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Community

Brooklyn

Background

The Dutch chartered the settlement of Brooklyn in 1657. In 1898, Brooklyn became a borough of New York City, but without losing the identity it maintains today — that of a great city in its own right. Much of Brooklyn's experience is unique. Brooklyn has had its own industries and philanthropists, shipbuilders, oil refiners, iron masters, brewers and others. These people have shaped the older neighborhoods and did much to bring such institutions as the Brooklyn Museum, the Public Library, the Academy of Music, Polytechnic Institute, the Long Island Historical Society, and Pratt Institute to this borough. Recreational opportunities in Brooklyn are also superb. Thus, Brooklyn has all the institutions that make for intensive cultural and recreational opportunities in a self-sufficient urban center, and easy access to all that is available throughout the rest of New York City.

Housing

"Unrivaled diversity" is the only fitting description for housing choices in Brooklyn. Unlike Queens or the Bronx, Brooklyn was a city before it became a borough. As a city, it had its wealthy industrialists who built substantial mansions and brownstones in areas such as Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, Clinton Hill and Lefferts Gardens. A middle class inhabited the smaller brownstones that predominate within the borough. There are also many historic survivals, with pre-Civil War frame houses and early 19th-century Federal houses among them.

Of course there are other alternatives. Some may prefer the spacious, well kept, "turn key" homes of Flatbush built in the 1920s and 1930s. Here the best of the homes are substantial, elegant six to eight bedroom properties on tree-shaded lots. Midwood also has many homes of this type, though generally smaller. Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach, Mill Basin, and Canarsie offer modern split-level homes, small one-family houses, two-family houses, and lavish waterfront properties. Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Sheepshead Bay and much of Midwood offer a mix of private homes and apartment buildings. Co-operative apartments are available in most areas as there is active conversion of older rental buildings. Many rental apartments are also available.

Residents with families generally choose to live in Canarsie, Bay Ridge and other boring places, while hipsters choose Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Fort Greene and Williamsburg. A substantial number of residents and attendings at Kings County choose to put up with Manhattan.


Education

Many newcomers are surprised at the rich educational resources that Brooklyn offers. The borough has a wealth of educational institutions and an impressive record of academic achievement among its students. In broad historic terms, the building of public schools followed and reflected the opening up of new sections of the borough and the population move into them. Today, in cohesive, stable areas — Bay Ridge, Flatbush, Midwood, Bensonhurst, Marine Park, and Sheepshead Bay among them — a long tradition of superior public education continues to be strong. In these areas, as well as "brownstone restoration" areas, which include Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Park Slope, the presence of many young professionals ensures that parents play an active, supportive role in their local schools. Private schools also have a significant presence in Brooklyn, especially in the Brooklyn Heights-Cobble Hill area. Catholic parochial schools and schools that emphasize the Jewish heritage are also numerous.

Higher education is particularly well served in Brooklyn by the presence of 11 accredited colleges. Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1853, has played a very substantial role in the development of many of today's key technologies and is now a partner in the development of Downstate’s Biotechnology Center. The Pratt Institute, founded in 1878, emphasizes a science and engineering curriculum. Long Island University's main campus is in Brooklyn. Brooklyn Law School has its campus in downtown Brooklyn. St. Joseph's College places emphasis on early childhood education. The City University of New York operates Brooklyn College, a four year school on a 45 acre campus in Flatbush. There are also several community colleges: Kingsborough Community College, Medgar Evers College, and New York City Technical College. And, of course, SUNY Downstate Medical Center (formally known as The State University of New York Health Science Center at Brooklyn) with its Graduate Program and Colleges of Medicine, Nursing, and Health Related Professions located in geographic center of the borough.


Parks and Recreation

Of the five boroughs of New York City, Brooklyn has the most shoreline — over 200 miles of it — and much of that bounty of fresh air and open ocean front is protected within the Gateway National Recreation Area and the immense Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. In addition, there are 5,958 acres of public parks and playgrounds for the enjoyment of young and old alike.

After designing Manhattan's Central Park, in 1866, Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted completed the plans for their masterpiece, Brooklyn's Prospect Park. In addition to meadows and glades, it offers areas of rising, rocky, tree-clad terrain, a 60-acre lake, and an open-air music shell for concerts and recitals. Among the activities available are baseball, football, soccer, bicycling, boating, horseback riding, ice-skating, novice skiing, and sledding. The adjacent Brooklyn Parade Grounds offers a large level area within which are many ball fields, indoor/outdoor tennis courts, handball and paddleball courts, basketball courts and a jogging track. The Prospect Park Zoo has recently completed a major renovation and conversion into a modern open-space children's zoo. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden adjoins Prospect Park and offers 50 acres of carefully selected and tended plantings, with three Japanese Gardens, a Shakespeare garden, an arboretum, a tropical conservatory, multiple greenhouses and a new pavilion in which several climates and ecosystems are recreated.

Jamaica Bay Park and Wildlife Refuge contains thousands of acres of sheltered bay, marshy islands, and hundreds of channels and creeks. One of New York’s largest parks is the Salt Marsh and Wildlife Preserve at Marine Park. Of course, beaches and marinas abound given Brooklyn's extensive coast line. Best known are Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach and Coney Island. The famous amusement area is home to the New York Aquarium, the nation's oldest, featuring a wide range of contemporary exhibits and Keyspan Stadium, home to the Brooklyn Cyclones minor league baseball team. Virtually all outdoor and beach activities imaginable can be enjoyed within the miles of park and shore land. Throughout the borough, smaller parks within neighborhoods provide local recreational opportunities. Among these are waterfront parks such as Shore Park in Bay Ridge, offering spectacular views of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and New York harbor, and the Promenade in Brooklyn Heights as well as the newly created Brooklyn Bridge Park, with its unparalleled panoramic view of the lower Manhattan skyline. Brooklyn is also home to two large golf courses at Marine Park and Dyker Heights Park. Then there are also high school athletic facilities, open to neighborhood residents after school hours.

