Bensonhurst is a large, amorphous area consisting of several neighborhoods, in the southwestern part of the New York City borough of Brooklyn, in the United States. It is surrounded by Dyker Heights, Borough Park, Flatbush, Midwood, and Gravesend. It is well known as a Little Italy of Brooklyn due to its large Italian-American population.
Sometimes erroneously thought[by whom?] to include all or parts of such neighborhoods as Bath Beach, Mapleton, Dyker Heights, Gravesend, and Borough Park, or to be defined by the streets where the concentration of Italian and Chinese residents is most dense, Bensonhurst has a variety of possible boundaries. Neighboring areas that border it are Gravesend to the southeast, Midwood to the east, Borough Park to the north, Dyker Heights to the west, and Bath Beach to the southwest. A possible clearly defined boundary is as follows: Starting at the neighborhood's southern tip at the corner of Stillwell Avenue and 86th Street, the border runs north along Stillwell Avenue to Avenue P, east to McDonald Avenue, north to 60th Street, northwest to Fort Hamilton Parkway, southwest to Bay Ridge Avenue (69th Street), southeast to 14th Avenue, south to 86th Street, and southeast back to Stillwell Avenue.
Bensonhurst is served by two branches of the New York City Subway system: the elevated BMT West End Line, carrying the D service, at 62nd Street, 71st Street, 79th Street, 18th Avenue, 20th Avenue, Bay Parkway, and 25th Avenue stations; and the open-cut BMT Sea Beach Line, carrying the N service, at New Utrecht Avenue, 18th Avenue, 20th Avenue, and Bay Parkway stations. The two lines have a free transfer in the neighborhood at the 62nd Street D 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 Polhemus family. Between 1835 and 1850 Benson divided the farmland into generous lots that were sold in the following decades as part of the newly created suburb of Bensonhurst by the Sea (current day Bath Beach section), which was annexed into the 30th Ward of Brooklyn in the 1890s.
Bensonhurst has a population of over 151,000 inhabitants.
- Early 1900s
In the early 20th century, many Italians and Jews moved into the neighborhood, and prior to World War II the neighborhood was about equally Jewish and Italian. In the 1950s, under pressure of an influx of immigrants from southern Italy and with new housing being built in the suburbs, the Jewish population began to decline and eventually, after several decades, most of the Jewish population left the neighborhood, leaving the area predominantly Italian.
With a large Italian-American population, Bensonhurst is usually considered the main "Little Italy" of Brooklyn. The Italian-speaking community remains over 20,000 strong, according to the census of 2000. But, the Italian-speaking community is becoming "increasingly elderly and isolated, with the small, tight-knit enclave in the city slowly disappearing as they give way to demographic changes."  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. 86th Street is another popular local thoroughfare, lined by the arches of the elevated BMT West End Subway Line. The 20th Avenue Station was popularized in opening credits of Welcome Back, Kotter.
Around 1989, an influx of immigrants from China and the former USSR began to arrive. Other groups of people in the neighborhood include ethnic Albanian, Arab, Pakistani, Mexican, Guatemalan, Ecuadorian, and Puerto Rican Americans.
Bensonhurst's Asian population has been growing rapidly since the late 1990s. In 2013 Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the city's foreign born hit a new high with Bensonhurst having the second most in foreign born in the city with 77,700 foreign born immigrants in the neighborhood just after Washington Heights.
Brooklyn's "Little Italy"
Bensonhurst was formerly stereotyped as a haven for Mafia members. However, 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 Festa di Santa Rosalia (commonly known as "the Feast" to locals), held on 18th Avenue from Bay Ridge Parkway (75th Street) to 66th Street. "The Feast" is presented by Bensonhurst resident and skilled marketer Franco Corrado, as well as by the Santa Rosalia Society, on 18th Avenue. Born in Rome 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. The annual end-of-summer celebration attracts thousands. Bensonhurt also hosts a Columbus Day parade.
Demonstrating the identical trend as adjacent Lower Manhattan in New York City, Bensonhurst's Little Italy is declining concomitantly with its Italian American population, being uprooted by the rapidly expanding Bensonhurst Chinatown and its attendant Chinese population.
Chinatown, Bensonhurst Emerging (唐人街, 本森社区)
Below the West End Line, served by the D train along on 86th Street between 18th Avenue and Coney Island – Stillwell Avenue, has now emerged a third Brooklyn Chinatown (布鲁克林華埠). Within recent years, most new businesses opening within this portion of Bensonhurst's 86th Street, especially between 20th Avenue and 25th Avenue, have been Chinese. The D trainis directly connected from the Grand Street station in Manhattan's Chinatown (紐約華埠) to this rapidly growing Chinese enclave between 18th Avenue and 25th Avenue, and it is becoming a third extension of Manhattan's Chinatown. It is also in some way becoming a second extension of Brooklyn's 8th Avenue Chinatown since the D trains are transferrable to the N train to travel to Brooklyn's 8th Avenue Chinatown. On 86th Street, it is home to growing Chinese restaurants including the 86 Wong Chinese Restaurant, which is one of the earliest Chinese restaurants and businesses to be established on this street. Chinese grocery stores, salons, bakeries, and other types of Chinese businesses are also expanding swiftly on this street. There is still currently a mixture of different ethnic businesses and people, especially with many Italians and Russians still in the Bensonhurst neighborhood. However, with the highly rapid rate of growth of Chinese businesses and people on this street, the proportion of the Chinese population is increasing; and this Chinatown may rival or surpass the size of the Avenue U Chinatown (唐人街, U大道), also located in southern Brooklyn. With the migration of the Cantonese as well as Fuzhou people in Brooklyn now to Bensonhurst, and along with new Chinese immigration, other small clusters of Chinese people and businesses have grown in other parts of Bensonhurst like 18th Avenue and Bay Parkway as well integrating with other ethnic groups and businesses. It is possible that several small Chinatowns might form as the Chinese population and number of Chinese businesses continue to grow in various sections of Bensonhurst, as it can be witnessed.
According to the Daily News, Brooklyn's Asian population, mainly Chinese, has grown tremendously not only in the Sunset Park area, but also in Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights, and Borough Park. In Bensonhurst alone, from 2000 to 2010, the Asian population increased by 57%. The study also shows that Asians very often live in houses that are divided into studio apartments, which means there is a possibility that the increased Asian population could be more than what the census represents and causing stressors on the growing Asian population in Brooklyn.
Chinese translation terms Bensonhurst as 本森社区, 86th Street as 八十六街, and 18th Avenue as 第十八大道.
Milestone Park is a significant park in the Bensonhurst area. It contains a replica of the oldest sandstone mile marker in New York City (the original is housed at the Brooklyn Historical Society).
The D train, which runs on the BMT West End Line above 86th Street, provides a direct connection to Grand Street in Manhattan while the N train, which runs on the BMT Sea Beach Line near 63rd Street, provides a direct connection to Canal Street. This provides convenient commutes into Manhattan's Chinatown for the growing Bensonhurst Chinese population. The Sea Beach Line has a station at Eighth Avenue in Brooklyn's Sunset Park Chinatown and a transfer to the West End Line is available at New Utrecht Avenue / 62nd Street. The ""F G"" which runs on the BMT Culver Line along Mc Donald Avenue also runs through the most north eastern end of Bensonhurst between the Bay Parkway and Kings Highway stops.
The B1, B3, B4, B6, B8, B9, B64 and B82 bus lines operate through Bensonhurst.
Zoned schools include:
High schools include:
- John Dewey High School
- New Utrecht High School
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School
- Lafayette High School
Colleges and Universities
In popular culture
Bensonhurst has long been portrayed in film, art and literature; Thomas Wolfe mentions it in the 1930s in his short story, "Only The Dead Know Brooklyn", noted for being written entirely in "brooklynese". Later in the 1950s it was brought to fame by the television series The Honeymooners, and in the 1970s with Welcome Back Kotter, featuring a mixed-race cast, that was set in Bensonhurst. Several notable films and television programs were set there, some whose subject matter reflected the tension of the times. Of note are the Spike Lee film Jungle Fever and the cult classic movie The Warriors, about rival gangs. More recently The Bensonhurst Spelling Bee by Funny or die with Kelly Ripa, featured a spelling-bee parody, making fun of stereotypical Italians. JoAnn from Bensonhurst, premiering in 2011, was based on her larger-than-life personality.
- Mirabelli's Famous Cream Soda and the Sbarro pizza chain restaurants have their roots in the neighborhood.
- The Honeymooners is set in Bensonhurst.
- 1972 song Bensonhurst Blues, made famous after Oscar Benton released his version of the song.
- In a 1992 episode of Saturday Night Live, Joe Pesci, Julia Sweeney, Adam Sandler, Dana Carvey, and Chris Rock appeared in a sketch called "Bensonhurst Dating Game," which depicted Italian-American men eager to commit racial violence based on their views of interracial romance.
- Batman villain Harley Quinn has been established as being from Bensonhurst, going home to visit her family for Christmas in Gotham City Sirens #7.
- In the Ang Lee film Taking Woodstock, Eli Teischberg and his family knew Michael Lang, the organizer of the Woodstock music and art festival, from their childhood in Bensonhurst.
- Bensonhurst is mentioned in the 2002 Spike Lee film 25th Hour, during Edward Norton's monologue in which he criticizes contemporary New York City.
- Several characters from the soap opera General Hospital, most notably Sonny Corinthos, grew up in Bensonhurst.
- Bensonhurst is mentioned in the 2010 film White Irish Drinkers, when two Italians come into an Irish bar. They are told the bar doesn't serve "their kind" and they should go back to Bensonhurst.
- Film The French Connection, famous for its car and subway chase scene featuring Gene Hackman, took place along 86th Street.
- Brooklyn 11223, an American reality-TV series about a divided group of friends, has also been filmed in parts of Bensonhurst.
- Mob Wives (of New York) has filmed in Bensonhurst at the local boxing joint, Evolution Boxing, where Drita D'Avano is trained by Anthony Pezzolanti.
- No Love In The City (2008), directed by Marius Balchunas of The Elder Son, had a critical scene filmed in Bensonhurst on 86th Street.
- Spike of Bensonhurst by director Paul Morrissey, was filmed around Bensonhurst and won a Spirit Award.
- I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry was filmed externally; both Chuck and Larry worked at the Bensonhurst Fire House.
- B-Hurst The Movie (2008) was filmed in and around Bensonhurst.
- Spike of Bensonhurst, starring Sasha Mitchell was set in the neighborhood.
- "The Bensonhurst Dating Game" on Saturday Night Live aired on February 29, 2000.
- Joann from Bensonhurst is a reality-show type of webisode about a Bensonhurst housewife known as "Brooklyn's Real Housewife."
Notable current and former residents of Bensonhurst include:
- Steve Augeri (born 1959), musician.
- Rich Aurilia, baseball player San Francisco Giants
- Scott Baio, actor
- Abe Burrows, playwright, writer of Guys and Dolls and Can-Can
- Kerry Butler, actress
- Victor Calderone, club music dj and producer
- Vincent D'Onofrio, actor Law & Order: Criminal Intent
- Vic Damone, singer
- Millie Deegan (1919–2002), professional baseball player in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
- Perry Farrell (born 1959), musician. Jane's Addiction.
- Lou Ferrigno, actor born in Bensonhurst in 1951 and famously known as The Incredible Hulk
- Joey Fatone, singer (member of boy band 'N Sync)
- Jerry Ferrara, actor Entourage
- Daniel Franzese, actor (film Mean Girls)
- Harvey Fierstein, actor, playwright and screenwriter
- Marshall Flaum (1925–2010), documentary filmmaker.
