All preconceptions of Brooklyn were shattered the moment I exited the subway on Lafayette Avenue. People from home had planted seeds in my head that it was a dense population of African Americans and crime, and I had been curious to find out whether or not this was actually true. Like myself, I believe these people had confused the Bronx with Brooklyn.
The streets on and surrounding Lafayette Avenue reminded me peculiarly of the rich historical areas of downtown Richmond, Virginia, where I am from. For a moment, I had to remind myself that I was in fact in Brooklyn and not back home on historical Monument Avenue. Even the street names had stark similarities that were difficult to ignore.
The people I passed and observed all belonged to a very young crowd, estimated to be in their 20s and 30s. The manner in which they dressed could not have differed more. Some passed by in casual t-shirts and jeans and others sported very colorful bohemian-esque attire. The vast majority of people were white, which already completely destroyed my preconceptions of the area being primarily black.
Having an objective view of my surroundings and the people that filled them allowed me to more easily capture the essence of Brooklyn. Instead of making assumptions based on what I observed, it was far more productive to simply take note of what unfolded before my eyes. In some instances, it was difficult to not simply be objective. My imagination would wander after I noticed a woman sitting across from a pile of old toys and trinkets all being sold for two dollars. I wondered why she was selling this small pile of objects and why they were only two dollars. What was she planning on doing with the small profit she would ultimately receive if she were successful in selling the objects? Did she have children or did she have financial troubles? A whole slew of questions flooded my mind with just a simple observation while I walked across the street.
Developing questions for people I encountered came from being subjective as opposed to objective, despite the fact that the first few questions had to possess objective qualities. It was easier to start a conversation with a person if I asked them a generalized question about their work. Other times I had to make assumptions based on what I saw, therefore deducing information from an observation. Encountering a young woman, I simply made the assumption she was a photographer based on the quality of her camera and lens. She just didn’t look touristy, which was another subjective observation. When I inquired about her camera, it turned out that my assumption was correct, as she had recently graduated from FIT with a photography degree.
Meeting her led me to discover how artsy of an area Brooklyn is, in particular because many art students and professional artists cannot afford to live in Manhattan. This bit of information was particularly interesting to me being a cinema and photography major and having to consider my options for the future over my last year in school. I gleaned from my conversation with the FIT graduate that many young jewelry designers sell their things at the Brooklyn Flea Market on Saturdays because it is always populated with people wanting to do business and is also a good way to find exposure if your designs are worthy enough.
My natural way of doing things is through observation, so when it came to doing active research on the streets of Brooklyn, I spent a large amount of time watching people walk by and listening to their conversations. I saw how they dressed and what sort of dogs they were walking. I knew what shops they had been to based on what shopping bags they were carrying. Instead of Forever21 bags, I saw a lot of local boutique names on the bags. You can gather a lot from just observing and listening. This is how I found the flea market in the first place. I was standing on a sidewalk corner and large groups of people kept passing by mentioning the flea market. Once enough groups had passed, I finally followed a group of three girls to eventually stumble upon the flea market 10 blocks down from the corner I where I had previously been standing.
I never encroached on anyone’s personal space. That is hard to monitor occasionally, especially if you are a photographer. You are torn between getting a perfect shot and disturbing or embarrassing someone. I know how uneasy many people are about being photographed, especially by a complete stranger. That is why I took measures to be extremely discreet if I photographed any people. Some photojournalists have no issues walking up to people and snapping a quick shot, but I like to respect the privacy of those around me. If I see something I want to capture, I have the patience to wait for the right moment to capture it when it is most convenient for both parties.
Observations and Interviews
Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn
A woman sits outside an apartment on the curb. A scattered pile of tattered books, board games, and toys rest at the bottom of a cast iron fence in front of her. A sign made of what appears to be white printer paper reads “Everything $1.” I spot a game of Twister and Monopoly. There are worn Disney books like Peter Pan and Cinderella. A Mr. Potatohead toy sits on the ground with all the pieces except a missing arm. Two Barbies with ratty hair lay naked on the sidewalk. It’s an interesting and small looking yard sale. Many people walk by, but no one stops for an extended period of time to observe the layout. Another street corner starts looking more active with passersby.
Cumberland St. and Lafayette Ave. street corner- A rack of clothing lines the sidewalk for about five feet. A pair of young women slowly pick through each item on the rack. A table is situated directly across from the clothing rack and features an assortment of sunglasses, rings, necklaces, bracelets, and hats. A sign is marked $5 for each item on the table. The articles of clothing are marked separately. The majority are pastel colored items with the exception of a sparkly sequin black and silver dress sized 16. It is the only plus-sized article of clothing on the rack. Everything else is labeled a size 0 or 2. A man sits behind the table with a metal tin collecting money. A man and woman pick through the pieces on the table. A few more people pass through, but no one buys anything. The two women who were looking through the clothing rack do not buy anything either. One of them lifts the sequin piece off the rack and looks at it for a few minutes and holds it up to herself for the other woman to see. She inevitably puts it back on the rack.
