Canarsie, Brooklyn (History)

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(Neighborhoods In Brooklyn)

Canarsie (pronounced /kəˈnɑrsi/ kə-NAR-see) is a neighborhood in the southeastern portion of the borough of Brooklyn, in New York City, United States. The area is part of Brooklyn Community Board 18.

Canarsie, which includes the entire 11236 ZIP code, is bordered on the east by Fresh Creek Basin, East 108th Street, and the L subway line to Linden Boulevard; on the north by Linden Boulevard; on the west by Remsen Avenue to Ralph Avenue and the Paerdegat Basin; and on the south by Jamaica Bay. Canarsie also neighbors East Flatbush, Flatlands, Mill Basin, Bergen Beach, and East New York. Canarsie is patrolled by the NYPD’s 69th Precinct.



“Canarsie” is a phonetic interpretation of a word in the Lenape language for “fenced land” or “fort.” The Native Americans who made the infamous sale of the island of Manhattan for 60 guilders were Lenape. Europeans would often refer to the indigenous people living in an area by the local place-name, and so reference may be found in contemporary documents to “Canarsee Indians.” The current neighborhood lies within the former town of Flatlands, one of the five original Dutch towns on Long Island.

Canarsie was built on swamps near Jamaica Bay. It was a fishing village through the 1800s, until pollution killed the oysters and the edible fish. In the 1920s, Southern Italian immigrants along with Jews settled in the area (though the Jewish population in Canarsie in recent years has been steadily shrinking. Canarsie was infamously known as a hotbed for Mafia activity from the 1970s to the 1990s. Ferry service at Canarsie Pier withered away after the building of the Marine Parkway Bridge. During the 90s, much of Canarsie’s white population left for Staten Island, Long Island, and Queens, part of a national urban phenomenon called “white flight” by many. Today, Canarsie’s population is mostly non-white because of large West Indian immigration. East Brooklyn Community High School now serves the transfer student population.

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