Crown Heights in Brooklyn

Wednesday, 18 March 2020 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, New York City
Reading Time:  11 minutes

West Indian Day Parade 2008 © Fordmadoxfraud/cc-by-sa-3.0

West Indian Day Parade 2008 © Fordmadoxfraud/cc-by-sa-3.0

Crown Heights is a neighborhood in the central portion of the New York City borough of Brooklyn. Crown Heights is bounded by Washington Avenue to the west, Atlantic Avenue to the north, Ralph Avenue to the east, and Clarkson Avenue/East New York Avenue to the south. It is about 1 mile (1.6 km) wide and 2 miles (3.2 km) long. Neighborhoods bordering Crown Heights include Prospect Heights to the west, Flatbush and Prospect Lefferts Gardens to the south, Brownsville to the east, and Bedford-Stuyvesant to the north. The main thoroughfare through this neighborhood is Eastern Parkway, a tree-lined boulevard designed by Frederick Law Olmsted extending 2 miles (3.2 kilometres) east–west. Originally, the area was known as Crow Hill. It was a succession of hills running east and west from Utica Avenue to Washington Avenue, and south to Empire Boulevard and East New York Avenue. The name was changed when Crown Street was cut through in 1916.

In the early and mid-20th century, Crown Heights had begun as a fashionable residential neighborhood, a place for secondary homes in which Manhattan’s growing bourgeois class could reside. The area benefited by having its rapid transit in a subway configuration, the IRT Eastern Parkway Line (2, 3, 4, and 5 trains), in contrast to many other Brooklyn neighborhoods, which had elevated lines. Conversion to a commuter town also included tearing down the 19th century Kings County Penitentiary at Carroll Street and Nostrand Avenue. Beginning in the early 1900s, many upper-class residences, including characteristic brownstone buildings, were erected along Eastern Parkway. Away from the parkway were a mixture of lower middle-class residences. This development peaked in the 1920s. Before World War II Crown Heights was among New York City’s premier neighborhoods, with tree-lined streets, an array of cultural institutions and parks, and numerous fraternal, social and community organizations. From the early 1920s through the 1960s, Crown Heights was an overwhelmingly white neighborhood and predominantly Jewish. Population changes began in the 1920s with newcomers from Jamaica and the West Indies, as well as African Americans from the South. In 1950, the neighborhood was 89 percent white, with some 50 to 60 percent of the white population, or about 75,000 people, being Jewish, and a small, growing black population. By 1957, there were about 25,000 blacks in Crown Heights, making up about one-fourth of the population. Following the end of World War II, suburbanization began to rapidly affect Crown Heights and Brooklyn. Robert Moses expanded the borough’s access to Long Island through expressway construction, and by way of the G.I. Bill, many families moved east. Most of these opportunities were limited to whites. Levittown in Long Island, for example, forbid applications from black families. As the Jewish, Irish and Italian populations of Crown Heights moved out of Brooklyn, black people from the south and immigrants from the Caribbean continued to move there. The 1957 departure of the Brooklyn Dodgers and the destruction of Ebbets Field for public housing for its black population symbolically served as the end of the old white ethnic Crown Heights and in the 1960s the neighborhood experienced mass white flight. The demographic change was astounding; in 1960 the neighborhood was 70% white, by 1970 it was 70% black. The one exception to this pattern was the Lubavitch Hasidic Jews. There were thirty-four large synagogues in the neighborhood, including the Bobov, Chovevei Torah, and 770 Eastern Parkway, home of the worldwide Lubavitch movement. There were also three prominent Yeshiva elementary schools in the neighborhood, Crown Heights Yeshiva on Crown Street, the Yeshiva of Eastern Parkway, and the Reines Talmud Torah.

