Brownsville

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Contrary to popular belief, Brownsville still has some great architecture, especially on its main commercial streets.

Name: Originally Lafayette Trust, then Provident Loan Society. Now a T-Mobile.
Address: 1698 Pitkin Avenue
Cross Streets: Corner of Rockaway Avenue
Neighborhood: Brownsville
Year Built: Early 20th century, before 1909
Architectural Style: Simplified Beaux-Arts
Architect: Arthur G. Stone
Other Works by Architect: Row houses on Hancock and other streets in Bedford; also flats and store buildings in Williamsburg, and other buildings throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan
Landmarked: No

Most people think Brownsville is little more than rows upon rows of high-rise NYCHA housing. There certainly is plenty of that there, but there is much more to the neighborhood.

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Jazzy Jumpers perform at MGB Pops market. Photo via MGB Pops

Gentrification has not yet reached Brownsville but is lapping at its shores. Local residents are making a push to improve the area on their own terms, or gentrify “from within,” according to a story in Al-Jazeera. The idea is to improve employment, education, safety and quality of life before high rents arrive to push out longtime locals.

Efforts include job training, an outdoor marketplace with locally made goods and performances, a cafe and business incubator and street improvements:

  • MGB Pops, a seasonal outdoor marketplace at 425 Mother Gaston Boulevard, kicked off in fall 2014. In addition to locally grown produce and other locally made products, it features art and performances. Recent events have included a ribbon cutting for a street improvements such as seating and a happy hour.
  • Made in Brownsville offers architecture and design training and jobs to local youths.
  • A revitalization plan, spearheaded by the Brownsville Community Justice Center, will improve Belmont Avenue.
  • Dream Big Foundation’s Three Black Cats Cafe, set to open later this year on Belmont Avenue, will serve as a community hub and business incubator.

“We’re trying to disrupt the normal flow of things,” the story quotes one of the organizers of MGB Pops, Quardean Lewis-Allen, as saying. “If we can empower the residents with jobs and skills that will help them shape the neighborhood’s future, then they are less likely to be displaced when Brownsville suddenly becomes hip.”