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Flatbush is a community which consists of several neighborhoods in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. The name Flatbush is an calque of the Dutch language Vlacke bos (vlacke or vlak, meaning "flat"; "Flatbush" meaning "flat woodland" or "wooded plain"), so named from woods that grew on the flat country. The Flatbush Post Office is assigned ZIP code 11226, but the area understood as included in Flatbush extends into other postal zones.
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Flatbush was originally chartered as the Dutch Nieuw Nederland colony town of Midwout in 1651. Both names were used in the Dutch era, and Midwood was an alternative name for Flatbush into the early 20th century. In a reversal, Midwood, now the area immediately south of Brooklyn College, is often alternatively called "Flatbush," especially among Orthodox Jews. Midwood's residents predominately feature a mix of the latter and Irish Americans.
Flatbush and the five other towns of what was to become Kings County, were surrendered to the English in 1664. The town was the county seat for Kings County and was a center of life for what we now call Brooklyn. The compact center of the village of Flatbush was at the intersection of what are now Flatbush and Church avenues, where we still find an old Dutch Reformed Church and Erasmus Hall, the oldest high school in New York City.
Flatbush played a key role in the American Revolution. Flatbush was nearby where significant skirmishes and battles of the Battle of Long Island took place. As Kings County was settled largely by the Dutch, and as the Dutch were prominent in the slave trade, the area was somewhat sympathetic to the British side of the American Revolutionary War at the beginning of the conflict. Kings County at the time had the highest concentration of slaves north of the Mason-Dixon Line, and when a Loyalist Governor of Virginia supported freedom for slaves who supported and fought on the British side, landowners in Brooklyn were concerned that a full conflict between the Colonies and the British would result in loss of their critical source of labor. Loyalist residents of Flatbush included David Mathews, Mayor of New York City, who lived at what is now the intersection of Flatbush and Parkside avenues.
The influence of Dutch merchant and farming families remained strong in the area until after consolidation into the City of Greater New York in 1898, after which the development of Flatbush as a suburb, and then an integral part of the larger city, proceeded apace.
Before it was incorporated into the City of Brooklyn in 1894, Flatbush described both the Town of Flatbush, incorporating a large swath of central Kings County extending east to the Queens County border, and the Village of Flatbush, formerly the heart of the current community. Many of the remaining early Dutch structures are in the Flatlands and Marine Park neighborhoods.
In the first half of the 20th century, Flatbush had a sizable population of Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans and Jews. Much as it is today, it was a working-class neighborhood. A vast portion of Flatbush residents closely followed the Brooklyn Dodgers, which at the time were not only the team of Brooklyn but also of Flatbush in particular. Duke Snider was known as “the Duke of Flatbush”. By 1958, however, the Dodgers left Brooklyn, and Ebbets Field eventually was torn down. Due to shifting neighborhood boundaries, Ebbets Field today technically would be in Crown Heights, as the ballpark was located just north of Empire Boulevard.
During the 1970s and early 1980s, Flatbush experienced a shift in demographics as it went from being a mostly White, Irish, Italian and Jewish community to a mostly Black, West Indian community. While most sections of Flatbush were working class before the demographic shift, there were a few affluent areas. Prospect Park South had a sizable number of more affluent homeowners, and more than a few doctors resided on a stretch of Parkside Avenue immediately adjacent to Prospect Park. By the mid-1980s, however, there were a number of abandoned or semi-abandoned buildings in the community, with a number of apartment houses falling into a state of disrepair. Many of the affluent residents left Flatbush and were replaced by lower income residents. While crime generally had always been a problem in the community (e.g., a number of stores on Flatbush and Church Avenues were looted during the 1977 blackout), a drug epidemic ravaged Flatbush during the 1980s and early 1990s. The area around the Parade Grounds was particularly notorious for drug turf wars and shootouts. Street gangs also were prevalent in Flatbush.
At the 2000 U.S. Census, there were 37,132 housing units with 106,154 people living in ZIP code 11226. Of those 79.8% were Black or African American, 14% were Hispanic or Latino, 6.5% were White, 2.8% were Asian, 0.4% Native American, 5.7% were some other race and 4.9% were two or more races. Of the population 25 and older 64.5% are High School graduates or higher and 12.4% have a Bachelor's degree or higher. 39.9% speak a language other than English at home. The median family income in ZIP code 11226 in 1999 was $30,985, the median per capita income was $13,052. 23.2% of residents in this area were below the poverty level.