The 1960s and 1970s were a time of turbulent race relations in the area: With increasing poverty in the city, racial conflict plagued some of its neighborhoods, including Crown Heights, with its racially and culturally mixed populations. The neighborhood’s relatively large population of Lubavitch Hasidim, at the request of their leader, the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson stayed in the community after other whites left. In 1964 the Labor Day Carnival celebrating Caribbean culture was moved to the neighborhood when its license to run in Harlem was revoked. It now attracts between one and three million people and is held on the first Monday in September. During the Lyndon B. Johnson administration, Crown Heights was declared a primary poverty area due to a high unemployment rate, high juvenile and adult crime rate, poor nutrition due to lack of family income, relative absence of job skills and readiness, and a relatively high concentration of elderly residents. Violence broke out several times in the neighborhood during the late 20th century, including during the New York City blackout of 1977: More than 75 area stores were robbed, and thieves used cars to pull up roll-down curtains in front of stores. In 1991, there was a three-day outbreak known as the Crown Heights Riot, which started between the neighborhood’s West Indian/African American and Jewish communities. The riots began on August 19, 1991 after Gavin Cato, the son of two Guyanese immigrants, was struck and killed by a car in the motorcade of prominent Hasidic rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. A mob began to attack a Jewish volunteer ambulance, which withdrew. Rumors circulated that the ambulance refused to treat Gavin Cato’s injuries while removing members of Schneerson’s motorcade instead. Yankel Rosenbaum, a visiting rabbinical student from Australia, was killed in the riot, while Jews and blacks were assaulted, and there was property damage amid rock throwing in the ensuing riots. The riot unveiled long-simmering tensions between the neighborhood’s black and Jewish communities, which impacted the 1993 mayoral race and ultimately led to a successful outreach program between black and Jewish leaders that somewhat helped improve race relations in the city. Through the 1990s, crime, racial conflict, and violence decreased in the city and urban renewal and gentrification began to take effect including in Crown Heights.

23rd Regiment Armory - South tower © Jim.henderson Bedford Central Presbyterian Church © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0 Classon Avenue © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0 Crown Heights North Historic District © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0 Former Jewish Hospital of Brooklyn, now an apartment house © Jim.henderson Imperial Apartments on Bedford Avenue © Jim.henderson Lubavitch world headquarters © Sagtkd Park Place Historic District © Beyond My Ken/cc-by-sa-4.0 West Indian Day Parade 2008 © Fordmadoxfraud/cc-by-sa-3.0
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Former Jewish Hospital of Brooklyn, now an apartment house © Jim.henderson
In the 2010s, Crown Heights experienced rapid gentrification. In some areas the increasing rents have caused the displacement of long-time residents. Not only did rents for each apartment increase drastically but building management firms such as BCB Realty, affiliated with companies that buy up buildings in the neighborhood, aimed to remove long-term residents by buying them out or pressuring them to move by “failing to adequately maintain apartments,” according to a housing activist, with the aim of forcing out the rent-stabilized. Other tactics include relocating residents from their apartments claiming renovation and locking them out, as employed by another realtor in the neighborhood, ZT Realty. In 2017, real estate developer Isaac Hager faced opposition from activists when he proposed building a 565-unit apartment complex in Crown Heights; in April 2019, a judge issued a restraining order against the project. In the wake of the 2010 opening of Basil Pizza & Wine Bar, a series of upscale, kosher, foodie restaurants opened in Crown Heights, which The Jewish Week described as “an eating destination.” In November 2013, a series of attacks on Jewish residents were suspected to be part of “knockout games“. Media attention to knockout attacks increased following the incidents in Crown Heights. In response to the violence, the Jewish community hosted an event for African-American teens, designed to promote greater understanding of Jews and their beliefs. The event, hosted by the Jewish Children’s Museum, was coordinated by local Jewish organizations, public schools, and by the NYPD’s 71st and 77th precincts.

Crown Heights has one botanical garden:

There are also four museums in Crown Heights:

Crown Heights has several parks:

Among the landmarks are:

Read more on NYCgo.com – Crown Heights, The New York Times, 17 June 2015: Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Where Stoop Life Still Thrives, Crown Heights riot (The Atlantic, 11 August 2011: The Hard Truth About the Crown Heights Riots, The New Yorker, 19 August 2011: Crown Heights, Twenty Years After the Riots, Haaretz, 16 August 2016: 25 Years After Crown Heights ‘Pogrom,’ Black-Jewish Tensions Contained, but Not Erased, Forward, 18 August 2021: The missing voices of Black Jews in the Crown Heights tragedy, NY 1, 19 August 2021: What policing lessons can be learned from the Crown Heights riots?, The Washington Post, 20 August 2021: Could the Crown Heights Riots Recur?, The Algemeiner, 25 August 2021: Why the Crown Heights Pogrom Still Matters), Jerusalem Post, 19 March 2020: Coronavirus shutters Chabad movement headquarters, for the first time ever and Wikipedia Crown Heights (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.







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