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Some subway entrances are located at the bottom of buildings in New York City, rather than off the sidewalk. Vintage subway entrance at the Trinity Building at 111 Broadway with Subway and Suspenders Bar & Restaurant. Is Brownsville Brooklyn””long regarded as one of New York’s most troubled neighborhoods””ready for its comeback? Pitkin Avenue itself, Brownsville’s crucial commercial corridor, has a revitalized Business Improvement District, headed by lifetime Brooklynite Daniel Murphy.
With multiple trains and good bus service Brownsville is a candidate for transit-oriented development.
Rosanne Haggerty, an internationally renowned expert in housing and social issues who is now the president of Community Solutions, calls the L the “gentrification train,”? which can bring income diversity to Brownsville while providing its residents with access to jobs. Though Brownsville Brooklyn has New York’s largest concentration of public housing, it also has a range of housing options, like these small brick residential buildings. Kazin was especially fearful of falling into what he called the “criminal class,”? because Brownsville, Brooklyn was home to Murder, Inc.
Now vacant PS 125 on Rockaway Avenue, where playwright Elaine Del Valle’s father was a janitor when she was growing up. Brownsville has the highest concentration of public housing projects in New York””and thus probably in the country. Brownsville’s existing site, as rendered by Alexander Gorlin Architects, shows the inward-looking, self-isolating design so familiar in public housing. The Decentrists’ ideas are starkly laid out in Brownsville, whose immense projects are built on superblocks stripped of retail, making a mockery of Jacobs’s description of urban neighborhoods as “delicate, teeming ecosystems.”? Ironically, despite their seeming density, the projects are inefficiently built in contemporary terms, with large amounts of deserted open space””in other words, space that offers an opportunity to develop something better without displacing any residents. Indeed, in his well-received book, Brownsville, Brooklyn: Blacks, Jews, and the Changing Face of the Ghetto, historian Wendell Pritchett points out that while many employed, moderate-income residents left in the 1970s, many stayed, in part because they moved into the Nehemiah Houses, constructed by the East Brooklyn Churches. Rosanne Haggerty hopes to start with a particular spot””Livonia and Rockaway, an entrance to the Tilden Houses that now looks bleak and empty, except for some garbage bags and parked cars. Instead of being a welcoming presence for residents and visitors, the forlorn entrance to Tilden Houses is devoted to parking and garbage collection. The very fact that Haggerty has a plan brings hope to people struggling to turn Brownsville around. NYCHA has chosen top companies””Blue Sea Development Company, Pennrose Properties, Duvernay + Brooks, and Rosenberg Housing Group””to redevelop the huge, empty Prospect Plaza project, just a few blocks north of Pitkin, as a mixed-use development.
But in her Common Ground days she observed that many families who applied to live at city shelters had come from a few neighborhoods, suggesting the need for place-based solutions. Haggerty’s approach involves working with talented people from all fields””health, education, justice, housing, parks, business””“chipping away at the problems, starting to produce change.”? To move the plan forward the Brownsville Partnership will build on its remarkable range of partners to hold community discussions and conferences. HELLO, I’M FROM BROWNSVILLE MYSELF, AND I SURE WOULD LIKE TO SEE BROWNSVILLE IMPROVE. The question is why high-rise architecture, in and of itself, is such a bad thing when applied to housing projects, and an unalloyed good when applied to, say, the East Side in Midtown.


