Life in Brooklyn:


Life in Brooklyn

   Sunset Park
   Bay Ridge


Brooklyn Today

Family Tree
Guest Book

Back to Geocities







bc9.jpg (214836 bytes)

Typical two-story houses from the B Train Subway platform


Originally settled by the Dutch in 1661 as part of the town of New Utrecht, today it is bordered by 61 Street, McDonald Avenue, Gravesend Bay and 14th Avenue and includes the areas known as Mapleton and New Utrecht. It is an established community whose origins date back to the late 1880s when the Benson farm was parceled into 20 x 100 foot lots and sold to newly arrived immigrants, thus establishing the suburb of Bensonhurst.

Bensonhurst station of the Brooklyn, Bath and West End RR Elevated in 1917 it has been called the West End line ever since, the B train on the New York City subway system.

The 1890s saw a sizable population growth as wealthy landowners built summer homes and marinas among the farm and woodlands. It was hoped that the Bath Beach-Coney Island railroad, built along the shore, would further the community of "Bensonhurst by the Sea", particularly in light of the success of the Coney Island amusement area, but tourism efforts were unsuccessful. With the arrival of the Fourth Avenue subway line in 1915, many immigrants fled the Lower East Side of Manhattan to build homes in Bensonhurst, a place that would prove to be much more affordable.

Bensonhurst took shape in the early 1930s with the construction of high-rise apartment buildings. Today, it is a community abundant with single family detached and attached houses and multi-family dwellings. From its beginnings to the present, Bensonhurst has always been a haven for middle class families with strong roots. It is not unusual to find two or three generations of the same family living on the same block or a few blocks away; nor is it unusual to find Bensonhurst residents who have lived in the same house for more than 25 years. Attractive houses stand along tree-lined streets, reminiscent of the Victorian era.

The rows of benches running along the Belt Parkway, facing the ocean waters, offer an invitation for sun and relaxation to residents and visitors alike. Many can be seen fishing from the waters, while others offer their kites to the wind. Both young and old can be found, bicycling, roller blading or walking along the path that runs along the Narrows.

Bensonhurst has contributed significantly to the American entertainment industry:

  • It was the setting for television's "The Honeymooners", featuring actor/comedian, Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden, a Brooklyn bus driver.
  • The television show, "Welcome Back Kotter" was inspired by New Utrecht High School.
  • Bensonhurst has generated some very funny people, among them comedians Dom Deluise, Buddy Hackett and Jerry Stiller.
  • Actors Danny Devito, Elliot Gould, Harvey Fierstein and Rhea Perlman hail from Bensonhurst, as did famous playwrite, Abe Burrows, ("Guys and Dolls", "Can-Can"), who was a graduate of New Utrecht High School.
  • Gary Goldberg, television writer and producer, attended Lafayette High School. In the late 1970s, he wrote for such shows as the "Bob Newhart Show" and "The Tony Randall Show", achieving notoriety in 1978 as the producer for the Emmy Award winning "Lou Grant". With his production of the short lived "Brooklyn Bridge", he strove to keep memories of his beloved neighborhood alive.
  • Opera star Robert Merrill, one of the great baritones, is another product of Bensonhurst. He has given countless performances with the Metropolitan Opera and may be best remembered for singing the national anthem at the opening of every Yankee game.
  • Phil Silvers, actor and comedian, was America's favorite "Top Banana". A native of Bensonhurst, by the age of ten he won talent shows all over the borough. At 14, while working the crowd at Coney Island beach and boardwalk, he was discovered and, as they say, the rest is history... Perhaps he is best noted for his Emmy award winning television show, The Phil Silvers Show, where he starred as Master Sergeant Ernie Bilko. He continued to appear in television until his death in 1986.
  • Larry King, contentious talk show host, lived in Bensonhurst, graduating from Lafayette High School in 1951.
  •  Moses (Moe), Samuel (Shemp) & Jerome (Curly) Howard
    biggest contributors to the entertainment industry from Bensonhurst. "Three Stooges".

The neighborhood has traditionally been Italian and Jewish with few other ethnic groups. In 1989, Yusef Hawkins, a African-American inquiring about a used car, was killed by a group of 30 youths.

In the last 20 years, Chinese families have been attracted to the area and are now the greatest source of incoming residents.



New Utrecht High School


  • The area of 18th Avenue, between 67 Street and Bay Ridge Parkway, adds an old world charm with its many cafes, pastry shops, food shops and restaurants. The many outdoor fruit and vegetable markets running along 86 Street, beneath the elevated "B" subway line are reminiscent of the simplicity of years gone by.
  • What was once the Walker Theater (6401 18 Avenue) built in 1927, and named for Mayor Jimmy Walker, is now a department store. Through the years the theater was host to countless vaudeville acts, big band concerts, theatrical productions and motion pictures.

Churches and Schools

  • The New Utrecht Reformed Church, (1827 84 Street) is a Georgian Gothic structure constructed in 1828 as the center of the original Dutch settlement. During the time of the British occupation (1776-1783), Bensonhurst residents erected flagpoles, called liberty poles, on which they raised the flag of independence, as a sign of derision for the British. The liberty pole that stands on the lawn of The New Utrecht Reformed Church marks the site of the first liberty pole.
  • The Feast in honor of Santa Rosalia - each year thousands of visitors flock to this summer street fair held on 18th Avenue, from Bay Ridge Parkway (75 Street) to 69 Street.




setstats 1