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In 1638, the Dutch West India Company purchased the area's land from the Lenape Native Americans who occupied the area. In 1661, the company chartered the Town of Boswijck, including land that would later become Williamsburg. After the English takeover of New Netherland in 1664, the town's name was anglicized to Bushwick. During colonial times, villagers called the area "Bushwick Shore", a name that lasted for about 140 years. Bushwick Shore was cut off from the other villages in Bushwick by Bushwick Creek to the north and by Cripplebush, a region of thick, boggy shrub land that extended from Wallabout Creek in the south to Newtown Creek in the east. Bushwick residents called Bushwick Shore "the Strand".
Farmers and gardeners from the other Bushwick villages sent their goods to Bushwick Shore to be ferried across the East River to New York City for sale via a market at present day Grand Street. Bushwick Shore's favorable location close to New York City led to the creation of several farming developments. In 1802, real estate speculator Richard M. Woodhull acquired 13 acres (53,000 m²) near what would become Metropolitan Avenue, then North 2nd Street. He had Colonel Jonathan Williams, a U.S. Engineer, survey the property, and named it Williamsburgh (with an h at the end) in his honor. Originally a 13-acre (53,000 m2) development within Bushwick Shore, Williamsburg rapidly expanded during the first half of the nineteenth century and eventually seceded from Bushwick and formed its own independent city.
Incorporation of Williamsburgh
Map of the Village of Williamsburgh (1827)
Map of the Town of Williamsburgh (1845)
Williamsburg was incorporated as the Village of Williamsburgh within the Town of Bushwick in 1827. In two years it had a fire company, a post office and a population of over 1,000. The deep drafts along the East River encouraged industrialists, many from Germany, to build shipyards around Williamsburg. Raw material was shipped in, and finished products were sent out of factories straight to the docks. Several sugar barons built processing refineries. Now all are gone except the now-defunct Domino Sugar (formerly Havemeyer & Elder). Other important industries included shipbuilding and brewing.
On April 18, 1835, the Village of Williamsburg annexed a portion of the Town of Bushwick. The Village then consisted of three districts. The first district was commonly called the "South Side"; the second district was called the "North Side", and the third district was called the "New Village". The names "North Side" and "South Side" remain in common usage today, but the name for the Third District has changed often. The New Village became populated by Germans and for a time was known by the sobriquet of "Dutchtown". In 1845, the population of Williamsburgh was 11,500.
Reflecting its increasing urbanization, Williamsburg separated from Bushwick as the Town of Williamsburg in 1840. It became the City of Williamsburg (discarding the "h") in 1852, which was organized into three wards. The old First Ward roughly coincides with the South Side and the Second Ward with the North Side, with the modern boundary at Grand Street. The Third Ward was to the east of these, stretching from Union Avenue east to Bushwick Avenue beyond which is Bushwick (some of which is now called East Williamsburg).
In 1855, the City of Williamsburg, along with the adjoining Town of Bushwick, were annexed into the City of Brooklyn as the so-called Eastern District. The First Ward of Williamsburg became Brooklyn's 13th Ward, the Second Ward Brooklyn's 14th Ward, and the Third Ward Brooklyn's 15th and 16th Wards.
Brooklyn's Broadway, ending in the ferry to Manhattan, became the area's lifeline. The area proved popular for condiment and household product manufacturers. Factories for Domino Sugar, Esquire Shoe Polish, Dutch Mustard and many others were established in the late 19th and early 20th century. Many of these factory buildings are now being (or already have been) converted to non-industrial uses, primarily residential.
The population was at first heavily German, but many Jews from the Lower East side of Manhattan came to the area after the completion of the Williamsburg Bridge in 1903. Williamsburg had two major community banks: the Williamsburgh Savings Bank (chartered 1851, since absorbed by HSBC) and its rival the Dime Savings Bank of Williamsburgh (chartered 1864, now known as the DIME, has remained independent). The area around the Peter Luger Steak House, established in 1887, in the predominantly German neighborhood under the Williamsburg Bridge, was a major banking hub until the City of Brooklyn united with New York City. One of the early high schools in Brooklyn, the Eastern District High School, opened here in February 1900.
In 1898, Brooklyn became one of five boroughs within the City of Greater New York, and the Williamsburg neighborhood was opened to closer connections with the rest of the newly consolidated city. Just five years later, the opening of the Williamsburg Bridge in 1903 further opened up the community to thousands of upwardly mobile immigrants and second-generation Americans fleeing the overcrowded slum tenements of Manhattan's Lower East Side. Williamsburg itself soon became the most densely populated neighborhood in New York City, which in turn was the most densely populated city in the United States. The novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn addresses a young girl growing up in the tenements of Williamsburg during this era.
