From the Lower East Side to
From the Lower East Side to Brownsville, Brooklyn: Late in the nineteenth century in New York City, a transformation had begun in earnest. No longer would the immigrant have to live in one of the many crowded, dilapidated tenements on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Advances in bridge building and improvements in the transportation system provided the immigrant with options not available to them before. What would occur over the next couple of decades would change the face of Jewish demographics, and at least for a short period of time, give the immigrant a chance to pay a lower rent and live in a more healthy and bucolic environment. Many moved eastward to Brooklyn, which at that time was not very developed. One of the first areas to receive an influx of new residents was what would be called Brownsville.
More than two million Jews fled Russia between 1880 and 1920, mostly to the United States and what is today the State of Israel. The Pale of Settlement took away many of the rights that the Jewish people of the late 17th century Russia were experiencing. At this time, the Jewish people were restricted to an area of what is current day Belarus, Lithuania, eastern Poland and Ukraine. Where Western Europe was experiencing emancipation at this time, in Russia the laws for the Jewish people were getting more strict.
The Loew’s Pitkin, which opened in 1929 at 1501 Pitkin Avenue in Brownsville, was one of the great ones. It was designed by Thomas Lamb, who was a big name in theatrical architecture. Brownstoner.com writer Suzanne Spellen identifies the architectural style of its exterior as “Art Deco with Mayan and Art Nouveau touches.”
Brownsville, as well as other parts of Brooklyn, became more popular with the building of various bridges, e.g. the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883. Now both businesses and individuals could move out of the overcrowded conditions of the Lower East Side to more pleasant living conditions.
From its founding in the late 1800s through the 1950s, Brownsville, a section of eastern Brooklyn, was a white, predominantly Jewish, working-class neighborhood. The famous New York district nurtured the aspirations of thousands of upwardly mobile Americans while the infamous gangsters of Murder, Incorporated controlled its streets. But during the 1960s, Brownsville was stigmatized as a black and Latino ghetto, a neighborhood with one of the city's highest crime rates.
There are many sweatshops in the Sixteenth Ward Ghetto which, from time to time, have been inspected by the Health authorities of this borough. The unsanitary condition of several of these shops were shown in a previous letter by an extract from a report made by Dr. Robert A. Black, Assistant Sanitary Superintendent. Great numbers of garments, cheap and costly, such as are worn by men, women and children, are made in these shops, and these goods are sold in every borough of Greater New York. For the germs of deadly disease maybe conveyed long distances in clothing. The makers of these skirts, cloaks, shirts, trousers, overcoats and children’s clothing are, for a great part, Polish and Russian Jews, who toil in such unsanitary shops as Dr. Black has described, and live in miserable little rooms of poorly constructed old wooden tenements.
Old-Time “DUTCHTOTWN” In Williamsburg Brooklyn Underwent a Transformation. In crossing the new Williamsburg Bridge one can hardly help noticing the pronounced Oriental cast of features of many of the pedestrians. A remark to this effect made to one of the German workmen employed on the bridge the other day brought out this response: “Yes: this is a Jew bridge, built for them with American money—and the Americans don’t know it.”
The Coney Island that many of us have known and grown to love in our youth is, without a doubt, one of the world’s most famous seaside attractions. An island less than five miles long and half a mile wide, it has drawn millions upon millions of visitors seeking rest and relaxation for as long as anyone of us can remember. Who can ever forget Steeplechase Park, the Cyclone roller coaster, the Wonder Wheel and the Parachute Jump? Of course, Coney Island did not start out this way.
Twas a time of great anxiety and insecurity, and many families had to struggle to survive. Of course, whatever expectations family members might have had for financial success before the Great Depression, were dashed during this period. The immigrant family that had struggled to gain some foothold in the U.S. since their arrival and was able to establish themselves, often faced great obstacles. By the time the Depression hit (the problems began even before the Stock Market crashed in 1929), many Jewish families consisted of two immigrant parents and one or more American-born children, many of whom had already become independent and often self-sufficient.
What was the experience like for a Jewish child, especially one who was but a young immigrant, who attended a New York City public school in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries? In the early nineteenth century, most of the poor immigrant children who lived in New York City did not attend public school, and most of those who did attend were from the middle class. Over the last twenty of so years of the nineteenth century, the number of students attending public school swelled, as the number of young immigrants from southern and eastern Europe increased dramatically. In 1874, the state of New York passed a law that required all children must attend school.