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Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, 11214
Bensonhurst is a neighborhood located in the south-western part of the New York City borough of Brooklyn.
Sometimes erroneously thought to include all or parts of such neighborhoods as Bath Beach, Dyker Heights, and Borough Park, or to be defined by the streets where the ethnic mix of Jewish and Italian residents is most prominent, Bensonhurst actually has a clearly defined border, with Gravesend to the southeast, Midwood to the east, Borough Park to the north, Dyker Heights to the west, and Bath Beach to the southwest. Starting at the neighborhood's southern tip at the corner of Stillwell Avenue and 86th Street, the border runs north along Stillwell Avenue to Kings Highway, east to McDonald Avenue, north to 60th Street, northwest to 13th Avenue, south to 86th Street, and southeast back to Stillwell Avenue.
Bensonhurst is served by two branches of the New York City Subway system: the D/M elevated subway line, also called the BMT West End Line, at 62nd Street, 71st Street, 79th Street, 18th Avenue, 20th Avenue, Bay Parkway, and 25th Avenue Stations (with the M terminating at Bay Parkway); and the N open-cut line, (also called the BMT Sea Beach Line), at New Utrecht Avenue, 18th Avenue, 20th Avenue, Bay Parkway, and Kings Highway Stations.The D/M elevated and the N open-cut lines also have a free transfer in the neighborhood at the 62nd Street D/M Station and the New Utrecht Avenue N Station. Bensonhurst is patrolled by the NYPD's 62nd Precinct.
Bensonhurst derives its name from Arthur W. Benson, the former president of Brooklyn Gas, who in 1835 began buying farmland that formerly belonged to the Polhemus family. Between 1835 and 1850 Benson divided the farmland into generous lots that were sold in the following decades as part of the newly created suburb of Bensonhurst by the Sea (current day Bath Beach section), which was annexed into the 30th Ward of Brooklyn in the 1890s.
In the early 1900s, many Jews and Italians moved into the neighborhood, and prior to World War II the neighborhood was about equally Jewish and Italian. In the 1950s, there was an influx of immigrants from southern Italy and most of the Jewish population left the neighborhood, leaving the area predominantly Italian. In the 1990s, an influx of Chinese and Russian immigrants began to arrive. Chinese-American residents and Chinese immigrants have opened many restaurants and shops along 18th Avenue, Bay Parkway and 86th Street. The Russian American (Russian) population has dissipated in recent years. Today, the Italian American community numbers over 60,000, or more than half of the population. Despite increasing diversity, Bensonhurst is heavily Italian-American, as its Italian-speaking community remains over 20,000 strong, according to the census of 2000. However, the Italian-speaking community is becoming "increasingly elderly and isolated, with the small, tight-knit enclaves they built around the city slowly disappearing as they give way to demographic changes." Its main thoroughfare, 18th Avenue (also known as Cristoforo Colombo Boulevard) between roughly 60th Street and Shore Parkway, is lined with predominantly small, Italian family-owned businesses—many of which have remained in the same family for several generations. Eighty-sixth Street is another popular local thoroughfare, lined by the arches of the elevated BMT West End Subway Line. The 18th Avenue Station was popularized in opening credits of Welcome Back, Kotter.
Bensonhurst is also home to immigrants from the Former Soviet Union, Latin Americans and Chinese-Americans. At just over 60% Italian , it remains one of the most well-known Italian-American neighborhoods in the country.
On August 23, 1989, a 16-year-old African-American named Yusef Hawkins was shot and killed in Bensonhurst, after he and three friends had been attacked by a group of mostly Italian-American youths. At least four neighborhood residents were tried and convicted of charges related to the assault and murder.
In connection with the Hawkins murder several trials ensued which were prosecuted by a team of veteran homicide prosecutors including James Kohler, Edward Boyar, Paul Burns, Steven Schwartz and Douglas Nadjari. Lubasch, Arnold H. (October 13, 1990). "Bensonhurst Defendant Faults Mistrial". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1990/10/13/nyregion/bensonhurst-defendant-faults-mistrial.html. Retrieved August 22, 2009. Reverend Al Sharpton led several protest marches through the streets of Bensonhurst. On January 12, 1991, before one such march, neighborhood resident Michael Riccardi tried to kill Sharpton by stabbing him in the chest. Riccardi later remorsefully said that he "thought the act would make me a hero in my community." Sharpton recovered from his wounds, and later asked the judge for leniency when Riccardi was sentenced. The two subsequently reconciled.
Bensonhurst was stereotyped as a haven for Mafia members (Gus Farace, a reputed mob associate suspected of murdering a federal drug-enforcement agent, was found shot to death in a parked car there on November 17, 1989, and two years later the neighborhood provided the setting for the mob-themed film Out for Justice starring Steven Seagal), many of whom are believed to maintain residences in Dyker Heights, a nearby neighborhood.
On April 13, 1986, while approaching his car after leaving a meeting at the Veterans & Friends Social Club on 86th St. in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, Frank DeCicco was killed by a car bomb explosion. Lucchese crime family soldier Frank "Frankie Hearts" Bellino, who was with DeCicco, lost several toes. However, the intended target, John Gotti, was not there. Turncoats and informants would later reveal that the order for the hit came from Genovese crime family boss Vincent Gigante, who did not like Gotti or approve of him killing Castellano without approval from the Commission, and conspired in his murder with Lucchese crime family leaders Vittorio "Vic" Amuso and Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso.
Currently the neighborhood is undergoing a transformation; many of the original houses dating back over 90 years ago are being torn down and replaced by three-story brick apartment buildings and multi-family condominiums, sometimes referred to as "Fedders Houses" for their distinctive air conditioner sleeves.
Visitors from throughout the New York City metropolitan area flock to the neighborhood each year in late August or early September to take part in the colorful Festa di Santa Rosalia (commonly known simply as The Feast to locals), held on 18th Avenue from Bay Ridge Parkway (75th Street) to 69th Street. "The Feast" is presented by Bensonhurst resident and skilled self promoter Franco Corrado, as well as the Santa Rosalia Society on 18th Avenue. Born in Rome, Italy, in 1955, Corrado has been an active social member of the Italian-American community for the past 20 years. St. Rosalia is the patron saint of the city of Palermo and is sometimes venerated as the patron for the entire island of Sicily (a sizable portion of Bensonhurst's Italian American residents are of Sicilian heritage). The annual end-of-summer celebration attracts thousands.
Immediately after Italy's victory at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, a large portion of Bensonhurst's Italian American community, as well as several thousand participants from all over the tri-state area, participated in a large victory celebration. Several local cafés and businesses paid for a city permit to close 18th Avenue from commercial traffic. It was held on the same route as the St. Rosalia Feast, but stretched from 65th street to nearly 80th Street. The celebration began as soon as the Italian team won, until about 7:00 p.m., when the permit ran out.
New York City Department of Education serves Bensonhurst.
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