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Bensonhurst is a large, multiethnic neighborhood in the southwestern part of the New York City borough of Brooklyn, in the United States. It is surrounded by Dyker Heights, Borough Park, Flatbush, Midwood, Gravesend, and Bath Beach to the northwest, north, northeast, east, southeast, and southwest, respectively. It was well known as a Little Italy of Brooklyn due to its once large Italian-American population. Bensonhurst is also home to Brooklyn's second Chinatown.
Bensonhurst derives its name from Arthur W. Benson, the former president of Brooklyn Gas, who in 1835 began buying farmland that formerly belonged to the Polhemus family. Between 1835 and 1850 Benson divided the farmland into generous lots that were sold in the following decades as part of the newly created suburb of Bensonhurst by the Sea (current day Bath Beach section), which was annexed into the 30th Ward of Brooklyn in the 1890s.
In the early 20th century, many Italians and Jews moved into the neighborhood, and prior to World War II the neighborhood was about equally Jewish and Italian. In the 1950s, under pressure of an influx of immigrants from southern Italy and with new housing being built in the suburbs, the Jewish population began to decline and eventually, after several decades, most of the Jewish population left the neighborhood, leaving the area predominantly Italian.
With a large Italian-American population, Bensonhurst is usually considered the main "Little Italy" of Brooklyn. The Italian-speaking community remains over 20,000 strong, according to the census of 2000. But, the Italian-speaking community is becoming "increasingly elderly and isolated, with the small, tight-knit enclave in the city slowly disappearing as they give way to demographic changes."  Its main thoroughfare, 18th Avenue (also known as Cristoforo Colombo Boulevard) between roughly 60th Street and Shore Parkway, is lined with predominantly small, Italian family-owned businesses—many of which have remained in the same family for several generations. 86th Street is another popular local thoroughfare, lined by the arches of the BMT West End Line.
Around 1989, an influx of immigrants from China and the former USSR began to arrive, mainly from Southern China, Russia, Ukraine and Armenia. In the 1990s Bensonhurst rapidly grew in cultural diversity. Bensonhurst is home to many ethnic Albanian, Turkish, Uzbek, Arab, Palestinian, Egyptian, Lebanese, Pakistani, Mexican, Guatemalan, Ecuadorian, and Puerto Rican Americans. In 2000, the New York City Planning Department determined that just over half of the residents was born in another country. By 2013, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the city's foreign-born population had reached a record high, and that Bensonhurst had the city's second-highest number of foreign-born people with 77,700 foreign born immigrants in the neighborhood, just after Washington Heights.
The annual Festa di Santa Rosalia (commonly known as "the Feast" to locals), is held on 18th Avenue from Bay Ridge Parkway (75th Street) to 66th Street in late August or early September. "The Feast" is presented by Bensonhurst resident and marketer Franco Corrado, as well as by the Santa Rosalia Society, on 18th Avenue. Born in Rome in 1955, Corrado has been an active social member of the Italian-American community for the past 20 years. St. Rosalia is the patron saint of the city of Palermo and is sometimes venerated as the patron for the entire island of Sicily. The annual end-of-summer celebration attracts thousands. Bensonhurt also hosts a Columbus Day parade.
Below the West End Line, served by the D trains along on 86th Street between 18th Avenue and Coney Island – Stillwell Avenue, now emerging another Brooklyn Chinatown (布鲁克林華埠). However, as of the 2010s it is still currently mixed in with different ethnic businesses and people, especially with many Italians and Russians still in the Bensonhurst neighborhood resembling more of Manhattan's Chinatown of the 1970s-80s when it was in expansion mode, but still mixed in with other ethnic enclaves.
Within recent years, most new businesses opening within this portion of Bensonhurst's 86th Street, especially between 20th Avenue and 25th Avenue, have been Chinese. The D trains is directly connected from the Grand Street station in Manhattan's Chinatown (紐約華埠) to this rapidly growing Chinese enclave between 18th Avenue and 25th Avenue, and it is becoming a third extension of Manhattan's Chinatown. It is also in some way becoming a second extension of Brooklyn's 8th Avenue Chinatown since the D trains are transferrable to the N trains to travel to Brooklyn's 8th Avenue Chinatown.
On 86th Street, Bensonhurst is home to growing Chinese restaurants including the 86 Wong Chinese Restaurant, which is one of the earliest Chinese restaurants and businesses to be established on this street. Chinese grocery stores, salons, bakeries, and other types of Chinese businesses are also expanding swiftly on this street.
With the large migration of the Cantonese as well as some Fuzhou people in Brooklyn now to Bensonhurst, and along with new Chinese immigration, other small Chinatowns have also started to emerge in other parts of Bensonhurst like 18th Avenue and Bay Parkway, but integrated with other ethnic groups and businesses. The N trains stations are also located in these sections as well.
