brooklyn  williamsburg history
The Williamsburg Bridge connects the neighborhood to Manhattan

The Williamsburg Bridge connects the neighborhood to Manhattan
Williamsburg is a neighborhood in northern Brooklyn, New York City. It is connected to the East Village and Lower East Side in Manhattan by the Williamsburg Bridge over the East River. Williamsburg is home to many ethnic groups and a thriving art community.

The area traditionally called Williamsburg is today occupied mainly by the Yiddish-speaking Satmar Hassidim, who continue to wear the traditional dress of their ancestors in Europe and adhere closely to Jewish religious law. North of traditional Williamsburg is an area known as South Side, occupied by Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. To the north of that is an area known as North Side, traditionally Northern Italian, but now hosts increasing numbers of hipsters: artists and those who wish to associate with artists. So-called East Williamsburg is home to many industrial spaces and forms the largely black and Hispanic area between Williamsburg and Bushwick. Williamsburg, South Side, North Side, Greenpoint and East Williamsburg all form Brooklyn Community Board 1.

The hipster center of Williamsburg radiates from the strip of Bedford Avenue near the Bedford Avenue Station on the L train, the first stop from Manhattan. Since their settling in, ex-Manhattanites and hipsters from around the nation insist on calling their area Williamsburg, despite the fine distinctions natives make.

On May 11th, 2005 the city passed a mammoth rezoning of the North Side and Greenpoint waterfront from manufacturing and low density residential to high density residential with a set aside (but no funding) for the creation of open waterfront park space. The land is being rezoned to permit luxury highrises, high-end retail, a proposed waterfront park, and privately owned riverfront promenades. Proponents of the rezoning seek to gentrify and recast an area currently characterised active warehouses and light industrial, some smaller residential buildings, and a handful of mammoth obsolete manufacturing buildings. The projected increase in the area population is estimated to be 40,000 new residents with an expected correlated increase in property values and real estate tax revenue. Critics of the rezoning have contended that the rezoning will change the existing community's character (Manhattanization) and force out existing residents, and that the plan lacks of adequate provisions for public transportation or public safety infrastructure to accommodate the projected new residents.


Independent Williamsburgh
In 1638, the Dutch West India Company first purchased the area's land from the local Native Americans. In 1661, the company chartered the Town of Boswijck, including land that would later become Williamsburg. After the English takeover of New Netherland in 1664, the town's name was anglified to Bushwick. In 1802, real estate speculator Richard M. Woodhull acquired 13 acres (53,000 m²) near what would become North 2nd Street, then Metropolitan Avenue. He had Col. Jonathan Williams, a U.S. Engineer, survey the property, and named it Williamsburgh (with an h at the end) in his honor.

Williamsburgh was incorporated as the Village of Williamsburgh within the Town of Bushwick in 1827. In two years it had a fire company, a post office and a population of over 1,000. The deep drafts along the East River encoraged industrialists, many from Germany, to build shipyards around Williamsburgh. Raw material was shipped in, and finished products were sent out of many factories straight to the docks. Several sugar barons built processing refineries. Now all are gone except Domino Sugar (formerly Havermeyer & Elder). Shipbuilding was also an important industry here. The great ironclad warship USS Monitor was built in neighboring Greenpoint. And there were several beer breweries as well as a variety of other industries.

Reflecting its increasing urbanization, Williamsburgh separated from Bushwick as the Town of Wiliamsburgh in 1840. It became the City of Williamsburgh in 1852, which was organized into three wards. The old First Ward roughly coincides with the South Side and the Second Ward with the North Side, with the modern boundary at Grand Avenue. The Third Ward was to the east of these, beginning to approach modern Eastern Williamsburg.

In Brooklyn's Eastern District
In 1855, the City of Williamsburgh, along with the adjoining Town of Bushwick, were annexed into the City of Brooklyn as the so-called Eastern District. The First Ward of Williamsburgh became Brooklyn's 13th Ward, the Second Ward Brooklyn's 14th Ward, and the Third Ward Brooklyn's 15th and 16th Wards.

