Brooklyn, A City that became a District

It would take a guy a lifetime to know Brooklyn

through and through,

and even then you wouldn’t know it”

Thomas Wolfe

Only the Dead Know Brooklyn


Woody Allen, Anne Hathaway, Al Capone, the Kennedy family, Barbara Streisand, Jay-Z, these stars of movie, music and American history – they are from Brooklyn, the most populous of the five boroughs of the U.S. city of New York.Anne Hathaway_14

In fact It has a population of about 2.5 million people, and if it were an autonomous city, it would be the third most populous in the United States, after Los Angeles (3.8 million) and Chicago (2.8 million).

It was annexed by the city of New York in 1898, although it continues to maintain its own unique identity. During the period of intense Italian immigration, from the second half of the nineteenth century to the first decades of the twentieth century, Brooklyn became known to some by the Italian name Broccolino. We Italians are constantly present in American history!

historical photo from brooklynThe first European settlers to arrive at the west end of Long Island, (already inhabited by the Lenape Indians), were the Dutch. The first settlements were built in 1624, but it is in 1646 that the Dutch West India Company authorized the building of the village of Breuckelen. It was named after Breukelen, a small town in the province of Utrecht (The Dutch domination of the earlier times – there is almost no traces remaining, except for a home or for a cemetery).

With the British conquest of New Netherland in 1664, Brooklyn came under the authority of the United Kingdom, too. In 1683, the Province of New York was divided into twelve counties. Brooklyn became part of the County of Kings, so renamed in honor of King Charles II of England. On 27 August 1776 he fought in the vicinity of the Battle of Long Island, Brooklyn, the first major armed confrontation that followed the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America.

In the nineteenth century, given its proximity to New York, Brooklyn underwent a rapid development. Between 1800 and 1820 its population tripled. In 1854, the city of Williamsburgh absorbed by Brooklyn. Gradually the other clusters were absorbed, to be annexed by (1896) throughout the county. In 1883, was built the famous bridge, and it quickly became a symbol not only of Brooklyn, but of New York, which made it even faster to connect with Manhattan.Brooklyn_districts_map

In 1898, the population voted to join with Manhattan, The Bronx, Queens, and Richmond to form the city of New York.

I must admit that I was quite bigoted towards New York. For me, the Big Apple is Manhattan, snubbing other areas, perhaps thinking they were a bit ‘more infamous’, while Manhattan was safer in a way. Instead Brookyn I have to admit, that it is not a simple neighborhood as we Romans think of San Lorenzo or Testaccio, but it’s really like a city, even bigger than Milan!

Many immigrants who landed in the United States came to settle here. Some of them, being in a foreign country; so they decided to live together with their countrymen. Each area has immigrants from other countries, thus forming true ethnic enclaves. These districts, however, have not always kept their identity and their inhabitants, over the years, tended to move, changing the ethnic composition of the population.

Italian Americans are mainly concentrated in the neighborhoods of Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights and Bay Ridge, where they are the absolute majority of the inhabitants. Other areas with strong Italian presence are the southern section of Brooklyn, Carroll Gardens, and North of Williamsburg.

The Russians and Ukrainians reside mainly in Brighton Beach, nicknamed Little Odessa, and Sheepsheads Bay. These areas, inhabited originally by Russian Jews, were populated by Ukrainian and Russian families. Non-Jews arrived in the United States in the 70s. The Poles are settled in Greenpoint, also known as Little Poland. In Bushwick there is a large community of Hispanic-Americans, originating mainly from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Sunset Park has the most important minority of Mexicans. Orthodox Jews and Hasidic Jews live in Borough Park, a neighborhood characterized by the presence of synagogues, kosher shops and yeshiva. Other districts with a significant Jewish presence are Williamsburg, Sea Gate and Crown Heights.

Thinking back to the artists instead; one of the reasons why I came here, is that they also, over the years have had their “migration”. In the beginning it was the Greenwich Village, Soho, then continuing more and more towards the north until you get to Chelsea. Now these neighborhoods have been too much expansive, and the new artists can’t pay rent there, thus for that the new artists’ quarter became right here!