Midwood, Brooklyn (History)

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(Neighborhoods In Brooklyn)

neighborhoods_brooklyn_midwoodMidwood is a neighborhood in the south central part of the New York City borough of Brooklyn, New York, USA, roughly halfway between Prospect Park and Coney Island. The neighborhood is within Community District 14. It is patrolled by the 61, 66th and 70th precincts of the NYPD.

It is bounded on the north by the Bay Ridge Branch freight line tracks just above Avenue I and the Brooklyn College campus of the City University of New York, and on the south by Avenue P and Kings Highway. The eastern border is Nostrand Avenue or Flatbush Avenue (depending on whom you ask), and Coney Island Avenue, McDonald Avenue or Ocean Parkway to the west is the other boundary (again, depending upon whom you ask).

The name, Midwood, derives from the Dutch word, “Midwout” (middle woods), the name the settlers of New Netherland called the area of dense woodland midway between the towns of Boswyck (Bushwick) and Breuckelen (Brooklyn). Later, it became part of old Flatbush, situated between the towns of Gravesend and Flatlands.

Settlement was begun by the Dutch in 1652, and they later gave way to the English (who conquered it in 1664), but the area remained rural and undeveloped for the most part until its annexation to the City of Greater New York in 1898. It became more developed in the 1920s when large middle-class housing tracts and apartment buildings were built.

Many Midwood residents moved to the suburbs in the 1970s, and the neighborhood and its commercial districts declined. Drawn by its quiet middle-class ambiance, new residents began pouring into Midwood during the 1980s; many of them were recently-landed immigrants from all over the world. The largest group were from the Soviet Union, but substantial numbers also arrived from Jamaica, Haiti, Mexico, Guyana, and elsewhere in South America; from Ireland, Italy, Poland, the Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania), and elsewhere in eastern Europe; and from Greece, Turkey, Israel, Syria, the Persian Gulf states, Iran, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, China, and Korea. So, in a short time, Midwood was transformed, from a predominantly Jewish neighborhood with a smattering of Irish-Americans and German-Americans, to a remarkably polyglot section of the borough of Brooklyn.

Many people erroneously refer to Midwood as being “part of Flatbush”, an older and more established neighborhood and former township which in the 19th century included modern Midwood. Many also consider the nearby neighborhood of Fiske Terrace/Midwood Gardens to be part of Midwood, but, as in many cities, neighborhood boundaries in Brooklyn are somewhat fluid and poorly-defined.

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