In modern times the conception of Williamsburg (which lost its h with the Brooklyn merger) has expanded to cover areas not historically a part of the City of Williamsburgh. Much of what has later come to be understood as the heart of Williamsburg, the area south of Division Avenue in the west and Broadway in the east, was actually originally the Wallabout section of the City of Brooklyn. Also, much of what is today called East Williamsburg was originally organized as Brooklyn's 18th Ward from the Bushwick annexation, exclusive of the 27th and 28th Wards encompassing what is today called Bushwick, which were split off in 1892.

During its period as part of Brooklyn's Eastern District, the area achieved remarkable industrial, cultural, and economic growth, and local businesses thrived. Wealthy New Yorkers such as Cornelius Vanderbilt and railroad magnate Jim Fisk built shore side mansions. Astral Oil, founded by the Pratt family, which later became part of Standard Oil, was based here. Charles Pratt and his family founded Pratt Institute, the great school of art & architecture. Corning Glass Works was founded here before moving upstate to Corning, New York. Chemist Charles Pfizer founded Pfizer Pharmaceutical in Williamsburgh, and the company still maintains its headquarters in the neighborhood. Brooklyn's Broadway street, ending in the ferry to Manhattan, became the area's lifeline. At one point in the 19th century Williamsburg possessed 10% of the wealth of the United States and was the engine of American growth.

The Kings County Savings Institution was charted on April 10, 1860. It carried in business in a building called Washington Hall until, it purchased the lot on the corner of Bedford Avenue and erected its permanent home, the Kings County Savings Bank building. This was the bank used by the wealthiest men in America. It remains to this day probably the most historically important landmark in Williamsburg, representing a time of conspicuous wealth and the industrial and financial strength of the American phenomenon.

Crossing Boroughs
In 1898 Brooklyn itself became one of five boroughs within the City of Greater New York, and its Williamsburg neighborhood was opened to closer connections with the rest of the new city.

Just five years later, the opening of the Williamsburg Bridge in 1903 marked the real turning point in the area’s history. The community was then opened up to thousands of upwardly mobile immigrants and second-generation Americans fleeing the overcrowded slum tenements of Manhattan's Lower East Side. Williamsburg itself soon became the most densely populated neighborhood in the United States.

After World War II, the economy sagged. Refugees from war-torn Europe began to stream into Brooklyn, including the Hasidim whose populations had been devastated in the Holocaust. Hispanics from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic also began to settle in Williamsburg. But with he decline of industry and the increase of population and poverty, crime and illegal drugs, Williamsburg became a caldron of pent-up energies. Those who were able to move out did.

Since the 1980s a flood of artists out of areas like SoHo began to move into Williamsburg for cheap rent and convenient transportation, one subway stop from Manhattan. The community was small at first, but by 1996 Williamsburg had accumulated an artist population of about 3,000. Visitors from around the world started coming to see the new “cutting edge” art scene.

Yuko Nii founded the nonprofit Williamsburg Art & Historical Center(WAH Center) *[[1]] in late 1996 based upon her Bridge Concept. That concept envisions a multifaceted, multicultural art center whose mission is to coalesce the diverse artistic communities, and create a bridge between local, national and international artists, emerging as well as established artists of all disciplines. She also wanted to preserve the WAH Centers building the Kings County Savings Bank building which is on the National Register of Historic Places and the 7th building to be landmarked in New York City.

The WAH Center’s activities began to attract worldwide attention and drew more artists as well as real estate investors. New restaurants & shops opened to accommodate tourists and new residents. To promote the neighborhood and its growth, Breuk Iversen started the full color glossy magazine 11211 Magazine and founded the North Brooklyn Business Association.. Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden named Yuko Nii a woman of the year in 2001 and said that her activities had transformed all the Northern part of Brooklyn.

By 2004 the community had over 70 art galleries, a museum, hundreds of trendy international restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and nightclubs. Today, Williamsburg is the largest art community in the world with over 10,000 artists, many coming from overseas.

Many highly regarded artists live in Williamsburg including Terrance Lindall whose art has been on the covers of numerous books and magazines and who produced the blockbuster show Brave Destiny[2], the worlds largest gathering of surrealist artists. He also produced the first Grand Surrealist Costume Ball in the United States which drew people from all over the world for the one night event. The youthfulness and vibrancy of Williamsburg makes it a worldwide tourist attraction.

