If you’re confused about rent stabilization, Section 8 housing, or any of your legal rights as a tenant, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) is hosting a forum next month in Brownsville to answer your questions. HPD reps will also discuss housing code violations, NYCHA housing, bed bugs, rent protections for seniors and the disabled, discrimination and affordable housing lotteries. The forum will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at P.S./I.S. 323 in Brownsville, located at 210 Chester Street. Check out the Facebook event for more details.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Former Congregation Men of Justice (Anshe Zedek), now Bright Light Baptist Church
Address: 1678 Park Place
Cross Streets: Ralph and Howard Avenues
Neighborhood: Brownsville
Year Built: 1913
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival with Moorish details
Architect: Faber & Murick
Other Buildings by Architect: None found
Landmarked: No

The story: The Congregation Men of Justice was organized in November of 1909 by ten Brownsville men, just enough to form a minyan, the minimum number of men necessary in Jewish tradition to conduct public worship. That number soon grew as the Jewish population of Brownsville soared in the early 20th century. By 1913, there were 300 people in the congregation, and the space they were renting on Ralph Avenue was not big enough. It was time for the congregation to build their own synagogue. The name of their congregation in Hebrew was Anshe Zedek.

This plot of land on the Crown Heights/Brownsville border was purchased, and the architectural firm of Faber & Murick was chosen to design the building. On August 17, 1913, a grand parade was held in the neighborhood, and the congregation marched from Ralph Avenue down to the new site, where the cornerstone of the synagogue was laid with great pomp and ceremony. The stone had the date and inscription in both English and Hebrew.


Young artists from Brownsville teamed up with local muralist Esteban del Valle to paint a mural about the “prison industrial complex” on the side of a supermarket on Junius Street. The all-male crew of teen artists spent three weeks in July developing the mural’s themes and designing it, and then another three weeks painting the wall with del Valle’s help.

Arts non-profit Groundswell organized the project as part of its Summer Leadership Institute, which brings together young artist and professional muralists to create powerful murals in neighborhoods across the city. This mural “aims to inspire a sense of self-empowerment and agency by engaging youth as agents of social change and active community contributors,” according to Groundswell. The young artists and del Valle will gather to dedicate the mural on August 28 at 2 pm at 417 Junius Street.


A nonprofit that offers services and help for young offenders in Brownsville came one step closer to creating a brick and mortar community center with a public hearing at the City Planning Commission last week. The Brownsville Community Justice Center plans to renovate an old city-owned building at 444 Thomas S. Boyland Street to host a court and a variety of nonprofits and city agencies that can help youth affected by the criminal justice system.

Borough President Eric Adams approved the plan, but only on the condition that the site’s 133,000 square feet of unused development rights be used to build affordable housing on the site, Crain’s reported Friday.


Groundswell Mural Project has just unveiled two murals painted by young adults on probation along Pitkin Avenue in Brownsville. The works are part of “Transform/Restore: Brownsville,” a two-year public art project that aims to transform vandalized walls into colorful canvases that highlight the neighborhood’s hidden strengths.

The wall pictured above, Moving Forward, depicts important community figures like Rosetta “Mother” Gaston, a Brownsville organizer who lived to be 96 and founded the Heritage House cultural center on the second floor of the Stone Avenue library. The second mural, pictured after the jump, is called “Hidden Treasures of Brownsville” and celebrates the neighborhood’s youth. You can find the murals at 1788 and 1747 Pitkin Avenue.

Groundswell Unveils New Mural on Pitkin Avenue in Brownsville [Brownstoner]
Photos by Groundswell Mural Project


A hotel development is coming to the corner of Rockaway Avenue and Sutter Avenue in Brownsville. Is this evidence that development is rolling eastward across Brooklyn or business as usual?

The hotel at 524 Rockaway Avenue will have four stories and 74 units, according to a new building application filed last week. The 13,000-square-foot building will also have an exercise room, breakfast room and laundry. The architect of record is the Sunset Park-based Shining Tam. An LLC bought the property for $385,000 in April, according to public records.

Image via Google Maps


Brownsville’s Stone Avenue Library is commemorating its 100th anniversary and its recent reopening after five months of renovations and improvements at a press conference this morning. When it first opened in September 1914 as a children’s library, hundreds of children lined up to explore the Gothic-style building at 581 Mother Gaston Boulevard, which was designed to look like a fairy tale castle by William B. Tubby, said a story in The New York Times.

Financed by Andrew Carnegie, it was one of the country’s first libraries devoted entirely to children. If you want to see what the library looked like when it first opened, the Times has a great slideshow with photos from its early years.

The branch has received several improvements, including a gigantic chess board and a “Word Wall” displaying 600 words children should know by 5th grade. During construction, the library was closed as briefly as possible — from November 30 to January 16 and from March 8 to 17. Check out the new interior after the jump!

A Brownsville Sanctuary, 100 Years and Counting [NY Times]
Photo via Historic Districts Council

Editor’s note: An updated version of this post can be viewed here.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Built as the Rolland Theater, then Parkway Theater, now Holy House of Prayer for All People
Address: 1768 St. Johns Place
Cross Streets: Corner Eastern Parkway
Neighborhood: Brownsville
Year Built: 1929-33
Architectural Style: Neo-Moorish
Architect: Harrison Wiseman
Other work by architect: Theaters around New York City, including Yiddish Art Theater, 2nd Ave, Manhattan. In Brooklyn, Kameo, on Eastern Parkway and Nostrand, the Pavilion, on Prospect Park West, the Loew’s Oriental, on 86th Street, and the Alpine, on 5th Avenue in Bay Ridge, the Albemarle, on Flatbush Avenue at Albemarle Road
Landmarked: No, but on National Register of Historic Places (2010)

The story: I feature a lot of former theaters in my BOTDs, as I am fascinated by their architecture, history, and place in the cultural life of our city. Before we spent our lives staring down into handheld devices or at a screen on the wall, we used to get out and watch and participate in the special wonder of live theater, or a grand cinematic spectacle. Even if we do get out to theaters and movie houses today, they are almost always now in districts far from residential neighborhoods or homes.

For most of us, gone are the days when we could get that magic in our own community, within walking distance for most people, or a short bus ride for some. Every neighborhood in Brooklyn had several theaters, with a variety of entertainment offerings. Almost all of the theaters or former theaters I’ve featured were built for live theater, but then converted to movies. This one is one of the few which was never a movie theater. Until it closed forever, the Rolland Theater was always live theater, and what a history it had.

Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Former National Surgical Stores, now boarded up
Address: 1521 East New York Avenue
Cross Streets: Rockaway Avenue and Prospect Place
Neighborhood: Brownsville
Year Built: Around 1925
Architectural Style: Renaissance Revival
Architect: Unknown
Landmarked: No

The story: To me, there is not much sadder than unrealized potential. That goes not only for people, but for neighborhoods and the buildings in them. When the enthusiastic and forward thinking people who settled in the part of Brownsville, near the Crown Heights border, at the turn of the 20th century, they thought their homes and businesses would last the ages. The city built handsome civic buildings, like the 65th Precinct, just up the block from here, and East New York Avenue was developed as a fine commercial and residential thoroughfare, worthy of its proximity to the famous Eastern Parkway, only a block away.

One of the growing companies to build a factory and headquarters here was the New York Truss and Instrument Company. They manufactured and sold orthopedic medical aids such as elastic hosiery, braces, trusses and arch supports. They first worked out of a wood-framed building with a large wagon shed angled on the Prospect Place side of the building. That building would be replaced by this rather impressive structure, which still has the angled shipping entrance on Prospect.