Refugees from war-torn Europe began to stream into Brooklyn during and after World War II, including the Hasidim whose populations had been devastated in the Holocaust. The area south of Division Avenue became home to a large population of adherents to the Satmar Hasidic sect who came to the area from Hungary and Romania. Hispanics from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic also began to settle in the area. But the population explosion was eventually confronted with a decline of heavy industry, and from the 1960s, Williamsburg saw a marked increase in unemployment, crime, gang activity, and illegal drug use. Those who were able to move out often did, and the area became chiefly known for its crime and other social ills.
On February 3, 1971, at 10:42 p.m., police officer Frank Serpico was shot during a drug bust, during a stakeout at 778 Driggs Avenue. Serpico had been one of the driving forces in the creation of the Knapp Commission, which exposed widespread police corruption. His fellow officers failed to call for assistance, and he was rushed to Greenpoint Hospital only when an elderly neighbor called the police. The incident was later dramatized in the opening scene of the 1973 film Serpico, starring Al Pacino in the title role.
Gentrification and 2005 rezoning
The site of the former Domino Sugar Refinery, which is being redeveloped for residential and commercial use, seen in 2018
On May 11, 2005, the New York City Council passed a large-scale rezoning of the North Side and Greenpoint waterfront. Much of the waterfront district was rezoned to accommodate mixed-use high density residential buildings with a set-aside (but no earmarked funding) for public waterfront park space, with strict building guidelines calling for developers to create a continuous two-mile-long string of waterfront esplanades. Local elected officials touted the rezoning as an economically beneficial way to address the decline of manufacturing along the North Brooklyn waterfront, which had resulted in a number of vacant and derelict warehouses in Williamsburg.
The Edge and Northside Piers developments on Kent Avenue include some of the many high-rise condominium buildings constructed as a result of the 2005 rezoning.
The rezoning represented a dramatic shift of scale in the ongoing process of gentrification in the area since the early 1990s. The waterfront neighborhoods, once characterized by active manufacturing and other light industry interspersed with smaller residential buildings, were re-zoned primarily for residential use. Alongside the construction of new residential buildings, many warehouses were converted into residential loft buildings. Among the first was the Smith-Gray Building, a turn-of-the-century structure recognizable by its blue cast-iron facade. The conversion of the former Gretsch music instrument factory garnered significant attention and controversy in the New York press primarily because it heralded the arrival in Williamsburg of Tribeca-style lofts and attracted, as residents and investors, a number of celebrities.
Officials championing the rezoning cited its economic benefits, the new waterfront promenades, and its inclusionary housing component - which offered developers large tax breaks in exchange for promises to rent about a third of the new housing units at "affordable" rates. Critics countered that similar set-asides for affordable housing have gone unfulfilled in previous large-scale developments, such as Battery Park City. The New York Times reported this proved to be the case in Williamsburg as well, as developers largely decided to forgo incentives to build affordable housing in inland areas.
Williamsburg contains a variety of zoning districts, including manufacturing, commercial, residential, and mixed-use. North Williamsburg contains primarily light industrial and medium-density residential buildings, as well as some residential structures with commercial space on the ground floors. There are also high-density residential developments with commercial space, as well as a few remaining heavy industries, along the waterfront. The area around Broadway is primarily commercial and contains stores and offices. On the other hand, South Williamsburg is largely medium-to-high density residential with some commercial space on the ground floors.
In 2007, three buildings of the Domino Sugar Refinery were also designated New York City Landmarks. The original refinery was built in 1856, and by 1870 processed more than half of sugar used in the United States. A fire in 1882 caused the plant to be completely rebuilt in brick and stone; these buildings exist today, though the refinery stopped operating in 2004. In 2010, a developer proposed to convert the site to residential use; since them, a new plan was approved for the Domino Sugar Factory, led by Two Trees Management.
Numerous structures are also located on the NRHP but are not city landmarks. The Austin, Nichols and Company Warehouse, built in 1915 to a design by architect Cass Gilbert, was placed on the NRHP in 2007. Originally also a city landmark, the designation was later rescinded. The warehouse was converted to apartments in the 2010s.
The subdivisions within Williamsburg vary widely. "South Williamsburg" refers to the area which today is occupied mainly by the Yiddish-speaking Hasidim (predominantly Satmar Hasidim) and a considerable Puerto Rican population. North of this area (with Division Street or Broadway serving as a dividing line) is an area known as "Los Sures", occupied by Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. To the north of that is the "North Side," traditionally Polish and Italian. East Williamsburg is home to many industrial spaces and forms the largely Italian American, African American, and Hispanic area between Williamsburg and Bushwick. South Williamsburg, the South Side, the North Side, Greenpoint and East Williamsburg all form Brooklyn Community Board 1. Its proximity to Manhattan has made it popular with recently arrived residents who are often referred to under the blanket term "hipster". Bedford Avenue and its subway station, as the first stop in the neighborhood on the BMT Canarsie Line (on the train), have become synonymous with this new wave of residents.