Music Scene
In recent years, Williamsburg has become a rival to Manhattan clubs for live music and new bands. Venues like North 6, Galapagos, Warsaw, Pete's Candy Store, Asterisk Art Project, free103point9, Tommy's Tavern, the Glasshouse, the Woodser and the Local (aka Rock Star Bar aka Ship's Mast aka Rocky's aka the Mermaid Bar) are host to some of NYC's most important. Jazz has begun to find a foothold in Williamsburg as well, with classic jazz full time at restaurant venues like Zebulon and Moto, and - on the more avant / noise side - at tiny spots like the Lucky Cat, B.P.M., and Eat Records. Many roving warehouse parties have become cultural institutions of themselves for the performing arts in Brooklyn, including Mighty Robot, Twisted Ones, Todd P's parties, and Rubulad.

The neighborhood also has the dubious distinction of being the birthplace of electroclash, a genre fostered by self-styled New York celebrity Larry Tee and his Berliniamsburg parties (he even copyrighted "electroclash," the word). For two years - starting the week before September 11th, 2001 - Tee's Saturday parties at club Luxx (now Trash) introduced lofi electronic performers like W.I.T., A.R.E. Weapons, Avenue D, Misty Martinez and Stalker7. By the summer of 2003, the fad dried up, and Larry Tee's Williamsburg music nights were discontinued.

The neighborhood and its scene has, in recent years, produced rock bands as diverse as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV on the Radio (who featured an image of the Williamsburg Bridge approach on the cover of their debut EP, Young Liars), Japanther, Oneida, Black Dice, !!! aka Chk Chk Chk, and Animal Collective.

Low rents were a major reason why (self-described) artists first started settling in the area, but that situation is changing. Rents in Williamsburg range from approximately $1,000 for a studio, $1,200-1,500 for a one-bedroom, and $1,600-2,000 for a two-bedroom. The North Side (above Grand Street, which separates the North Side from the South Side) and Greenpoint are more expensive, as they are closer to the subway, but the South Side is now becoming quite gentrified as well, making rents similarly high there. Higher rents - and now the emminent spectre of waterfront rezoning and high-rise construction - have driven many priced-out bo-hos to found new creative communities further afield in areas like the East Williamsburg Industrial Park, Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, Clinton Hill and even Red Hook.

Feast of St. Paulinus and Our Lady of Mount Carmel
A significant component of the Italian community on the North Side were immigrants from the city of Nola near Naples. Residents of Nola every summer celebrate the "Festa del Giglio" (feast of lillies) in honor of St. Paulinus of Nola, who was bishop of Nola in the Fifth Century. The immigrants brought the traditions of the feast with them. For two weeks every summer, the streets surrounding Our Lady of Mount Carmel church, located on Havemeyer and North 8th Streets, is dedicated to a celebration of Italian culture. The highlights of the feast are the "Giglio Sundays" when a 100 foot tall statute, complete with band and a singer, is carried around the streets in honor of Paulinus and Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Despite the fact that many of the descendants of the early Italian immigrants have moved away, many return each summer for the feast.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.


The Keskaechquerem, or Canarsie, Indians of the Algonquin language family sell a swampy bog called Cripplebush (today Bushwick, Greenpoint and Williamsburg) to the Dutch West India Company.


Unregulated squatting by farmers from Norway, France, Italy, Sweden, and both free and enslaved Africans. Indian attack leads to development of first town: Boswijch (meaning "Town of Woods") with 23 families


British gain official political control of Cripplebush, although Dutch remains the predominant language. Kiekout formed on Old Meserole Farm (East River at South 4th Street - first town in Williamsburg) - Later called Het Strand.


At the time of the American Revolution, there were four predominantly Dutch towns in Cripplebush, including: Het Drop in what is today Bushwick; Cherry-point, in what is now Greenpoint; and Het Strand. British troops cut thickets and scrub oaks for fire during war.


James Hazard of New York, begins ferry runs from Morrell farmhouse to Grand Street in New York.


Richard Woodhull starts competing ferry from North Second Street to Grand Street in New York.


Woodhull commissions a survey of the Cripplebush coast. The part from Bushwick Creek to what is today Division Street is named after the surveyor, Woodhull's friend, U.S. engineer Coronel Jonathan Williams.


