8 “Official” Brooklyn Neighborhoods We Refuse to Recognize

01/11/2012 8:58 AM |


Last week, the Times published an old racist map drawn up by the NYPD to identify concentrations of immigrants. But I enjoyed it less for its anachronistic biases than for its identification of long-gone Brooklyn neighborhoods: Homewood, Lefferts Park, Blythebourne, Vanderveer Park, South Greenfield, Westminster Heights Park, and Van Pelt Manor.

Today, I saw that the city has an interactive map that people can use to track street closings, and again I found myself enjoying obscure neighborhood names—except the city believes these are real places! That exist right now! We can all agree on most Brooklyn neighborhoods, though we may quibble over exact borders; there are others, however, that I refuse to recognize. There are others still that I’m on the fence about. Let the fist fights begin.


I could probably be convinced to grant this one an exception. But if the city doesn’t include Parkville on its map, there’s no way I’m granting Mapleton special-case status. Try again—you’re Gravesend Bensonhurst.

Fiske Terrace
This was a planned community a hundred years ago, but the subway stop (Avenue H) isn’t even called “Fiske Terrace” anymore. I went to Brooklyn College for five years, and I never heard anyone remark that we were right by Fiske Terrace. Know why? Because we weren’t. We were on the border of Midwood and Flatbush…

…certainly not the border of Fiske Terrace and Farragut. Sheesh, I’d just as soon recognize Vanderveer Park.

Prospect Park South
I guess a lot of people consider this a real place, but (a) it sounds silly and (b) we don’t need it anymore now that we can call everything over there “Ditmas Park.”


King’s Bay
Pardon me, your Highness, but you’re no more than a Sheep’s Head. Wikipedia doesn’t even recognize this neighborhood, and they have at least a stub on everything, even…

Nice try, changing your name to appease King George. But guess what? We won that war, and we esteem our Brooklynites of Norwegian heritage now—so consider yourself part of Bergen Beach, and apologize to the ghost of Hans Hansen Bergen! (Unless you get your name from George Washington, or some other/no-name George. Then, uh, I dunno, move to D.C.!)

Remsen Village
Another one even Wikipedia refuses to recognize. Canarsie doesn’t need your tiny divisions, and the Remsens already have an avenue and a street—quite enough eponyms, thank you.

West Brighton
Is this even serious? Does the Aquarium not want to be associated with Coney Island or something?

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart

21 Comment

  • Mapleton is nowhere near Gravesend, although it includes Gravesend Park. Mapleton is roughly the Northeastern section of Bensonhurst bordering Borough Park and Midwood. Gravesend is located Southeast of Bensonhurst, near Coney Island and Sheepshead Bay.

  • You’re right. (I knew that!) It’s that city map, which puts it (erroneously) near the western terminus of Kings Highway.

    Also, “nowhere near” seems inappropriate when we’re talking walking distance.

  • I don’t know much about most of these neighborhoods, but Fiske Terrace and Prospect Park South are two very real neighborhoods (along with Ditmas Park, and others) in “Victorian Flatbush.”

    BTW, the area of big old houses near Brooklyn College, which the author claims to know something about, is South Midwood–Fisk Terrace is further west. It’s one of the ironies of Brooklyn real estate that South Midwood, the historic neighborhood, is actually NORTH of “Midwood.” Midwood was just an alternate name for Flatbush (a former town, never a neighborhood) until sometime after WW II when it was separated from Flatbush to indicate the part of Flatbush south of Ave. H. It’s a sourse of endless confusion–for example, Midwood Street, where I live, is in PLG, at the extreme NORTHERN tip of Flatbush.

  • I have lived in Fiske Terrace for over 30 years, and if you get off the train at Avenue H station, you are wholly within Fiske Terrace. If you walked along Avenue H (which I doubt you have done), you would have walked past 1710 Avenue H, which is called Fiske Terrace.

    Fascinating that you are commenting on areas nowhere near Williamsburg. Maybe you should write about something you know something about.

  • Oh yessss, here’s the part where Henry tells this guy where he lives. It’s always the best part.

  • Prospect Park South is a landmarked neighborhood that predates Ditmas Park by a few years.
    In fact, PPS, DP and Fiske Terrace are all landmarked and registered national historic places. They are pretty clearly defined micro-neighborhoods within Victorian Flatbush each with their own neighborhood associations, events, security, etc.
    All of this might mean little to the casual observer, but if you own a home or are buying a home in the area, it can matter a heck of a lot.
    Also, fuck you and your snarky hipster magazine. We’ll call where we live whatever the fuck we want.

  • West Brighton is a very old name for Coney Island when Brighton Beach was fashionable and the area to the west was fighting to get a foothold.

  • Henry, please respond!

  • what about “east williamsburg” ?????

  • Georgetown is most certainly a real place and, even if it wasn’t, Mill Basin is between Georgetown and Bergen Beach. Natives will fondly remember the Georgetown Rock Bottom…

  • It seems the most controversial issues here are the “micro-neighborhoods” of Flatbush/Victorian Flatbush; Robert Marvin’s comment does a good job of illustrating how these subdivisions can lead to absurdity. I think neighborhood boundaries can give neighbors a shared sense of identity and foster community. But when you start granting neighborhood-status to a few square blocks, as in the case of Fiske Terrace (for example), it seems like you’re doing more dividing than you are uniting.