- John Franco, former New York Mets baseball player
- Jacque Fresco, founder and director of The Venus Project
- Daniel Glass, music producer
- Gary David Goldberg, television producer
- Elliott Gould, actor
- Philip Habib, diplomat
- Buddy Hackett, comedian
- Kenny Hickey, Johnny Kelly, and Peter Steele (rock band Type O negative)
- Curly Howard, of the Three Stooges
- Moe Howard, of the Three Stooges
- Shemp Howard, of the Three Stooges
- Richard Jeni, comedian
- Skeery Jones (Radio Producer) for Z100 NY Elvis Duran and the Morning Show)
- Gabe Kaplan, actor, comedian, and professional poker player
- Larry King, talk show host
- Artie Kornfeld, Songwriter, Music Producer, Creator of Woodstock Music & Arts Festival 1969
- Sandy Koufax, baseball player, Los Angeles Dodgers
- Herbie Kronowitz, boxer
- Adam Lazzara, lead singer of local band "Taking Back Sunday"
- Paul Lo Duca, baseball player
- Paul Malignaggi (born 1980), professional boxer
- Tony Mamaluke, former ECW star
- Robert Merrill, operatic baritone
- Alyssa Milano, actress
- Jerrold Nadler, Congressman based in Manhattan who grew up in Bensonhurst and represents part of the area
- Man Parrish, music producer and artist
- Rhea Perlman, actress
- Leah Remini, actress
- Carl Sagan, astronomer/teacher/author
- Robert Sapolsky, neuroendocrinologist/professor/author
- Steve Schirripa, actor in HBO's The Sopranos
- Tony Sirico, actor in HBO's The Sopranos
- Ralph Snyderman, physician, scientist, administrator
- Paul Sorvino, 1939, actor famous for his role in Goodfellas and father of Mira Sorvino
- Barbra Streisand, singer, actress
- Ray Suarez, news correspondent
- Anthony J. Terlato, Winemaker, Horatio Alger Award Winner, "Father of Pinot Grigio" in the U.S.
- Paul Marks (scientist)
A number of high-profile organized crime figures hail from Bensonhurst including Anthony Casso, Paul Castellano, Mikey DiLeonardo, Anthony Gaggi, Carlo Gambino, John Gambino, Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, Gregory Scarpa and Carmine Sessa.
- Magen David Synagogue
- The Historical New Utrecht Church The Historical New Utrecht Church (serving the community since 1677) It is the fourth oldest Reformed Church in America.
- Lenny's Pizza (Made famous by John Travolta in the opening sequence) is still standing tall.
- Chinatowns in the United States
- Chinatown, Manhattan (紐約華埠)
- Little Fuzhou (小福州)
- Chinatown, Brooklyn (布鲁克林華埠)
- Chinatown, Flushing (法拉盛華埠)
- Chinatown, Elmhurst (唐人街, 艾姆赫斯特)
- Corona, Queens
- Chinatown, Avenue U (唐人街, U大道)
- List of Italian American neighborhoods
- Little Italy, Manhattan
- Little Italy, Bronx
- 62nd Precinct, NYPD.
- Brooklyn's Large Estates: What Has Become of the Old Farm Lands of the City of Brooklyn?. Retrieved July 31, 2006.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13.
- Santos, Fernanda (January 6, 2009). "For Italians in Brooklyn, Voices on Streets Have Changed". The New York Times. Retrieved August 22, 2009.
- Annie Hauck-Lawson and Jonathan Deutsch (eds.) (2009). Gastropolis: Food and New York City. Arts and traditions of the table. New York: Columbia University. p. 136.
- Nelson, Katie (2011-09-15). "Asian boom in Brooklyn along N-lline neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Census data shows". Daily News (New York).
- "School & Zone Finder." New York City Department of Education.
- Barron, James; Stevens, Kimberly; and Brescia, Joe. "PUBLIC LIVES", The New York Times, May 29, 1998. Retrieved October 9, 2010.
- Martin, Douglas (July 28, 2002). "Millie Deegan, 82, Pioneer In Women's Baseball League". The New York Times. Retrieved September 22, 2009. "Mildred Eleanor Deegan was born on Dec. 11, 1919, in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bensonhurst.... She excelled in track and field at Lincoln High School, and after graduation played amateur softball with a team called the Americanettes."
- Martin, Douglas. "Marshall Flaum, Documentary Filmmaker, Dies at 85", The New York Times, October 8, 2010. Retrieved October 9, 2010.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.|
- A History of Bensonhurst – A History of the Neighborhood
- New York Hoods: Photo Gallery of Bensonhurst