Brownsville is located in north-central Brooklyn, just southwest of the Cemetery of the Evergreens. The neighborhood borders East New York to the east, Canarsie to the south, Crown Heights to the west, and Bed-Stuy to the north. Brownsville is home to several healthcare centers, including the Brookdale University Hospiral, the Brookdale Family Care Center, the St. Mary’s Hospital, and the Linroc Nursing Home. The neighborhood was also the site of the nation’s first birth control clinic, opened by Margaret Sanger in a Brownsville storefront in 1925.
Brownsville’s history started in 1861, when Charles S. Brown purchased a tract of land and built 250 houses, in hopes of creating a tranquil oasis on the then-outskirts of Brooklyn. However, the developers that came after Brown had quite different ideas about how “Brown’s Village” should be developed. In 1887, for example, Arthur Kaplan built dozens of multi-family dwellings, hoping to attract businesses from Manhattan, increase Brownsville’s population, and boost the fledgling neighborhood’s economy.
In 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge brought a rush of Manhattanites seeking to escape the crush and high rents of Lower East Side, and in 1889, the “Fulton Street Elevated” train service was extended to Brownsville. These two developments, followed by the construction of the Williamsburg Bridge in 1903 and the Manhattan Bridge in 1909, placed Brownsville firmly in the sights of Manhattan and Brooklyn residents looking for a quieter, more spacious place to live.
The Brownsville of today is quite different from the neighborhood of even 20 years ago. The neighborhood’s architecture hasn’t changed much – Brownsbville is stocked with a mix of single-family houses and mid-rise multi-family apartment complexes, with an industrial district in the northeast corner of the neighborhood. However, the cultural and economic changes of this unique neighborhood are becoming more obvious each day.
To begin with, crime is down, significantly. The number of incidents in the seven major crime categories has fallen over 73% since 1993, according to the NYPD’s COMPSTAT system. Brownsville has become the next Bed-Stuy, a formerly undesirable neighborhood ripe for gentrification and renewal. Businesses are taking increased interest in the area, with the neighborhood’s sizeable population being able to support a variety of retail and service ventures. Community agencies are offering incentives for small businesses to relocate to Brownsville, and the abundance of commercial, industrial, and retail space makes the decision easier.
Brownsville is home to a diverse community, with dozens of civic organizations and over 215 houses of worship. Twenty-four schools serve the area, including 18 elementary, 4 Junior High, and 2 high schools.
The neighborhood’s main park, Betsy Head Playground (technically a misnomer, since most NYC residents would call a 10-plus-acre continuous green space a “park” and not a “playground”) offers Brownsville residents an oasis of tranquility and fresh air. The park’s Olympic-sized swimming pool, its multiple ballfields, a running track, and many other attractions, make it an ideal spot for recreation. The park’s facilities are so well-designed, as a matter of fact, that they have earned international awards.
Brownsville’s residents have many options when it comes to public transportation. The A/C subway line crosses the north side of the neighborhood, the L train runs near the eastern side, and the 3 train provides service through middle Brownsville. In addition, 12 bus lines (the Brooklyn local 7, 8, 12, 14, 15, 17, 20, 35, 47, 60, 82, 83, and the Queens-bound Q56) serve the area.
Brownsville offers many routes for auto-commuters, as well. Interboro Parkway, Broadway, Atlantic Avenue, Bushwick Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue, and Rockaway Avenue provide direct routes to southern Queens, Brooklyn Downtown, and the Belt Parkway. In addition, Kings Highway begins on the western side of the neighborhood. Brownsville is the cross-roads of Brooklyn, and the neighborhood is packed with business and investment opportunities.