Brownsville, Brooklyn

Brownsville, Brooklyn

Brownsville also known as Bville and The hill is a low-income residential neighborhood located in eastern Brooklyn, New York. It is part of Brooklyn Community Board 16.

Brownsville is bordered by East New York Avenue to the north (on the Bedford-Stuyvesant border), East 98th Street to the west (East Flatbush) and the Long Island Rail Road to the south (adjacent to the neighborhood of Canarsie). [ [ Brownsville Long Island New York ] ]

The zip code for the neighborhood is 11212. The area should not be confused with Ocean Hill, a subsection of Bedford-Stuyvesant.

The area is patrolled by the 73rd Precinct located at 1470 East New York Avenue. New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) property in the area is patrolled by P.S.A. 2.


Brownsville has a population over 65,000. Over half the population lives below the poverty line and receives public assistance (AFDC, Home Relief, Supplemental Security Income, and Medicaid)Fact|date=June 2008. Brownsville is predominantly African American with some Latinos as well as West Indians . The vast majority of households are renter occupied. [ [ Brooklyn Community District 16] ]

Land use

Brownsville is dominated by public housing developments of various types. There is also a significant concentration of semi-detached multi-unit rowhouses similar to that found in East New York and Soundview surrounding the public housing developments. Many of which however have been torn down and replaced by vacant lots or newly constructed subsidized attached multi-unit rowhouses. There is also a smaller number of tenements in the area. The neighborhood contains the highest concentration of NYCHA projects in Brooklyn. The total land area is one square mile.

Low income public housing projects

*There are eighteen NYCHA developments located in Brownsville. [ NYCHA locations in Brownsville] ]
#104-14 Tapscott Street; one 4-story building.
#Brownsville Houses; twenty-seven buildings, 6 and 7-stories tall
#Glenmore Plaza; four buildings, 10, 18 and 24-stories tall.
#Howard Avenue; five buildings, 3-stories tall.
#Howard Avenue-Park Place; eight buildings, 3-stories tall.
#Howard Houses; ten buildings, 7 and 13-stories tall.
#Hughes Apartments; three, 22-story buildings.
#Sethlow Houses; four buildings, 17 and 18-stories tall.
#Marcus Garvey (Group A); three buildings, 6 and 14-stories tall.
#Ocean Hill-Brownsville; five rehabilitated tenement buildings, 4-stories tall.
#Prospect Plaza Houses, three vacant 12-story buildings in the process of being rehabilitated. (Really in the Ocean Hill section of Brooklyn Community Board 16)
#Reverend Randolph Brown; two, 6-story buildings.
#Sutter Avenue-Union Street; three rehabilitated tenement buildings, 4 and 6-stories tall.
#Tapscott Street Rehab; eight, 4-story rehabilitated tenement buildings.
#Tilden Houses; eight, 16-story buildings.
#Van Dyke I; 22 buildings, 3 and 14-stories tall.
#Van Dyke II; one 14-story building.
#Woodson Houses; two buildings, 10 and 25-stories tall.


Brownsville was politically radical from the 1880s to the 1950s, it elected Socialist and American Labor Party candidates to the state assembly throughout the 1920s and 1930s. [Pritchett, Wendell E. "Brownsville, Brooklyn : Blacks, Jews, and the changing face of the ghetto" Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2002. ISBN 0226684466]

As early as the 1910s, the area had acquired a reputation as a vicious slum and breeding ground for crime. It has been known throughout the years for its criminal gangs and in the 1930s and 1940s achieved notoriety as the birthplace of Murder, Inc.A predominantly Jewish neighborhood until the 1960s, when its population had become largely African-American Brownsville's unemployment rate was 17 percent. Half of all families in the district lived on less than $5,000 a year. As Jimmy Breslin wrote in 1968, Brownsville reminded him of :Berlin after the war; block after block of burned-out shells of houses, streets littered with decaying automobile hulks. The stores on the avenues are empty and the streets are lined with deserted apartment houses or buildings that have empty apartments on every floor.

In 1968 Brownsville was the theater for a protracted and highly contentious teacher strike. [Berube, Maurice R. and Marilyn Gittell. "Confrontation at Ocean Hill-Brownsville; the New York school strikes of 1968" New York, Praeger [1969] OCLC: 19279] The Board of Education had experimented with giving the people of the neighborhood control over the school. The new administration laid off several teachers in violation of union contract rules. The teachers were all white and mostly Jewish, and the resulting strike served to badly divide the whole city. The resulting strike dragged off and on for half a year, becoming known as one of the "Ten Plagues" of John Lindsay.Fact|date=May 2007

Art and Architecture

* Zion Triangle Brownsville War Memorial sculpture

ocial problems

Many social problems associated with poverty from crime to drug addiction have plagued the area for decades. Despite crime declines versus their peaks during the crack and heroin epidemics, violent crime continues to be a serious problem in the community. [ 73rd Precinct CompStat Report] ] Brownsville has significantly higher dropout rates and incidents of violence in its schools. [ NYC Dropout Rates] ] Students must pass through metal detectors and swipe ID cards to enter the buildings. This is reminiscent of a prison environment; many feel this encourages bad behavior. Other problems in local schools include low test scores and high truancy rates. Drug addiction is also a serious problem in the community. Due to the lucrative drug trade in the area, many addicts reside in the community. Peer pressure among children who come from broken homes contributes to the high rate of usage. Many households in the area are headed by a single mother which contributes to the high poverty rate. [ [ Brooklyn Social Concerns] ] Many of whom had their children at a very young age and unfortunately could not provide for their children. [ [ Brooklyn Social Concerns] ] Many of the families living in Brownsville have been in poverty for generations.Fact|date=April 2008 The incarceration rate in the area is also very high. [ [ Brooklyn Social Concerns] ] Many if not most males in the community have been arrested at some point in their lives. [ [ Brooklyn Social Concerns] ] This has a direct correlation to aggressive policing tactics including "sweeps" due to the area's high crime rate. Brownsville is home to a significant number of inmates currently held in New York state prison and jail facilities.