  • Although I don’t disagree with you in theory, the neighborhoods that comprise Victorian Flatbush are subdivided that way and each have their own neighborhood associations. http://www.fdconline.org/links.html

  • Georgetown is certainly a real place. It’s not Flatlands, not Bergen Beach, not Canarsie. Since you went to BC, I assume you’re a native, but as someone who’s 60 and lived from ’58-’79 on East 56th Street and Avenue O (figure out what that neighborhood is: technically the micronabe of Old Mill Basin, it started being called Kings Plaza after the shopping center opened in Sept. 1970). Georgetown wasn’t built till the late 60s. The shopping center on the east side of Ralph Avenue was called the Georgetown center (sometimes, oddly, it was spelled Georgetown with an E) and the Georgetown Twin theater opened in the summer of ’71, as I write about in “The Lost Movie Theaters of Southeastern Brooklyn” (http://eyeshot.net/grayson.html); I was there at the first show, Elliott Gould and Candice Bergen in “Getting Straight.”

    I never heard of Fiske Terrace until the last decade even though I went over to friends’ houses there when I was a student at Midwood High School from ’66-’68. Again, I think it’s really a micro-neighborhood within what we called Midwood.

    Some of the neighborhoods you call not real are actually micro-neighborhoods, like Remsen Village. Before we moved in ’58, we lived in East Flatbush, near Church Avenue and Ralph, and I went to junior high at Meyer Levin on Beverly and Ralph, and we did speak of Remsen Village as the little triangle between East Flatbush and Brownsville; it had definite boundaries. Zip’s Deli on Remsen Avenue, where we kids went to lunch and where my friend Robert’s father was a waiter, was in Remsen Village. I don’t know if people call it that today.

    We used to call Prospect Park South and Ditmas Park both “Flatbush.”

    Kings Bay I know from the Kings Bay Library (see my “Branch Libraries of Southeastern Brooklyn,” http://books.google.com/books?id=6-r-vIPaR…) and Kings Bay YMHA/YWHA. Again, Kings Bay is a micro-neighborhood within Sheepshead Bay. See these early pics from the 1960s: http://www.sheepsheadbites.com/2011/10/pho…

    Are you familiar with the concept of micro-neighborhoods?

  • If you go to http://www.nyc.gov, and click on Landmarks Commission, you will be able to find the history of the neighborhoods comprising the Fiske Terrace/Midwood Park Historic District. Maybe if you read the history you’ll have a better understanding (or at least some understanding) of how the neighborhoods evolved. You’ll learn that neighborhood “status” was not “granted” to Fiske Terrace or anywhere else. It stems from it’s history. Do you live in Williamsburg? Would you want to end that neighborhood name and just say Brooklyn? I doubt many of your neighbors would agree to that!

  • A lot of these neighborhood names that have fallen out of favor may return to prominence if these areas gentrify in the future. New ones may even develop to supplement them. I know no one in Manhattan in 1970 would have had any idea what Noho, Nolita, Hudson Square, or even Tribeca are. As that borough gentrified, these trendy microhoods have developed. In Brooklyn, there may be reason to revive these old monikers.

  • This conversation started in relation to a specific city map that doesn’t identify Carroll Gardens or DUMBO as neighborhoods, but does include the aforementioned eight. In that sense “status” is in fact “granted”

  • The problem with Flatbush is that, as the former second largest town in Kings County, prior to the consolidation of the City of Brooklyn in 1894, it’s much too big to be considered a neighborhood. Most of the Flatbush “micro neighborhoods” started as real estate developments 100+ years ago, but the names stuck. Still, they ARE rather small to be considered neighborhoods. Perhaps one solution might be to combine or expand some of them, as was done with my own Lefferts Manor, when a larger neighborhood, Prospect Lefferts Gardens was defined around it by meighborhood activists and preservationists c. 1968. Although the Lefferts Manor Association remains active, as a homeowners organization within the original boundaries, the larger neighborbood (which includes most of Flatbush’s northern tip, east of Prospect Park) works better in many respects and few people miss “Pigtown” or “Melrose Park”.

    Robert Marvin

  • @ Henry Stewart So two and a half miles is walking distance??? GTFOH ; )

  • Merry Christmas you wonderful old building and loan!!

  • “East Williamsburg” is not, as many believe, a real estate label of recent vintage. (Though by now it might as well be.) It is at least as old as the “East Williamsburg Industrial Valley,” which was named in about 1981. When I moved to the area in 1983, “Williamsburg” ran from the waterfront to Queens, with the eastern reach being East Williamsburg. And let’s not even start on “Bushwick,” which is one of the most complex place names in the city.

  • If you look at a map of south Brooklyn, there’s an area that’s wedged between Marine Park (on the east), Gerritsen Beach and Sheepshead Bay (to the south), Madison/Midwood (north), and Gravesend (west). That’s what I consider to be Kingsbay.

    Of course, except for the names of several businesses, nobody has ever heard of it.