Borough Park

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

William H. Reynolds was a developer like no other before or since. During the course of his life, he cut a swath through Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island and Manhattan, developing new neighborhoods right and left. He also managed to become New York State’s youngest State Senator, the mayor of Long Beach, Long Island, the owner of Dreamland Amusement Park, and a convicted felon. Not to mention his expertise in the manly art of fisticuffs and other athletic competitions.

Here in Brooklyn, by the turn of the 20th century, he was finishing up his extensive development of Prospect Heights. He had purchased a great deal of land cheap from the city; land left over when Prospect Park was laid out. He proceeded to build hundreds of handsome row houses there, and by 1895, most of them had already been sold. He needed a new project.

A look at Brooklyn, then and now.

As Brooklyn developed as a city, in the 1800s, communities began to spread out from the ferry and the Heights in a concentric wave. Led by improved transportation facilities, the city grew, as areas once thought remote farming areas then became suburbs, then city. That was just in the old town of Brooklyn. Six towns, as we know, became the city of Brooklyn, and by the late 1800’s, there were people living just about everywhere within the borders of Kings County. Brooklyn, Bushwick and the Williamsburg areas developed first and fastest, due to location, transportation, the piers and shoreline, subsequent industries, and proximity to Manhattan,. The more remote towns, like New Utrecht, Gravesend, and Flatbush, stayed rural farmland much longer. But in the southern parts of Brooklyn, a smart man knew that change would be coming, and wealth and prosperity were tied to the land.

Stewart McDougall was one of those smart men who was there at the right time, with money in his pocket, and the ability to see what the future would hold. He had been born upstate, in Washington County, and came to Manhattan as a young man, and was a successful wholesale poultry and game merchant at the Washington Market, in Greenwich Village. In 1864, he bought his first farm in the southwestern corner of Kings County, in the town of New Utrecht. At the time, there was nothing but farmland in the area as far as the eye could see.

Over the period of the next twenty-five years, he bought more and more land around his original farmstead, eventually becoming the largest landowner of farmland and pasture in Brooklyn. There were certainly other huge landowners, the Bedford branch of the Lefferts family most immediately come to mind, but they sold most of their property back in the 1850s, as the city of Brooklyn grew. Stewart McDougall was just getting started.


BuzzBuzzHome rustled up this rendering of a large apartment building designed by architect Karl Fischer for 886 Dahill Road in Borough Park. Developer Wydra Enterprises purchased the site in 2007 for $26 million, got plans approved in 2009, but then didn’t build anything. In July, the developer put the property on the market for $33 million, but apparently there were no takers because in February, Wydra filed a new permit, which was approved a few weeks ago. The new permit, like the old one, calls for nine stories and 171 units. The most recent permit filed asks to amend that to 10 stories.
Mixed-Use Development by Karl Fischer Headed for Borough Park [BuzzBuzzHome]
Rendering via BuzzBuzzHome


A WNYC radio story about test prep in Sunset Park uncovered some interesting facts about education and demographics: Of the top 20 zip codes that send the most children to New York City’s elite public high schools, only three are low-income. All of those are in Brooklyn, and they include parts of Sunset Park, Borough Park and Dyker Heights. In Sunset Park, at least, the high acceptance rates to elite high schools can be pinned on the Chinese population there and their embrace of extracurricular test-prep programs intended specifically to ace public-school admissions tests. Testing in Chinese culture has a very long tradition, according to WNYC, going back 2,000 years to the Han dynasty. The story profiled one Sunset Park family who, incredibly, spends $5,000 a year on test prep for its three boys out of a total family yearly income of only $26,000. (The family’s housing costs are low because they own a two-family they share with relatives.) Average yearly incomes in the three zip codes range from about $35,000 to $40,000. Most of the other admissions came from middle-class or wealthy neighborhoods such as the Upper West Side. As for the mother of the family profiled in the piece, she said she hopes her boys will go to Harvard.
Around Sunset Park, Tutoring Is Key to Top High Schools [WNYC]