Stuyvesant Heights is a neighborhood in north-central Brooklyn, a part of (New York City) settled in the mid-17th century before the borough of Brooklyn was incorporated as a city. The area, presently gentrifying, can boast of some of Brooklyn's most handsome and historic brownstones and grand old apartment buildings.
Stuyvesant Heights is one of the four neighborhoods comprising the widely-known enclave of Bedford-Stuyvesant. The other neighborhoods are Bedford, Ocean Hill, and Weeksville.
The boundaries of the Stuyvesant Heights neighborhood can be described by the following circuit:
Beginning at the northwesternmost point in the neighborhood, at the
corner of Tompkins Avenue and Flushing Avenue, proceed south on Tompkins
to Fulton Street, the main commercial street in Bedford-Stuyvesant;
Turn westward and continue on Fulton Street for a very short
distance before turning south again on Brooklyn Avenue; Tompkins Avenue
and Brooklyn Avenue form the western edge of Stuyvesant Heights and the
boundary facing the neighborhood of Bedford;
Turn left onto Park Place, and proceed eastward until reaching Ralph Avenue; south of Park Place is the Crown Heights neighborhood;
Turn southward onto Ralph Avenue, and proceed for a few blocks
before turning northeastward onto East New York Avenue, south of which
is the Brownsville neighborhood;
Follow East New York Avenue until it encounters Van Sinderen Avenue;
turn northward on Van Sinderen, toward the large transportation hub
called Broadway Junction; the area to the east of Van Sinderen Avenue is the East New York neighborhood;
At Broadway Junction, turn northwestward on Broadway; north and east of Broadway is the Bushwick neighborhood;
Proceed on Broadway to Flushing Avenue; turn westward on Flushing, where the Williamsburg
neighborhood lies to the north, and return shortly to the point where
this circuit began, at the corner of Flushing Avenue and Tompkins
The circuit described above encompasses the small Ocean Hill and
Weeksville neighborhoods (as well as Stuyvesant Heights, of course.)
Weeksville is in the southeastern part of the enclosed area, north of
East New York Avenue and south of Fulton Street. Ocean Hill's boundaries
include Broadway (Bushwick) in the north, Ralph Avenue (Stuyvesant
Heights proper) to the west, East New York Avenue (Brownsville) in the
south, and Van Sinderen Avenue (East New York) to the east.
The main thoroughfares in Stuyvesant Heights are Malcolm X Boulevard,
formerly called Reid Avenue, Stuyvesant Avenue, another north-south
street, one block west of Malcolm X, and Fulton Street.
Originally the area that is now Stuyvesant Heights was farmland that became a community after the American Revolutionary War. In 1838 the Weeksville subsection was recognized as one of the first free African American communities in the United States. In 1890, the city of Brooklyn founded another subsection Ocean Hill, a working-class predominantly Italian enclave.
Stuyvesant Heights is a residential district that was largely
developed between 1870 and 1920. The name "Stuyvesant Heights" came into
local usage during the 1890s and distinguishes it from the larger
Bedford Stuyvesant area in which it lies. The name Stuyvesant Heights
derives from the fact that Stuyvesant Avenue is the district's principal
For most of its early history, Stuyvesant Heights was part of the
outlying farm area of the small hamlet of Bedford, settled by the Dutch
during the 17th century within the incorporated town of Breuckelen. The
hamlet had its beginnings when a group of Breuckelen residents decided
to improve their farm properties behind the Wallabout section, which
gradually developed into an important produce center and market. The
petition to form a new hamlet was approved by Governor Stuyvesant in
1663. Its leading signer was Thomas Lambertsen, a carpenter from
Holland. A year later the British capture of New Netherland signaled the
end of Dutch rule. In Governor Nicolls'
Charter of 1667 and in the Charter of 1686. Bedford is mentioned as a
settlement within the Town of Brueckelen. Bedford hamlet had an inn as
early as early as 1668, and in 1670 the people of Breuckelen purchased
from the Canarsie Indians an additional area for common lands in the surrounding region.
Bedford Corners, located approximately where the present Bedford Avenue meets Fulton Street,
and only three blocks west of the present Historic District, was the
intersection of several well traveled roads. The Brooklyn and Jamaica
Turnpike, one of the oldest roads in Kings County, ran parallel to the
present Fulton Street, from the East River ferry to the village of
Brooklyn, thence to the hamlet of Bedford and on through the present
Stuyvesant Heights towards Jamaica. Farmers from New Lots and Flatbush
used this road on their way to Manhattan. Within the Stuyvesant Heights
Historic District, the Turnpike ran along the approximate line of
Decatur Street. Cripplebush Road to Newtown and the Clove Road to
Flatbush also met at Bedford Corners. Hunterfly Road which joined the
Turnpike about a mile to the east of Clove Road, also served as a route
for farmers and fishermen of the Canarsie and New Lots areas.