The streets were lined with worn shops, dirty with paint and signs peeling of the walls and windows. A halal food stand with a young man behind quickly cutting and cooking slices of meat had signs boasting the cheapest gyros and falafel sandwiches I had yet seen. After 20 minutes of observing the corner, the young man received no customers, despite the fact it was 12:00 in the afternoon.
Tall brick apartment complexes stand across the street from the dirty shops. A man in a beat-up wheelchair sits along the black iron fence surrounding the complexes. He had a gray beard and tan face made darker with smears of dirt. His clothes were torn and tattered. He wore a ripped navy peacoat and gray sweatpants with one Nike tennis shoe. The other foot wore only a sock. The temperature was 101 that particular day. Another man walked by screaming into a cellphone. He waved his arms emphatically throughout his conversation. He kicked away trash cans, letting all the contents spill out into the street. A mirror was propped against the fence and he grabbed it, throwing it to the ground. Glass scattered across the ground and the frame cracked in 4 places. He yelled at passersby if they glanced at him.
– Lived in Brooklyn since early May
– Student at SUNY studying audio and video editing management
– Doesn’t think she will find a job very quickly in her field despite the fact she has a solid specialty in the area. She feels that her area is too specific to easily find a job. While she can be considered an expert in audio when she graduates, she says there is not a large demand for people in that field in New York.
– She moved to Brooklyn with her boyfriend because he just graduated and she is graduating next year and they are planning to become engaged at some point in the future after she graduates. It was more affordable than Manhattan and she didn’t want to keep living in a school dorm. Living in an apartment makes her feel more grown up and sophisticated. She feels like the Bronx were too dangerous and Queens was too dirty and a little too far away from Manhattan for her liking. She had heard Brooklyn has a great community of aspiring artists so she wanted to be close to that kind of environment.
– Favorite place to go in Brooklyn is Brighton Beach. She loves the boardwalk and boardwalk food even though she knows it’s all fried and unhealthy. She likes walking around the boardwalk with her boyfriend at night after they both get off of work because its not as hot as it is during the day and they can see the city lights. She likes being able to see the skyline better than living within in because it is too crazy in her opinion.
– Favorite place to eat is Junior’s. It originated in Brooklyn but has since expanded to Manhattan which she thinks is good and bad. She likes the idea of local mom and pop shops and restaurants better than chains and she doesn’t want Junior’s to sell out and become an Applebee’s or TGI Fridays. She always gets the original cheesecake. She hated cheesecake before she moved to Brooklyn, but after she ate at Junior’s for the first time she fell in love with the dessert. She would go everyday if she could afford it. That’s how obsessed she has become.
Recent Graduate of Fashion Institute of Technology
– Photography student from FIT. She couldn’t afford to go to Parsons or some other fancy art school but FIT has just as good a program for so much less.
– She was born and raised in Brooklyn but has since moved out of her parent’s place and into a 4 person apartment with her boyfriend Mike and her bunny and lizard. She currently lives across the street from the Brooklyn Projects which can be dangerous to be around if you are alone. She has heard gunshots plenty of times but nothing bad has happened at her apartment complex while she has been there. A group of feral cats lives in the yard of one of the first floor apartments that she was offered a place in. She didn’t want to live on the first floor because she thought there was a bigger chance of someone breaking into the first floor as opposed to a higher level because of convenience. And she didn’t want the cats to kill her bunny that she takes outside for walks from time to time.
– She goes to a lot of bars on the weekends when she has the money. She hasn’t been to any recently because she is currently unemployed and desperately searching for a job. Her parents are currently giving her money for rent so she can still live in the apartment. Employment has been hard to come by and at this point she is applying for everything. She had an interview with the photo studio at Conde Nast for a position as a studio bookings manager. She has not yet heard back from them about the position. She calls or emails frequently to keep in contact with the people she interviewed with to keep herself fresh on their minds but she doesn’t think it’s making a difference at all because it has been a few weeks since the interview.