The recently opened Brooklyn Bridge Park is an 81 acre waterfront park extending 1.3 miles from the Brooklyn Bridge to Atlantic Avenue. The former piers have been reimagined and developed as fields, playgrounds, and other outdoor recreation areas. This is a beautiful area to take your children to the swings, play some volleyball, go kayaking in the East River or going biking along the beautiful bike path. You can regain your strength by eating some delicious food from the various food vendors.


Cultural Resources

As befits a borough that is older and larger than many of the nation's top cities, Brooklyn is rich in long-established museums, performing arts centers, and other cultural institutions, 180 of them. Best known among these are probably the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The Museum, occupying a magnificent Neo-Classical building near the Botanic Garden has an unrivaled Egyptian collection as well as an extensive and highly regarded Far Eastern Art, Islamic Art and anthropological holdings. The Academy of Music has highlighted the performing arts for over a century. Its stage has featured such internationally famous artists as Enrico Caruso, Geraldine Farrar, Rachmaninov, Kreisler, Hiefetz, and Casals to name a few. The Academy is also home to the Brooklyn Philharmonic. The Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College is a second major forum for live performances presenting high quality programs and complementing the Academy by hosting many smaller and newer performance groups. Music and drama is available at many more venues including Bargemusic at Fulton Landing, The Brooklyn Conservatory of Music in Park Slope and The Arts at St. Ann’s in Brooklyn Heights. There are also summer concerts in the parks throughout the borough. The Children's Museum has a unique collection of over 50,000 objects, and it has been on the forefront of developing participatory environments that encourage "hands on" learning experiences. Other specialized museums include the New Muse Community Museum, the Harbor Defense Museum of New York City, the National Maritime Historical Society/Fulton Ferry Museum, and the New York City Public Transit Exhibit. Brooklyn also has several art galleries, such as the Pratt Institute Gallery.


Shopping and Dining

Brooklyn shopping facilities fall into three broad categories. There are the neighborhood convenience stores providing everyday necessities. Local commercial areas consisting of "shopping avenues" have stores that sell everything from newspapers to groceries to electronics to appliances to designer clothing to building supplies, etcetra, etcetra. Also, regional shopping centers such as downtown Brooklyn with the Fulton Mall and the Atlantic Center, and in southern Brooklyn the Kings Plaza shopping mall with over 200 stores have shops that sell just about everything one could want. Gateway at Spring Creek is Brooklyn’s newest shopping scene addition featuring multiple megastores.

The most noticeable characteristics of Brooklyn shopping are the late hours that stores keep and the wide range of goods and dining available in many commercial areas. Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights entrances the most causal browser; 86th Street in Bay Ridge will whet the appetite of all who enjoy the fine meats and fish of Scandinavia; while browsing antique stores on Atlantic Avenue or cloths shopping on Kings Highway, those yearning for Middle Eastern foods such as hummus, falafel, shish-kebabs or baklava may be tempted; 13th Avenue in Borough Park will prove irresistible to those seeking true Jewish and kosher delicacies; Smith Street and Court Street in Cobble Hill/Gowanus are the home to many new trendy restraurants and bistros; in Flatbush, the shops on Church Avenue serve West Indian and Caribbean delights such as roti, jerk chicken, and curry; in Bensonhurst the stores along 18th Avenue will prove a gourmet's dream to all who like Italian food; on Brighton Beach Avenue, under the "el", the elevated train, Little Odessa will satisfy the cravings of anyone desiring Russian treats and trinkets; and for those who like their fish fresh from the sea, Sheepshead Bay will provide fulfillment. In summary, when it comes to shopping and dining, Brooklyn is a borough of diverse ethnic groups— catering to all tastes, considerable variety and availability of products, and convenience in hours and location.


Transportation

Until 1883, it wasn't easy to get to Brooklyn. In 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge, a marvel of design, grace, and durability, was completed. It was joined by the Williamsburg Bridge in 1903 and the Manhattan Bridge in 1912. The more recent Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, as well as a number of subway linkages and bus routes have added to the range of options that today's residents have for going from or returning to Brooklyn.

Travel within Brooklyn is generally convenient and easy. Half a dozen major subway lines fan out from a core in downtown Brooklyn and stretch out like extended fingers into the outer reaches of the borough. These same lines extend northwards into Manhattan, taking riders from lower to mid Manhattan, upper Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens. Brooklyn also has extensive local bus service which extends into neighboring boroughs, as well as a system of express bus services to Manhattan.

Automobile travel to Queens, Long Island, Manhattan and New Jersey is made simple via a number of expressways, highways, parkways and boulevards. For example, the Belt Parkway, starting in Northeastern Queens, passes along the Brooklyn shoreline offering views few expressways can match of New York Bay, the Verrazano Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty. Also, there is the Jackie Robinson Interboro Parkway, Ocean Parkway, the Prospect Expressway, and a number of other boulevards that stretch across the borough.

The content of the preceding text was derived from "Brooklyn, More than a Borough— A City in Itself", a publication provided by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce