Geology and Yellow Fever: How Bay Ridge Got Its Name

5th Avenue and 86th Street circa the 1940s, photographer unknown. Photo via the Bay Ridge Historical Society


Brownstoner takes on Brooklyn history in Nabe Names, a series of briefs on the origins and surprising stories of neighborhood nomenclature.

Made famous for its blue-collar Italian Catholic community and love of disco in Saturday Night Fever, today Bay Ridge is home to one of the city’s largest Middle Eastern populations. But what’s in its name?

Farmed by the Dutch since the 17th century, the area that is now Bay Ridge initially consisted of two sister villages, Yellow Hook to the north and Fort Hamilton to the south.

Yellow Hook got its name for its peninsular shape and yellow soil. But in 1853, the name’s negative association with Yellow Fever caused residents to rename the area. They chose Bay Ridge, for the glacial ridge that separates the land from New York Bay.

For you non-geologists out there, the steep-sided ridge was formed by the Wisconsin Glacier about 10,000 years ago.

Bay Ridge Brooklyn Hinschs Diner Stewarts

Stewart’s, formerly Hinsch’s diner, on 5th Avenue in Bay Ridge. Photo by Laura Leebove

90th Street Bay Ridge

90th Street in Bay Ridge in 2015. Photo by Laura Leebove

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