– Saturdays she likes to go to the flea market on Lafayette Avenue because there is always something for everyone to see or buy. She browses the stands for props for her photo shoots. She says you can usually find great deals on costume jewelry and vintage clothing that look amazing in photographs. She gets all of her props from the flea market and feels like she is a hoarder because of all the things she has in her apartment because of her shopping addiction. She says all her purchases are necessary though because she has to add to her portfolio somehow and since she doesn’t have access to the supplies at FIT anymore, she really has to support herself with what she can find. It has made her very thrifty. She says the flea market is a very cool place in general. There are always food stands with crazy concoctions. There’s this one Asian hot dog place that puts an oriental twist on the hot dogs. They put lo mein and curry spices on the hot dogs and they are incredible. They also have really cool homemade donuts. Her favorite is the orange blossom which is a plain donut covered with an orange icing drizzle and orange slices. She also likes the dulce de leche donut. They have a grilled cheese stand with gourmet grilled cheese for super cheap. They also have a place with homemade soda where you can choose whatever flavor combination you want to have. She says food is her favorite hobby aside from photography even though people think she looks anorexic. She eats all the time, she just has a family history of fast metabolisms and she works out everyday.
Cumberland Street, Brooklyn
– Attended FIT to become a clothing and still life stylist but always had a passion for jewelry. She never made use of her studies at FIT and never pursued a job as a stylist, but instead developed her own jewelry-making business from home. She and her mother made jewelry together when she was younger as a bonding experience and the skills she uses today are what she learned from her mother. She specializes in rings and always wears large, elaborately designed rings no matter the occasion. Recently she has become intrigued by the latest trends involving feathers and has a new collection featuring feathers on necklaces, earrings, and rings.
– Her childhood was spent in New Jersey until her parents divorced when she was a teenager. She and her mom moved to Brooklyn and ever since she has stayed there. She and her mom’s relationship is so close that they live on the same street. Occasionally her mom helps with her jewelry designs and business.
– She was a bartender at the Black Swan pub on Bedford Avenue while she was coming up with the funds to help start her jewelry business. She loves interacting with people, especially people in Brooklyn. She thinks people in Manhattan are too snooty, but people in Brooklyn are genuine and always lively and ready for a good time.
– She finds herself inspired by her surroundings when it comes to designing jewelry. She gathers inspiration from trees and nature as well as the architecture of the buildings. Much of her work incorporates intertwining lines and curves to symbolize the combination of natural and architectural elements she is inspired by. She thinks the streets of Brooklyn where she lives is a great representation of the city and nature living together. Having trees along every sidewalk and vines growing along walls and fences is a far more enchanting living experience than Manhattan. She says Cumberland is much cleaner and more appealing to the eye than the area around FIT when she was at school.
7-24-11 Blog Entry
Seeing behind the curtain of Broadway has really shed light on more than just theater for me. It’s forced me to realize that there are so many pivotal roles played by not just the director or lead characters, but everyone. If one piece of the clockwork is off by even a fraction of a second, it causes something else to falter and fail. Everything relies on something else, and the harmony in which it all works together is incredible.
It’s not your first instinct to think about the lighting design on stage or in my case, in a studio. However, lighting has a crucial role to play with Broadway, film, and photography. Skilled lighting can make or break a piece. Seeing the artistic design of the lighting in Wicked, especially when it was cast in patterns on the floor was interesting to watch and had me thinking how you even think about concocting a design through light. It’s one thing to light an object for film or a photo, but completely another when you are almost creating another character with the light itself. Of course, light can be considered a character in film as well when used expertly. Many different aspects of cinematography are considered to not only enhance the cinematic experience, but also develop a symbolic sort of character. This is clear in the movie Forrest Gump in regards to movement and wind which serve as a symbolic representation of Jenny’s character whenever she is not physically present in a scene. I feel the same can be said about the strength of the lighting in Wicked as a symbolic representation.
Descriptive Essay- Brooklyn’s Ella Miller
Ella Miller, a 22-year-old art school student at SUNY, has inhabited Brooklyn for a short period of time ever since she and her boyfriend moved to the area in early May. She is a petite and artsy young woman, with an asymmetrical haircut that further exemplifies her playful nature and creative aspirations. Her clothes are what you would normally think of an art school girl as she floats around with a skirt and lacy top. She raves about the local vintage clothing stores where she rigorously tries to find the best deals on designer items and occasionally other brands. Beacon’s Closet and Topshop are her two favorite stores that she frequents in addition to a vintage clothing truck that stands at random street corners and sells every item for ten dollars no matter what.
Living in a small apartment overlooking Prospect Park, Ella has already established a small business network among a new clientele for her freelance photography business. Ella is a newcomer to the world of photography and is currently studying audio and video editing management at school. This has not restricted her interests to only that field, however.
Ella is currently working with an up-and-coming jewelry designer in Brooklyn and has begun photographing a vast collection of beautiful pieces using skills she has learned from her internship at a photography studio. With the money she has earned from freelance positions, Ella has compiled the monetary resources to purchase some simple photography equipment for the specific purpose of engaging in product and commercial photography. Her collection of material consists of a single sheet of frosted plexiglass, regular glass, a roll of super white seamless paper, and clamps. She has also found a way to rent professional quality lighting equipment and set materials from a certified photography equipment company Adorama.
Getting the most professional level of feedback and critique on her work, Ella constantly utilizes the resources at her internship at her disposal when talking to the photographers. During her lunch breaks she whips out her laptop and shows the photographer she is working with that day the most recent photographs she has shot for a client. Working with the other interns as well has given her a deeper insight into subjects and skills such as web design which she has recently taken an interest in. Since beginning her internship, she has since created multiple websites for various clients. What Ella has found is that depending on the area in which a client lives heavily determines what her paycheck will result in. Clients in Manhattan pay a heavier fee than those who reside in Brooklyn where she conducts the majority of her work.
Ella noted the fact that she likes the scenery of Prospect Park but the area is not necessarily the safest part of Brooklyn. She stated that she and her boyfriend are considering relocating to another part of Brooklyn, but the thought of leaving the view of Prospect Park is making the decision harder than normal. She is taking into consideration the safety of the situation, considering a person was mugged just a week ago. She claims that other areas of Brooklyn are unsafe as well, particularly at night. Never traveling alone at night is a habit Ella constantly keeps in mind no matter what she is out doing. She has a friend that lives in an apartment right across the street from the projects and whenever she goes to visit she always brings someone with her, even during the day. The area around the projects is a mixture of different types of people. The apartments across the street house a plethora of young, aspiring artists that range in talents from painting, sculpture, and photography. The backyard of one of the apartment complexes houses a hoard of feral cats whose population remains steadily increasing. The feral cats leave droppings all around the sidewalks and scour the area for food scrappings all during the day. Ella has undertaken a personal photography project photographing the various cats in their unnatural habitat.
Other aspects of Brooklyn that Ella loves are the boardwalk and Brighton Beach. She and her friends frequently visit the boardwalk for late night strolls around the area where she finds good, cheap cart food and amazing opportunities for photojournalism. She is always the one in her circle of friends that takes the pictures and searches for the perfect photo opportunities. The nightlife in Brooklyn continuously beckons to her, even after she has experienced a long day at the photo studio. Aside from the carts along the boardwalk, Ella raves about a bakery called Junior’s that has been around since the early 1900s. Ella claims that Junior’s is the location of the best cheesecake she has ever had in her life. She says they have a wide variety of different flavors that you can’t find anywhere else, but the original New York cheesecake is her favorite by far. She goes whenever her earnings allow her to indulge in homemade cheesecake.
7-17-11 Blog Entry
The multiple Broadway-related visits our class took Monday as well as the behind-the-scenes tour of the Wicked stage really put into perspective how much detail-oriented work goes into making something so successful. Learning how each set piece is made and manipulated revealed a great deal about the magic behind the curtain. This summer has continued to bolster my ambitions towards becoming a cinematographer, due greatly in part from all of the talks we have been to ad the industry professionals we have met. I may not necessarily have any ambitions in the realm of marketing or advertising or even Broadway, however, all of the advice I have received from these professionals is universal towards every field including mine.
The tours I experienced both Monday and Friday have set me on a determined path to discover more details regarding what I want to accomplish in my professional life during the remaining year I have at Elon as well as life post-graduation. Establishing a good network and a solid set of connections in the industry is so beneficial and is a key driving point that every speaker has mentioned. This past week at work I was asked to go take inventory of all of the equipment and items located in the offices of new magazines that Hearst Corporation has built. During these visits, one photographer asked me what I was studying. When I said film, he immediately led me to all of the film equipment the office had and talked about all the media Elle magazine has done. My boss was also present and mentioned introducing me to the video and media personnel at Hearst this upcoming week. It only took a small talk conversation for this opportunity to be revealed to me. I am certainly taking advantage of it.
My goal for this week at work is to meet the video professionals at Hearst and hopefully make some basic connections. I already have my sights set on another internship for next summer or potentially a job as a photographer’s assistant in Los Angeles with a company I have just recently been researching called Riveting Entertainment. They have produced some very popular music videos with their collection of two in-house directors, one of which is only 23. This director, Colin Tilley, is my new favorite music video director.