First North-South road unifying Williamsburgh. Williamsburgh ("h" dropped in 1855) incorporated as a farming village in New York State. First village president: Noah Waterbury. Slavery abolished in New York.


First cobblestoned streets. Rapid population growth.


Third ward added, mostly German Dutchtown. Financial crisis in New York and Brooklyn.


Irish influx around Metropolitan Avenue near Union Avenue. Tinney Row occupied by African Americans and mixed blood Indians. German Jews center around Grand Street. Three local newspapers.


Corrupt Williamsburg mayor escapes village bankruptcy and personal indictment by joining Brooklyn. Sugar refineries at their height. New immigrants from Russia, Lithuanian and Poland--many Jewish--supply labor. Hungarian Jews on Cook Street.


Williamsburg Bridge purposed in State Senate.


First significant wave of Italian immigrants. Patrician WAPSs and German Jews from Grand Street begin to move out.


Unification of Greater New York.


Williamsburg Bridge opens. Increased influx of poor immigrants from Lower East Side.


Williamsburg reaches highest population, including the most densely populated blocks in the city.


Manufacturing displaces residential housing.


First public housing in the U.S: Williamsburg Houses.


BQE construction obliterates downtown and thousands of units of housing.


White flight. Hasidic and Puerto Rican influx.


Urban renewal. Seneca Club--Satmar alliance. Loss of manufacturing jobs.


Fiscal crisis in New York. Polish, Italian, Hasidic, Hispanic community organizations. First effective Puerto Rican political organization. Real decline in income.


Schaefer Brewery closes. Loss of 2,500 jobs.


Legal disputes about land, schools and crime between Hasidim and Hispanics. Artist colony develops.

An independent village was established in 1664. Williamsburg remained a small farming community until the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825. Kings County, including Williamsburg, had the highest number of slaves per capita in New York until the abolition of slavery in 1827.

The Williamsburg of the early Nineteenth Century was dominated by the two competing ferry operators that carried farm products to markets in Lower Manhattan. Each ferry operated established an independent series of gated roads leading to their ferries.

In 1802 one of the operators, Richard Woodhull, hired his friend Coronel Jonathan Williams, a United States army engineer, to map out the Cripplebush waterfront. The piece north of what is now the Wallabout Channel was named for this surveyor. Coronel Williams never lived here. Coronel WIlliams main distinction is that he is a distant relative of Benjamin Franklin and served as Franklin's secretary in France during the American Revolution.

Williamsburg became an independent City in 1827, joining Brooklyn in 1855. A financial scandal, involving allegations of corruption by the mayor and a revolt by the board of alderman, forced Williamsburg to merge with Brooklyn in 1855. During the Civil War, The Monitor, the world's first ironclad warship, was built in Greenpoint, the area immediately north of Williamsburg. (The local junior high school in Greenpoint, J.H.S. 126, is named after the MONTOR's engineer, John Ericson. The ship was made in between Oak and Calyer Streets at what used to be known as American Consolidated. The place is all fenced off and the company long gone. -many thanks to Michael Hernandez, resident of Williamsburg for 37 years, for this info).

Williamsburg (spelled "Williamsburgh" at the time) became an independent city at just the moment when the New York area was set to become the most important port and financial center in the Western Hemisphere, just after the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825. Because of the Erie Canal and the prominence of nearby New York, Williamsburg experienced explosive growth during its period as an independent city, from 1827 to 1855. The independent village of Williamsburg had 1000 resident in 1827 and almost 40,000 by 1850.

In the late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries, the neighborhood's position near both an active port and major market made it an ideal incubator for new businesses. The waterfront was cluttered with docks, shipyards, warehouses, distilleries, taverns, mills, metal works, breweries, and small sugar refineries. Among the companies registered in the independent city of Williamsburg were D. Appleton & Company, U.S. publisher of Alice in Wonderland and Charles Darwin's Origin of Species, and Pratt's Astral Oil Works, which later merged and became Standard Oil. Brooklyn Flint Glass became Corning Glassware. The Hecla Iron Works decorated Manhattan monuments like the St. Regis Hotel and the Dakota. Williamsburg was also a notable vacation spot for the super-rich, with resorts catering to the likes of Commodore Vanderbilt and James Fisk. Havemeyers & Elder Sugar Refining, founded by the son of a mayor of New York City, is now called Amstar and still maintains a sugar refinery on the Northside producing sugar by the brand name Domino.