In 2010 the population of Flatbush, regardless of zipcode, was 110,875. The Flatbush community has been receiving an influx of immigrants from the Caribbean (West Indies), mostly from Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Grenada, Guyana, Barbados, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Kitts and Nevis and Belize, since the 1980s, as well as immigrants from South Asia, primarily India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and African countries like Ghana, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, and Kenya. Haitians are the largest ethnic group in Flatbush. Prior to the arrival of these groups, the Flatbush community had already been diverse, with many Italian-Americans, African-Americans and Jewish-Americans. Flatbush is patrolled by the NYPD's 67th and 70th Precincts.
While Flatbush today is predominantly African American and West Indian, there are sizable numbers of Caucasians, Latinos and Indian Americans living within its borders. While a majority of residents are working class, there also are middle-class and wealthier residents who call Flatbush home. The primary commercial strips are Flatbush, Church, and Nostrand Avenues, with Coney Island Avenue also emerging as a major strip. One can find Caribbean, Soul food, Chinese, Mexican and South Asian restaurants. Most of the businesses are small, with some larger businesses also present. Flatbush housing varies in character. It generally features apartment buildings, though some rowhouses also are present. Victorian-style (albeit older) housing can be found in Prospect Park South, and brownstones are in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens.
Well-known institutions within Flatbush include Erasmus Hall High School, the Parade Grounds, the Flatbush Dutch Reformed Church, Brooklyn College, and Ebbets Field (demolished in 1960), the last Brooklyn home of the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team, as well as Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin and the Mirrer Yeshiva. Due to imprecisely defined, shifting boundaries, the Ebbets Field site would be considered today by some to be in Crown Heights.
The Loew's Kings Theatre, vacant since 1977, is currently being restored and is expected to reopen in 2015.
Location and neighborhoods
Flatbush includes the southernmost portion of Prospect Park.
The neighborhoods of Flatbush extend south from the old Brooklyn City Line north of the southern edges of Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Empire Boulevard. The southern border of Flatbush neighborhoods is approximately on the line of the Long Island Rail Road's Bay Ridge Branch, which runs to the south of Avenue H, the campus of Brooklyn College, and "The Junction" where Flatbush and Nostrand Avenues intersect. Flatbush's eastern border is roughly around New York Avenue, while its western border is Coney Island Avenue.
Neighborhoods within Flatbush include the planned communities of Prospect Park South, the Beverley Squares (Beverley Square East and Beverley Square West), Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Ditmas Park, Fiske Terrace, Victorian Flatbush, and Albemarle-Kenmore Terrace. Bordering Flatbush on the north are the community of Crown Heights and the former neighborhood of Pigtown. On the east, within the old town of Flatbush, is East Flatbush, on the west are Kensington and Parkville (formerly Greenfield), and on the south is Midwood. Many consider Midwood to be a part of Flatbush, but historically it was part of the neighboring former towns of New Utrecht, Gravesend and Flatlands.
Flatbush is well served by public transportation. The BMT Brighton Line (B Q trains) has a number of stops within the community. The stretch of stations from Prospect Park to Avenue H is in Flatbush. Service to Manhattan can take as little as half an hour. All stations of the IRT Nostrand Avenue Line (2 5 trains) except President Street are also within Flatbush, including the Flatbush Avenue – Brooklyn College station, currently the southern terminal of the line. This stop is about one block west of Brooklyn College and one block north of the Junction Mall.
The B6, B8, B35, B41, B44, B49, and Q35 are bus routes that serve the neighborhood; some of them also have limited-stop variants. In addition, the B103, a wholly limited-stop bus, runs through Flatbush.
In addition to a number of elementary and intermediate schools, Flatbush has one high school within its borders. Erasmus Hall High School, located near the intersection of Flatbush and Church Avenues, is one of the oldest high schools in the city. With its relatively unique architecture and long list of famous alumni, Erasmus Hall has been a mainstay in Flatbush for centuries.
Additionally, Flatbush shares Brooklyn College with Midwood. While located in what traditionally has been considered Midwood, shifting neighborhood boundaries have caused at least part of the institution to be located in Flatbush. Brooklyn College is a member of the CUNY system.
In popular culture
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- The Lords of Flatbush (1974 film set in 1958)
- Flatbush (1979 sitcom)
- The song "Brooklyn Boogie" references Flatbush Extension
- The Type O Negative song "September Sun" references Flatbush in the line "September sun rotted Flatbush porch."
- The Aerosmith song "Bone to Bone (Coney Island White Fish Boy)", from the album Night in the Ruts, includes the lyric: "Flatbush boy, cruisin' Sheepshead Bay".
- According to Mel Blanc, the character's original voice actor, Bugs Bunny has a Flatbush accent.
- In the 1946 Three Stooges short film, Three Little Pirates, Moe calls Curly a "Flatbush Flathead".
- The "Mario brothers" Mario and Luigi of video game fame are said to be from Flatbush. In the animated TV series The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!, as well as the Super Mario Bros. Hollywood movie, Mario and Luigi's business, "Mario Brothers Plumbing Services", is operated out of Flatbush.
