Monday, May 5, 2014

Brownsville Youth Lead "Jane's Walk" to spark appreciation for neighborhood history and beauty

What do Larry and Curly of the 3 Stooges, Mike Tyson, Rosetta Gaston, and M.O.P. have in common? Where is the oldest children's library in the United States? What neighborhood used to be known as the "Jerusalem of America"? Where can you find dozens of beautiful community gardens and colorful murals created by youth from the community? Come find out the answers to these questions and more. Dress comfortable!

This past Saturday, individuals from across New York City gathered at the Powell Street Community Garden for "Brownsville Stronger Together: A Walk Through East Brooklyn's Diamond in the Rough," a community tour of Brownsville led by the Justice Center's own rockstar interns, Alonzo Jones and Emma Johnson. 


The walk was one of 130 free, guided walks across New York City this past weekend as a part of Jane's Walk. Organized by the Municipal Arts SocietyJane's Walk is a movement of free, locally-led walking tours inspired by urbanist and author, Jane Jacobs. The walks get people to explore their cities and connect with their neighbors. 



More than 100 Jane's Walks were organized across New York City this weekend but ours was the only one in Brownsville!

If you weren't able to join this past Saturday, have no fear. You may experience a virtual Brownsville Jane's Walk right here....


Walk Ground Rules:

  1. Sidewalks maybe busy, PLEASE STAY CLOSE AT ALL TIMES.
  2. At all key point in the walk please huddle up so you can gather all your information.
  3. If you feel the pace of the walk is a bit overwhelming for you please let it be known.
  4. Please stay on the sidewalks at all times.
  5. Enjoy yourself and take lots of pictures.


Introduction: 
Hello My Name is Alonzo Jones and this is My Co- Leader Emma Johnson. We are interns at the Brownsville Community Justice Center. We would like to thank all of you for showing up to our Brownsville Stronger Together Jane's Walk today. We were drawn to Jane's Walk for an opportunity to shine a better light on Brownsville and inform society on what Brownsville is about.  



The group met at the Isabahlia Powell Street Garden located on Livonia between Junius and Powell and proceeded down Livonia Ave under the shadow of the 3 train. 
The first stop was the Stone Avenue Library/Brownsville Heritage House on Mother Gaston Blvd.


Stone Ave Library: During the early part of the century, Brownsville (known as the Jerusalem of America) was a crowded neighborhood of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. The Stone Avenue Branch was one of the later Carnegie branches, constructed to relieve overcrowding at the nearby Brownsville Branch. The Stone Avenue Branch officially opened on September 24, 1914. Originally named the Brownsville Children’s Library, it was the first public library in the world devoted to serving children. The branch was visited by librarians from around the world interested in learning about how to set up a children's library.


The group proceeded along Dumont Ave through the Brownsville Houses.
Rosetta Gaston (1885-1981), or "Mother" Gaston, was an activist who devoted her life to community work and teaching Black children about their heritage. She founded "Heritage House" for the young and old of the Brownsville community, located on the third floor of the Stone Avenue Branch. 
The second stop was the monumental "Yesterday I was ___" mural created by Groundswell and Brownsville youth on Rockaway and Sutter Ave.


Quardean Lewis-Allen gave the backstory to the community garden located in the lot in front of the mural.

At the BMS health center, Quardean Lewis-Allen gave a quick history of public housing in Brownsville.


     BMS: Our main health site. BMS Main (opened in 1992), is a 27,000 sq. ft. two-story building located at the corner of Rockaway & Blake Avenues in Brownsville, Brooklyn . The two-story, teal green building not only houses the bulk of BMS' clinical services on the first floor, it also serves as the agency’s corporate headquarters.  