7-1-11 Blog Entry
The visit to the New York Times left me rather concerned about our technological future as a society. It was intriguing seeing the contraptions the team had created like the interactive mirror and the general concept of all technology being able to interact with each other sounds like a legitimate hypothesis. However, I have several significant problems with many of the claims that were made that are simply disconcerting. I find it unreasonable and unnecessary to have a touchscreen sidewalk when you need help fixing your flat tire. Where is the money for that massive transformation supposed to come from? Some states already have enough trouble maintaining their highways as it is without tearing everything apart and installing computers in the sidewalks. It makes you think of how you dreamed the world would be in the future when you were 5 years old. You thought of flying cars and buildings as tall as skyscrapers but taller with sky high garages that your cars could float too with talking houses. Now the idea of interacting with something even as simple as our mirror freaks me out. Why is that necessary? I think it’s making life more convenient and therefore making us into lazier people. As we further improve our technology it seems that a lot of it is slowing us down while the technology speeds up. Less is expected of us as machines do everything for us. Is that what we are really meant to do?
6-26-11 Blog Entry
Hearing the perspectives of recent Elon graduates was extremely helpful and gave me a different insight into how I go about my internship. It also made me think about all the small things that end up making a huge difference, especially in regards to thank you notes and “stalking.” When I went to my internship after hearing all this new information, I made sure I used it. When I was presented the opportunity to work with people in the fine arts department scanning items for a new display (more detailed information cannot be disclosed), I jumped on the chance. This gave me the opportunity to meet an intern who had just finished work with the company in May but was back for a week helping with this special project. As we scanned artwork all day for three days straight, she told me all about how she had just applied for a studio job at another equally massive company similar to the one we interned at and she was anxiously awaiting a call to find out whether she had been offered the position. She called everyday and still hasn’t heard back. What I really learned from her as well as Dani and Shauna was that networking in your internship NOW helps. This intern made thank you cards for everyone in the studio and put her business card in them as well. I thought this was a brilliant idea that I am now going to use at the conclusion of my internship.
View the intern’s work! She is fabulous.
6-19-11 Blog Entry
As soon as I stepped off the subway in Brooklyn I was greeted with a variety of smells and sounds. Spanish food restaurants dotted the streets and the smell of the food cooking within found itself wafting out into the air. More obvious than the smells was the great abundance of graffiti. I noticed this even while crossing the bridge. Every building, every single one, was always covered or slightly covered with graffiti that even went as high as the top level on an apartment building. The bridge had graffiti, the tunnels had graffiti…it was everywhere. I noticed a majority of Spanish-speaking Latino families walking around the area. The restaurant I ate in had a massive Latino family taking up half the restaurant just because they were having a family lunch.
I don’t know if I was really expecting anything when I visited Brooklyn. I didn’t want to go in with preconceived notions about anything, I just wanted to be able to experience it without its reputation being tainted or already formed in my mind premeditatedly. All I really knew about Brooklyn before was from movies, but then again I don’t know if it was Brooklyn I was seeing portrayed or the Bronx, so generally I mix the two up even though they are very different. It was difficult going into the area with a super open mind after everyone I talked to told me I shouldn’t go alone and I shouldn’t go at nighttime. That put me on edge just a little bit. At least on my first trip it didn’t seem to be so “dangerous” as people made it seem, but that was only one trip and it was during the day.
Brooklyn was very lively though and Spanish was flung this way and that, and a Spanish-speaking minister shouted prayers and praises to God from a street corner with a microphone as a group of boys played basketball in the courts behind him. Reading about Brooklyn beforehand and its history made me think parts of it would be trendier than others, such as Williamsburg. I didn’t end up in Williamsburg, that’s for sure. There was a lot to like though as far as cuisine went, based on the smells around me. It was also interesting to see the other stores on the blocks. I saw one store that was a 99 store and others had clothes for no more than $5. Very unlike the Chelsea area we live in. We will see what the next visit brings to the table when I go visit a fellow intern who lives in the area.
History of Brooklyn
“Between New-York and Brooklyn, there is nothing in common, either in object, interest or feeling- nothing that even apparently tends to their connexion, unless it be the waters that flow between them. And even those waters, instead of, in fact, uniting them, form a barrier between them which, however frequently passed, still form and must forever to continue to form an unsurmountable obstacle to their union.”
– General Jeremiah Johnson
The southernmost tip of New York’s Long Island was home to a group of Native Americans called the Lenape, meaning “the People.” This collection of people included tribes such as the Nayack and Canarsee whose livelihood depended heavily upon the farming of corn and tobacco as well as fish found in the surrounding rivers. The area in which the Lenape inhabited is known today as Brooklyn.
Dutch exploration led by the Dutch West India Company in 1646 directly led to the creation of what would later become New York City’s largest populated borough Brooklyn. During the Dutch colonization, the area primarily inhabited by the Lenape was then officially named the Village of Breuckelen (Broken Land) after a small Holland village composed of similar topographical elements. Economic endeavors of the European strangers began to wreak havoc upon the Lenape. The Dutch expanded their territory across the river in 1636, roughly pushing the Lenape off their homeland. The Native Americans found themselves confronted not only with the hostile temperaments of the Europeans but also the more lethal and unknown hostilities of disease and war, and by 1680 the Lenape had lost all connection to their beloved homeland.
