Bensonhurst, Brooklyn

Bensonhurst, Brooklyn

Bensonhurst is a neighborhood located in the south-central part of the New York City borough of Brooklyn.


Sometimes erroneously thought to include all or parts of such neighborhoods as Bath Beach, New Utrecht, Dyker Heights, and Borough Park, or to be defined by the streets where the ethnic mix of Jewish and Italian residents is most prominent, Bensonhurst actually has a clearly defined border, with Gravesend to the southeast, Midwood to the east, Borough Park to the north, New Utrecht to the west, and Bath Beach to the southwest. Starting at the neighborhood's southern tip at the corner of Stillwell Avenue and 86th Street, the border runs north along Stillwell Avenue to Kings Highway, east to McDonald Avenue, north to 60th Street, northwest to New Utrecht Avenue, south to 86th Street, and southeast back to Stillwell Avenue.

Bensonhurst is served by three branches of the New York City Subway system: the D/M elevated subway line, also called the BMT West End Line, at 62nd Street, 71st Street, 79th Street, 18th Avenue, 20th Avenue, Bay Parkway, and 25th Avenue Stations (with the M terminating at Bay Parkway); the N open-cut line, (also called the BMT Sea Beach Line), at New Utrecht Avenue, 18th Avenue, 20th Avenue, Bay Parkway, and Kings Highway Stations; and the F elevated line (also called the IND Culver Line), at the Avenue N and Avenue P Stations. The D/M elevated and the N open-cut lines also have a free transfer in the neighborhood at the 62nd Street D/M Station and the New Utrecht Avenue N Station.


Bensonhurst derives its name from Arthur W. Benson, the former president of Brooklyn Gas, who in 1835 began buying farmland that formerly belonged to the Polhemuses family. Between 1835 and 1850 Benson divided the farmland into lots that were sold in the following decades as part of the newly created suburb of Bensonhurst, [ [ Brooklyn's Large Estates: What Has Become of the Old Farm Lands of the City of Brooklyn?] , accessed July 31, 2006] which was annexed into the 30th Ward of Brooklyn in the 1890s.

In the early 1900s, many Jews and Italians moved into the neighborhood, and prior to World War II the neighborhood was about equally Jewish and Italian. In the 1950s, there was an influx of immigrants from southern Italy and most of the Jewish population left the neighborhood, leaving the area predominantly Italian. In the 1990s, many Chinese and Russian immigrants began to arrive. Today, the Italian American community numbers over 50,000, or more than one-third of the population. Despite increasing diversity, Bensonhurst is still heavily Italian-American, as its Italian-speaking community remains over 20,000 strong, according to the census of 2000. Its main thoroughfare, 18th Avenue (also known as Cristoforo Colombo Boulevard) between roughly 60th Street and Shore Parkway, is lined with predominantly small, Italian family-owned businesses—many of which have remained in the same family for several generations. Eighty-sixth Street is another popular local thoroughfare, lined by the arches of the elevated BMT West End Subway Line. The 18th Avenue Station was popularized in opening credits of "Welcome Back, Kotter".

On August 23, 1989, a 16-year-old African-American named Yusef Hawkins was shot and killed in Bensonhurst, after he and three friends had been attacked by a group of mostly Italian-American youths. At least four neighborhood residents were tried and convicted of charges related to the assault and murder. In connection with the Hawkins murder and the subsequent trials, Reverend Al Sharpton led several protest marches through the streets of Bensonhurst. On January 12, 1991, before one such march, neighborhood resident Michael Riccardi tried to kill Sharpton by stabbing him in the chest. Riccardi later remorsefully said that he "thought the act would make me a hero in my community." Sharpton recovered from his wounds, and later asked the judge for leniency when Riccardi was sentenced. The two subsequently reconciled.

