What’s In A Name….

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I’m sure most of us have never stopped to think about where the neighborhood’s we live in got their name, or even the history behind it. While some of the older areas are named after Dutch settlers, the newer, more industrialized locations that have turned residential over the past couple of years received their moniker based on geographical location. Take the area of DUMBO, Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. When we set out with our real estate agent, we might have chosen the location based on a number of factors, but chances are it’s not because of a name.

If we stop and think about it for a moment, there is a lot of history that helped shape not only the borough of Brooklyn, but each of the 77 neighborhoods that comprise Kings County. It’s extremely fascinating, especially if you’re a history buff.  The Brooklyn Historical Society is a great place for more in-depth knowledge on such a fascinating topic.

The borough itself has the Dutch colonists to thank for their name. In the mid 1600’s Brooklyn consisted of six separate towns. One of these towns, settled in 1646, was named “Breuckelen,” named after a village in the Netherlands. In 1664, the English gained control of the area and the name was eventually anglicized to “Brooklyn” the name residents have come to know and love.

As for the areas that comprise the borough, let’s take a look at where a few originated.

Gerritsen Beach

 Gerritsen Beach

Located just 13 miles from New York City on Brooklyn’s southern shore, this quaint and close knit community was named for the Dutch settler, Wolphert Gerretse, who built his home and mill alongside Gerritsen Creek in the early 17th century. The area was mainly rural territory until the 1920’s when developers began building a resort community.

The allure of Gerritsen Beach for many multi-generational families is living amongst friends and the security of knowing your neighbors. While close to Marine Park and Sheepshead Bay, the neighborhood has a private beach which offers easy access to boating and parkland.

Neighborhood stores and commercial activity can be found along Gerritsen Avenue. Another interesting fact, the neighborhood is home to the only remaining volunteer fire department in Brooklyn and is one of nine that exist in NYC.

Benson

Bensonhurst

Tucked between a multitude of neighborhoods on the southwestern side of Brooklyn, Bensonhurst was an area comprised of farmland back in the 1800’s. Originally owned by the Polhemus family, a landowning clan, they sold their acreage to the Benson family, descendants from some of America’s earliest Dutch settlers.

In 1889, a developer by the name of James Lynch bought the Benson family’s land; his plan was to turn the area into an exclusive resort, complete with a steam rail and trolley access. The Benson family agreed to the sale under one condition; that it would be known by their surname. For a brief time the neighborhood was referred to as Bensonhurst-by-the-Sea but over time it was eventually shortened.

Today, two main thoroughfares run through this popular neighborhood. Whether walking or driving along 18th Avenue you’ll find the streets lined with predominantly small, family-owned businesses; plus it is home to the popular 18th Avenue Feast which takes place yearly in late August/early September. There is also the ever popular 86th Street, filled with a slew of stores and restaurants. On the second Sunday after Memorial the annual 86th Street Festival is held and there you’ll find the streets lined with live music, food, carnival rides.

Carroll Gardens

Carroll Gardens

The residential area known as Carroll Gardens offers its residents a serene neighborhood filled with brownstone row houses, accompanied by beautiful front gardens. The area takes it name from Carroll Park which is a vital center of the community. The park, built in the late 1840’s, is comprised of playgrounds, walkways, and sitting areas that run between Court, Smith, Carroll, and President Streets.

Originally a private garden purchased by the city in 1853, it was named after Charles Carroll, a wealthy Maryland planter, who was also the first United States Senator for Maryland, and one of the signors of the Declaration of Independence.

You might be wondering why a man from Maryland had the honor of a NY neighborhood being named after him; Carroll led the 1st Maryland Regiment, a group of soldiers who were integral to the Battle of Brooklyn in August 1776. These brave men charged the enemy holed up at the Old Stone House at the Gowanus so Washington’s army would have time to escape. Their bravery changed the course of the Revolutionary War.

The gardens refer to the big gardens in the front yards of these beautiful homes. In 1846, a surveyor named Richard Butt planned gardens in front of the brownstone homes in the oldest section of the neighborhood when he developed it.

Originally considered to be a part of the Red Hook neighborhood, Carroll Gardens began to have its own identity in the 1960s.

A favorite area amongst many, the neighborhood is filled with local retailers, cafes, restaurants, and trendy bars, giving it a distinct and unique charm.

Greenpoint landing

Greenpoint

With views of the Manhattan skyline, Greenpoint is one of the more cozier and intimate areas of the borough even as they continue to grow in popularity amongst home buyers.

Originally an area of vast farmland, it was surrounded by blooming trees, beautiful meadows, fresh water creeks and briny marshes. European settlers originally referred to a small bluff of land jutting into the East River at what is now the westernmost end of Freeman Street as “Greenpoint” but eventually the name came to encompass the whole area.

Because it was once predominantly farmland, many of the farm owners family names, like  Meserole and Calyer, are still the street names of today.  It’s also been said that Brooklyn’s distinctive accent originates from Greenpoint.

