Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of Flatbush, founded in 1654
Location in New York City
|City||New York City|
|Community District||Brooklyn 14|
|Founded by||Dutch colonists|
|• Total||2.64 km2 (1.02 sq mi)|
|• Density||40,000/km2 (100,000/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC−5 (Eastern)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−4 (EDT)|
|Area code||718, 347, 929, and 917|
Flatbush is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. Founded in 1651 by Dutch colonists, the neighborhood, which consists of several subsections, had a population of 105,804 as of the 2010 United States Census.
Flatbush was a town prior to being incorporated into the City of Brooklyn, and its former border runs through the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Generally, the township was larger than what is considered Flatbush today by the residents of Brooklyn. The modern neighborhood includes or borders several institutions of note, including Prospect Park and Brooklyn College.
Flatbush is part of Brooklyn Community District 14 and its primary ZIP Code is 11226. It is patrolled by the 67th and 70th Precincts of the New York City Police Department. Politically, Flatbush is represented by the New York City Council's 40th and 45th Districts.
The name Flatbush is a calque of the Dutch language Vlacke bos (vlacke or vlak, meaning "flat"; "Flatbush" meaning "flat woodland" or "wooded plain"), so named from woods that grew on the flat country.
Flatbush was originally chartered as the Dutch Nieuw Nederland colony town of Midwout (or Midwoud or Medwoud) — from the Dutch words, med, "middle" and woud, "wood" — in 1651. Both names were used in the Dutch era, and Midwood was an alternative name for Flatbush into the early 20th century. In a reversal, Midwood, now the area immediately south of Brooklyn College, is often alternatively called "Flatbush," especially among Orthodox Jews. Midwood's residents predominately feature a mix of the latter and Irish Americans.
Flatbush and the five other towns of what was to become Kings County, were surrendered to the English in 1664. The town was the county seat for Kings County and was a center of life for what is now called Brooklyn. The compact center of the village of Flatbush was at the intersection of what are now Flatbush and Church avenues, where we still find an old Dutch Reformed Church and Erasmus Hall, the oldest high school in New York City.
Flatbush played a key role in the American Revolution. Flatbush was where significant skirmishes and battles of the Battle of Long Island took place. As Kings County was settled largely by the Dutch, and as the Dutch were prominent in the slave trade, the area was somewhat sympathetic to the British side of the American Revolutionary War at the beginning of the conflict. Kings County at the time had the highest concentration of slaves north of the Mason–Dixon line – almost one-third of the total population for the county were slaves. When a Loyalist Governor of Virginia supported freedom for slaves who supported and fought on the British side, landowners in Brooklyn were concerned that a full conflict between the Colonies and the British would result in loss of their critical source of labor. Loyalist residents of Flatbush included David Mathews, Mayor of New York City, who lived at what is now the intersection of Flatbush and Parkside avenues. Flatbush residents maintained their loyalist sympathies: the King's Arms, for example, appeared in the town's inn for a half-century after the conclusion of the conflict.
The influence of Dutch merchant and farming families remained strong in the area until after consolidation into the City of Greater New York in 1898, after which the development of Flatbush as a suburb, and then an integral part of the larger city, proceeded apace.
Before it was incorporated into the City of Brooklyn in 1894, Flatbush described both the Town of Flatbush, incorporating a large swath of central Kings County extending east to the Queens County border, and the Village of Flatbush, formerly the heart of the current community. Many of the remaining early Dutch structures are in the Flatlands and Marine Park neighborhoods.
Flatbush maintained a kind of distance from the rest of Brooklyn and New York, but the emergence of the subway in the 1920s connected it to surrounding areas in an unprecedented way.
In the first half of the 20th century, Flatbush had a sizable population of Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans and Jews. Much as it is today, it was a working-class neighborhood. A significant portion of Flatbush residents closely followed the Brooklyn Dodgers, which at the time were not only the team of Brooklyn but also of Flatbush in particular. Dodgers centerfielder Duke Snider was known as "the Duke of Flatbush". By 1958, however, the Dodgers left Brooklyn, and Ebbets Field eventually was torn down. Due to shifting neighborhood boundaries, Ebbets Field today technically would be in Crown Heights, as the ballpark was located just north of Empire Boulevard.