- Fry from Matt Groening's Futurama is originally from Flatbush. In one episode, another character, Bender, carries Fry on the abandoned New York City Subway, dubbing himself "the Brooklyn Bound B-Train".
- The community of Flatbush is one of the principal locations featured in William Styron's novel Sophie's Choice. The protagonist, Stingo, takes up residence there in 1947. He befriends Sophie and Nathan, and soon learns of Sophie's tortured history.
- In the German city of Hamburg, at the end of the 90s, young Hiphop-lovers from the Eimsbüttel quarter started to refer to their multicultural quarter as "Eimsbusch", and a local Hiphop record label also went by the name "Eimsbush", referring to Flatbush.
- Mentions of Ocean Avenue and the neighborhood in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and Brother, I'm Dying.
- Talib Kweli's song "Memories Live" on the album Reflection Eternal "Life, living in Flatbush and going to house parties/Red lights, bumping, life is what you make it, then sorry"
- In The Incredible Mr. Limpet, Mrs. Limpet says, "If you paid half as much attention to me as you do those fish, I'd be the happiest wife in Flatbush"
- In Act One, scene one of Tony Kushner's Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, Flatbush is referenced as a place of Eastern European Jewish immigration.
- In the "Girls Dem Sugar" video, Flatbush Avenue is displayed.
- "Flatbush Zombies" is a Hip Hop group with origins in Flatbush.
Notable residents of Flatbush have included:
- Michael Badalucco
- Joseph Barbera
- Capital Steez
- Dane Clark
- Al Davis
- David Draiman
- Da Bush Babees
- Cella Dwellas
- East Flatbush Project
- Patrick Fitzgerald
- Full Force
- Flatbush Zombies
- Sid Gordon
- Sonia Greene
- Susan Hayward
- Leona Helmsley
- Hurricane G
- Eric Kaplan
- Evelyn Kozak
- Talib Kweli
- Norman Mailer
- David Mathews
- Jimmy McMillan
- Joe Paterno
- Red Cafe
- Busta Rhymes
- Chubb Rock
- Jackie Loughery
- Joey Bada$$
- Dre Knight
- Dmitry Salita
- Mimi Sheraton
- Special Ed
- Richard Sheirer
- Michael Showalter
- Peter Steele
- Barbra Streisand
- Bruce Sudano
- The Underachievers
- Michael K. Williams
- Angela Yee
- "Flatbush Malls". NYC Dept. of Parks & Recreation. December 12, 2001. Retrieved May 29, 2009.
- "Lefferts Historic House". Prospect Park Alliance. Retrieved May 29, 2009.
- Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 126.
- Matus, Irvin Leigh (2000). "When the Dream Was Made". Urbanography. Retrieved Sep 3, 2013. "[On the Vitagraph Studio lot in Brooklyn, located adjacent to the Brighton railroad, in what is now Midwood, called South Greenfield at the time]: William Shea, among the first actors in the Big V's stock company, recalled the Brighton's role after filming began in 1905: After the building of the Flatbush studio, interior scenes were taken at the Nassau Street address and exterior scenes at Flatbush. In a picture that had both interior and exterior scenes it was a case of collecting all necessary wardrobe and props and moving to Flatbush. It must have been a sight to see fifteen or twenty people get off a train, some carrying bundles and boxes with a sword or spear sticking out, a little bit of a fellow struggling along with a suit of armor, and various other bulky properties distributed among members of the party, but it was part of the game. Very few of the actors kicked and the populace became used to seeing us doing all kinds of stunts."
- The Ordeal of Kings County by Edwin G. Burrows as part of Tiedemann and Fingerhut (editors) The Other New York: The American Revolution Beyond New York City 2005
- Vanderbilt, Gertrude Lefferts The Social History of Flatbush, and Manners and Customs of the Dutch Settlers of Kings County D. Appleton & Company, 1881
- "Zip Code Tabulation Area 11226". Factfinder.census.gov. Retrieved January 27, 2011.
- "70th Precinct, NYPD". Nyc.gov. Retrieved January 27, 2011.
- 67th Precinct, NYPD.
- The Neighborhood News, New York magazine, Feb. 4, 2013, p. 10
- "Flatbush Junction Mall site". Outside.in. Retrieved January 27, 2011.
- "Beauty From Flatbush Now Rides The Range". Sarasota Herald-Tribune (Google News). November 11, 1955.
- Weber, Bruce (January 19, 2012). "Richard J. Sheirer, Official in Charge of Sept. 11 Rescues, Dies at 65". New York Times. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
Media related to Flatbush, Brooklyn at Wikimedia Commons
- Early history of Flatbush, pre-1842 Accessed 2008-11-17