As a result, Bensonhurst now has several small emerging Chinatowns, but they are more scattered and mixed in with other ethnic enclaves in contrast to the Homecrest/Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn where there is only one small emerging Chinese enclave on Avenue U. This means Bensonhurst has much higher proportion of Chinese than the Homecrest/Sheepshead Bay area.
The newly emerging Chinese enclaves in sections of Bensonhurst and another one in Homecrest/Sheepshead Bay are primarily Cantonese populated and are more of extensions of the Western Cantonese section of Manhattan's Chinatown or Little Hong Kong(小香港)/Little Guangdong(小廣東) or Cantonese Town (廣東埠). However, there are small numbers of Fuzhou and Mandarin speakers.
According to the Daily News, Brooklyn's Asian population, mainly Chinese, has grown tremendously not only in the Sunset Park area, but also in Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights, and Borough Park. In Bensonhurst alone, from 2000 to 2010, the Asian population increased by 57%. The study also shows that Asians very often live in houses that are divided into studio apartments, which means there is a possibility that the increased Asian population could be more than what the census represents and causing stressors on the growing Asian population in Brooklyn.
Chinese translation terms Bensonhurst as 本森社区.
As there are no official neighborhood designations in New York City, Bensonhurst does not have any official boundaries. Still, parts of Bath Beach, Mapleton, Dyker Heights, Gravesend, and Borough Park are sometimes considered parts of Bensonhurst. However, Bensonhurst-proper includes the area bounded by 86th Street, 14th Avenue, 60th Street, McDonald Avenue, Avenue P, and Bay Parkway.
Many of Bensonhurst's houses are attached or semidetached, though fully detached houses can be found in the west near Dyker Heights. These are mostly 20th century houses made of brick, stucco, and stone, with aluminum siding facades. After rezoning in the 2000s, many houses dating back over 90 years are being torn down and replaced by three-story brick apartment buildings and multi-family condominiums. They are sometimes called "Fedders Houses" for their distinctive, standard air conditioner sleeves. From 2002 to 2005, 1,200 new housing units in Bensonhurst were approved to accommodate the growing population including many foreign-born residents. With an increase in the area's real estate values, long-time homeowners sold their houses.
- Milestone Park is a significant park in the Bensonhurst area. It contains a replica of the oldest sandstone mile marker in New York City (the original is housed at the Brooklyn Historical Society).
- Magen David Synagogue
- The Historical New Utrecht Church (serving the community since 1677) is the fourth oldest Reformed Church in America.
- Lenny's Pizza, made famous by John Travolta in the opening sequence of Saturday Night Fever, is still operating.
Zoned schools include:
High schools include:
Colleges and Universities
The D trains, which runs on the BMT West End Line above 86th Street, provides a direct connection to Grand Street in Manhattan while the N trains, which runs on the BMT Sea Beach Line near 63rd Street, provides a direct connection to Canal Street. This provides convenient commutes into Manhattan's Chinatown for the growing Bensonhurst Chinese population. The Sea Beach Line has a station at Eighth Avenue in Brooklyn's Sunset Park Chinatown and a transfer to the West End Line is available at New Utrecht Avenue / 62nd Street. The IND Culver Line along McDonald Avenue, carrying the F trains, also runs through the most northeastern end of Bensonhurst between the Bay Parkway and Kings Highway stations.
Subway stations in the neighborhood include New Utrecht Avenue / 62nd Street, 71st Street, 79th Street, 18th Avenue, 18th Avenue, 20th Avenue, 20th Avenue, Bay Parkway, Bay Parkway, 25th Avenue, Avenue N and Avenue P.
In popular culture
Bensonhurst has long been portrayed in film, art, and literature:
- Thomas Wolfe mentions it in the 1930s in his short story, "Only The Dead Know Brooklyn," noted for being written entirely in "Brooklynese."
- Later in the 1950s, Bensonhurst was brought to fame by the television series The Honeymooners
- In the 1970s, Welcome Back Kotter was set in Bensonhurst.
- Jungle Fever
- The Warriors
- The Bensonhurst Spelling Bee by Funny or Die with Kelly Ripa, featured a spelling-bee parody, making fun of stereotypical Italians.
- The Honeymooners is set in Bensonhurst.
- The 1972 song Bensonhurst Blues, made famous after Oscar Benton released his version of the song.
- In a 1992 episode of Saturday Night Live, Joe Pesci, Julia Sweeney, Adam Sandler, Dana Carvey, and Chris Rock appeared in a sketch called "Bensonhurst Dating Game," which depicted Italian-American men eager to commit racial violence based on their views of interracial romance.
- Batman villain Harley Quinn has been established as being from Bensonhurst, going home to visit her family for Christmas in Gotham City Sirens #7.
- Several characters from the soap opera General Hospital, most notably Sonny Corinthos, grew up in Bensonhurst.
- The French Connection took place along 86th Street.