The completely European controlled Brooklyn began her days as the first municipality in the state of New York before the British inevitably gained control of the Dutch settlement. With the introduction of British rule in New York in 1664, the entire governmental structure of the state experienced a vast reconstruction involving the creation of twelve counties that each consisted of separate town systems. One such county, Kings County, was home to Brooklyn when it transformed into one of Kings County’s six original towns that also included New York, Richmond, Suffolk, Queens, and Westchester.
An early New York census revealed that in the year 1698, 2,017 people inhabited the area of Kings County. The majority of these inhabitants were Dutch with the remaining people hailing from countries such as France, England, Scandinavia, and Germany as well as a large number of African slaves. During the early stages of life in Brooklyn, slavery was a tradition that flourished greatly across the farmlands, particularly during the 18th century. Around 1771, slaves alone represented a third of Kings County’s population.
The Revolutionary War held its first official battle on the fields of Brooklyn in 1776 after the tensions between the settlers and the British were furiously sparked after Lexington, Virginia. The battle proved to be a devastating experience for George Washington and his army, who at the time were far less experienced than their British opponents. The Colonial Army and Washington realized the strength of the British and retreated during a foggy night to Manhattan across the East River. British control was then exerted over the Manhattan and Brooklyn areas for the remainder of the war.
Despite having just faced a massive war, Brooklyn managed to find stability rather quickly and became a tremendous agricultural powerhouse in New York. Brooklyn became the medium through which Long Island’s food was transported on the way to the big city. While the rest of New York flocked to Brooklyn to purchase quality goods, the area flourished and expanded to accommodate a new crowd of inhabitants. Merchants and speculators flocked to the shore of the East River to buy waterfront property, and the United States Navy settled down in Wallabout Bay to establish a shipyard in 1801. A man named Robert Fulton developed an ingenious idea of a steam-ferry service in 1814. Fulton’s concoction allowed the wealthy Manhattan businessmen to live in Brooklyn and simply commute across the East River.
While the wealthy found their new homes in Brooklyn Heights, the area also gave rise to an influx of Irish immigrants. The arrival of these immigrants came at a time when Brooklyn was undergoing large transformations into a more industry-based area. Many Irish immigrants sought jobs within the new waterfront factories and Navy shipyard. In 1825 the Erie Canal provided an additional impressive economic and industrial boost. With such an escalating industrious success, Brooklyn found herself swarmed with incoming Americans from areas outside of New York such as New England. The quick escalation in population led to the evolution of the once small town into a large city dotted with riverfront factories, a public school system, and city hall.
It was Brooklyn’s churches that initiated the foundation for educating the poor. Before the public school system was developed, children received an education in their Sunday School classes. One such Sunday School organization was developed by the humanitarian Robert Snow in 1816. Snow embarked on the development of an interdenominational system in which many children were able to receive an education. The churches of Brooklyn are also credited with introducing the first libraries into the area. The creation of the libraries such as the Apprentice’s Library and the Brooklyn Lyceum helped in the stimulation of culture that resulted in Brooklyn’s institute of Arts and Sciences. The institute directed the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, and Brooklyn Academy of Music. Brooklyn’s first free public school system found itself open in 1661, which today is composed of 224 elementary and 24 high schools, which is a 33 percent composition of all Greater New York’s public schools.
The large influx of Yankees into the city was overshadowed by a massive flow of European immigrants between 1840 and 1845 during which Brooklyn’s population doubled to around 80,000 people. This wave of European immigrants was the first that helped gear Brooklyn towards becoming the third-largest American city in 1860. More waves of European immigrants continued to pour into Brooklyn’s city limits as a result of both Germans and Irish fleeing famine and revolution. The second large wave consisted of many Eastern Europeans such as Russian Jews, Italians, Poles, Swedes, Norwegians, Danes, and Finns. Such a wave caused Brooklyn’s population to escalate to one million people with more than thirty percent of the inhabitants being foreign-born.
Such massive influxes of people into Brooklyn and New York City placed major stress on the transportation systems already in place. The high demands for transportation into the city for work struggled to be met with the ferry system alone. In an effort to link Manhattan and Brooklyn and to solve the issue of traffic congestion in Brooklyn, the idea to construct a bridge was developed. As a result, the New York Bridge Company was created in 1865 and was directly responsible for the construction of the famous Brooklyn Bridge that eventually opened up for transportation uses in 1883, and became the world’s largest suspension bridge in addition to its bold aesthetics featuring expansive cables and massive piers as a symbolic portal to both Brooklyn and Manhattan. While meant to help ease the troubles of traveling to Manhattan, the bridge actually led to a higher number of immigrants moving into Brooklyn in an effort to escape the expensive living situations in Manhattan. Later, a pedestrian walkway was rebuilt from 1981 to 1983 along with the rehabilitation of the suspension cables. Once only a municipality in the New World, Brooklyn expanded into the entirety of Kings County and found itself annexed in 1898 by New York City.
