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Crown Heights, Brooklyn

Crown Heights in Community Board 8, Brooklyn, New York City
Typical Crown Heights row houses

Crown Heights is a neighborhood in the central portion of the New York City borough of Brooklyn. The main thoroughfare through this neighborhood is Eastern Parkway, a tree-lined boulevard designed by Frederick Law Olmsted extending 2 miles (3.2 kilometres) east–west. Originally, the area was known as Crow Hill. It was a succession of hills running east and west from Utica Avenue to Washington Avenue, and south to Empire Boulevard and East New York Avenue.[1] The name was changed when Crown Street was cut through in 1916.[2]

Crown Heights is bounded by Washington Avenue to the west, Atlantic Avenue to the north, Ralph Avenue to the east, and Empire Boulevard/East New York Avenue to the south. It is about 1 mile (1.6 km) wide and 2 miles (3.2 km) long. Neighborhoods bordering Crown Heights include Prospect Heights to the west, Flatbush and Prospect Lefferts Gardens to the south, Brownsville to the east, and Bedford-Stuyvesant to the north.

The neighborhood extends through much of Brooklyn Community Board 8[3] and 9.[4] It is under the jurisdiction of two precincts of the New York City Police Department. The 77th Precinct is part of Brooklyn North, which covers Crown Heights, Prospect Heights and Weeksville. The 71st Precinct is part of Brooklyn South and covers the southern end of Crown Heights.[5]

Crown Heights has extreme contrasts between ornate architecture in certain sectors and vacant, run-down buildings in other sectors. It contains a variety of people ranging from bearded, dark-suit wearing Hasidim, to vividly and brightly dressed Afro-Caribbean residents.


  • History 1
    • Early history 1.1
    • Early and mid-20th century 1.2
    • Late 20th century 1.3
    • Early 21st century 1.4
  • Demographics 2
  • Political representation 3
  • Education 4
  • Transportation 5
  • Landmarks 6
  • Notable people 7
  • In film 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10


Early history

Although no known physical evidence remains in the Crown Heights vicinity, large portions of what is now called Long Island including present-day Brooklyn were occupied by the Lenape, (later renamed Delaware Indians by the European colonizers). The Lenape lived in communities of bark- or grass-covered wigwams, and in their larger settlements—typically located on high ground adjacent to fresh water, and occupied in the fall, winter, and spring—they fished, harvested shellfish, trapped animals, gathered wild fruits and vegetables, and cultivated corn, tobacco, beans, and other crops.

The first recorded contact between the indigenous people of the New York City region and Europeans was with the Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano in 1524 in the service of France when he anchored at the approximate location where the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge touches down in Brooklyn today. There he was visited by a canoe party of Lenape. The next contact was in 1609 when the explorer Henry Hudson arrived in what is now New York Harbor aboard a Dutch East India Company ship, the Halve Maen (Half Moon) commissioned by the Dutch Republic.

European habitation in the New York City area began in earnest with the founding of a Dutch fur trading settlement, later called "Nieuw Amsterdam" (New Amsterdam), on the southern tip of Manhattan in 1614. By 1630, Dutch and English colonists started moving into the western end of Long Island. In 1637, Joris Jansen de Rapalje[6] purchased about 335 acres (1.36 km2) around Wallabout Bay and over the following two years, director Kieft of the Dutch West India Company purchased title to nearly all the land in what is now Kings County and Queens County from the indigenous inhabitants.

Finally, the areas around present-day Crown Heights saw its first European settlements starting in about 1661/1662 when several men each received, from Governor Pieter Stuyvesant and the directors of the Dutch West India Company what was described as “a parcel of free (unoccupied) woodland there” on the condition that they situate their houses “within one of the other concentration, which would suit them best, but not to make a hamlet.”[7][8]

Early and mid-20th century

Imperial Apartments on Bedford Avenue, built in 1892

Crown Heights had begun as a posh residential neighborhood, a "bedroom" for Manhattan's growing bourgeois class. The area benefited by having its rapid transit in a subway configuration, the IRT Eastern Parkway Line (2 3 4 5 trains), in contrast to many other Brooklyn neighborhoods, which had elevated lines. Conversion to a commuter town also included tearing down the 19th century Kings County Penitentiary at Carroll Street and Nostrand Avenue.[9]

Beginning in the early 1900s, many upper-class residences, including characteristic brownstone buildings, were erected along Eastern Parkway. Away from the parkway were a mixture of lower middle-class residences. This development peaked in the 1920s. Before World War II Crown Heights was among New York City's premier neighborhoods, with tree-lined streets, an array of cultural institutions and parks, and numerous fraternal, social and community organizations.

