How 10 Brooklyn neighborhoods got their names
Like the rest of the city, Brooklyn is largely defined by its vibrant neighborhoods.
But how did they get their names? Some reasons seem pretty obvious. Sunset Park is named for the central green space of the neighborhood, and Park Slope fittingly describes the decline in topography from Prospect Park to the Gowanus.
Yet there are other neighborhoods with names that are more difficult to decode. From Bensonhurst to Vinegar Hill, check out where 10 BK nabes got their names.
Developer James Lynch bought up 350 acres of land from the Benson family of Brooklyn to create the once-exclusive suburb then known as Bensonhurst-by-the-Sea. As part of the land deal, the Benson family asked that their surname be bequeathed on the new development, according to the book "Brooklyn By Name." (Credit: Flickr/scazza_)
In the 1850s, a group of merchants in the neighborhood of Yellow Hook in southern Brooklyn realized that their community had a marketing problem. Yellow fever was killing scores of people and the merchants were afraid it would deter visitors. That wasn’t good for business, obviously. So the neighborhood was renamed after the ridge that runs along the bay. (Credit: Anthony Lanzilote)
The neighborhood takes its name from Carroll Park, which residents call the “vital center” of the community. The park was named for Maryland’s Charles Carroll, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and a fierce defender of Roman Catholic rights. And the so-called “gardens”? That apparently refers to the big gardens in the front yards. (Credit: Wikimedia/Jim.henderson)
"The people’s playground" probably got its name from a corruption of the Dutch word for rabbits, which were often seen dashing through the sand dunes. Conyne Eylant hot dogs, anyone? (Credit: Getty/Eric Thayer)
In the 19th century, this north-central Brooklyn neighborhood was referred to as Crow Hill. That was likely a derogatory reference to free blacks who lived in the community known as Weeksville that is now located in today’s Crown Heights. The new moniker came about in 1916 when Crown Street was extended through the neighborhood. (Credit: Linda Rosier)
In the seventeenth century, Brooklyn was comprised of six settlements, all but one of them Dutch. Of these, Midwout or “Middle-Woods” was among the largest. This area was heavily wooded, but flat, and so it was also known as V’Lacke Bos, according to the book “Brooklyn By Name.” What does that mean? “Wooded plain,” of course. Flatbush, then, is basically the Anglicized version.
East New York
When Colonel John Pitkin arrived in what was then a farming district of Brooklyn in the 1830s, he envisioned transforming it into a commercial powerhouse that would rival Manhattan. To emphasize his vision, he named it East New York. The financial panic of 1837 dashed his dreams. (Credit: Emilio Guerra)
A group of religious freedom seekers led by Englishwoman Lady Deborah Moody established the town of Gravesend in the southeastern corner of Brooklyn in 1643. It was the only one of the original six settlements in the borough not created by the Dutch and was reportedly named after Gravesend, England. The town’s charter “granted absolute freedom of conscience and the right to practice religious freedom” without interference, according to the book “Gravesend: The Home of Coney Island.” (Credit: Flickr/Vlad Lorsh)
Vinegar Hill, between the Brooklyn Navy Yard and DUMBO, was named after a 1798 Irish uprising against the British at, you guessed it, Vinegar Hill. The authors of “Brooklyn! An Illustrated History” speculate that John Jackson, a shipyard owner who bought the land in 1801, may have named the Brooklyn neighborhood after the location of the uprising in an effort to attract Irish newcomers to the city. (Credit: Wikimedia/RPocius)
Once upon a time, say before the 20th century, Williamsburg ended with an “h.” The community on the East River was originally established by ferry operator Richard Woodhull in the early 1800s and named for Col. Jonathan Williams, the engineer who surveyed it. Williamsburgh, as it was then known, lost its “h” after being consolidated into Brooklyn. (Credit: Anthony Lanzilote)