More developments in the realm of transportation began within the Brooklyn city limits such as bridges, trolley lines, elevated railroads, and subway lines were developed. 1890 marked the first trolley car excursions in Brooklyn followed by the completion of the construction of the Williamsburg Bridge in 1903. Brooklyn proudly boasted the opening of the first subway line in 1908 beneath the East River followed closely by the Manhattan Bridge in 1909. The once rural area of Brooklyn had quickly vanished from sight. Brooklyn’s world of agriculture and farming transformed into a manufacturing powerhouse. Jobs were widely available as Brooklyn’s largest industry of sugar refining found itself producing half the nation’s sugar. Brooklyn also boasted dockyards, gas refineries, ironworks, slaughterhouses, book publishers, sweatshops, and factories that produced items such as clocks, pencils, glue, cakes, beer, and cigars.
As the Great Migration swept across the United States, many of the southern Blacks sought refuge in the neighborhoods of Brooklyn. In 1930, more than 60% of the African Americans living in Brooklyn had been born outside of the area. The extension of the subway system with a line created from Harlem to Brooklyn during 1936 led to even more people migrating to the area for cheaper living arrangements. Another heavy influx of immigrants at the time came from Puerto Rico and helped fill the jobs of needle workers and cigar factory workers. The salvation of finding refuge in Brooklyn did not last long.
In 1929, the stock market crash deprived thousands of people of jobs in Brooklyn. Breadlines and Salvation Army food stations were developed to help those victims of the stock market crash. Even during this period of the Depression, Brooklyn continued to evolve, and as the United States took part in World War II, Brooklyn found its industry powerhouses waning in strength. In earlier years, Brooklyn had been a cheaper resolution to building large industries, but other New York cities held the same opportunities for less money so manufacturers began leaving the area. Large container ships took over the majority of transporting goods and could not effectively dock in the Brooklyn harbors. With this, Brooklyn began losing its grasp on the shipping trade. The population began to dwindle significantly as the once readily available government-sponsored housing loans encouraged the middle classes to leave their old neighborhoods for the suburbs. The most painful blow to Brooklyn’s dwindling pride was the decision to move the Dodgers to Los Angeles.
The Dodgers were considered as much a symbol of Brooklyn as the Brooklyn Bridge and the departure of the team was a devastating event to the Brooklyn community. The games had been held at Ebbets field and had drawn people together from a range of ethnicities, and provided a connection for Brooklyn’s diverse population. In 1947 when Jackie Robinson became the first African American player in the major leagues, the people of Brooklyn glowed with pride and then even more so when the Dodgers claimed victory over the Yankees in 1955 during the World Series. The decision of the team to become the Los Angeles Dodgers was seen as another sign that the golden age of Brooklyn had finally reached a conclusion.
The vibrant and diverse neighborhoods of Brooklyn crumbled into a tumultuous pile of poverty and disrepair. Manufacturing ceased, the dockyards were abandoned, and the shipyard closed. The worst moment during this decaying period was the blackout of 1977 in which a huge power failure led to rioting, looting, and arson throughout Brooklyn during which large sections of black majority neighborhoods disintegrated. Forty percent of Bushwick’s retail and commercial entities found themselves out of business within a year.
Despite the upheaval of turmoil during the 1970s and 1980s, Brooklyn encountered an enlightening period in the 1990s as crime began to fade and once deserted neighborhoods began to find life once more. The return of the Brooklyn Academy of Music drew a particular and necessary crowd of avant-garde people from the borough of Manhattan. The Navy Yard found itself redeveloped into a gleaming and successful industrial park once more, and a new generation of artists, finding an escape from outrageous Manhattan apartment pricing, created exciting new communities located in Williamsburg, DUMBO, and Greenpoint.
1. “A History of Brooklyn, NY.” Brooklyn, New York. Web. 13 June 2011. <http://brooklyn.about.com/od/historicbrooklyn/a/History.htm>.
2. “A History of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg Bridge – Fun Facts.” Brooklyn, New York. Web. 13 June 2011. <http://brooklyn.about.com/od/Brooklyns-Bridges/a/History-of-Brooklyns-Williamsburg-Bridge.htm>.