Williamsburg is inhabited by tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews of various groups, and contains the headquarters of one faction of the Satmar Hasidic group. Williamsburg's Satmar population numbers about 57,000.
Hasidic Jews first moved to the neighborhood in the years prior to World War II, along with many other religious and non-religious Jews who sought to escape the difficult living conditions on Manhattan's Lower East Side. Beginning in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the area received a large concentration of Holocaust survivors, many of whom were Hasidic Jews from rural areas of Hungary and Romania. These people were led by several Hasidic leaders, among them the rebbes of Satmar, Klausenberg, Vien, Pupa, Tzehlem, and Skver. In addition, Williamsburg contained sizable numbers of religious, but non-Hasidic, Jews. The Rebbe of Satmar, Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, ultimately exerted the most powerful influence over the community, causing many of the non-Satmars, especially the non-Hasidim, to leave. Teitelbaum was known for his fierce anti-Zionism and for his charismatic style of leadership.
In the late 1990s, Jewish developers renovated old warehouses and factories, turning them into housing. More than 500 apartments were approved in the three-year period following 1997; soon afterward, an area near Williamsburg's border with Bedford-Stuyvesant was re-zoned for affordable housing. By 1997, there were about 7,000 Hasidic families in Williamsburg, almost a third of whom took public assistance. The Hasidic community of Williamsburg has one of the highest birthrates in the country, with an average of eight children per family. Each year, the community celebrates between 800 and 900 weddings for young couples, who typically marry between the ages of 18 and 21. Because Hasidic men receive little secular education, and women tend to be homemakers, college degrees are rare, and economic opportunities lag far behind the rest of the population. In response to the almost 60% poverty rate in Jewish Williamsburg, the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, a beneficiary agency of the UJA-Federation of New York, partnered with Masbia in the opening of a 50-seat koshersoup kitchen on Lee Avenue in November 2009.
There are many households with Section 8 housing vouchers; in 2000, there were 1,394 voucher recipients in Williamsburg's nine Yiddish-speaking census tracts, but by 2014, Williamsburg had 3,296 voucher recipients within 12 Yiddish-speaking census tracts. In 2014, it was reported that Williamsburg's Jewish community had among the highest rates of applications for Section 8 housing vouchers. However, the newspaper New York Daily News doubted the legality of the applications. In 2016, the Daily News said that New York City census tracts with 30% or more of the population applying for Section 8 were present only in Williamsburg and scattered parts of the Bronx, except that Williamsburg's real estate was among the most rapidly gentrifying in the city.
With the gentrification of North Williamsburg, Hasidim have fought to retain the character of their neighborhood, and have characterized the influx of what they call the artisten as a "plague" and "a bitter decree from Heaven". Tensions have risen over housing costs, loud and boisterous nightlife events, and the introduction of bike lanes along Bedford Avenue. Although gentrification is increasing, many developers, such as Isaac Hager, continue to build more housing for Haredi tenants.
Italian-American community and Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Feast
A significant component of the Italian community on the North Side were immigrants from the city of Nola near Naples. Residents of Nola every summer celebrate the "Festa dei Gigli" (feast of lilies) in honor of St. Paulinus of Nola, who was bishop of Nola in the fifth century, and the immigrants brought this tradition over with them. For two weeks every summer, the streets surrounding Our Lady of Mount Carmel church, located on Havemeyer and North 8th Streets, are dedicated to a celebration of Italian culture.
The highlights of the feast are the "Giglio Sundays" when a 100-foot (30 m) tall statue, complete with band and a singer, is carried around the streets in honor of St. Paulinus and Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Clips of this awe-inspiring sight are often featured on NYC news broadcasts. A significant number of Italian-Americans still reside in the area, although the numbers have decreased over the years. Despite the fact that an increasing number of Italian-Americans have moved away, many return each summer for the feast. The Giglio was the subject of a documentary, Heaven Touches Brooklyn in July, narrated by actors John Turturro and Michael Badalucco.
Puerto Rican and Dominican community
On Williamburg's Southside, also known in Spanish as "Los Sures", which is the area south of Grand Street, there exists a sizable Puerto Rican and Dominican population. Puerto Ricans have been coming to the area since the 1940s and the 1950s, and Dominicans came in the '70s and '80s. Many Puerto Ricans flocked to the area after World War II due to the proximity to jobs at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The neighborhood continues to have 27% Hispanic or Latino population, and Graham Avenue between Grand Street and Broadway is known as the "Avenue of Puerto Rico". Havemeyer Street is lined with Hispanic-owned 'bodegas' and barber shops. However, even though the Southside has the highest concentration of Hispanics in the neighborhood, this population is dispersed throughout all of Williamsburg even as north as the Williamsburg-Greenpoint border.