During the 1970s and early 1980s, Flatbush experienced a shift in demographics as it went from being a mostly Irish, Italian and Jewish community to a mostly Caribbean community. While most sections of Flatbush were working class before the demographic shift, there were a few affluent areas. Prospect Park South had a sizable number of more affluent homeowners, and more than a few doctors resided on a stretch of Parkside Avenue immediately adjacent to Prospect Park. By the mid-1980s, however, there were a number of abandoned or semi-abandoned buildings in the community, with a number of apartment houses falling into a state of disrepair. While crime generally had long been prevalent in the community it worsened significantly during the 1970s, '80s and '90s. A number of stores on Flatbush and Church Avenues fell victim to looting during the 1977 blackout, and a subsequent drug epidemic ravaged Flatbush during the 1980s and early 1990s.
In February 2016, Flatbush was one of four neighborhoods featured in an article in The New York Times about "New York’s Next Hot Neighborhoods". After the Vision Zero initiative was implemented across the city, WNYC found the NYPD targeting this neighborhood 36 percent more than other whiter neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Greenpoint.
Based on data from the 2010 United States Census, the population of Flatbush was 105,804, a decrease of 5,071 (4.6%) from the 110,875 counted in 2000. Covering an area of 1,038.56 acres (420.29 ha), the neighborhood had a population density of 101.9 inhabitants per acre (65,200/sq mi; 25,200/km2).
The racial makeup of the neighborhood was 19.9% (21,030) White, 48.6% (51,470) African American, 0.3% (281) Native American, 9.2% (9,712) Asian, 0.0% (26) Pacific Islander, 0.5% (575) from other races, and 1.9% (2,051) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 19.5% (20,659) of the population.
The entirety of Community Board 14, which comprises Flatbush and Midwood, had 165,543 inhabitants as of NYC Health's 2018 Community Health Profile, with an average life expectancy of 82.4 years.:2, 20 This is slightly higher than the median life expectancy of 81.2 for all New York City neighborhoods.:53 (PDF p. 84) Most inhabitants are middle-aged adults and youth: 25% are between the ages of 0–17, 29% between 25–44, and 24% between 45–64. The ratio of college-aged and elderly residents was lower, at 9% and 13% respectively.:2
As of 2016, the median household income in Community Board 14 was $56,599. In 2018, an estimated 22% of Flatbush and Midwood residents lived in poverty, compared to 21% in all of Brooklyn and 20% in all of New York City. One in eleven residents (9%) were unemployed, compared to 9% in the rest of both Brooklyn and New York City. Rent burden, or the percentage of residents who have difficulty paying their rent, is 57% in Flatbush and Midwood, higher than the citywide and boroughwide rates of 52% and 51% respectively.
While Flatbush is predominantly African American and West Indian, there are sizable numbers of Caucasians, Latinos and Indian Americans living within its borders. A majority of residents are working class, but there also are middle-class and wealthier residents who call Flatbush home. The primary commercial strips are Flatbush, Church, and Coney Island Avenues. One can find Caribbean food, Soul food, Chinese, Mexican and South Asian restaurants. Most of the businesses are small, with some larger businesses also present. A large part of the culture in Flatbush is the use of "dollar vans". These "vans" are actually minibuses that provide a cheaper alternative to riding the MTA. Residents pay $2 to travel along Flatbush Avenue from Kings Plaza to Tillary St. While many dollar vans operate illegaly, they are still a major part of transportion in Flatbush.
Flatbush housing varies in character. It generally features apartment buildings, though some rowhouses also are present. Older, Victorian-style housing can be found in Prospect Park South, and brownstones are in Prospect Lefferts Gardens.
The Flatbush community has been receiving an influx of immigrants from the Caribbean, mostly from Guyana, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Grenada, Barbados, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Kitts and Nevis and Belize, since the 1980s, as well as immigrants from South Asia, primarily India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and African countries like Ghana, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, and Kenya. Haitians are the largest ethnic group in Flatbush. Prior to the arrival of these groups, the Flatbush community had already been diverse, with many Italian-Americans, Irish-Americans, African-Americans and Jewish-Americans.
The former town of Flatbush coincided roughly with Brooklyn Community District 14, which runs north-south from Prospect Park to Kings Highway. The boundaries of the neighborhood today are not precisely defined, but much of the areas below have typically been considered part of the community. The portion of Flatbush that is not part of any other community is roughly bounded by Clarkson Avenue to the north, New York Avenue to the east, Long Island Rail Road's Bay Ridge Branch to the south, and Ocean Avenue to the west.
