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Slavery in North Brooklyn

July 4 is the 193rd anniversary of the end of slavery in New York. Prior to 1827 Kings County – then a collection of 6 towns (Brooklyn, Bushwick, Flatbush, Flatlands, New Utrecht and Gravesend) – had the largest number of enslaved persons in the state.

In 1698, Kings County had a population of 2,015, 293 of whom (15%) were enslaved. The Town of Bushwick (comprising today’s Bushwick, Williamsburg (north of Division) and Greenpoint) had a population of 301 in 1698, 52 of whom (17%) were enslaved.

In 1738, the Town of Bushwick had a population of 325, 77 of whom (24%) were Black. The 1738 census doesn’t enumerate enslaved persons, but it is reasonable to assume that all or nearly all of the 77 Blacks were not free.

A 1755 “census of slaves” for New York State counted 41 enslaved persons in Bushwick. Total population was not recorded, and the count appears not to be complete.

In the 1790 US census (the first for the new country), the Town of Bushwick had a total population of 540, 171 of whom (32%) we enslaved persons. 5 people were recorded as “other free” (i.,e., not “white” and not “slave”). Likely some of those were Black.

In 1800, the Town of Bushwick had a total population of 666, 199 of whom (30%) were enslaved persons. 34 people were counted under “All other free persons”, and by this time it is likely that some were Black. It is possible that up to 1/3 of Bushwick was Black in 1800.

In 1810, the Town of Bushwick had a population of 800, 147 of whom (18%) were enslaved persons. Another 59 persons were counted as “other free persons”. Based on this, up to 1/4 of Bushwick was Black in 1810.

Why the decrease in enslaved persons? NY state laws already limited slavery, and the owning of slaves was already being looked upon as a cruel relic. But, significantly for Bushwick the western part of Bushwick was being developed as a village – Williamsburgh – starting the transition from agrarian to urban. The population was tiny (100 or 200?) in 1810 but the establishment of the village was already removing acres of farmland.

This trend continues in 1820, when the population of the Town of Bushwick had grown to 1,072, of whole 120 (11%) were enslaved persons and 63 (6%) were “free colored”. About 2/3 of the free Black were counted as part of white households (some of which also included enslaved persons). There were only three families of free Blacks in 1820, headed by Thomas Thompson, Jack Portland and George Rictas.

In 1830, the Town of Bushwick had a population of 1,520, of whom 164 (11%) were Black (all free, following emancipation in 1827). 20% of the Black population was enumerated as part of a white household. But over 100 Blacks, in 27 households, lived independently.

By this time, the Village of Williamsburgh had been incorporated (also in 1827), accounting for almost all the growth in the Town’s population. The Black population of Williamsburgh was 97 (about 2/3 the Bushwick total), and 21 of the Black families lived in Williamsburgh, indicative of a sizable Black population (10% of the village total). Up to the Civil War, Williamsburgh had a sizable Black population, active in the abolitionist movement. But that’s another story…

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1 April 2020

St. Regis, Wythe Hotel Open Rooms to Medical Staff, Patients [✜]

Hotels are being used for quarantine and to house medical staff. This article mentions the Wythe - any other local hotels doing this?

The Four Seasons Hotel on East 57th Street, the Room Mate Grace Hotel and the Wythe Hotel have offered free housing for doctors, nurses and other staff, while the St. Regis Hotel, the Palace Hotel and Yotel will be providing space for non-critical care patients, according to a press release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

Holy Tabernacle Church – Before and After

1255 Bushwick Avenue

(very) Former Bushwick Avenue Holy Tabernacle Church [Google]


Courtesy of Google street views – the fate of Bushwick Avenue. This was the Holy Tabernacle Church Grace English Evangelical Lutheran Church. Now it is just an unholy mess.

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Teachers Say de Blasio and Carranza Helped Spread Coronavirus [✜]

In addition to exposure before the schools were closed, most teachers were still going into work last week for training and prep for online learning. Among the schools mentioned in the article is the Grand Street Campus (former Eastern District HS at Grand and Bushwick).

How To Support Local Restaurants and Bars During The Covid Crisis [✜]

From Greenpointers, a very helpful list of Greenpoint (& Williamsburg) restaurants and bars, including who is (remotely) serving what and when, and - very important - GoFundMe links to support laid off staff. Help them out.

28 December 2019

Wins and Losses in 2019’s [Brooklyn] Preservation Battles [✜]

It can't be a good year when one of your "wins" involved half of the building getting demolished.

And while it's always nice to see row houses that are not in Greenwich Village get recognition and protection (nice work, Kelly!), Walt Whitman, abolitionist history and a host of other good priorities (Bushwick, Southside) still languish.

12 November 2019

AOC Was Even More Wrong about Williamsburg Than We’d Thought [✜]

The Post, which seems pretty obsessed with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, gets their facts confused in an effort to prove her "wrong":

...contra AOC, the rezoned area [of Greenpoint and Williamsburg] now has more Hispanic residents, city data show — reversing a trend of decline since 1990. Oh, and Williamsburg hasn’t seen a drop in the number of lower-income households.

The Post is referring to a presentation that the Department of City Planning made at a community meeting last week (of which, hopefully a more detailed analysis to follow - it is a very interesting data dump). In that presentation, DCP showed charts comparing the Hispanic population in 1990, 2000, 2010 and 2017. The Post reads this data as somehow excuplatory, but it really does not show what they think it does.

In their rush to a gotcha on @AOC, the Post ignores a few key facts that DCP also presented. Namely, that the share of Hispanic residents in the waterfront rezoning area dropped from 27% in ca. 2006-2010 to 23% in ca. 2013-2017. Yes, the population was up (by a small number in the waterfront rezoning area only - an area that historically has a smaller share of Hispanic residents). Overall, in the two rezoning areas (which excludes parts of the Southside and East Williamsburg with higher proportions of Hispanic residents), the Hispanic population did increase 15% between 2006 and 2017, but compared to 2000, the Hispanic population is still down in this area over 25% (and down almost 40% compared to 1990).

And the income factoid? Yes, the number of lower-income households (those earning less than $50,000 has stayed more or less flat (it has actually dropped very slightly). But the number of households earning more than $50,000 has tripled since 1990 and more than doubled since before the 2005 rezoning.

That sure looks a lot like gentrification.

But @AOC was wrong about one thing - there are not very many "hippies" in Williamsburg.

6 November 2019

5 Hot Brooklyn Neighborhoods You’ll Want to Call Home [✜]

...my friend Shallon sneered, “I didn’t move 3,000 miles across the country to tell people I live in Brooklyn.”

Looking down your nose at Brooklyn went out of style 15 years ago, Shallon. So did the Manhattanite's guide to "hot" Brooklyn neighborhoods school of journalism.

More important question - who is the branding genius at the Greenpoint Hotel who didn't research the history of ... the Greenpoint Hotel? (As best I can tell, the new Greenpoint Hotel will be on West Street, in some part of the Greenpoint Terminal Market property. GTM was formerly the home of the American Manufacturing Co., which made rope and other nautical supplies.)

31 October 2019

Domino Sugar Development’s First Commercial Space Hits the Market [✜]

This is a remarkably nice building. And in terms of urban design, there is just no comparison to everything that the 2005 rezoning wrought on the waterfront - taller, and thinner, is definitely better. Walking around this building is just a completely different experience than the super-block developments everywhere else.

Williamsburg Hotel is Headed for Receivership [✜]

In unsurprising news, the Williamsburg Hotel is not penciling out as developer Toby Moskovits thought it would. It really is not clear if this building is even finished. Is Shitshow an architectural style?