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Brooklyn By Name

How the Neighborhoods, Streets, Parks, Bridges, and More Got Their Names

Leonard Benardo, Jennifer Weiss

Publication Year: 2006

Visit the blog for the book at www.brooklynbyname.com

From Bedford-Stuyvesant to Williamsburg, Brooklyn's historic names are emblems of American culture and history. Uncovering the remarkable stories behind the landmarks, Brooklyn By Name takes readers on a stroll through the streets and places of this thriving metropolis to reveal the borough’s textured past.

Listing more than 500 of Brooklyn’s most prominent place names, organized alphabetically by region, and richly illustrated with photographs and current maps the book captures the diverse threads of American history. We learn about the Canarsie Indians, the region's first settlers, whose language survives in daily traffic reports about the Gowanus Expressway. The arrival of the Dutch West India Company in 1620 brought the first wave of European names, from Boswijck (“town in the woods,” later Bushwick) to Bedford-Stuyvesant, after the controversial administrator of the Dutch colony, to numerous places named after prominent Dutch families like the Bergens.

The English takeover of the area in 1664 led to the Anglicization of Dutch names, (vlackebos, meaning “wooded plain,” became Flatbush) and the introduction of distinctively English names (Kensington, Brighton Beach). A century later the American Revolution swept away most Tory monikers, replacing them with signers of the Declaration of Independence and international figures who supported the revolution such as Lafayette (France), De Kalb (Germany), and Kosciuszko (Poland). We learn too of the dark corners of Brooklyn“s past, encountering over 70 streets named for prominent slaveholders like Lefferts and Lott but none for its most famous abolitionist, Walt Whitman.

From the earliest settlements to recent commemorations such as Malcolm X Boulevard, Brooklyn By Name tells the tales of the poets, philosophers, baseball heroes, diplomats, warriors, and saints who have left their imprint on this polyethnic borough that was once almost disastrously renamed “New York East.”

Ideal for all Brooklynites, newcomers, and visitors, this book includes:

*Over 500 entries explaining the colorful history of Brooklyn's most prominent place names

*Over 100 vivid photographs of Brooklyn past and present

*9 easy to follow and up-to-date maps of the neighborhoods

*Informative sidebars covering topics like Ebbets Field, Lindsay Triangle, and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

*Covers all neighborhoods, easily find the street you're on

Published by: NYU Press


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pp. vii-viii

List of Maps

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p. ix

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pp. xi-xii

In the course of writing this book, we were extremely fortunate to be supported by a large number of people. John Manbeck, Eric Wakin, Justin Burke, and Andrew Alpern offered invaluable insights and prevented us from costly errors. Neighborhood historians Victoria Hofmo, Lee Rosenzweig, Ira Kluger, and Brian Merlis ...

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pp. 1-5

Brooklyn’s identity has developed out of the shared associations of its landmark names. Coney Island, Prospect Park, Fulton Street, and Ebbets Field are widely recognized and need little formal introduction. As totems of the borough’s culture and history, they continue to stir the popular imagination. ...

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1 Northern Brooklyn - Bushwick, Greenpoint, Williamsburg

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pp. 6-31

Settled by the Canarsee Indians, Northern Brooklyn was originally known as Cripplebush for the cripplebush or scrub-oak trees that were predominant in the area. Sold to the Dutch West India Company in 1638, the largely swamp-filled region would come to be the preserve of this chapter’s three principal neighborhoods: ...

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2 Downtown Brooklyn - Brooklyn Heights, Downtown-City Center, DUMBO, Fulton Ferry, Vinegar Hill

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pp. 32-52

A Munsee Delaware speaking group, the Marechkawieck were the earliest known inhabitants in the neighborhoods covered in this chapter, an area that conforms to the town of Breukelen’s original boundaries. With their flight, a function of war and subjugation, Dutch settlements were built along the waterfront and became known as the Wallabout. ...

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3 South Brooklyn - Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Gowanus, Park Slope, Prospect Park, Red Hook, Sunset Park

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pp. 53-75

In contradistinction with Brooklyn’s northern reaches (Fulton Ferry, Navy Yard, Vinegar Hill), the area covered in this chapter was mainly called South Brooklyn at a time when it did represent the southern portion of the town and city. The name is maintained predominantly by old-timers who predate the real estate makeovers of the 1960s. ...

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4 North-Central Brooklyn - Bedford-Stuyvesant, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights, Fort Greene, Prospect Heights

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pp. 76-97

North-Central Brooklyn carries a cross-section of some of the borough’s landmark names—Ebbets, Pratt, Lafayette, and Clinton—and encompasses a range of historically significant sites including Fort Greene’s Revolutionary battlefields, the former homeland of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the early free-black settlement of Weeksville. ...

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5 South-Central Brooklyn - Borough Park, Ditmas Park, Flatbush, Kensington, Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Prospect Park South, Windsor Terrace

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pp. 98-116

Flatbush was one of Kings County’s six original seventeenth-century towns and for some time the largest. Geographically central, from 1683 it was the county’s original seat of government. Known officially as Midwout, or “Middle-Woods,” by the Dutch, it also carried the name V’Lacke Bos, “wooded plain,” ...

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6 Eastern Brooklyn - Brownsville, Canarsie, Cypress Hills, East New York, New Lots

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pp. 117-134

Located at the easternmost point of the historic town of Flatbush, the district of New Lots was originally named Ostwout, or “East Woods,” by the Dutch. It received its new appellation in the 1670s from farmers residing in Flatbush and Flatlands who moved to New Lots to live and work on previously untilled land. ...

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7 Southwest Brooklyn - Bath Beach, Bay Ridge-Fort Hamilton, Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights

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pp. 135-151

The neighborhoods covered in this chapter were once part of New Utrecht, one of the six original Kings County towns. Longstanding Native American land of the Canarsee and Nyack tribes, Dutch West India Company director Cornelis Van Werckhoven received permission from Governor Stuyvesant to settle the area, ...

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8 Southeastern and Southern Brooklyn - Bergen Beach, Brighton Beach, Coney Island, Flatlands, Gerritsen Beach, Gravesend, Manhattan Beach, Marine Park, Mill Basin, Sheepshead Bay

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pp. 152-174

Of the six original seventeenth-century settlements in what is today Brooklyn, only one has specifically English roots: Gravesend. Receiving formal sanction from Dutch governor William Kieft in 1645, it was founded and planned by the remarkable English refugee and religious-freedom advocate Lady Deborah Moody. ...

Illustration Sources

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pp. 175-180

Works Consulted

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pp. 181-186


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pp. 187-209

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About the Authors

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p. 209

Leonard Benardo is the author of several chapters in both the Big Onion Guide to New York City (NYU Press, 2002) and the Big Onion Guide to Brooklyn (NYU Press, 2005) and is a contributor to the Encyclopedia of New York (Syracuse University Press, 2005) and The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (Macmillan, 2002). ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780814739068
E-ISBN-10: 0814739067
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814799468
Print-ISBN-10: 0814799469

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2006

OCLC Number: 191953102
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Brooklyn By Name

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • New York (N.Y.) -- History.
  • Names, Geographical -- New York (State) -- New York -- History.
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.) -- History.
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