Brooklyn's "Little Italy"

Bensonhurst was stereotyped as a haven for Mafia members (Gus Farace, a reputed mob associate suspected of murdering a federal drug-enforcement agent, was found shot to death in a parked car there on November 17, 1989, and two years later the neighborhood provided the setting for the mob-themed film "Out for Justice" starring Steven Seagal), many of whom are believed to maintain residences in Dyker Heights, a nearby neighborhood. Despite this old stereotype, the reality is that the overwhelming majority of Bensonhurst residents have nothing to do with crime, organized or otherwise. Fact|date=July 2007

On April 13, 1986, while approaching his car after leaving a meeting at the Veterans & Friends Social Club on 86th St. in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, Frank DeCicco was killed by a car bomb explosion. Lucchese crime family soldier Frank "Frankie Hearts" Bellino, who was with DeCicco, lost several toes. However, the intended target, John Gotti, was not there. Turncoats and informants would later reveal that the order for the hit came from Genovese crime family boss Vincent Gigante, who did not like John Gotti or approve of him killing Castellano without approval from the Commission, and conspired his murder with Lucchese crime family leaders Vittorio "Vic" Amuso and Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso.

Currently the neighborhood is undergoing a transformation; many of the original houses dating back over 90 years ago are being torn down and replaced by three-story brick apartment buildings and multi-family condominiums, sometimes referred to as "Fedders Houses" for their distinctive air conditioner sleeves.

Visitors from throughout the New York City metropolitan area flock to the neighborhood each year in late August or early September to take part in the colorful Santa Rosalia Festival (commonly known simply as "The Feast" to locals), held on 18th Avenue from Bay Ridge Parkway (75th Street) to 69th Street. "The Feast" is presented by Bensonhurst resident Franco Corrado. Born in Rome, Italy, in 1955, Corrado has been an active social member of the Italian-American community for the past 20 years.St. Rosalia is the patron saint of the city of Palermo and is sometimes venerated as the patron for the entire island of Sicily (a sizable portion of Bensonhurst's Italian American residents are of Sicilian heritage)Fact|date=June 2007. The annual end-of-summer celebration attracts thousands.

Immediately after Italy's victory at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, a large portion of Bensonhurst's Italian American community, as well as several thousand participants from all over the tri-state area, participated in a large victory celebration. Several local cafés and businesses paid for a city permit to close 18th Avenue from commercial traffic. It was held on the same route as the St. Rosalia Feast, but stretched from 65th street to nearly 80th Street. The celebration began as soon as the Italian team won, until about 7:00 p.m., when the permit ran out.


New York City Department of Education serves Bensonhurst. [" [ School & Zone Finder] ." "New York City Department of Education". ]

Zoned schools include:
* [ P.S. 128 Bensonhurst School]
* [ I.S. 281 Joseph B. Cavallaro]

References in Popular Culture

*Bensonhurst is the neighborhood discussed in Shelby Steele's 1990 documentary "Seven Days in Bensonhurst", about the racially motivated murder of Yusef Hawkins in 1989.
*Mentioned in the movie "25th Hour" during a rant by Edward Norton.
*Bensonhurst was the setting for "The Honeymooners" series, featuring actor/comedian Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden, a bus driver in Brooklyn during the 1950s.
*The character Captain Donald Cragen (played by Dann Florek) in "" lives in Bensonhurst.
*The television series "Welcome Back Kotter" was set in Bensonhurst.
*"Saturday Night Fever" was filmed in Bensonhurst's Philips Dance Studio.
*The chase scene in "The French Connection" rolls through Bensonhurst, on 86th Street and then New Utrecht Avenue.
*Bensonhurst is one of the settings for the 1991 movie "Jungle Fever".
*Mirabelli's Famous Cream Soda had its roots in Bensonhurst.
*The Sbarro salumeria first opened in 1956 on 1705 65th St. corner of 17th Ave. The store has since closed and converted to other uses.
*"Bensonhurst Blues" is written by Artie Kaplan & Artie Kornfeld, two guys from Bensonhurst.
* It is the location for the film "Spike of Bensonhurst".
*On the daytime soap "General Hospital", the characters Sonny Corinthos, Lois Cerullo, Brook Lynn Ashton, Kate Howard/Connie Falconeri and Olivia Falconeri are all said to have grown up in Bensonhurst.
*The title track of Black 47's album "Green Suede Shoes" features the lyric, "I just got a message from a brother of Maria/Come on out to Bensonhurst, we all want a piece of ya."
*In the cult classic movie "The Warriors" the Jones Street Boys was the gang whose turf was Bensonhurst.
*In the film "Do the Right Thing", Sal and his two sons, Vito and Pino, live in Bensonhurst.
*An 18th-season episode of "Saturday Night Live" had a sketch called The Bensonhurst Dating Game.
*The title character in the film The Adventures of Ford Fairlane is from Bensonhurst.