Before the completion of the Williamsburg Bridge, the capitalists and owners of Williamsburg generally lived in Williamsburg. In The Wealthy Men and Women of Brooklyn and Williamsburg (1847), one out of every five individuals with assets over 10,000 dollars lived in Williamsburg, although the population of independent Williamsburg was about one-tenth that of Brooklyn as a whole. Although in decline from 1880, Williamsburg maintained a genuine elite until World War I, when the neighborhood became solidly working-class and poor. A few remnants of the patrician past remain.

New York became a major financial center because it was a major port. Both the stock market and the U.S. Government (and its main source of tariff revenue) depended on shipping in New York. Similarly, Williamsburg's port spilled over into finance. This financial activity has left the neighborhood with some of its finest architecture.

Waves of Jews in Williamsburg

The Jews of Williamsburg have moved in the opposite direction from the general route of American Jews. While the percentage of reformed and non-practicing Jews has increased in the United States, in Williamsburg successive waves of increasing orthodox European immigrants have replaced their more liberal predecessors. For example, the first reformed congregation in Brooklyn opened in Williamsburg on 274 Keap Street at the turn of the century. Years after the more well-to-do and liberal, American-born German Jews moved out, the building was sold to more orthodox Eastern Europeans in 1921. Today almost all the Jews of Williamsburg are Hasidic.

Many Western European Jews from Alsace-Lorraine and Germany were well established in the United Stated and Williamsburg by the end of the Civil War, immigrating before and after the Revolutions of 1848. By 1880, when Eastern European Jews began moving into Williamsburg, many Western European Jews were already assimilated to patrician American culture, many already American-born.

The poorer Eastern Europeans often saw the Americanized Jews as too liberal. The Western Europeans despaired of their poorer co-religionists, calling them "Orientals" and "Converts," implying that they are not descendants of the original Seven Tribes of Israel. Western European legend has it that a pagan Crimean king converted to Judaism in the 7th Century A.D. Eastern European are, therefore, the descendants of this king's subjects while Western European Jews are the descendant of the Diaspora that followed the destruction of the temple by the Romans. The elite Western European Jews joined their elite WASPs neighbors and left the neighborhood in the period before World War I.

The first ideologically orthodox Jewish rabbis did not establish themselves in Brooklyn until the 1920s. These rabbis established the religious network that the Satmar and other Hasidic sects would follow after World War II.

In the 1940s and 1950s, the Hasidim were surrounded by a non-Hasidic, orthodox community. Today almost all the Jews in Williamsburg are ultra-orthodox Hasidim.

Irving Goldstein, a Satmar Hasid, opened 47th Street Photo in 1966. Most Hasidim, however, have incomes in the lower half of the national average and many are eligible for food stamps and low and middle income public housing.

-click here for some notes on the different Orthodox Jewish sects.

No one ethnicity has ever dominated Williamsburg as a whole. Norwegians, French Huguenots, Italians, Swedes and one free African family were among the original 23 families of Het Strand on the East River. Today the census says Williamsburg is 49% Hispanic (predominantly Puerto Rican with rapidly increasing numbers of Dominicans and Ecuadorians), 40% non-Hispanic White (including Italians, Poles, Hasidim, and the majority of those called Bohemians or Yuppies), 9% non-Hispanic Black (many foreign-born), and 2% Asian (from all over).

By the 1880s, Poles, Russians (mostly Jewish) and Italians began joining the previous Irish, German, and Austrian pluralities. Today 30% of the neighborhood is foreign-born and 80% of the school children speak a language other than English in the home.

The Seneca Club, established at the end of the Nineteenth Century as a Brooklyn branch of the Kelly's Democratic Political Machine, set up an extensive network of precinct captains and patronage jobs - in every neighborhood, church and synagogue - and had an unblemished record for winning elections from 1900 to the mid-1960s.

In the 1950s and 1960s Williamsburg lost Irish, Italians and non-Hasidic Jews while Puerto Ricans and Hasidim moved in. Washington started sending in urban renewal money. These new dynamics presented the Seneca Club with a number of new challenges and possibilities. The recent history of public housing construction, from 1958 to 1975, is intimately tied to the ethnic politics of the Seneca Club.