The culture of Latinos in the neighborhood has been described as a resilient one. The Caribbean Social Club, the last remaining Puerto Rican social club in Williamsburg, preserves the neighborhood's culture; in 2013, the club was subject of a documentary called "Toñita's", named after its owner. The Hispanic sector as a whole was represented in another documentary called Living Los Sures, which aired at MoMA PS1 and at the Metrograph theater; the movie documents the lives of Latino residents living in 1984 Southside before gentrification.
Another such institution is the "El Puente" Community Center, as well as the "San German" record store on Graham Avenue. Graham Avenue was renamed Avenue of Puerto Rico as a symbol of pride, just as the avenue's other alternate name, Via Vespucci, is meant to commemorate the historical Italian-American community.Banco Popular de Puerto Rico has a branch on Graham Avenue. In addition, Southside United HDFC is a charity organization that helps residents with housing needs and other services, including mobilizing housing activists and residents as well as providing affordable housing. In addition to this, in the past Southside United HDFC has held Puerto Rican Heritage as well as Dominican Independence Day celebrations, and currently operates El Museo De Los Sures. The name El Museo De Los Sures roughly translates to "The Museum of the Southside". Williamsburg is also home to not one, but two campuses of Boricua College, the Northside campus on North 6th Street between Bedford Avenue and Driggs Avenue, as well as the East Williamburg/Bushwick campus on Graham Avenue. A place popular among Dominican-American residents is the Fula Lounge, where Merengue and Raggaeton artists from the Dominican Republic often frequent.
Lastly, once a year the Williamsburg/Bushwick community is home to its own Puerto Rican Day parade. The neighborhood has produced many prominent Latinos. Television chef Daisy Martinez, who specializes in Puerto Rican cuisine grew up in the neighborhood. The neighborhood also is home to the office of Congressional Representative Nydia Velazquez, who represents the neighborhood as well as other parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan in congress. In addition to this, Williamsburg was the childhood home of City Councilwoman Rosie Méndez, of Puerto Rican descent, who represents District 2 across the East River in Manhattan. As of 2013, Williamsburg itself is represented in City Council by Dominican AmericanAntonio Reynoso.
Ethnic and intercultural tensions
About 2 o'clock on November 7, 1854, a riot occurred between sheriffs and "some Irishmen" at the poll of the First District at the corner of 2nd and North 6th streets in Williamsburg. It began after a deputy approached a citizen and a fight started. Immediately eight or ten deputies began freely using clubs on a group of "about one hundred Irishmen," resulting in a half-hour general fight and many injuries.
Prior to gentrification, Williamsburg often saw tension between its Hasidic population and its black and Hispanic groups. In response to decades of rising crime in the area, the Hasidim created a volunteer patrol organization called "Shomrim" ("guardians" in Hebrew) to perform citizens' arrests and to keep an eye out for crime. Over the years, the Shomrim have been accused of racism and brutality against blacks and Hispanics. In 2009, Yakov Horowitz, a member of Shomrim, was charged with assault for striking a Latino adolescent on the nose with his Walkie Talkie. In 2014, five members of the Hasidic community, at least two of whom were Shomrim members, were arrested in connection with the December 2013 "gang assault" of a black gay man.
The mid-century tension between the Hasidic and Modern Orthodox Jewish communities in Williamsburg was depicted in Chaim Potok's novels The Chosen (1967), The Promise, and My Name Is Asher Lev. One contemporary female perspective on life in the Satmar community in Williamsburg is offered by Deborah Feldman's autobiographical Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots. The Netflix miniseries Unorthodox is loosely based on Feldman's autobiography.
The first artists moved to Williamsburg in the 1970s, drawn by the low rents, large floor area, and convenient transportation. This continued through the 1980s and increased significantly in the 1990s as earlier destinations such as SoHo and the East Village became gentrified. The community was small at first, but by 1996 Williamsburg had accumulated an artist population of about 3,000. Art galleries in the area include the Front Room Gallery. Williamsburg and Greenpoint are served by a monthly galleries listings magazine, wagmag.