Famous people

*Scott Baio, actor (Happy Days, Joanie Loves Chachie, Charles in Charge, etc.), was born and raised in Bensonhurst.
*Abe Burrows, playwright, writer of "Guys and Dolls" and "Can-Can", is a graduate of New Utrecht High School.
*Kerry Butler, actress, grew up in Bensonhurst.
*(Herbert Cohen) Attorney, U.S.Negotiator,attended Lafayette High School.
*Peter D'Adamo, author of "Eat Right For Your Type", grew up in Bensonhurst.
*Vincent D'Onofrio, star of "", was born in Bensonhurst.
*Vic Damone, singer, attended Lafayette High School.
*Joey Fatone, of 'N Sync fame, was born in and spent his first 13 years in Bensonhurst.
*Jerry Ferrara, of HBO's "Entourage", was raised in Bensonhurst.
*Daniel Franzese, actor ("Mean Girls"), was raised in Bensonhurst.
*Harvey Fierstein, actor, playwright and screenwriter, was raised in Bensonhurst.
*John Franco, pitcher for the Mets, attended Lafayette High School.
*Daniel Glass, music producer.
*Gary David Goldberg, television producer, attended Lafayette High School.
*Elliott Gould, actor, was raised in Bensonhurst.
*Philip Habib, diplomat, was raised in Bensonhurst.
*Buddy Hackett, comedian, was raised in Bensonhurst and attended New Utrecht High School.
*Kenny Hickey, Johnny Kelly, and Peter Steele, of the rock band Type O negative, are from Bensonhurst.
*Richard Jeni, was raised in Bensonhurst.
*Curly Howard, of the Three Stooges, is from Bensonhurst.
*Moe Howard, of the Three Stooges, is from Bensonhurst.
*Shemp Howard, of the Three Stooges, is from Bensonhurst.
*Gabe Kaplan, actor and poker aficionado, is from Bensonhurst.
*Larry King, talk show host, lived in Bensonhurst and graduated from Lafayette High School in 1951.
*Sandy Koufax, Major League Baseball pitcher and member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, attended Lafayette High School.
*Adam Lazzara, lead singer of Taking Back Sunday, lives in Bensonhurst.
*Richard Jeni, was raised in Bensonhurst.
*Daniel M. Johnson "The Untouchable DJ Drastic", DJ, music industry professional, and radio presenter, used to live in Bensonhurst.
*Jesse Liberty, author, Queer activist, is from Bensonhurst
*Michael Curro, musician, was born and raised in Bensonhurst.
*Tony Mamaluke, former ECW star, was born in Bensonhurst.
*Robert Merrill, operatic baritone, was raised in Bensonhurst.
*Rhea Perlman, actress, was raised in Bensonhurst and graduated from Lafayette High School in 1964
*Leah Remini, actress, was raised in Bensonhurst.
*Carl Sagan, astronomer/teacher/author, grew up in Bensonhurst.
*Steve Schirripa, actor in HBO's "The Sopranos", was born in Bensonhurst.
*Tony Sirico, actor in HBO's "The Sopranos", used to live in Bensonhurst.
*Ray Suarez, news correspondent, was raised in Bensonhurst.
*Marisa Tomei, actress, was raised in Bensonhurst and her family owns an electrical repair store on Kings Highway near Avenue P.
*Eric Zaccar, playwright, screenwriter and lyricist, is from Bensonhurst.


*Frank Abbandando, Murder Inc. hitman and father of mobster Frank "Fingers" Jr.
*Frank Costello
*Vito Genovese
*Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, ex-Gambino underboss/informant was from Bensonhurst
*John Gotti owned an apartment in Bensonhurst.
*Gaetano Lucchese
*Benjamin "Bugsy" Seigel


External links

* [] - Photos of Bensonhurst
* [ A History of Bensonhurst] - A History of the Neighborhood
* [ Brooklyn's Ethnic Neighborhoods] - An ethnic picture of New York
* [] - Bay Ridge Community Message Board

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