The 100 Greatest Brooklynites of All Time: 100 to 91


In undertaking a massive ranking like this one, we understand that maybe, possibly, not everyone is going to agree with us (in fact, we are certain of it). Nonetheless, we’ve tried to enumerate those Brooklynites who’ve had the greatest impact on their borough, their city and, in the case of many of our picks, the world at large. Some of our hundred were born in Brooklyn and moved away to greatness, while others came to town with greatness on their shoulders. Please join us for the next couple of weeks as we count down the best of the borough and—though we’re sure you need no prompting—let us know if we’re missing anyone…

(And no, Barack Obama’s brief sojourn in Park Slope doesn’t count.)

100 Greatest Brooklynites, Part Two: 90 to 81
100 Greatest Brooklynites, Part Three: 80 to 71
100 Greatest Brooklynites, Part Four: 70 to 61
100 Greatest Brooklynites, Part Five: 60 to 51


  1. The last two wanna-be’s are not in any way the international shorthand for Brooklyn. The international shorthand for Brooklyn was developed long before these outsiders came into my birthplace and ruined it with their funded aspirations for edginess. The brand of chewing gum in Italy called Brooklyn is not based on phoney poseurs who grew up hanging out at Hot Topic in the Galleria and called themselves artistes. It was based on the real, genuine, people who made this borough great without pretension, money from their parents, condescension, cupcakes, artisal anything. Imagine, if you will, all you people born west of the Hudson, if I came to your small town, and closed down the coffee shop your mom and her friends like to go to when they were in highschool, and turned it into a small-batch brewery/poetry outlet/crochet hangout. Imagine the outrage in small newspapers all over this country, about pushy New Yorkers trying to shove their cultural values down the heartland’s throat, with their arty elite blah blah. Imagine the outrage if local dry cleaners and shoe stores and book shops were replaced with “artsty-fartsy” chocolate shops and vinyl only music stores and hand-made hemp tshirts with ironic sayings. Imagine how your home town would feel. WELL THAT IS HOW WE FEEL — the people who have been in Brooklyn for decades, through good times and bad, who went to grammar school here and rode the subways to the beach here before it was cool. Who hate the 718 area code. Whose pride in being a Brooklynite is tarnished every day by the challenges to reputation of their hometown. Just like anyone who’s hometown is being destroyed by money-grubbing phoneys. Just as your main streets are destroyed by Walmart, our mainstreets are destroyed by YOU. You are no different. You destroy the culture, the economy, the flavor, the truth, and the history of Brooklyn exactly like blue-light specials destroyed your home towns. So go back to home towns, mr and ms walmartians, and bring your artisanalness to your own mainstreets, where its wanted and needed, unlike here.

  2. @sue
    I doubt there’s much I can say in response to your dislike of outsiders, but unlike the Walmarts you describe, these people you hate live where they work and are, in fact, trying to make a better life in Brooklyn (a lot of them were also born here). I understand that you probably find certain aspects of so-called artisanal culture a bit silly (we all do, at times), but it seems to me the original, “true” Brooklyn you’re lamenting was built on small, family-owned, locally staffed, honest-to-goodness artisanship. So I’m wondering how you think it should work? At what point does someone count as a Brooklynite? Born here? Parents born here? Who gets to invest in new businesses?

    There are obviously terrible examples of displacement and inequality throughout the borough (and the city), and though we should always be aware of that, it’s certainly nothing new in the deeply Darwinian life of this city. (In fact, here’s a passage from the current issue of Brooklyn Magazine):

    “Some better-off residents of Fort Greene may be surprised to hear that they live near the second-poorest census tract in New York, the one that covers the Ingersoll and Whitman housing projects. The average income there is $9,001

  3. Well, I am a native whose great-great-grandparents had a candy store in Brownsville, and while I understand Sue’s feelings, I tend to agree with Jonny. As for the list, it’s obviously not the one you would get from, say, the Brooklyn Historical Society, and probably everyone alive would create a list that wouldn’t really be of “all time”: some of the great people in Brooklyn are probably not remembered by anyone but some historians, and some — members of the Canarsee people, say — never had their names recorded. The point of the list is to honor some people, have some fun, and maybe spark some conversation. Obviously it took someone some time to compile and write it and get the photos. I hope they were well-compensated.

  4. Notice that the words “authentic” and “tradition” were no where to be found in my comment. And notice the analogy to Walmart is not regarding the working/living aspect of its employees, (whom, I assume, do live and work in the areas that the stores are placed in.) It is in regards to the appropriation of real estate and real lives and real culture. So instead of boarded up stores that would be found in home towns of the hipsters, we get bored Gen Y’er funded by their cul-de-sac’ed parents somewhere in flyover country opening a place trying too hard to look like a small, family-owned store. We can tell the difference, even when you leave the Optimo signs up. We can tell. You haven’t earned the right to be considered a real Brooklynite if you weren’t here for the bad bad times. Trial by fire. Trial by blackout (’65 and ’77). Trial by crack. Trial by the Dodgers leaving. Trial by the consolidation of 1898. Trial by the shame of Beecher’s infidelities. Trial by glaciers.

    A real Brooklynite wants to buy their kid’s school shoes in Johnny’s Bootery on Smith Street, like their mom did for them. And when that real Brooklynite is disappointed to see that Johnny’s Bootery is now replaced by a twee-themed bar, and then patronizes that bar at another time — they wouldn’t let their school aged, shoeless kids patronize it with them. A real Brooklynite misses those small, family-owned stores, now replaced by galleries designed to flatter the talentless. A real Brooklynite lacks pretense. A real Brooklynite does not feel creative and new because of class distance — but because of lack of class distinction. That one sentence alone is a glowing, shining example of what a real Brooklynite would never do — take pride in distancing themselves from the rest of the Brooklynites as a source of creativity and newness. Do me a favor — keep your distance. And keep distancing yourselves right back to Ohio. Walt Whitman and Thomas Wolfe (yes, from North Carolina, not a “native”) and Arthur Miller did not feel creative and new because they had “distance” from the “poor.” They are real Brooklynites, real creatives, real artists, and still new. Those in billyburg and bedford could not lick their shoes, even if they were covered by hand-cured local honey they crafted on their rooftop. But maybe Thomas Wolfe wasn’t always right. You can go home again. And he wishes you would.

  5. @Sue
    As I said, I didn’t think there was much I could say.

    Walt Whitman appreciates that none of these new kids, who weren’t around for the consolidation of 1898, could lick the honey off his shoes. (Though he secretly wishes they would, for the sheer pleasure of it.)

    Enjoy the rest of your life in Brooklyn and please stop reading our magazine and website.

  6. Don’t worry. I’ve fashioned a politic that will increase the distance between myself and your website, the very distance that allows me to feel so “authentic” and “traditional.”

  7. ^ Wow…Fantastic idea for an article providing some interesting people that I had yet to get acquainted with. Cheers BK mag!

  8. @Sue: Is your contempt for the newcomers any different than their supposed contempt for the poor? Life is way too short to be so angry. Maybe you should think about selling your wildly overpriced piece of Brooklyn and moving on to a place that doesn’t make you so unhappy.


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