In September 2000, 11211 Magazine, created by writer Breuk Iversen, launched a four color glossy circulating 10,000 copies in Brooklyn and Manhattan, intent on promoting the area from a design firm in Manhattan. A year later, the firm moved to Williamsburg. The content was richly focused on the historical and notable properties, arts and culture and real estate development of the 11211 ZIP Code. The bi-monthly was funded by advertisements from local businesses and founded by writer and designer, Breuk Iversen. Other publications attributed to 11211 Magazine: Fortnight, The Box Map (2002), Appetite, and 10003 Magazine for the East Village in New York City. The magazine had published 36 issues (548,000 copies) of 11211 over a six-year period, and ceased circulation in 2006.
A local bowling center also presents musical performances
Williamsburg has become a notable home for live music and an incubator for new bands. Beginning in the late 1980s, and through the late 1990s, a number of unlicensed performance, theater, and music venues operated in abandoned industrial buildings and other spaces in the streets. A new culture has evolved in the area surrounding Bedford Avenue subway station. The Bog, Keep Refrigerated, The Lizard's Tail, Quiet Life, Rubulad, Flux Factory, Mighty Robot, free103point9 and others attracted a mix of artists, musicians and urban underground for late night music, dance, and performance events, which were occasionally interrupted and the venues temporarily closed by the fire department. These events eventually diminished in number as the rents rose in the area and regulations were enforced.
There are a number of smaller, fleeting spaces, including Todd P., Dot Dash, Twisted Ones, and Rubulad. Many legitimate commercial music venues opened in the neighborhood including Pete's Candy Store, Union Pool, Music Hall of Williamsburg (formerly Northsix), Public Assembly (formerly Galapagos, now closed), Cameo Gallery, Muchmore's, and Grand Victory. Several Manhattan-based venues also opened locations, including Bowery Presents (who bought Northsix and transformed it to Music Hall of Williamsburg), Luna Lounge, Knitting Factory, and Cake Shop. In the summers of 2006, 2007, and 2008, events including concerts, movies, and dance performances were staged at the previously abandoned pool at McCarren Park in Greenpoint. Starting 2009, these pool parties are now held at the Williamsburg waterfront.
Williamsburg contains indie theater spaces such as the Brick Theater and the Charlie Pineapple Theater. The Williamsburg Independent Film Festival was founded in 2010. Williamsburg also contains the first-run multiplex theater known as Williamsburg Cinemas, which opened on December 19, 2012.
Effects of gentrification
Williamsburg skyline, looking east.
Low rents were a major reason artists first started settling in the area, but that situation has drastically changed since the mid-1990s. Average rents in Williamsburg can range from approximately $1,400 for a studio apartment to $1,600-2,400 for a one-bedroom and $2,600-4,000 for a two-bedroom. The price of land in Williamsburg has skyrocketed. The North Side, above Grand Street, which separates the North Side from the South Side, is somewhat more expensive due to its proximity to the New York City Subway (specifically, the train and train on the BMT Canarsie Line and IND Crosstown Line, respectively).
In June 2014, the New York Post reported that northwestern Brooklyn's change to a wealthier, more educated population, especially in Williamsburg, has led to an increasing number of convictions against defendants in the borough's criminal cases, as well as to reductions in plaintiff's awards in civil cases. Brooklyn defense lawyer Julie Clark said that these new jurors are "much more trusting of police". Another lawyer, Arthur Aidala, said:
"Now, the grand juries have more law-and-order types in there. ... People who can afford to live in Brooklyn now don't have the experience of police officers throwing them against cars and searching them. A person who just moves here from Wisconsin or Wyoming, they can't relate to [that]. It doesn't sound credible to them."
For census purposes, the New York City government classifies Williamsburg as part of two neighborhood tabulation areas: Williamsburg, and North Side/South Side. Based on data from the 2010 United States Census, the combined population of the Williamsburg and North Side/South Side areas was 78,700, a change of 6,301 (8%) from the 72,399 counted in 2000. Covering an area of 923.54 acres (373.74 ha), the neighborhood had a population density of 85.2 inhabitants per acre (54,500/sq mi; 21,100/km2).