In general, the older leaders of the weakened Seneca Club choose to favor the Hasidim over Puerto Ricans. The Spanish-speaking immigrants remained effectively disenfranchised and politically disorganized until the early 1970s.

Unlike Puerto Ricans (or even the Lubavitcher Hasidim of Crown Heights), the Satmar and other Hasidic sects of Williamsburg banned members from running for office. The Hasidim had a hierarchical structure, spoke with a single voice and voted as a block. Unlike the Satmar and other sects, the Hispanic community of the 1950s and 1960s had no internal power brokers who could enforce a deal. In the Hasidim, the hierarchical Seneca Club had found an ideal new constituency, one that offered no threat to their own positions, one with which they could make a deal. The Housing and Urban Development and members of the Seneca Club built Independence Towers and Jonathan Williams Plaza in 1965, setting aside 75% for White inhabitants. After failing to encourage non-Hasidic orthodox Jews to move in, the builders installed Shabbes Elevators - stopping on every floor on the Sabbath so no one would have to push a button - and pitched the buildings to the Satmar Rebbe.

In the 1970s the enfeebled Seneca Club retreated into obscurity. From this point on, Hasidim and Hispanics would cooperate and fight without intermediaries.

Due to the 1965 Voting Rights Act, by 1970 Literacy and English-proficiency tests had been completely eliminated from Williamsburg and Puerto Ricans, United States citizens, were now free to vote without serious impediment. In 1972 a number of political institutions dedicated to representing Puerto Ricans and other Hispanics were either founded in or opened branches in Williamsburg, including a collaboration with the Epiphany Roman Catholic Church called Southside United Housing Development Fund (Los Sures - The Southerns), the Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation, the Ad Hoc Committee for the Southside Triangle, and the Puerto Rican Defense Fund.

The Brooklyn Villas are a politically complicated development currently under construction off of Bedford Avenue. The Satmar agreed to provide private funds for 300 units, the Epiphany Church and the New York City Housing Authority would provide some 300 more, all on land owned by Housing Preservation and Development.

Public housing, even private development, continues to be a divisive issue in the neighborhood. In July 1990, a retarded Hasidic man was arrested for fondling an Hispanic woman. 300 Hasidic men protested at the 90th precinct. They were later rebuked by the Rebbe. Hispanics and Hasidim have cooperated in their opposition to the Brooklyn Navy Yard incinerator and on other environmental issues. The fate of the block between Driggs and Bedford Avenues and South 8th and South 9th Streets is a major point of contention.

State Senator Patrick McCarren began introducing bills for the construction of a bridge to Manhattan in 1884. When local civic leaders organized in 1895, the bridge proposal finally went through and the Williamsburg Bridge opened in 1903.

The opening of the bridge caused explosive population growth and accelerated elite flight from Williamsburg. The population of the neighborhood, mostly housed in six-story tenements, reached its peak in the 1910s and included blocks with the highest population densities and infant mortality rates in all of the newly unified Greater New York.

In the 1920s, manufacturing increased as rapidly as the population had in the pervious decades. Increasing manufacturing, followed by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, have lead to a steady decline in Williamsburg population over the last 75 years.

In the 1930s, the New Deal brought the Williamsburg Houses, the city's first housing project, built on a human scale with the aesthetic integrity of that energetic era.

As Williamsburg had some of the worst housing stock in the city, urban renewal came early to the neighborhood. In the 1950s and 1960s, wholesale slum clearance began in earnest. Partially, because demolition came first, the housing projects did not increase the overall number of housing units in the neighborhood.

In 1954, the B.Q.E. was finished. The highway and off-ramp displaced 5,000 people immediately, with many more effected through a ripple effect, and utterly destroyed the integrity of the retail center of downtown Williamsburg.

Manufacturing also began to decline in the 1950s. In the 1950s and 1960s, Williamsburg became predominantly Puerto Rican, with a majority Hasidic population in the southwest corner, Italians to the West, Poles in the North near Greenpoint.

The 1970s were bad times for the neighborhood and the city as a whole. Williamsburg saw rampant increases in arson, crime, and flight out. But the first effective grassroots community activism in the recent period also began in the 1970s.