The former Jewish Hospital of Brooklyn, now an apartment house

Population changes began in the 1920s with newcomers from Jamaica and the West Indies, as well as African Americans from the South.

From the '40s through the '60s, many middle class Jews lived in Crown Heights. In 1950, the neighborhood was 89 percent white, with some 50 to 60 percent of the white population, or about 75,000 people, being Jewish, and a small, growing black population. By 1957, there were about 25,000 blacks in Crown Heights, making up about one-fourth of the population.[10] There were thirty-four large synagogues in the neighborhood, including the Bobov, Chovevei Torah, and 770 Eastern Parkway, home of the worldwide Lubavitch movement. There were also three prominent Yeshiva elementary schools in the neighborhood, Crown Heights Yeshiva on Crown Street, the Yeshiva of Eastern Parkway, and the Reines Talmud Torah.

Late 20th century

The 1960s and 1970s were a time of turbulent race relations in the area: With increasing poverty in the city, racial conflict plagued some of its neighborhoods, including Crown Heights, with its racially and culturally mixed populations. The neighborhood's relatively large population of Lubavitch Hasidim, at the request of their leader, the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneersohn stayed in the community after other whites left.[11]

In 1964 the Labor Day Carnival celebrating Caribbean culture was moved to the neighborhood when its license to run in Harlem was revoked. It now attracts between one and three million people and is held on the first Monday in September.

During the Lyndon B. Johnson administration, Crown Heights was declared a primary poverty area due to a high unemployment rate, high juvenile and adult crime rate, poor nutrition due to lack of family income, relative absence of job skills and readiness, and a relatively high concentration of elderly residents.

Violence broke out several times in the neighborhood during the late 20th century, including during the New York City blackout of 1977: More than 75 area stores were robbed, and thieves used cars to pull up roll-down curtains in front of stores. In 1991, there was a three-day outbreak known as the Crown Heights Riot, which started between the neighborhood's West Indian/African American and Jewish communities. The riots began on August 19, 1991 after Gavin Cato, the son of two Guyanese immigrants, was struck and killed by a car in the motorcade of prominent Hasidic rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Rioting began very shortly after a Jewish volunteer ambulance left the scene, and a visitor from Australia was murdered in the ensuing riots. The riot unveiled long-simmering tensions between the neighborhood's black and Jewish communities, which impacted the 1993 mayoral race and ultimately led to a successful outreach program between black and Jewish leaders that somewhat helped improve race relations in the city.[12][13] Through the 1990s, crime, racial conflict, and violence decreased in the city and urban renewal and gentrification began to take effect including in Crown Heights.

Early 21st century

In the spring of 2008 racial tension flared up in a few blocks; however, it never reached the level of tension that occurred during the Crown Heights Riot of the early 1990s.[14]

In November 2013, a series of attacks on Jewish residents were suspected to be part of "

  • Race and Religion among the Chosen Peoples of Crown Heights, by Henry Goldschmidt (Rutgers University Press, 2006)
  • "Strolls Upon Old Lines: Crow Hill and Some of Its Suggestions" from the Brooklyn Eagle December 9, 1888
  • Klockenbrink, Myra (January 20, 1985). "If You're Thinking of Living In: Crown Heights".  