The entirety of Community Board 1, which comprises Greenpoint and Williamsburg, had 199,190 inhabitants, as of NYC Health's 2018 Community Health Profile, with an average life expectancy of 81.1 years.:2, 20 This is about the same as the median life expectancy of 81.2 for all New York City neighborhoods.:53 (PDF p. 84) Most inhabitants are middle-aged adults and youth: 23% are between the ages of 0-17, 41% between 25-44, and 17% between 45-64. The ratio of college-aged and elderly residents was lower, at 10% and 9%, respectively.:2
As of 2016, the median household income in Community Board 1 was $76,608. In 2018, an estimated 17% of Greenpoint and Williamsburg residents lived in poverty, compared to 21% in all of Brooklyn and 20% in all of New York City. Less than one in fifteen residents (6%) were unemployed, compared to 9% in the rest of both Brooklyn and New York City. Rent burden, or the percentage of residents who have difficulty paying their rent, is 48% in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, slightly lower than the citywide and boroughwide rates of 52% and 51%, respectively. Based on this calculation, as of 2018[update], Greenpoint and Williamsburg are considered to be gentrifying.:7
Police and crime
The majority of Williamsburg is patrolled by the 90th Precinct of the NYPD, located at 211 Union Avenue, while the northernmost section of Williamsburg falls under the 94th Precinct, located at 100 Meserole Avenue. The 90th Precinct ranked 47th safest out of 69 patrol areas for per-capita crime in 2010, and the 94th Precinct ranked 50th safest for per-capita crime. With a non-fatal assault rate of 34 per 100,000 people, Greenpoint and Williamsburg's rate of violent crimes per capita is less than that of the city as a whole. The incarceration rate of 305 per 100,000 people is lower than that of the city as a whole.:8
The 90th Precinct has a lower crime rate than in the 1990s, with crimes across all categories having decreased by 72.3% between 1990 and 2018. The precinct reported 4 murders, 16 rapes, 198 robberies, 237 felony assaults, 229 burglaries, 720 grand larcenies, and 90 grand larcenies auto in 2018. The 94th Precinct also has a lower crime rate than in the 1990s, with crimes across all categories having decreased by 72.9% between 1990 and 2018. The precinct reported 1 murder, 6 rapes, 63 robberies, 115 felony assaults, 141 burglaries, 535 grand larcenies, and 62 grand larcenies auto in 2018.
Woodhull Medical Center is the nearest large hospital is on Williamsburg's southern border with Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Preterm and teenage births are less common in Greenpoint and Williamsburg than in other places citywide. In Greenpoint and Williamsburg, there were 54 preterm births per 1,000 live births (the lowest in the city, compared to 87 per 1,000 citywide), and 16.0 teenage births per 1,000 live births (compared to 19.3 per 1,000 citywide).:11 Greenpoint and Williamsburg has a relatively low population of residents who are uninsured, or who receive healthcare through Medicaid. In 2018, this population of uninsured residents was estimated to be 7%, which is lower than the citywide rate of 12%.:14
The concentration of fine particulate matter, the deadliest type of air pollutant, in Greenpoint and Williamsburg is 0.0096 milligrams per cubic metre (9.6×10-9 oz/cu ft), higher than the citywide and boroughwide averages.:9 Seventeen percent of Greenpoint and Williamsburg residents are smokers, which is slightly higher than the city average of 14% of residents being smokers.:13 In Greenpoint and Williamsburg, 23% of residents are obese, 11% are diabetic, and 25% have high blood pressure--compared to the citywide averages of 24%, 11%, and 28%, respectively.:16 In addition, 23% of children are obese, compared to the citywide average of 20%.:12
Ninety-one percent of residents eat some fruits and vegetables every day, which is greater than the city's average of 87%. In 2018, 79% of residents described their health as "good", "very good", or "excellent", more than the city's average of 78%.:13 For every supermarket in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, there are 25 bodegas.:10
In April 2019, after a measles outbreak in Williamsburg infected over 250 people, mandatory measles shots were ordered in the area. Mayor Bill de Blasio said that people in the neighborhood ignoring the order could be fined $1,000, and that religious schools and day care programs might be closed down if they did not exclude unvaccinated students. The outbreak in Brooklyn had been tied to an unvaccinated child who contracted the disease on a trip to Israel.
Post offices and ZIP Codes
USPS Metropolitan Station
Williamsburg is covered by three ZIP Codes. Most of the neighborhood is in 11211, though the southeastern portion is in 11206, and the far western portion along the East River is in 11249. The United States Postal Service operates two post offices in Williamsburg: the Williamsburg Station at 263 South 4th Street, and the Metropolitan Station at 47 Debevoise Street.
Greenpoint and Williamsburg generally has a higher ratio of college-educated residents than the rest of the city. Half of the population (50%) has a college education or higher, 17% have less than a high school education and 33% are high school graduates or have some college education. By contrast, 40% of Brooklynites and 38% of city residents have a college education or higher.:6 The percentage of Greenpoint and Williamsburg students excelling in reading and math has been increasing, with reading achievement rising from 35 percent in 2000 to 40 percent in 2011, and math achievement rising from 29 percent to 50 percent within the same time period.