You are correct – that many of those things have already take place in parts of the South Bronx.
Why do some entrances have them while others don’t? The answer is right there, if you look carefully. Think of the subway entrances at Clark Street in Brooklyn or at Canal Street and Broadway in Manhattan for example. A handsome 12-unit condo building developed by Habitat for Humanity welcomed its new owners in April. Geographically, Brownsville is the next in line to receive the youngsters and members of the creative class (to use Richard Florida’s term) that helped pull Bushwick up from the economic devastation wrought by the arson and riots of 1977. Also served by the IRT’s 3 line, Brownsville is a prime candidate for transit-oriented development. Many New Yorkers, especially those with roots in Brownsville, would like to see the neighborhood do well.
In the 1960s the neighborhood, which had become mainly African-American, remained poor and crime stayed high. New York City’s near bankruptcy in 1975 followed by years of fiscal crisis, raised taxes, and depressed city services, left Brownsville isolated and pretty much abandoned to its own resources. Music critic and filmmaker Nelson George, for example, whose family had moved to New York from Virginia, says they were part of the wave of black and Latino immigrants from the South and from Puerto Rico.
The projects’ design””which almost no one defends today””developed from the ideas of eminent mid-20th century planners, dubbed “Decentrists”? by Jane Jacobs, who borrowed the term from housing activists. Indeed, architect Alexander Gorlin estimates that Brownsville has some 2 million square feet in unused air rights. In other words, the demand for moderate-income housing, such as that identified by Harris, remains strong in Brownsville. Her efforts in other neighborhoods””Times Square, for example””have been so successful that people new to New York often regard the bad old days as urban myths. Reflecting on his life in old age Alfred Kazin commented, “Brownsville is the road which every other road in my life has had to cross.”? Brownsville is itself now at a crossroads. Something has to be done about these black rats then maybe brownsville can become a decent place and you can worry about making it as pretty as you want. The project cost $100 million to build, and is composed of 467 units in five high-rise residential towers with ground-floor retail centered around the Brownsville Metro station. There was absolutely NOTHING wrong with these houses until the crack era hit, an era which affected many other Brooklyn neighborhoods. At one time, the fire department used the buildings for training purposes, but that was about it. The moment that that happened, I said then that they were going to take all of those buildings down.
These entrances are maintained by the owners of those buildings and they rent out space to various small businesses (and sometimes chains like Subway).


The once-gorgeous Loew’s Pitkin Theatre, which debuted in 1929 and closed in the late 1960s, has undergone a $43 million renovation by Poko Partners, reopening with an Ascend charter school on the top floors and retail on the ground floor. If Bushwick, Brooklyn (despite high crime) can attract investment and income diversity then so, surely, can Brownsville.
After all, as NYU’s Furman Center points out, over 85% of Brownsville residents live within a half mile of a subway or rail entrance. Nonetheless, Brownsville also produced celebrated New Yorkers, including composer Aaron Copland, comedian Danny Kaye, television host Larry King, public intellectual Norman Podhoretz, and historian Howard Zinn.
Brownsville was seared by a damaging riot in September 1967, which drove even more merchants out of business, followed a year later by the devastating Ocean Hill-Brownsville teachers’ strike, which seriously frayed the relationship between New York’s black and Jewish communities, says historian Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation. Violent crime became so endemic that architect Oscar Newman, author of Defensible Space, based his argument that high-rise buildings were inherently unsafe on the daily crime in the Brownsville and Van Dyke projects. The neighborhood was still sufficiently Jewish and Italian for George to grow up eating knishes, going to bar mitzvahs, and consuming Italian food. Decentrists thought urban streets were destructive environments for human beings, and recommended turning housing inward toward sheltered greens, away from the street. Fred Harris, NYCHA’s Executive Vice President for Development, is supportive, noting that “the forms of our buildings that look nice on a map often feel insecure and exposed at ground level. They have trouble believing that Times Square hosted heroin addicts, street prostitutes, and vicious violent felons.
Indeed, the L train””which cuts in a straight line across Manhattan’s 14th Street, plunges under the East River, and emerges in Williamsburg-Greenpoint before rather jauntily swerving through Bushwick””shows the way. Haggerty has a plan, partly inspired by Jane Jacobs’s ideas in The Death and Life of Great American Cities, for how to harness the forces of gentrification, attracting far better retail and services, without displacing any residents or demolishing any housing units. Most of these achievers had been raised in the tenement housing stock built in the late 19th century and demolished in the 20th””often to make way for federally funded public housing, built for the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA).
Haggerty’s ability to look upon even the most troubled person as a human being worthy of respect combined with her acute analysis of the social problems associated with living on the street helped her formulate a remarkably effective strategic approach to combating homelessness.
You’ll find that a large percentage of people who are homeless had been in the child welfare system. It is obvious that the city at some point abdicated its responsibility to maintain public order in certain areas, both social and geographical. For example, the first building to go was 430 Saratoga Avenue, which also housed a much-used & much-needed daycare center directly next to it. Commerce would be segregated from residences and parks, and limited according to scientific calculations of what residents needed.



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