort Hamilton High School, for example, was once the site of the Crescent Athletic Club, a posh retreat that brought together the richest Bay Ridge residents.
Perhaps the greatest challenge to residents' conception of their community was the building of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge to Staten Island. Robert Moses, chairman of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, pushed the project through over strong opposition by Bay Ridge residents, 8,000 of whom were displaced to make room for the bridge. Many claim that the Bay Ridge community's unsuccessful opposition to the construction fueled the activism that remains strong today. The results of this community involvement are impressive. Bay Ridge has preserved the 16-acre Leif Ericson Park, which is popular for soccer, and the 27-acre Owl's Head Park, a favorite picnic area that was once the estate of Brooklyn mayor and senator Henry C. Murphy. The 58-acre Shore Road Park --which connects Owl's Head Park at the northern end of Bay Ridge to the southernmost Fort Hamilton area--boasts a two-and-a-half mile winding path on which walkers, joggers, and roller-bladers enjoy breathtakingly clear views of the New York City harbor.
Today, Bay Ridge has its own motel, and its tree-lined streets are filled with one- and two-family homes. Unlike many other Brooklyn neighborhoods, these houses have garages, basements, and lawns, which make certain streets of Bay Ridge look like those in the outer suburbs. Ethnic diversity is a strength of the community. Generations of original Scandinavian and Italian residents have welcomed more recent Chinese, Russian, Greek, Korean, Lebanese, Egyptian, Syrian, and Jordanian immigrants. In the 1980s, Chinese entrepreneurs who had settled in nearby Sunset Park transformed some of Bay Ridge's abandoned warehouses into bustling garment factories. The most prevalent settlers in the 1990s have been newcomers from China and the former Soviet Union.
The ethnic foods served in 3rd and 5th Avenue restaurants and sold in specialty stores now represent the full diversity of the neighborhood's residents, and the shopping area from 4th to 6th Avenues is vibrant and diverse. One of the most famous stores in Bay Ridge is Kleinfeld's, which opened more than 55 years ago as a furrier named I. Kleinfeld and Son. Today's Kleinfeld's, the nucleus of Bay Ridge's retail wedding center, welcomes more than 18,000 brides through its doors each year, sells more than 8,000 wedding gowns annually, and offers a shuttle service to and from Manhattan.
One foot of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge rests in Fort Hamilton, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as the second oldest continuously garrisoned federal post in the United States, although in 1997 it was severely reduced. The fort is named for Alexander Hamilton, who fought with the colonials in the Battle of Brooklyn, and is on the site of an early Dutch block house. Fort Lewis, an earlier fort on the same site, was made of earth and timber and helped repel the British during the War of 1812. Fort Hamilton itself was built between 1825 and 1831 as the first granite fort in New York harbor, and the building in the center of today's fort is landmarked, even though it was altered in 1937 and 1938 when it was converted to an officers' club. During the Civil War, volunteer regiments trained at the fort, and the water battery, Fort Lafayette, became a prison for high-ranking Confederate captives. Brooklynites in the area during this time could see ships lined up across the Narrows to help defend Fort Hamilton and other fortifications on Staten Island from Confederate raiders. Fort Hamilton also provided troops to help put down the draft riots of July 1863, when New Yorkers, resenting enforced conscription and a perceived threat to their jobs from black workers, tore up railroad tracks, burned hotels, and attacked blacks.
The building and armaments of Fort Hamilton kept pace with munitions technology. When rifled cannon made vertical-walled masonry obsolete, the fort was refitted with long-range guns hidden from view. These guns in turn were replaced, first with antiship artillery, then with anti-aircraft defenses as the threats to the safety of the harbor changed. The guns were removed altogether in 1954 when Nike missiles began a 20-year term of protecting New York City. But Fort Hamilton remained active. During both world wars, the base was used as a major embarkation and separation center. And more recently, in the mid-1990s, it was used as a recruiting command post and as the military entrance and processing station for New York City. The 26th Army Band is in residence there, and the Veteran's Administration Hospital serves the needs of veterans and families of military personnel from all over New York. Visitors to the fort will discover an extensive collection of military paraphernalia and old maps of the area in a small museum founded in 1980.
The civilian area named Fort Hamilton features more high-rise housing than does its neighbor, Bay Ridge, but it also includes one- and two-family homes. Many who live in the area consider themselves a part of Bay Ridge as well as of their own neighborhood, in a fitting testament to how both early and more recent residents have shared common assets and have united to preserve them.
Excerpted from The Neighborhoods of Brooklyn by Kenneth T. Jackson Copyright © 2004 by Kenneth T. Jackson. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book is fantastic. I grew up in Brooklyn. One of my sons gave me this book 2003. I have been gone from Brooklyn 60+ years, but my memories are still with me. This book has every community in Brooklyn, the maps are awesome, they are detailed with street names, the stories that are related for each area are full of history and explains the changes over the years. The stories make you feel you are. there. Coney Island was such a great place to have fun in. This book is so well written, you don't have to have been born in Brooklyn to read it, but ifyou were you have a good piece of history to enjoy. Do I miss living there, no I am too old to live in such a busy borough, but I have my memories. It was a great place to grow up in. Who ever buys this book. ENJOY IT. worth your time.