Greenpoint and Williamsburg's rate of elementary school student absenteeism is slightly higher than the rest of New York City. In Greenpoint and Williamsburg, 21% of elementary school students missed twenty or more days per school year, compared to the citywide average of 20% of students.:6:24 (PDF p. 55) Additionally, 77% of high school students in Greenpoint and Williamsburg graduate on time, higher than the citywide average of 75% of students.:6
The Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) has two branches in Williamsburg. The Williamsburgh branch is located at 240 Division Avenue near Marcy Avenue. It is housed in a 26,000-square-foot (2,400 m2) Carnegie library structure that is one of Brooklyn's largest circulating-library buildings, and is a New York City designated landmark. The Leonard branch is located at 81 Devoe Street near Leonard Street. It is located in a 26,000-square-foot (2,400 m2) building that opened in 1908. The Leonard branch contains a tribute to Betty Smith, the author of the novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, whose main character Francie frequently visited the library.
There are plans to build the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX), a light rail system that would run along the waterfront from Red Hook through Williamsburg to Astoria in Queens. However, the system is projected to cost $2.7 billion, and the projected opening has been delayed until at least 2029.
El Puente, a local community development group, called Williamsburg "the most toxic place to live in America" in the documentary Toxic Brooklyn produced by Vice Magazine in 2009. Other rare cancer clusters in Willamsburg have been reported by the New York Post.
Brooklyn Navy Yard incinerator plan
In 1976, Mayor Abraham Beame proposed building a combined incinerator and power plant at the nearby Brooklyn Navy Yard. The project garnered large community opposition from the Latino and Hasidic Jewish residents of southern Williamsburg, located next to the site of the proposed incinerator. Though the New York City Board of Estimate narrowly gave its approval to the incinerator in 1984, the state refused to grant a permit for constructing the plant for several years, citing that the city had no recycling plan. The proposed incinerator was a key issue in the 1989 mayoral election because the Hasidic Jewish residents of Williamsburg who opposed the incinerator were also politically powerful.David Dinkins, who ultimately won the 1989 mayoral election, campaigned on the stance that the Brooklyn Navy Yard incinerator plan should be put on hold. The state denied a permit for the incinerator in 1989, stating that the city had no plan for reducing ash emissions from the plant.
The plan was placed on hold for several years, and in 1995, community members filed a lawsuit to block the incinerator's construction. Further investigation of the incinerator's proposed site found toxic chemicals were present in such high levels that the site qualified for Superfund environmental cleanup. The next year, the city dropped plans for the construction of the incinerator altogether.
There are also ten oil storage tanks on the site of Bushwick Inlet Park that were formerly operated by Bayside Oil. A plan unveiled in 2016, called "Maker Park", would convert the oil tankers into attractions such as a theater and hanging gardens. It directly conflicted with the original plan for Bushwick Inlet Park, which would see the tankers demolished. The city stated that the oil tankers were heavily polluted, and that the site needed to be cleaned before it could be repurposed into a park.
Yom-Tov Ehrlich (1914-1990), renowned Hasidic musician, composer, lyricist, recording artist, and popular entertainer known for his popular Yiddish music albums. One of his most popular songs is "Williamsburg", a song about Hasidic Williamsburg during the 1950s.
The first three novels by Daniel Fuchs -- Summer in Williamsburg (1934), Homage to Blenholt (1936), and Low Company (1937), collectively known as "The Williamsburg Trilogy" or "The Brooklyn Novels"--are set primarily in Williamsburg or its immediate vicinity.
^The Physical LandscapeArchived April 18, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Lower East Side Tenement Museum. Accessed May 12, 2016. "Built in 1903, the Williamsburg Bridge had a greater effect on the ability of immigrants to leave the Lower East Side. In the early 20th century, the bridge was seen as a passageway to a new life in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, by thousands of Jewish immigrants fleeing the overcrowded neighborhood."
^Flanders, Vicky. "PERSIS ALBEE. The 1st Avon Lady", Historical Society of Cheshire County. Accessed November 29, 2017. "At age 30, Persis was living in Williamsburg, New York. There, she married Ellery Albee, and moved to his native home in Winchester, New Hampshire."
^Gates, Anita. "A Musical's Star Plays, and Admires, Warhol", The New York Times, December 11, 2009. Accessed November 29, 2017. "Mr. Harrison made his Broadway debut in 2004, filling in as the Munchkin character Boq in Wicked. After Pop! ends its Yale Rep run, he hopes to work again in New York. He lives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with his cats, Ella and Aggie."
^Interview With Barry Manilow, Larry King Live, May 17, 2012. Accessed July 2, 2016. "MANILOW: Well, the Mayflower is an apartment building on the CD, but it was actually an apartment building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn called the Mayflower. KING: Did you live in it? MANILOW: Yes, my family lived in it."