3. Brooklyn Navy Yard. Web. 17 June 2011. <http://www.brooklynnavyyard.org/history.html>.
4. “Brooklyn On Line – A Short Brooklyn History.” Brooklyn On Line – All about Brooklyn, New York – Brooklyn Food – Brooklyn Events – Brooklyn Fun – Brooklyn History – Brooklyn Tourist Info – Brooklyn Is New York City! Web. 13 June 2011. <http://www.brooklynonline.com/history/short.brooklyn.xhtml>.
5. Chan, Sewell. “Remembering the ’77 Blackout – NYTimes.com.” Metro – City Room Blog NYTimes.com. New York Times, 9 July 2007. Web. 17 June 2011. <http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/07/09/remembering-the-77-blackout/>.
6. “Ebbets Field – History, Photos and More of the Brooklyn Dodgers Former Ballpark.” Ballparks of Baseball – A Guide to Major League Baseball Stadiums. Web. 13 June 2011. <http://www.ballparksofbaseball.com/past/EbbetsField.htm>.
7. “History of Brooklyn – Early and Colonial Years.” THIRTEEN – New York Public Media. Web. 13 June 2011. <http://www.thirteen.org/brooklyn/history/history2.html>.
8. Postal, Matthew A., and Andrew Dolkart. Guide to New York City Landmarks. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2009. Print.
9. “Sunset-Ridge Waterfront Alliance » Brooklyn/NYC Ferry History.” Sunset-Ridge Waterfront Alliance » Home. Web. 13 June 2011. <http://srwalliance.org/ferry/ferry-history/>.
10. The WPA Guide to New York City: the Federal Writers’ Project Guide to 1930s New York. New York: Pantheon, 1982. Print.
6-12-11 Blog entry
Je suis arrivé à Brooklyn après avoir traversé le pont massif à partir d’une île appelée Manhattan. C’est mon premier jour à New York. Quand je regard les grands bâtiments à travers l’eau, je suis choqué de la taille des structures sont ici, mais il ne fait que me manquez la belle architecture des bâtiments français de retour à Paris. Il n’y a rien de romantique dans cette ville à ce jour.
Je me suis promené dans les rues de Brooklyn toute la journée en observant les gens d’ici et mon nouvel environnement. Tout bouge à un rythme rapide et je m’étonne où tout le monde se précipite hors tension. Quelque chose de familier qui me fait me sentir plus à l’aise est les cafés que je les ai vu le long des trottoirs. Les fenêtres sont ouverte et accueillante et les gens s’assoient par hasard sur les tables à l’extérieur. Il est rassurant de voir ces ressemblances entre Brooklyn et Paris.
Je suis venu à New York pour ouvrir un café français et partager mon amour de mon pays avec les Américains. Je n’ai pas vu beaucoup de cafés français ici jusqu’à présent, mais de nombreux bistros et restaurants américains. La cuisine mexicaine et chinoise est aussi très populaire, ainsi que des pizzas. Ce genre de chose a toujours été beaucoup trop lourd pour mon estomac à manipuler.
Heureusement, j’ai rencontré des touristes français tôt dans la journée qui m’a dit que un petit café à Brooklyn a été l’embauche. Je ne peux pas décrire comment extatique cela me fait. Je ne peux pas attendre de leur montrer mes compétences et j’espère devenir un boulanger là. J’espère qu’il y a des appartements au-dessus de la boulangerie, si je faire le travail. Il serait très commode à vivre à l’étage et me faire gagner la peine de chercher et de payer pour le transport.
I arrived in Brooklyn after crossing the massive bridge from an island called Manhattan. This is my first day in New York City. Looking back at the big buildings across the water, I am in shock at how large the structures are here, but it only makes me miss the beautiful architecture of the French buildings back home in Paris. There is nothing romantic about this city so far.
I have meandered around the streets in Brooklyn all day observing the people here and my new surroundings. Everything moves at such a fast pace and I wonder where everyone is rushing off. Something familiar that makes me feel more at home is the cafes I have seen along the sidewalks. The windows are open and inviting and people sit casually at the tables outside. It’s reassuring to see these resemblances between Brooklyn and Paris.
I came to New York to open a French café and share my love of my country with Americans. I have not seen many French cafes here so far, but many American bistros and restaurants. Mexican and Chinese food is also very popular, as well as pizza. That sort of thing was always much too heavy for my stomach to handle.
Luckily I encountered some French tourists earlier in the day who told me that a small café in Brooklyn was hiring. I cannot describe how ecstatic this made me. I can’t wait to show them my skills and hopefully become a baker there. I am hoping there are apartments above the bakery if I get the job. It would be very convenient to live upstairs and would save me the trouble of finding and paying for transportation.