If we handed you a map of Kings County, could you identify the borders of South Greenfield, Blythebourne or Vanderveer Park? According to a 1919 map, all were once recognized Brooklyn neighborhoods, though contemporary denizens would cock their brows at a neighbor’s insistence that he or she lives in any of them now. Some neighborhoods seem constant; others get renamed, or are swallowed up by surrounding communities, or simply vanish from the map. In our own time, there are several Brooklyn neighborhoods of which you may never have heard, whose boundaries could quickly become blurred in the collective consciousness of Brooklynites old and new. To the ears of the next generation, Georgetown might sound as alien as Van Pelt Manor does to our own.
For now, it’s a subdivision of Bergen Beach, on the site of a development planned in the 1960s called Georgetowne Greens, which was never built, according to Forgotten NY. Housing, though, has been built over the ensuing decades; it practically looks like Florida down there now, just without the palm trees (or any trees, really). Other such endangered neighborhoods include Mapleton, which stands where Bensonhurst, Borough Park and Midwood bump up against each other; it was developed around World War I, and its most prominent feature is the expansive Washington Cemetery. Remsen Village is a subsection of East New York that takes its name from Remsen Avenue, which cuts through the ’hood like a vertex through a triangle. (The Remsens were a family of Dutch settlers whose New Amsterdam roots go back to the 17th century; they also lend their name to Remsen Street in Brooklyn Heights.) King’s Bay is a large rectangular area on the eastern end of Sheepshead Bay whose history is not so easily dug up. For starters—do the King’s Bay Houses give the area its name, or vice versa? “I am pretty sure that the houses are named after the area,” a staffer at the local community board tells us. And if anyone can tell us where Kensington ends and Parkville begins, you’d be the first.
No part of Brooklyn has more micro-communities than Victorian Flatbush, where 11 byzantine subdivisions occupy two-and-a-half square miles between Coney Island and Flatbush avenues, from Caton Avenue to Avenue H, many no larger than a few square blocks. “Each of the eleven neighborhoods is unique, with their own architectural styles and histories,” according to one real-estate website, but how long before these particulars are forgotten—before Albermarle-Kenmore Terrace is as lost to history as Westminster Heights Park?
Photos by SAMANTHA SUTCLIFFE