Further reading

  1. ^ "The Eastern District of Brooklyn" by Eugene Armbruster 1912 updated 1941.
  2. ^ "Crown Heights" from the 1939 "WPA Guide to New York City"
  3. ^ "Community Board 8" (Official Website). 
  4. ^ "Community Board 9" (Official Website). 
  5. ^ "Brooklyn, New York Police Precincts & Patrol Districts" (includes precinct maps)
  6. ^ "Notes for: Jan Joris Jansen (Rapalje) De_Rapalie" from the Janssen Verheul families in Canada and Holland database
  7. ^ "Crown Heights North Historic District: Designation Report" prepared by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission April 24, 2007 (pdf)
  8. ^ "Chapter 3.1: Woodland to City Neighborhood: 300 Years of Change" by Jerome Krase, Brooklyn College Sociology Department "Self and Community in the City", University Press of America 1982
  9. ^ Brooklyn Museum open collection Crow Hill Penitentiary gate
  10. ^ By Henry GoldschmidtRace And Religion Among the Chosen Peoples of Crown Heights . 
  11. ^ "770 Live". 770 Live. March 20, 1940. Retrieved January 13, 2013. 
  12. ^ Edward S. Shapiro, "Interpretations of the Crown Heights riot." American Jewish History (2002) 90#2 pp: 97-122.
  13. ^ Edward S. Shapiro, Crown Heights: Blacks, Jews, and the 1991 Brooklyn Riot (U. Press of New England, 2006)
  14. ^ "Racial tensions brewing in Crown Heights." CNN.
  15. ^ "Jewish Man Assaulted as Part of Sick ‘Knockout’ Game". November 10, 2013. 
  16. ^ "Police Added in Brooklyn Neighborhood Amid "Knockout Game" Attacks".  
  17. ^ Jonathan Mark (November 20, 2013). "Mark, Jonothan. ‘Knockout’ Attacks A Concern. ''The Jewish Week.'' Nov. 10, 2013". Retrieved November 26, 2013. 
  18. ^ Brooklyn Jewish leaders offer 1500 reward for knockout game arrests". ''''. Nov. 25, 2013""". November 22, 2013. Retrieved November 26, 2013. 
  19. ^ "NYPD investigating Crown Heights 'knockout' attacks on Jews as possible hate crimes – Daily News". Retrieved November 26, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Yanover, Yoni. "Crown Heights Knockout-the-Jew attacks serial hate crimes". ''The Jewish Press''. Nov. 14, 2013". Retrieved November 26, 2013. 
  21. ^ . January 29, 2014. Accessed February 2, 2014.COLlive.comCOLlive reporter. "A Jewish Response to Knockout."
  22. ^ New York Community Media Alliance, May 9, 2007: "Desperately seeking an apartment: Haitians continue to double up as rents soar".  (Accessed on December 6, 2009)
  23. ^ New York Times – City Room, November 16, 2007: Chan, Sewell (November 16, 2007). "Landlord Eviction Trick Backfired, Investigators Say". The New York Times. Retrieved April 30, 2010.  (Accessed on December 6, 2009)
  24. ^ INPRINT, August 10, 2004: "The Uncertain Fate of an Old Brooklyn Nook".  (Accessed on December 6, 2009)
  25. ^ Marsh, Ian, "Pressured to Move, Low-Income Tenants Resist Buyouts," Brooklyn Bureau (, May 27, 2014
  26. ^ "Compstat" (PDF). 
  27. ^ Rule, Sheila (April 15, 1994). "The Voices and Faces of Crown Heights". The New York Times. Retrieved November 26, 2007. 
  28. ^ "West Indian-American Day Carnival Association". 
  29. ^ "Council Member- District: 35". Archived from the original on April 22, 2007. 
  30. ^ "Council Member- District: 36". Archived from the original on May 1, 2007. 
  31. ^ "19th Senate District" (official page). 
  32. ^ "20th Senate District" (official page). 
  33. ^ "State Assembly District 43" (official page). 
  34. ^ "State Assembly District 573" (official page). 
  35. ^ "Empower Charter School"
  36. ^
  37. ^ Duffy, Thom. "'Celebrate Brooklyn' Readies Summer Lineup", Billboard (magazine), May 7, 2004. Accessed October 27, 2007. "My life totally revolved around Brooklyn, says Davis, recalling his boyhood in a working-class Jewish neighborhood of Crown Heights, watching the Brooklyn Dodgers play at Ebbet's Field and listening to Martin Block's Make Believe Ballroom on WNEW."
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^ Telpha, Carol. "Neighborhoods: Close-Up on Crown Heights", The Village Voice, December 12, 2002. Accessed October 18, 2007. "Actress and singer Stephanie Mills and rapper Skoob of Das EFX are Crown Heights natives."
  41. ^ Martin, Douglas. "William Taylor, Vigorous Rights Defender, Dies at 78", The New York Times, June 29, 2010. Accessed June 30, 2010.
  42. ^ . Oct 7, 2013.DNAInfo.comSharp, Sonja. Crown Heights Documentary Claims to be First Ever Shot With Google Glass.
  43. ^ .Columbia.eduBrooklyn Film & Arts Festival Screening: "Brooklyn Realities – Documented".
  44. ^ .New York TimesCrown Heights. Movies.



