Past and Present: Brooklyn Traffic Court

Photo: Brooklyn Public Library

A Look at Brooklyn, then and now.

While this may look to be the fanciest Traffic Court in the world, this fine building started out with a much more sacred calling than the adjudication of parking tickets. 1005 Bedford Avenue, at the corner of Lafayette Avenue, in Bedford Stuyvesant, was the home of Temple Israel, one of Brooklyn’s oldest Jewish congregations.

Temple Israel was established in 1869, a place of worship and community for Brooklyn’s German Jewish residents. They held their first services in the old YMCA, located downtown, at Fulton St. and Galatin Place. In 1872, they purchased their own building, a now landmarked church, on Greene Avenue where the community grew until they needed to move, once again. By this time, many members of this German Jewish community were doing quite well, their membership included wealthy merchants such as Abraham Abraham, one of the founders of Abraham & Straus, and the congregation was able to commission one of the best architectural firms in the city to design a new temple.

The Parfitt Brothers, three brothers, born and educated in England, got the job, and came up with this beautiful building. The firm was very familiar with designing sacred spaces, and had designed some of Brooklyn’s finest churches, such as Grace Methodist and St. Augustine’s Catholic Church, both in Park Slope. Like many large Jewish temples of the day, the design had a vaguely Middle Eastern reference, mixed with a traditional European church style, creating a building that has a very Venetian influence, a fitting match for this melding of cultures. The Parfitt’s were very adept at giving their clients what they wanted, a large and lavish temple for a wealthy congregation that still felt it needed to assimilate into American society by not appearing to be too “other”. It’s a beautiful building, and must have been gorgeous inside.

The dedication of the space was held in 1891, and the building was completely finished in 1893. Temple Israel was a vital part of the German Jewish community in Bedford for another twenty-some years. By the 1920’s, these wealthy congregants were starting to move out of Brooklyn, either to Manhattan or out to the suburbs. The remaining people were not enough to sustain the building. In 1929, Temple Israel merged with KK Beth Elohim, and the new congregation became Union Temple, building a new temple and community center at Grand Army Plaza.

This building was bought by the city, and became Brooklyn’s Traffic Court. The interior was probably totally stripped down, and divided into a court room and myriad offices, cubicles, and payment counters. What a fall from glory. Traffic Court was relocated downtown at Motor Vehicles in 1962. Some sources say it became the home for Bergen Tile, the same discount tile company that was also located on Flatbush and Dean St, but it’s hard to say if they were in this building or a new building. I can’t imagine. Eventually, the Parfitt’s fine temple, one of their best buildings, and the home of one of Brooklyn’s most influential Jewish congregations, was torn down.

According to Property Shark, the building that currently sits on the lot was built in 1972, as non-descript a building as one could possibly have. It’s been a school, a health clinic, and has held other social service offices. In 2008, it became the property of Yeshivas Bais Limudei Hashem. GMAP

Photo: Brooklyn Public Library

Photo: Googlemaps

Postcard from 1900. Brooklyn Public Library

Traffic Court, 1948. Photo: Brooklyn Public Library

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