Flatbush is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. Founded in 1651 by Dutch colonists, the neighborhood, which consists of several subsections, had a population of 110,875, as of the 2010 United States Census.
Flatbush was originally chartered as the Dutch Nieuw Nederland colony town of Midwout in 1651. Both names were used in the Dutch era, and Midwood was an alternative name for Flatbush into the early 20th century. In a reversal, Midwood, now the area immediately south of Brooklyn College, is often alternatively called “Flatbush,” especially among Orthodox Jews. Midwood’s residents predominately feature a mix of the latter and Irish Americans.
Flatbush and the five other towns of what was to become Kings County, were surrendered to the English in 1664. The town was the county seat for Kings County and was a center of life for what we now call Brooklyn. The compact center of the village of Flatbush was at the intersection of what are now Flatbush and Church avenues, where we still find an old Dutch Reformed Church and Erasmus Hall, the oldest high school in New York City.
Flatbush played a key role in the American Revolution. Flatbush was nearby where significant skirmishes and battles of the Battle of Long Island took place. Loyalist residents of Flatbush included David Mathews, Mayor of New York City, who lived at what is now the intersection of Flatbush and Parkside avenues.
The influence of Dutch merchant and farming families remained strong in the area until after consolidation into the City of Greater New York in 1898, after which the development of Flatbush as a suburb, and then an integral part of the larger city, proceeded apace.
Before it was incorporated into the City of Brooklyn in 1894, Flatbush described both the Town of Flatbush, incorporating a large swath of central Kings County extending east to the Queens County border, and the Village of Flatbush, formerly the heart of the current community. Many of the remaining early Dutch structures are in the Flatlands and Marine Park neighborhoods.
In the first half of the 20th century, Flatbush had a sizable population of Irish-Americans, Italian-Americans and Jews. Much as it is today, it was a working-class neighborhood. A vast portion of Flatbush residents closely followed the Brooklyn Dodgers, which at the time were not only the team of Brooklyn but also of Flatbush in particular. Dodgers centerfielder Duke Snider was known as “the Duke of Flatbush”. By 1958, however, the Dodgers left Brooklyn, and Ebbets Field eventually was torn down. Due to shifting neighborhood boundaries, Ebbets Field today technically would be in Crown Heights, as the ballpark was located just north of Empire Boulevard.
During the 1970s and early 1980s, Flatbush experienced a shift in demographics as it went from being a mostly Irish, Italian and Jewish community to a mostly Caribbean community. While most sections of Flatbush were working class before the demographic shift, there were a few affluent areas. Prospect Park South had a sizable number of more affluent homeowners, and more than a few doctors resided on a stretch of Parkside Avenue immediately adjacent to Prospect Park. By the mid-1980s, however, there were a number of abandoned or semi-abandoned buildings in the community, with a number of apartment houses falling into a state of disrepair. Many of the affluent residents left Flatbush and were replaced by lower income immigrant residents.
Flatbush includes the southernmost portion of Prospect Park.
The neighborhoods of Flatbush extend south from the old Brooklyn City Line north of the southern edges of Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Empire Boulevard. The southern border of Flatbush neighborhoods is approximately on the line of the Long Island Rail Road’s Bay Ridge Branch, which runs to the south of Avenue H, the campus of Brooklyn College, and “The Junction” where Flatbush and Nostrand Avenues intersect. Flatbush’s eastern border is roughly around New York Avenue, while its western border is Coney Island Avenue.
Neighborhoods within Flatbush include the planned communities of Prospect Park South, the Beverley Squares (Beverley Square East and Beverley Square West), Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Ditmas Park, Fiske Terrace, Victorian Flatbush, and Albemarle-Kenmore Terrace. Bordering Flatbush on the north are the community of Crown Heights and the former neighborhood of Pigtown. On the east, within the old town of Flatbush, is East Flatbush, on the west are Kensington and Parkville (formerly Greenfield), and on the south is Midwood. Many consider Midwood to be a part of Flatbush, but historically it was part of the neighboring former towns of New Utrecht, Gravesend and Flatlands.
Well-known institutions within Flatbush include Erasmus Hall High School, the Parade Grounds, the Flatbush Dutch Reformed Church, Brooklyn College, and Ebbets Field (demolished in 1960), the last Brooklyn home of the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team, as well as Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin and the Mirrer Yeshiva. Due to imprecisely defined, shifting boundaries, the Ebbets Field site would be considered today by some to be in Crown Heights.
The Kings Theatre originally opened in 1929. It was closed and vacated in 1977, but reopened in February 2015 after extensive renovations.