See also

A 2004 film titled Crown Heights depicts an orthodox Rabbi and a community activist helping two local youths, one Hasidic, the other African-American, form a hip-hop group. Set in the aftermath of the Crown Heights riot, the group aims at healing tensions in the neighborhood.[44]

Project 2x1, a 2013 documentary shot with Google Glass, features the Caribbean and Hasidic residents of Crown Heights. The footage includes local scenes shot by the residents themselves.[42][43]

In film

Notable people


Crown Heights is served by the IRT Eastern Parkway Line and the IRT Nostrand Avenue Line, with major subway stations at Franklin, Nostrand, Kingston and Utica Avenues (2 3 4 5 trains) President and Sterling Streets (2 5 trains). Several bus lines serve the area, including the B12, B14, B15, B17, B43, B44, B45, B46, B47, B48 and B65.


The orthodox Jewish community is serviced by gender-classified schools. Among the girls schools are Beth Rivkah Academy, the oldest girls school founded by the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe in 1943, which now hosts preschool through higher learning institutions. Newer schools include Bnos Menachem, Bais Chaya Mushka and Bnos Chomesh. The boys are educated at Oholei Torah, Yeshiva Tomchei Temimim Lubavitch, Cheder Ohr Menachem and various other smaller schools.

Medgar Evers College is an institution of higher education.

Among the public schools are the International Arts Business School, The League School, The School for Human Rights, The School for Democracy and Leadership and the Success Academy Charter Schools. M.S. 587, New Heights Middle School, Achievement First Crown Heights Elementary School, and Achievement First Crown Heights Middle School are all located in Crown Heights, housed in the Mahalia Jackson School building. Explore Empower Charter School[35] is also located in Crown Heights.

Medgar Evers College, Building A


Crown Heights is represented in State government as part of the State Senate 19th District[31] and the State Senate 20th District.[32] In the New York State Assembly, Crown Heights is part of State Assembly District 43[33] and State Assembly District 57.[34] Crown Heights is within the boundaries of New York's 9th congressional district for the U. S. House of Representatives, currently represented by Yvette Clarke.

In city government, Crown Heights is part of New York City Council Districts 35[29] and 36.[30]

Political representation

It is also the location of the Worldwide Headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic Jewish movement, at 770 Eastern Parkway. A thriving Orthodox Jewish community that dates back to the 1950s and 1960s has continued to thrive around that location.

Reflecting the most varied population of Caribbean immigrants outside the West Indies, Crown Heights is known for its annual West Indian Carnival. The boisterous and colorful event is the West Indian Carnival Parade, also known as "The Labor Day Parade." The vivid ostentation goes along Eastern Parkway, from Utica Avenue to Grand Army Plaza. According to the West Indian-American Day Carnival Association,[28] over 3.5 million people participate in the colorful parade each year.

As of 2010, of the approximately 83,000 residents in Crown Heights, 74.7% were Black, 19.1% were White, 4.2% were Hispanic, and 2% were Asian and other ethnic groups. Crown Heights has a majority of West Indian and African American population, however there are a significant number of Hasidic Jews.[27]

West Indian-American Day Parade


One of the largest street fairs in New York City, the annual Labor Day Carnival on Eastern Parkway, continues to be a popular draw for the neighborhood. statistics for July 2015 revealed that the 77th precinct, which includes a significant part of Crown Heights, had experienced 5 murders to date compared to 5 murders in the same period in 2014, which significantly impacted by local volunteer police patrols, and a decline of 8.3% in the number of rapes (11, down from 12). Felonious assaults and burglaries also declined in that period (10 and 20.7%, respectively)[26]

In some areas the increasing rents have caused the displacement of long-time residents.[22][23][24] It is not only that rents for each apartment increase drastically but building management firms such as BCB Realty affiliated with companies that buy up buildings in the neighborhood aim to remove these long-term residents by buying them out or pressuring them to move via "failing to adequately maintain apartments" according to a housing activist, with the aim of deregulating the rent-stabilized. Other tactics include relocating residents from their apartments claiming renovation and locking them out, as employed by another realtor in the neighborhood, ZT Realty.[25] Yet somehow, Crown Heights remains an overall ethnic and social melange where a wide variety of people from older residents to new immigrants and other groups continue to reside.


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