The neighborhood is also home to McCarren Park which first opened in 1906 under the name Greenpoint Park and renamed two years later after State Senator Patrick H. McCarren. The park contains an outdoor pool, a recreational center, film and concerts in the summer months, and a greenmarket which is open for business on Saturdays. The neighborhood is also a popular filming location for TV and film.

Over the years the demand for housing has skyrocketed and many new developments have begun [although completion is a few years away], especially along the area’s waterfront, which along with the waterfront in Williamsburg, was rezoned in 2005 for increased residential projects.

In 2015, construction began on Greenpoint Landing, a project which includes ten residential towers, a public elementary and middle school, and 4 acres of parkland. While as of this past spring one building has opened, completion is expected to be before 2027.

 

 

Brooklyn’s Black History Month

Brooklyn neighborhoods are some of the most diverse in New York City and as we enter into Black History Month, here our top picks for educational experiences that celebrate black culture, influence and impact – because these histories are American history.

 

Ride the revolution

160122 - PanthersThe City’s Movie in the Parks initiative will screen “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution”. The poignant documentary combines archival footage and interviews with surviving Panthers and FBI agents to tell the story of the revolutionary black organization Black Panther Party. History meets mystery as the film demystifies one of the 20th century’s most alluring and controversial organizations that captivated the world’s attention for nearly 50 years.

The event takes place on Friday February 5 at 6:30pm to 8:30pm at St. Johns Recreation Center, 1251 Prospect Place, Brooklyn. Admission is free.

 

Green with history

160122 - greenFrom the post of the town to the toast of a movement, Victor H. Green was a postal worker during the mid 1930s who compiled the Green Book – a network of white and black-owned businesses that would welcome African American travelers throughout the South during segregation. Green’s work served as a compass for African Americans to travel safely for nearly 30 years, until the passing of the Civil Rights at in 1964, when publication of the guide ceased.

Awareness of this crucial navigational gem faded with time until award-winning author and playwright Calvin Alexander Ramsey put it back on tbe map in the documentary “The Green Book Chronicles” that follows the smooth and rough journey the users Green Book endured.

Brooklyn Historical Society will host a conversation with Ramsey, who will share raw footage from the unreleased film.

The event takes place on Thursday February 18 from 6:30pm at Brooklyn Historical Society. Admission is free.

 

A revolution’s muse(um)

160122 - CharlesBrooklyn Museum Target’s First Saturdays will be a chorus of culture with music from 5pm by Ahanu and Tai Allen present The Originals. A live mix-tape will honor the progressive music and poetry of legends Gil Scott-Heron and Oscar Brown, Jr.

Lose yourself to the tune of interactive activities with the Museum of Impact. At 8pm, the #VeryBlackProject and #TeamMelanin host a celebration that harmonizes the great work of our predecessors with the inspiration to encourage us to fight for the futures we want.

For those looking to get their hands arty, be inspired by the art of Romare Bearden and create a collage portrait or self-portrait using special papers.

Moving on with a movie and monologues, there will be a screening of “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” followed by a conversation with Stanley Nelson and Elizabeth Sackler; while The New Black Fest presents “HANDS UP: 7 Testaments”, a series of monologues by emerging black playwrights exploring their experiences with racial profiling and policing – followed by a Q&A with performers.

Other moments to get you dancing and thinking include a performance by Brooklyn-based Latasha Alcindor, aka L.A., and DJ Afro Panther and NonVisuals; a workshop led by organizer, abolitionist, and freedom fighter Joshua Allen exploring the important intersection between organizing around Black Lives Matter and gender justice; and a book club on “Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party” by Joshua Bloom and Waldo Martin (2013) and “From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist” by Bob Avakian (2005).

Twirl, dip, shimmy and entrance your night away to a kaleidoscope of pop, R&B and soul thanks to Brooklyn-bred singer and sonic storyteller, Charles Perry.

The event takes place on Saturday February 6 from 5pm at Brooklyn Museum. Admission is free.

 

Trolleying down memory lane

160122 - GreenwooThe journey from segregation and activism to diversity and progress has many layers and Green-Wood Cemetery’s trolley tour will examine the life and accomplishments of many prominent black New Yorkers, as well as several abolitionists working for freedom in America.

Led by Green-Wood Historian Jeff Richman, you’ll visit the monuments of Susan Smith McKinney Steward, the first black female doctor in the state; Jean-Michel Basquiat, innovative artist of the 1970s and ’80s; Jeremiah Hamilton, New York’s first black millionaire; civil war heroes and survivors; freed slaves working as abolitionists, and more.

You’ll dive into the lives of those who were rough, tough and who had had enough of the status quo – striving for equality and exemplifying the deep impact black New Yorkers have been making on New York City culture since its inception.

The event takes place on Saturday February 27 from 1pm to 3pm at Green-Wood Cemetery. Admission is $15 for members and $20 for non-members.