I am nowhere in Brooklyn I would ever want to be. Behind me, the New Utrecht Avenue subway station looks like a remnant of human civilization from Planet of the Apes, or at least the 1920s. Its every aspect, from the peeling, probably poisonous paint to the adjacent yard full of trash, suggests a neighborhood not just neglected, but shunned.
There's nothing ahead but dilapidated industrial warehouses, their broken windows straight out of a textbook on urban disorder. Even the sun this Sunday afternoon seems to be shining absurdly, as if it too fears what might happen here when the light gets dim. That guardian sun is a comfort, my only comfort, as I trek deep into the whitest part of Brooklyn.
According to recent maps of census data, the heart of Borough Park—from 13th to 20th Avenues and roughly 45th to 55th Streets—is overwhelmingly white. Many census tracts report high numbers of white residents—96 percent, 97 percent—but rarely (if never) are there several such areas all together like this. There's even an area of nearly 10 square blocks that reported 100 percent white. One. Hundred. Percent. White.
What are these 60 square blocks like? There was only one way to find out.