Alonzo explained how even though he has been coming to BMS for healthcare all his life he didn't know all the services BMS offered until researching for the tour.
         This BMS site offers: Adult Internal Medicine, Infectious Disease, Pediatrics, OB/GYN, Dentistry, Psychology, Psychiatry, Social Services, Medical Records, Brownsville Community Pharmacy, Dermatology ,Optometry, Podiatry, Nephrology, Nutrition Counseling, Physical Therapy, Surgery Consultations, Wellness programs.


After an icy break, the next stop was the beautiful Betsy Head Park.
Betsy Head Park: This Park is named for Betsy Head (1851-1907), a British immigrant who became a wealthy widow. Mrs. Head left the City of New York a bequest of $190,000 to build recreational facilities. She stipulated in her will that half of her residual estate should be given to sixteen charities, many of which were dedicated to the welfare of children, and the other half should be donated to the City of New York for the “purchase and improvement of grounds for the purposes of health and recreation.” The land for Betsy Head Playground was paid for by the property owners of Brownsville at a cost of $250,000. The facilities of the playground were bought by the funds bequeathed by Mrs. Head.



The group proceeded up Saratoga Avenue to visit another of the Isabahlia community gardens.
The next stop was the historic Zion Triangle at the intersections of East New York, Pitkin and Legion Streets.


Zion Triangle: In 1896 the City of Brooklyn acquired this triangular property, bounded by Legion Street, Pitkin, and East New York Avenue at the junction of Eastern Parkway. The new park, or “gore” (small, triangular parcel) as it was called then, was donated by landowner Peter L. Vandeveer, and known in its early years as Vandeveer Park. The 1896 Brooklyn Parks Annual Report noted a small shelter at the site and noted that the park “will be exceedingly useful as a resting place for bicycle riders who use the Glenmore Avenue route to the good roads of Queens County.” In 1911, the park was renamed Zion Park by the Board of Aldermen. Zion is derived from an Old Testament reference to the City of David.
Alonzo explains what became of the historic Loew's Pitkin Theater, showing some images of what it looked like in it's heyday.
Loews Pitkin Theatre: 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.




The group walked down Pitkin to Rockaway and then turned onto Belmont Ave.
Pitkin Avenue: The main thoroughfare, Pitkin Avenue, named for John R. Pitkin, founder of the village of East New York, has large shops, a movie palace, and restaurants; great crowds of shoppers and strollers, day and evening, offer a colorful contrast to the numerous side streets with their dismal houses.


Erica Mateo, Alonzo, Quaming and Allen give a history of Belmont Avenue, from the pushcarts of the early 20th century to the day of service Brownsville youth did there last month.


Some of the Brownsville Stronger Together Jane's Walkers pose for a picture.

Thank you for coming on our Brownsville Jane's Walk. We hope you learned something.

Were You Paying Attention? 

Test Your Knowledge of Brownsville With these 5 Trivia Questions:

1.     I am the first public library in the world devoted to serving children. I was visited by librarians from around the world interested in learning about how to set up a children's library. What library am I? 
2.     The land for _________Playground was paid for by the property owners of Brownsville at a cost of $250,000. The facilities of the playground were bought by the funds bequeathed by Mrs. Head. What park am I? 
3.     The two-story, teal green building not only houses the bulk of it's clinical services on the first floor, it also serves as the agency’s corporate headquarters. What building am I? 
4.     The once-gorgeous _______ ________ 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. What theatre am I? 
5.     Brownsville most widely known sayings is? 

(Answers: 1. Stone Avenue Library 2. Betsy Head 3. BMS 4. Loew's Pitkin 5. "I'm From The Ville, Never Ran Never Will.")

A special thanks to Audrey Williams for capturing all of the Brownsville Jane's Walk moments pictured here. To see more of her photography, visit her facebook pages: Quiet Storm: What I See and Brownsvillenites Where Are You? 


     Also, thank you to Joanna Crispe of the Municipal Arts Society for coming on our Jane's Walk and showing your support!







































1 comment:

  1. There are various online sources to provide you informative details on this topic,
    but this is one is very helpful.
    brooklyn health center

    ReplyDelete