The neighborhoods of Flatbush extend south from the old Brooklyn City Line north of the southern edges of Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Empire Boulevard. The southern border of Flatbush neighborhoods is approximately on the line of the Bay Ridge Branch, which runs to the south of Avenue H, the campus of Brooklyn College, and "The Junction" where Flatbush and Nostrand Avenues intersect. Flatbush's eastern border is roughly around New York Avenue, while its western border is Coney Island Avenue.
Neighborhoods within Flatbush include the planned communities of Prospect Park South, the Beverley Squares (Beverley Square East and Beverley Square West), Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Ditmas Park, Fiske Terrace, Victorian Flatbush, and Albemarle-Kenmore Terrace. Bordering Flatbush on the north are the community of Crown Heights and the former neighborhood of Pigtown. On the east, within the old town of Flatbush, is East Flatbush, on the west are Kensington and Parkville (formerly Greenfield), and on the south is Midwood. Midwood, also part of Community District 14, was historically part of the neighboring former towns of New Utrecht, Gravesend and Flatlands. Flatbush includes the southernmost portion of Prospect Park.
Well-known institutions within Flatbush include Erasmus Hall High School, the Parade Ground, the Flatbush Dutch Reformed Church, Brooklyn College, and Ebbets Field (demolished in 1960), the last Brooklyn home of the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team. Due to imprecisely defined, shifting boundaries, the Ebbets Field site may also be considered to be in Crown Heights. The Kings Theatre, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, operated from 1929 to 1977; it reopened as a live show venue in February 2015 after extensive renovations.
The bustling business district and neighborhoods of Flatbush are supported by several important community organizations. The Flatbush Avenue Business Improvement District provides services to keep Flatbush Avenue from Parkside Avenue to Cortelyou Road clean, safe and profitable for its businesses. Every year, the Flatbush BID organizes the Flatbush Avenue Street Fair, an event that celebrates the cultures of the community. The Flatbush Development Corporation (FDC) is a nonprofit that hosts events and programs that are aimed to support the "vitality, diversity and quality of life" in the Flatbush community. CAMBA, Inc. is a Flatbush-based nonprofit that since 1977 has provided housing, youth education and development, legal services and healthcare services to residents of Flatbush and beyond.
Flatbush is patrolled by two precincts of the NYPD. The 70th Precinct is located at 154 Lawrence Avenue and serves Ditmas Park, Prospect Park South, and Midwood, while the 67th Precinct is located at 2820 Snyder Avenue and serves East Flatbush. The 70th Precinct ranked 30th safest out of 69 patrol areas for per-capita crime in 2010, while the 67th Precinct ranked 40th safest. With a non-fatal assault rate of 42 per 100,000 people, Flatbush and Midwood's rate of violent crimes per capita is less than that of the city as a whole. The incarceration rate of 372 per 100,000 people is lower than that of the city as a whole.:8
The 70th Precinct has a lower crime rate than in the 1990s, with crimes across all categories having decreased by 89.1% between 1990 and 2018. The precinct saw 6 murders, 27 rapes, 162 robberies, 273 felony assaults, 173 burglaries, 527 grand larcenies, and 75 grand larcenies auto in 2018. The 67th Precinct also has a lower crime rate than in the 1990s, with crimes across all categories having decreased by 79.9% between 1990 and 2018. The precinct saw 6 murders, 43 rapes, 246 robberies, 601 felony assaults, 225 burglaries, 586 grand larcenies, and 98 grand larcenies auto in 2018.