^Belin, Jay. "A Quickie With We Are Scientists' Keith Murray", WNBC. Accessed November 29, 2017. "[Q] As a New York based band, whats the benefit of playing hometown shows? [A] I'd say the largest benefit is that any post-show celebrations can end with a relatively easy stagger back to one's own apartment. I once tried to stagger home to my place in Williamsburg after a particularly rowdy after-party in Providence, RI, and it was a positively MISERABLE walk."
^Gluck, Robert. "The 'Cinematic Zionism' of Mel Brooks", The Algemeiner, August 3, 2012. Accessed November 29, 2017. "According to Wakeman, after World War II, Brooks started working in various Borscht Belt resorts and nightclubs as a drummer and pianist. Another Williamsburg resident, Buddy Rich, taught Brooks how to play drums, and he started earning money that way at age 14."
^Compton, Julie. "OutFront: Trans Woman Spreads LGBTQ Awareness in Hasidic Community", NBC News, January 13, 2017. Accessed November 29, 2017. "In 2012, Abby Stein sat alone in a busy mall -- the only place she knew that had Wi-Fi. Bearded with long sidelocks and wearing a dark three-piece suit and black hat that are the traditional garbs of Hasidic men in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, Stein searched the internet on a tablet... The 25-year-old grew up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a neighborhood with a large enclave of Hasidic people."
^Mitchell, Eric. "An Owner's Profile: Stuart Subotnick", The Blood-Horse, November 12, 2001. Accessed January 19, 2018. "Stuart Subotnick readily admits he knew nothing about Thoroughbreds or racing in the beginning. Horses were as foreign as hayrides to the Brooklyn, N.Y., native who grew up in a federally subsidized housing project in Williamsburg."
^Newman, Andy. "Rabbi Moses Teitelbaum Is Dead at 91", The New York Times, April 25, 2006. Accessed January 19, 2018. "Moses Teitelbaum, the grand rabbi of the Satmar Hasidim, one of the world's largest and fastest-growing sects of Orthodox Jews, died yesterday in Manhattan. He was 91 and lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn."
^Staff. "Daniel Fuchs, Novelist And Screenwriter, 84", The New York Times, August 11, 1993. Accessed May 29, 2017. "Mr. Fuchs turned to screenwriting after the commercial failure of 'The Williamsburg Trilogy,' his novels in the 1930s about growing up in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. The books -- Summer in Williamsburg,Homage to Blenholt and Low Company -- were critically praised but sold poorly."
^Maeder, Jay. "How Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn became a literary sensation", New York Daily News, August 14, 2017. Accessed January 18, 2018. "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was the tender, courage-awash story of the Nolan family impossible Johnny, the singing waiter who drank up his tips; patient, suffering Katie, the hardworking janitress who kept home and hearth together, and ceaselessly pensive daughter Francie, ever buried in library books and dreaming of clean skies somewhere beyond the grime of Williamsburg."
^Shepard, Richard F. "Bringing Brooklyn Of The 1940s Back To Life For The Chosen", The New York Times, May 16, 1982. Accessed May 29, 2017. "Putting the period to a period film is a demanding business, an expensive one, too, that becomes even more challenging if the period is one that lies within the memory of living man. The Chosen, at the Beekman and Cinema 3, is a case in point, a movie that recalls a Brooklyn of the late 1940s and does so with such fidelity that the tree-lined quiet streets of Williamsburg and the particular Jewish life on them seem to have emerged intact from a just-opened time capsule."
^Canby, Vincent. "Film: Once Upon A Time In America", The New York Times, June 1, 1984. Accessed January 18, 2018. "The screenplay, by Mr. Leone and five others, cannot be easily synopsized. It begins in the 1920s in a long prologue set in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, the jungle where the five young friends, including Max and Noodles, learn their trade as petty thieves and arsonists."
^Murray, J. J. "Until I Saw Your Smile", p. 16. Kensington Books, 2014. ISBN9780758277282. Accessed January 18, 2018. "He looked toward the bridge, shaking his head, wondering why Coming to America, supposedly set in Queens, was primarily filmed on South 5th Street in Williamsburg. It made me laugh to see Billyburg in that movie. Eddie Murphy is really trying to find his queen in Williamsburg, not Queens."
^About 2 Broke GirlsArchived June 8, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, CBS. Accessed June 3, 2016. "2 Broke Girls is a comedy about the unlikely friendship that develops between two very different young women who meet waitressing at a diner in trendy Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and form a bond over one day owning their own successful cupcake business."
^LaGorce, Tammy. "Who Says You Can't Leave Home? Armor for Sleep", The New York Times, December 9, 2007. Accessed June 3, 2016. "As listeners will discover if they cue up 'Williamsburg,' a song on the new album that skewers the hipster scene in that Brooklyn neighborhood, the Secaucus stops may reflect more than a desire to be near the ones they love. "