The Short Brooklyn Ghetto Story
New York City’s most praised borough, and the city’s largest borough, once consisted of legendary neighborhoods, Brooklyn hoods that once led the borough into being the true heart of the streets in New York City, and now is slowly being taking over by gentrification and an influx of hipsters and yuppies.
A borough that has upper class neighborhoods and is diverse with communities that are dominated by Italians, Asians, and other ethnicities and cultures, but without a doubt on the other side of Flatbush Avenue the heart of Brooklyn resides in areas like Bushwick, Bed Stuy (Bedford Stuyvesant), Crown Heights, Flatbush, Brownsville and East New York.
The first official black area of Brooklyn was Bedford Stuyvesant (Bed Stuy), during the days of segregation. Bed Stuy had one of the country’s largest black populations within a single neighborhood, long before Brooklyn’s black population expanded into other eastern Brooklyn neighborhoods. Photo Credit: CAVORT/Shutterstock.com
In the very beginning of Brooklyn’s existence, vast majority of the borough’s original neighborhoods were home to families with different ethnicities and cultures, but mostly all were from a European background.
One specific neighborhood was an exception, Bedford-Stuyvesant. The former home of legends Jay-Z and Notorious BIG was not necessarily a rival to Harlem, but one of the city’s oldest black communities that was well famed in the neighborhood’s early days for black entertainment, ownership, and success.
While Bed Stuy was the first official black community of Brooklyn neighboring Crown Heights had a small West Indian and African American population since the early 1900s. Not until the late 1940s and early 1950s did the white population began to leave the Crown Heights community. Photo Credit: LightPhoto/Pond5.com
By the 1960s, many of the areas within Brooklyn, like Brownsville and East New York, started to change as the communities were slowly becoming more of a home to the city’s African American population. This was mostly due to the fact that many of the white families were leaving for other neighborhoods in either Brooklyn, New York City, or Long Island.
The famous Coney Island neighborhood is one of the city’s most popular attractions, but just west of the boardwalk is the true Coney Island community. A community of the Gravesend Projects, along with small neighborhoods around Mermaid and Surf avenues. Photo Credit: Leonard Zhukovsky/Shutterstock.com
West Indian Day Parade. Following African Americans, a large influx of West Indians during the 1980s were added into Brooklyn, which helped Brooklyn’s black population expand into places like Canarsie or the Flatlands, even though West Indians have been in Brooklyn for many generations. Photo Credit: el_cigarrito/Shutterstock.com
In Brooklyn neighborhoods like Bushwick and Sunset Park, the Latino population have once created homes for their families as the once descendants of European immigrants fled the community and were replaced by Puerto Ricans and other Hispanics, starting around the mid-1900s. Photo Credit: baileyc1 / Shutterstock.com
The movement of African Americans and Latinos into many of the Brooklyn neighborhoods was with the help of blockbusting and redlining. These practices are when banks and real estate companies would try to influence white families to sell their homes and force minority families to move into a specific location while having only a few limited choices on where they could live.
As the process changed the demographics of the neighborhoods, many of the communities began to decline and transform into areas that were often referred as the Brooklyn ghetto, since many in the communities lack access to financial institutions, while the city somewhat turned a blind eye to the conditions of the neighborhoods that minorities were purposely placed in.
There are over 30 housing projects within the Brooklyn hoods, with some once being very reputable during New York City’s crime peak of the crack era, that include the likes of Fort Greene, Marcy Projects, numerous public housing buildings in Brownsville, as well a few of East New York and others. Image Photo Credit: a katz/Shutterstock.com
With the saying “Brooklyn Takes It”, the streets of Brooklyn, primarily before the start of New York City’s strict drug and gun laws and gentrification, were one of the most reputable and notorious areas in the city, especially during the time New York City was viewed as one of the most dangerous places in America.
As mentioned, most of Brooklyn was dominated by white European families until the 1960s as many fled into Long Island. This led to a vacancy of the vast majority of neighborhoods east of Flatbush Avenue. Eventually, each of these neighborhoods would create their own reputations, whether it was the 90z in Flatbush, the East New York housing projects along Linden Blvd., the fear of the entire community of Brownzville, from Ocean Hill to Marcus Garvey, or Myrtle Avenue of Bed Stuy, home to the Marcy and Tompkins projects.
Map of Brooklyn Hoods
*The colors on the map do not represent anything specific, no Brooklyn gangs or anything related.
While above was just an example, and not leave out the likes of Crown Heights, Fort Greene or Coney Island, those areas were the heart of the streets for the Brooklyn ghetto during the 80s and 90s, at least until the large crackdown during the late 90s that sentenced hundreds of Brooklyn resident that a large number of prison sentences.
Dating back to the 1970s, poverty and an infestation of drugs truly changed the fabric of Brooklyn. Neighborhoods that were once occupied by European immigrants became home to minorities as the resources of the communities began to become scarce and unavailable.
By the 1980s and into the 1990s, the problems of neglect and poverty turned the streets of the Brooklyn ghetto into a well makeshift environment of hustlers and killers, as well corrupted police who at times would operate as organize crime syndicate of extortion, thieving and other felonious crimes, example Officer Dowd of Brownsville.
Some of the Brooklyn big names during that time were the likes of Danny Diamonds of Marcy, Killer Ben of Fort Green, Domencio, Tut, Puerto Rican Jesus, Kendu, Hardy Boys, Big Lou, Molock of Coney Island’s 23rd and Mermaid, and Baby Sam, who sentenced to life in prison and given one of the largest fines in history, along with crews like the A-Team, Poison Clan, and others.
Those days of hustling and the streets of the Brooklyn ghetto being truly active with all types of street activities are long of the past, at least on the level of the 1980s and 1990s. Today, gentrification is slowly moving into the once predominantly black communities of Brooklyn, especially in areas like Bed Stuy. With gentrification of the Brooklyn ghetto there is a shrinking population within the urban community, mainly African Americans and Latinos, as there is relocation or an exodus out of the the traditional urban communities with a large newly arrival of hipsters, millennials, and families from other culture backgrounds.
*Feature Image Credit: JON BILOUS/Pond5.com
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*Note: All information is provided either through people of the community, outside sources, and/or research. Some information might not be current and/or 100% accurate.