Preterm births are more common in Flatbush and Midwood than in other places citywide, though teenage births are less common. In Flatbush and Midwood, there were 99 preterm births per 1,000 live births (compared to 87 per 1,000 citywide), and 17.1 teenage births per 1,000 live births (compared to 19.3 per 1,000 citywide).:11 Flatbush and Midwood has a relatively high population of residents who are uninsured, or who receive healthcare through Medicaid. In 2018, this population of uninsured residents was estimated to be 16%, which is higher than the citywide rate of 12%.:14
The concentration of fine particulate matter, the deadliest type of air pollutant, in Flatbush and Midwood is 0.0077 milligrams per cubic metre (7.7×10−9 oz/cu ft), lower than the citywide and boroughwide averages.:9 Ten percent of Flatbush and Midwood residents are smokers, which is slightly lower than the city average of 14% of residents being smokers.:13 In Flatbush and Midwood, 28% of residents are obese, 13% are diabetic, and 31% have high blood pressure—compared to the citywide averages of 24%, 11%, and 28% respectively.:16 In addition, 21% of children are obese, compared to the citywide average of 20%.:12
Eighty percent of residents eat some fruits and vegetables every day, which is lower than the city's average of 87%. In 2018, 77% of residents described their health as "good," "very good," or "excellent," slightly less than the city's average of 78%.:13 For every supermarket in Flatbush and Midwood, there are 21 bodegas.:10
Flatbush and Midwood generally has a similar ratio of college-educated residents to the rest of the city. Though 43% of residents age 25 and older have a college education or higher, 18% have less than a high school education and 39% are high school graduates or have some college education. By contrast, 40% of Brooklynites and 38% of city residents have a college education or higher.:6 The percentage of Flatbush and Midwood students excelling in math rose from 43 percent in 2000 to 68 percent in 2011, though reading achievement remained steady at 48% during the same time period.
Flatbush and Midwood's rate of elementary school student absenteeism is about equal to the rest of New York City. In Flatbush and Midwood, 18% of elementary school students missed twenty or more days per school year, compared to the citywide average of 20% of students.:24 (PDF p. 55):6 Additionally, 75% of high school students in Flatbush and Midwood graduate on time, equal to the citywide average of 75% of students.:6
Flatbush is home to a number of elementary and intermediate schools, as well as the Erasmus Hall High School campus. Founded in 1786, it has a long list of famous alumni. Its building has been expanded numerous times, and is notable for its relatively unique architecture. Since 1994, the building has been divided internally into five smaller high schools, each concentrating on a different academic area.
Several Jewish yeshivas are in the neighborhood, including the Mir Yeshiva, Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, Yeshiva Torah Vodaas, Yeshiva Torah Temimah, Yeshiva Tiferes Yisroel, and the Yeshivah of Flatbush. Combined, they form a major center of Jewish learning. The area had an estimated total enrollment of 14,500 students in 2004.
The Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) has three branches in Flatbush. The Flatbush branch is located at 22 Linden Boulevard east of Flatbush Avenue. It was built in 1905 as a Carnegie library branch. The Clarendon branch is located at 2035 Nostrand Avenue south of Farragut Road. It was founded as a deposit station with a small circulating collection in 1913. The branch moved into its current building in 1954, and it was renovated in 1990. The Crown Heights branch, located on the border with Crown Heights, is located at 560 New York Avenue near Maple Street.
Flatbush is well served by public transportation. On the New York City Subway, the BMT Brighton Line (B and Q trains) has a number of stops within the community. The stretch of stations from Prospect Park to Avenue H is in Flatbush. Though just outside the neighborhood's boundaries, the IRT Nostrand Avenue Line (2 and 5 trains) also serves Flatbush from Sterling Street to the terminal Flatbush Avenue–Brooklyn College station.
The B6, B7, B8, B12, B8, B35, B41, B44 and B49 are MTA Regional Bus Operations routes that serve the neighborhood; some of them also have limited-stop variants, and the B44 also have Select Bus Service variants. In addition, the B103, a wholly limited-stop bus, runs through Flatbush, while the Q35 runs entirely on a limited-stop basis in Brooklyn, connecting Flatbush with the Rockaways.
The major roadways through Flatbush include Flatbush Avenue, Nostrand Avenue and Ocean Avenue, which are North-South corridors, and Linden Boulevard, Church Avenue and Caton Avenue, which are East-West corridors.
Notable residents of Flatbush have included:
[On the Vitagraph Studio lot in Brooklyn, located adjacent to the Brighton railroad, in what is now Midwood, called South Greenfield at the time]: William Shea, among the first actors in the Big V's stock company, recalled the Brighton's role after filming began in 1905: After the building of the Flatbush studio, interior scenes were taken at the Nassau Street address and exterior scenes at Flatbush. In a picture that had both interior and exterior scenes it was a case of collecting all necessary wardrobe and props and moving to Flatbush. It must have been a sight to see fifteen or twenty people get off a train, some carrying bundles and boxes with a sword or spear sticking out, a little bit of a fellow struggling along with a suit of armor, and various other bulky properties distributed among members of the party, but it was part of the game. Very few of the actors kicked and the populace became used to seeing us doing all kinds of stunts.
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