- Brooklyn 11223, an American reality-TV series about a divided group of friends, has also been filmed in parts of Bensonhurst.
- Mob Wives filmed in Bensonhurst at the local boxing joint, Evolution Boxing, where Drita D'Avano is trained by Anthony Pezzolanti.
- Spike of Bensonhurst was filmed around Bensonhurst and won a Spirit Award.
- The opening scene of Saturday Night Fever features John Travolta walking down 86th Street and grabbing slices to eat at Lenny's Pizza.
- The 79th Street Station was popularized in opening credits of Welcome Back, Kotter.
Notable current and former residents of Bensonhurst include:
- Steve Augeri (born 1959), musician.
- Rich Aurilia (born 1971), baseball player for the San Francisco Giants
- Scott Baio (born 1960), actor
- Abe Burrows (1910–85), playwright, writer of Guys and Dolls and Can-Can
- Kerry Butler (born 1971), actress
- Victor Calderone (born 1967), club music dj and producer
- Vincent D'Onofrio (born 1959), actor Law & Order: Criminal Intent
- Vic Damone (born 1928), singer
- Millie Deegan (1919–2002), professional baseball player in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
- Perry Farrell (born 1959), musician. Jane's Addiction.
- Lou Ferrigno (born 1951), actor born in Bensonhurst in 1951 and famously known as The Incredible Hulk
- Joey Fatone (born 1977), singer (member of boy band 'N Sync)
- Jerry Ferrara (born 1979), actor Entourage
- Daniel Franzese (born 1978), actor (film Mean Girls)
- Harvey Fierstein (born 1954), actor, playwright and screenwriter
- Marshall Flaum (1925–2010), documentary filmmaker.
- John Franco (born 1960), former New York Mets baseball player
- Jacque Fresco (born 1916), founder and director of The Venus Project
- Daniel Glass (born 1956), music producer
- Gary David Goldberg (1944–2013), television producer
- Elliott Gould (born 1938), actor
- Philip Habib (1920–92), diplomat
- Buddy Hackett (1924–2003), comedian
- Kenny Hickey (born 1966), Johnny Kelly (born 1968), and Peter Steele (1962–2010), (rock band Type O negative)
- Curly Howard (1903–52), of the Three Stooges
- Moe Howard (1897–75), of the Three Stooges
- Shemp Howard (1895–55), of the Three Stooges
- Richard Jeni (1957–2007), comedian
- Skeery Jones (Radio Producer) for Z100 NY Elvis Duran and the Morning Show)
- Gabe Kaplan (born 1945), actor, comedian, and professional poker player
- Larry King (born 1933), talk show host
- Artie Kornfeld (born 1942), Songwriter, Music Producer, Creator of Woodstock Music & Arts Festival 1969
- Sandy Koufax (born 1935), baseball player, Los Angeles Dodgers
- Herbie Kronowitz (1923–2012), boxer
- Adam Lazzara (born 1982), lead singer of local band "Taking Back Sunday"
- Paul Lo Duca (born 1972), baseball player
- Paul Malignaggi (born 1980), professional boxer
- Tony Mamaluke (born 1977), former ECW star
- Philomena Marano (born 1952), artist
- Paul Marks (born 1926), scientist
- Robert Merrill (1917–2004), operatic baritone
- Alyssa Milano (born 1972), actress
- Jerrold Nadler (born 1947), Congressman based in Manhattan who grew up in Bensonhurst and represents part of the area
- Man Parrish (born 1958), music producer and artist
- Rhea Perlman (born 1948), actress
- Leah Remini (born 1970), actress
- Carl Sagan (1934–96), astronomer/teacher/author
- Robert Sapolsky (born 1957), neuroendocrinologist/professor/author
- Steve Schirripa (born 1957), actor in HBO's The Sopranos
- Tony Sirico (born 1942), actor in HBO's The Sopranos
- Ralph Snyderman, physician, scientist, administrator
- Paul Sorvino, (born 1939), actor famous for his role in Goodfellas and father of Mira Sorvino
- Ray Suarez (born 1957), news correspondent
- Anthony J. Terlato, Winemaker, Horatio Alger Award Winner, "Father of Pinot Grigio" in the U.S.
A number of high-profile organized crime figures hail from Bensonhurst including Anthony Casso, Paul Castellano, Mikey DiLeonardo, Anthony Gaggi, Carlo Gambino, John Gambino, Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, Gregory Scarpa and Carmine Sessa.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.|
- Chinatowns in the United States
- Chinatown, Manhattan (紐約華埠)
- Little Fuzhou (小福州)
- Chinatown, Brooklyn (布鲁克林華埠)
- Chinatown, Flushing (法拉盛華埠)
- Chinatown, Elmhurst (唐人街, 艾姆赫斯特)
- Corona, Queens
- Chinatown, Avenue U (唐人街, U大道)
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