Likelihood of Success

Ron Coleman’s pretty good blog

We stole Flatbush

Posted by Ron Coleman on October 10, 2008

I kind of have to make this point that I have always meant to write up somewhere, but because of a post on LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION® where I allude to it, I have to make it now.

The Lords of Flatbush

The Lords of Flatbush

The Jews stole Flatbush.  Basically almost every orthodox Jew who lives in Brooklyn either lives in Borough Park or thinks he lives in “Flatbush.”  But almost none of Jewish Flatbush is in Flatbush at all, or even really close to it.

Now my bubby she lived in Flatbush!  The smell of her Warsaw-via-Havana chicken soup emanated throughout the hallway as we walked up the ancient ceramic-tiled stairs on Caton Avenue to her apartment for yomtov dinner.  Flatbush Avenue itself, a mecca of lower-middle-class retail, was a block away.

But there are no bubbies in her old building any more, that’s for sure.  And a large percentage of today’s self-described “Flatbush” Jews have never even set foot on Flatbush Avenue.

Theyre staying.

Hasidim in Williamsburg: They're staying.

The heart of what the Jews call Flatbush is, in fact, Midwood.  But at least three or four other Brooklyn neighborhoods, and arguably about a third of the entire borough, is called Flatbush by the orthodox Jewish subculture.  It mainly means “an orthodox Jewish neighborhood that is not ‘Boro Park.'”  (Though even then it is a lot yes-Boro-Park than it was 20 years ago…)

Here’s what happened.  Jews abandoned numerous New York neighborhoods throughout the 20th century, as they moved up the economic ladder and headed further and further from the Lower East Side in Manhattan, where so many of us started out.  East New York, Brownsville… more neighborhoods than you want to name were “great Jewish neighborhoods” that no longer have any statistically significant Jewish presence at all.

When it came to time to ditch Flatbush, though, it happened that the greener pasture of Midwood was just across the LIRR tracks on Avenue I.  More single-family houses, elbow room, and less urban… in every sense of the word.  But the move, in that case, was incremental.  So who’s to say, really, that once you traverse Nostrand Avenue you’re not really in Flatbush any more?  This particular move, however, coincided with a renaissance of orthodox Jewish life, prosperity and pride that took place beginning roughly in the late 1960’s.  And this time the neighborhood “took,” and grew, and with it a new provincialism that merely saw the expanding borders of the neighborhood in terms of what fellow members of the subculture called its original core.

So almost all of Brooklyn that isn’t Boro Park or Williamsburg is Flatbush, for the Jews.  Hopefully, no one will sue us over it!


7 Responses to “We stole Flatbush”

  1. […] inventing by Ben Gurion.  (They also stole “Flatbush,” but that’s a topic for a different blog.)  For some reason, Sicily has managed to attract its share of tourist dollars without inventing […]

  2. oh so true. Real Flatbush is a Caribbean neighborhood. Jews in “Flatbush” actually live in Midwood, Sheepshead Bay, Marine Park, Ocean Parkway, Kensington, etc.

  3. When I was a kid, growing up in Flatbush (haha), I once mentioned to someone that I lived in Midwood. It happens to be that he lived Midwood, too. But he seemed impressed nonetheless.

  4. […] Coleman explains how the Jews in one of NYC’s most famous Orthodox enclaves saw fit to steal a neighborhood […]

  5. Jeff Eyges said

    So, the Jews are no longer in Flatbush, but Flatbush is in the Jews?

  6. Jamie said

    Ebbets Field was north of Empire Boulevard, which is Crown Heights, not Flatbush.

  7. I guess so, Jamie. I looked this up before writing it and saw it referred to as being in Flatbush (see the link you get if you click the picture) but I defer to you on this.

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