In the 1980s Williamsburg was colonized by the first Manhattan-refugee artists. In 1985, the Board of Estimate authorized residential use of commercial loft space. Dominicans, Ecuadorians, new Poles, Mexicans, and Chinese also joined the mix.

In recent years the fate of public pools, the ethnic make up of public housing, reports of environmental threats, ball-fields and synagogue construction have mobilized various constituencies.

"Williamsburgh is a great place We have just enough poverty to preserve our benevolence from rust, sufficient influence to keep our inferiors, New York and Brooklyn, from disgracing the nation and patriotism in any quantity to keep up the Fourth of July as it should be kept."

    - Armbuster, Williamsburgh Daily Times 1848

"Its as if it was hit by a few bombs."

- George Kranzler, author of Williamsburg: A Jewish Community (1961) referring to downtown Williamsburg in 1953

"A virtually unrelieved slum."

- W.P.A. Guide to N.Y.C. (1937)

"Foreigners move out as soon as they can."

- Helen Logan, author of Williamsburg: A Neighborhood Study (1940)

"A lot of housing in Williamsburg could be repaired and made more livable at less cost than monstrous projects."

- Rev. Brian Karvelis of the Transfiguration Church, 1962 (in Daily News)

The B.Q.E. is "a monument to the disdain of a community."

- Toby Sanchez, author of Williamsburg: A Neighborhood Profile (1989)

"My wife was looking for an apartment in Crown Heights, but I was wishing all along to myself that she would not succeed No siree, for me Williamsburg is good enough, as it is. What will happen later, we shall see."

- German Jewish businessman 1952, just before B.Q.E. project began

"Racial divisions among the working class both debilitated collective action in Greenpoint-Williamsburg and allowed elected officials and comercial developers a free hand in their disposal of funding."

- Ida Susser, author of Norman Street: Poverty and Politics in an Urban Neighborhood (1982)

"Certain corners here retained their popularity as hang-outs over periods of fifteen and twenty years, the legacy having been handed down from one generation of bad eggs to another."

- Daniel Fuchs, author of Homage to Blenholt (1936)

"Serene was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York. Especially the summer of 1912. Somber, as a word, was better. But it did not apply to Williamsburg, Brooklyn."

- Betty Smith, author of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943)


The Streets of Williamsburg

Streets named after prominent citizens and land owners in Williamsburg

Ainslie Street
Berry Street
Conselyea Street
Driggs Avenue
Frost Street
Graham Avenue
Havemeyer Street
Leonard Street
Lindsay Park
Lorimer Street
Maujer Street
Meeker Avenue
Meserole Avenue
Moore Street
Richardson Street
Skillman Avenue
Ten Eyck Street
Withers Street

Named after Early Settlers and Landowners

Berry Street
Boerum Street
Debevoise Street
Devoe Street
Johnson Avenue
Meserole Street
Scholes Street

Places with Descriptive Names - Named after its Geography or its function:

Bedford Avenue
Bushwick Avenue
Division Avenue
Grand Street
Manhattan Avenue
New Street
Old Woodpoint
Road River Street
Union Avenue

Named after Realtors

Dunham Place
Graham Avenue
Home Street
Jackson Street
Lorimer Street
McKibben Street

Named after Statesmen:

Kent Avenue
Lindsay Park
McCarren Park
Marcy Avenue
Washington Plaza

Named after Mayors of New York City:

Hylan Houses
La Guardia Playground

Named after Signers of the Declarations of Independence:

Hewes Street
Hooper Street
Keap Street (An actual misprint" Thomas McKean was one of the signers of our Declaration of Independence. An administrator misread his signature as "Thomas M. Keap." We at 11211 find these typos entertaining and interesting)
Rodney Street
Wythe Avenue

Named after New York Residents:

Bayard Street
Kent Avenue
Seigel Street

Named for Veterans:

Father Giorgio Square
Private Frank Sonsire Square
T. Raymond Nulty Square


Roebling Street (builder of Brooklyn Bridge)
Boriquen Plaza (Puerto Rican Indians)
Roberto Clemente Plaza (Puerto Rican Baseball Player

Courtesy of Will Pflaum's Willliamsburg walking tour
special thanks to