In the second half of the 17th century, the lands which comprise the
present Historic District belonged to three Dutch settlers, Dirck Janse
Hooghland, who operated a ferryboat on the East River, Jan Hansen and
Leffert Pietersen van Haughwout, both farmers.
At the time of the Revolution, Leffert Lefferts, son Jakop, was a
leading citizen of Bedford and the town clerk of Brooklyn. His neighnor
Lambert Suydam was captain of the Kings County troop of hores cavalry in
1776. An important part of the Battle of Long Island took place with
the Historic District and in its vicinity. In 1784, the people of the
Town of Brooklyn held their first town meeting since 1776. In 1800
Bedford was designated one of the seven districts of the Town of
Brooklyn, and in 1834 it became part of the seventh and ninth wards of
the newly incorporated City of Brooklyn.
The present gridiron street system was laid out in 1835, as shown by
the Street Commissioners map of 1839, and the blocks were lotted. The
new street grid
system led to the abandonment of the Brooklyn and Jamaica Turnpike in
favor of a continuation of Brooklyn's Fulton Street, which was opened up
just south of the Historic District in 1842. The lands for the street
system within Stuyvesant Heights however were not sold to the City of
Brooklyn until 1852. Earlier in the same year Charles W. Betts had
purchased Maria Lott's tract of land. This marked the end of two
centuries of Dutch patrimonial holdings. Betts, as Secretary of the
Brooklyn Railroad Company acquired the land for the trolley lines on
Fulton Street and for investment purposes. Most of the streets were not
actually opened however until the 1860s.
Streets in Stuyvesant Heights were named after prominent figures in American history. Francis Lewis was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, whilst Bainbridge, Chauncey, Decatur and MacDonough were naval heroes of the Tripolitan War and the War of 1812.
the Dripps Map of 1869 shows that the area was still largely rural with
a few freestanding houses mostly on MacDonough Street. The real
development of the district began slowly at first, accelerating between
1885 and 1900, and gradually tapering off during the first two decades
of the 20th century. Construction of masonry row houses in the 1870s
began to transform the rural district into an urban area. The first row
of masonry houses in Stuyvesant Heights was built in 1872 on MacDonough
Street for developer Curtis L. North. In 1880s and 1890s more rows were
added, most of the Stuyvesant Heights north of Decatur Street looked
much as it does today. Stuyvesant Heights was emerging as a neighborhood
entity with its own distinctive characteristics. The houses have large
rooms, high ceilings and large windows.
The people who brought these houses were generally upper middle class
families mostly lawyers, shopkeepers and merchants of German and Irish
descent with a sprinkling of English. there were also a few
professionals. A contemporary description calls it a very well kept
residential neighborhood, typical of the general description of Brooklyn
as "a town of homes and churches."
The neighborhood merged with Bedford in 1930 to become the hyphenated name Bedford-Stuyvesant.
During this time major change took place due to the Depression years of
the 1930s. Many of the original property owners had become either too
old or too poor to maintain their spacious quarters. More and more
dwelling were sold to Blacks, who were attracted from Harlem to the
South. There is a solid tradition of private home ownership, good
schools and the relatively smoke free air. This created the second
largest Black community in New York. It has a historic district between Throop Avenue and Malcolm X Boulevard just north of Fulton Street with well-kept brownstones with middle-income African American families residing in them. Many churches are well known in the area, including Our Lady of Victory, Our Lady of the Presentation (both Roman Catholic Churches), and the United House of Prayer for all People.
In 1968, Ocean Hill and neighboring Brownsville experienced the worst teacher strike in history when the central Board of Education
gave the community board neighborhood control. This conflicted with the
teachers' contract and thus caused outrage. The strike ended when the community board decided to reverse the contract and reinstate teachers.
The 1970s was the worst experience for Bedford-Stuyvesant
as a whole. Many buildings were abandoned and burned as well as retail
outlets. The area was resurrected in the mid-1980s when major funding
from the New York City Council to revitalize the neighborhood.
Today, Stuyvesant Heights is a stable part of an old Black community
that is welcoming a new wave of younger Black professionals, White and
Foreign born people to the area. Property owners are proud of their
homes, the majority of which are still individually owned. The
neighborhood preserves the neat, pleasing appearance it had when it was
built. The handsome blocks of houses, many with attractive front yards,
are enhanced by tree-lined streets and wide avenues. Passing along busy
and commercial Fulton Street, one would hardly suspect the existence,
only a block away, of this charming district.
Stuyvesant Heights was the original location of St. John's College (now St. John's University),
founded in 1870. Its first building was completed in the same year and
sited on the corner of Lewis Avenue and Willoughby Avenue. St. John's
began construction of a new campus circa 1939 in Jamaica, Queens, where the university is located today.
Recently the area was again referred separately as just Stuyvesant Heights. It has undergone gentrification as well.
The ZIP codes for the neighborhood are 11216, 11221 and 11233.
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