Urban renewal

After a wave of arson ravaged the low income communities of New York City throughout the 1970s, many if not most of the residential structures in Brownsville were left seriously damaged or destroyed. The city began to rehabilitate many formally abandoned tenement style apartment buildings and designate them low income housing beginning in the late 1970s. Also many subsidized multi unit townhouses and newly constructed apartment buildings have been or are being built on vacant lots across across the neighborhood.


Brownsville is accessible from the IRT. Its main thoroughfare is Pitkin Avenue. The 3, and L, trains are accessible to Brownsville residents.


*Until recently Brownsville was the only Brooklyn school district without a high school. There are now two, both housed in the same building at 226 Bristol St. Teachers Preparatory opened in September 2001, and FDA VII opened in September 2004.
*Brownsville is burdened with one of New York City's highest crime rates as well as one of the largest concentrations of public housing in the country.
*The Brookdale Hospital Center receives the most gunshot victims to its E.R in the USA. In 2003, the United States Army established a training program at the hospital called the Academy of Advanced Combat Medicine to train reserve medics in an emergency room that has received 600 cases per year of gunshot and stabbing victims. [Bleyer, Jennifer. [ "Battlefield Medics Shaped in Civilian Setting"] , "The New York Times", December 6, 2005. "The program, called the Academy of Advanced Combat Medicine, started at Kings County two years ago when officers from the 5,300-person Eighth Medical Brigade, based at Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island, decided to train their reservists in a civilian emergency room. The hospital's highly regarded, extremely busy emergency room admits 1,200 major trauma patients each year, among the most in the city."] Their numbers for shooting victims are significantly higher than the NYPD records, and they have been noticing a rise over the last few years.
*Gang violence in the area includes the attempted murder of New York City Police Department officers on New Year's Eve 2002, a gang-related murder attempt which wounded an off-duty police officer caught in the cross-fire, and a gang-related murder attempt in which an innocent 13-year old was shot in the head. The charges are the latest phase in an on-going initiative by the FBI and NYPD, begun in 2002, to combat street gang and drug-related violence in the 73rd Precinct, covering the Brownsville section of Brooklyn.
*Community District 16, which includes Brownsville, is third in Brooklyn and fourth citywide in infant mortality, with 10.7 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. The individual neighborhood of Brownsville, according to DOHMH, had “The highest infant mortality rate in the city” (12.2 deaths per 1,000 live births) in 2004
*The fourth and final prong complements the first three by establishing a partnership with the New York State Division of Parole to improve the supervision of parolees who live in public housing. Parole officers will be dedicated to supervising parolees who reside in these developments and will use offices that are actually located in public housing buildings. Having a presence in the developments will provide greater opportunities for interaction between parole officers and the family members of parolees, as well as community residents. Closer proximity will also enhance the ability of Parole, NYPD, and NYCHA to work collaboratively. Tapscott, Tilden, Brownsville, Seth Low, Van Dyke I and II, Howard, and Langston Hughes low income public housing developments.

Notable natives

*Riddick Bowe
*Shannon Briggs
*Louis "Lepke" Buchalter
*Aaron Copland
*Lloyd (World B.) Free (Philadelphia 76ers guard)
*Nelson George, author and reporter
*John Gotti
*GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan
*Donald Kagan, Yale historian and former dean of Yale College
*Danny Kaye
*Alfred Kazin, writer and literary critic. [Salamon, Julie. [ "Toil, Tears and Sweat in Brooklyn"] , "The New York Times", February 6, 2004. Accessed November 19, 2007. "The words of a native son, Alfred Kazin, spoken by an actor evoking the writer's Brownsville childhood in the 1920's, resonate today."]
*George Gershwin
*Zab Judah
*Masta Ace
*Stephanie Mills, rhythm & blues songstress
*Bruce Pasternack
*DR Period
*Willie Randolph
*Abe "Kid Twist" Reles
*RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan
*Sean Price of Boot Camp Clik
*Smoothe Da Hustler
*Stones (rapper)
*Terry Semel
*Trigger Da Gambler
*Heltah Skeltah
*Bern Nadette Stanis, actress
*Harry "Pittsburgh Phil" Strauss
*Jay "Supreme" Thompson
*Mike Tyson
*U-God of the Wu-Tang Clan
*Dwayne "Pearl" Washington, former professional basketball player. [Vecsey, George. [ "SPORTS OF THE TIMES; The Pearl Fits In At Syracuse"] , "The New York Times", March 9, 1984. Accessed December 5, 2007. "This part of the legend does survive: Washington admits that when he was 8 years old at the Howard Housing Project in Brownsville, his elders asked him: "Who do you think you are, the Pearl?"]
*James "Fly" Williams
*Otis Wilson, Chicago Bears linebacker


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