Bergen Beach, Brooklyn (History)

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(Neighborhoods In Brooklyn)

Bergen Beach is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. The area is part of Brooklyn Community Board 18.
What is now Bergen Beach was an island off the coast of Canarsie that was connected to the mainland in the early 1900s using landfill.



Though originally intended to serve as a resort area, Bergen Beach maintains much of the serenity and natural beauty experienced by Native Americans and early European settlers.

Initially inhabited by the Canarsie Indians, in the early 1600s the Dutch West India Company set up a trading post on nearby land, then called Mentelaer’s Island. The trading post brought money into the area, enlarging the settlement by mid-century. During the American Revolution, British officers used the island and the Bergen House as an outpost. In the 1850s, the land officially received the name Bergen Island. In the 1890s, developers Percy Williams and Thomas Adams Jr. transformed the Bergen House into a resort. In 1905, Williams added an amusement park to the island. The resort and amusement park, accessible by the Flatbush Avenue streetcar, featured a casino, roller-skating rink, boardwalk, and Vaudeville Theater. In 1918, a landfill project connected the island to the mainland. However, the first half of the 20th century brought unsuccessful attempts at developing the area, initially as a resort alternative to Coney Island, and, later, as a residential community.

The popularity of Coney Island far eclipsed that of Bergen Beach, and the resort area closed in 1920. The Manhattan real estate developers Max Natanson and Mandlebaum & Levine purchased the resort area for two million dollars in 1925, planning to build a residential community featuring a bathing beach, pavilion and new amusement park. The plan never reached fruition, and the land was sold off piecemeal, remaining the largest undeveloped area in Brooklyn through the mid-1900s. The Bergen House itself was razed around 1930 to make way for the Belt Parkway. The remnants of the boardwalk and amusement park were torn down in 1939. The construction of the Belt Parkway, built through the area in 1939, also failed to attract potential developers. The area became more fully developed by the 1960s, but gained residential popularity in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

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