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Bensonhurst is a large, multi-ethnic amorphous area consisting of several neighborhoods, in the southwestern part of the New York City borough of Brooklyn, in the United States. It is surrounded by Dyker Heights, Borough Park, Flatbush, Midwood, and Gravesend. It is well known as a Little Italy of Brooklyn due to its large Italian-American population. Bensonhurst is also home to Brooklyn's second Chinatown.
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.
Bensonhurst has a population of over 151,000 inhabitants.
In the early 20th century, many Italians and Jews moved into the neighborhood, and prior to World War II the neighborhood was about equally Jewish and Italian. In the 1950s, under pressure of an influx of immigrants from southern Italy and with new housing being built in the suburbs, the Jewish population began to decline and eventually, after several decades, most of the Jewish population left the neighborhood, leaving the area predominantly Italian.
With a large Italian-American population, Bensonhurst is usually considered the main "Little Italy" of Brooklyn. The Italian-speaking community remains over 20,000 strong, according to the census of 2000. But, the Italian-speaking community is becoming "increasingly elderly and isolated, with the small, tight-knit enclave in 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. 86th Street is another popular local thoroughfare, lined by the arches of the BMT West End Line. The 79th Street Station was popularized in opening credits of Welcome Back, Kotter.
Around 1989, an influx of immigrants from China and the former USSR began to arrive, mainly from Southern China, Russia, Ukraine and Armenia. In the 1990s Bensonhurst rapidly grew in cultural diversity. Bensonhurst is home to many ethnic Albanian, Arab, Palestinian, Egyptian, Lebanese, Pakistani, Mexican, Guatemalan, Ecuadorian, and Puerto Rican Americans.
Bensonhurst's Asian population has been growing rapidly since the late 1990s. In 2013 Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the city's foreign born hit a new high with Bensonhurst having the second most in foreign born in the city with 77,700 foreign born immigrants in the neighborhood just after Washington Heights.
Bensonhurst was formerly stereotyped as a haven for Mafia members. However, 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 as "the Feast" to locals), held on 18th Avenue from Bay Ridge Parkway (75th Street) to 66th Street. "The Feast" is presented by Bensonhurst resident and skilled marketer Franco Corrado, as well as by the Santa Rosalia Society, on 18th Avenue. Born in Rome 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. The annual end-of-summer celebration attracts thousands. Bensonhurt also hosts a Columbus Day parade.
Demonstrating the identical trend as adjacent Lower Manhattan in New York City, Bensonhurst's Little Italy is declining concomitantly with its Italian American population, being uprooted by the rapidly expanding Bensonhurst Chinatown and its attendant Chinese population.
Below the West End Line, served by the D train along on 86th Street between 18th Avenue and Coney Island – Stillwell Avenue, now emerging another Brooklyn Chinatown (布鲁克林華埠). However, as of the 2010s it is still currently mixed in with different ethnic businesses and people, especially with many Italians and Russians still in the Bensonhurst neighborhood resembling more of Manhattan's Chinatown of the 1970s-80s when it was in expansion mode, but still mixed in with other ethnic enclaves.
Within recent years, most new businesses opening within this portion of Bensonhurst's 86th Street, especially between 20th Avenue and 25th Avenue, have been Chinese. The D train is directly connected from the Grand Street station in Manhattan's Chinatown (紐約華埠) to this rapidly growing Chinese enclave between 18th Avenue and 25th Avenue, and it is becoming a third extension of Manhattan's Chinatown. It is also in some way becoming a second extension of Brooklyn's 8th Avenue Chinatown since the D trains are transferrable to the N train to travel to Brooklyn's 8th Avenue Chinatown.
On 86th Street, it is home to growing Chinese restaurants including the 86 Wong Chinese Restaurant, which is one of the earliest Chinese restaurants and businesses to be established on this street. Chinese grocery stores, salons, bakeries, and other types of Chinese businesses are also expanding swiftly on this street.
With the large migration of the Cantonese as well as some Fuzhou people in Brooklyn now to Bensonhurst, and along with new Chinese immigration, other small Chinatowns have also started to emerge in other parts of Bensonhurst like 18th Avenue and Bay Parkway, but integrated with other ethnic groups and businesses. The N train stations are also located in these sections as well.
As a result, Bensonhurst now has several small emerging Chinatowns, but they are more scattered and mixed in with other ethnic enclaves in contrast to the Homecrest/Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn where there is only one small emerging Chinese enclave on Avenue U. This means Bensonhurst has much higher proportion of Chinese than the Homecrest/Sheepshead Bay area.
The newly emerging Chinese enclaves in sections of Bensonhurst and another one in Homecrest/Sheepshead Bay are primarily Cantonese populated and are more of extensions of the Western Cantonese section of Manhattan's Chinatown or Little Hong Kong(小香港)/Little Guangdong(小廣東) or Cantonese Town (廣東埠). However, there are small numbers of Fuzhou and Mandarin speakers.
According to the Daily News, Brooklyn's Asian population, mainly Chinese, has grown tremendously not only in the Sunset Park area, but also in Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights, and Borough Park. In Bensonhurst alone, from 2000 to 2010, the Asian population increased by 57%. The study also shows that Asians very often live in houses that are divided into studio apartments, which means there is a possibility that the increased Asian population could be more than what the census represents and causing stressors on the growing Asian population in Brooklyn.
Chinese translation terms Bensonhurst as 本森社区, 86th Street as 八十六街, and 18th Avenue as 第十八大道.
Sometimes erroneously thought[by whom?] to include all or parts of such neighborhoods as Bath Beach, Mapleton, Dyker Heights, Gravesend, and Borough Park. Bensonhurst has a variety of possible boundaries. Neighboring areas that border it are Gravesend to the southeast, Midwood to the east, Borough Park to the north, Dyker Heights to the west, and Bath Beach to the southwest. A possible clearly defined boundary is as follows: Starting at the neighborhood's southern tip at the corner of Stillwell Avenue and 86th Street, the border runs north along Stillwell Avenue to Avenue P, east to McDonald Avenue, north to 60th Street, northwest to Fort Hamilton Parkway, southwest to Bay Ridge Avenue (69th Street), southeast to 14th Avenue, south to 86th Street, and southeast back to Stillwell Avenue.
The D train, which runs on the BMT West End Line above 86th Street, provides a direct connection to Grand Street in Manhattan while the N train, which runs on the BMT Sea Beach Line near 63rd Street, provides a direct connection to Canal Street. This provides convenient commutes into Manhattan's Chinatown for the growing Bensonhurst Chinese population. The Sea Beach Line has a station at Eighth Avenue in Brooklyn's Sunset Park Chinatown and a transfer to the West End Line is available at New Utrecht Avenue / 62nd Street. The IND Culver Line along McDonald Avenue, carrying the F train, also runs through the most northeastern end of Bensonhurst between the Bay Parkway and Kings Highway stations.
Subway stations in the neighborhood include New Utrecht Avenue / 62nd Street (New York City Subway), 71st Street, 79th Street, 18th Avenue, 18th Avenue, 20th Avenue, 20th Avenue, Bay Parkway, Bay Parkway, 25th Avenue, Avenue N and Avenue P.
Milestone Park is a significant park in the Bensonhurst area. It contains a replica of the oldest sandstone mile marker in New York City (the original is housed at the Brooklyn Historical Society).
Zoned schools include:
High schools include:
Colleges and Universities
Bensonhurst has long been portrayed in film, art and literature; Thomas Wolfe mentions it in the 1930s in his short story, "Only The Dead Know Brooklyn", noted for being written entirely in "brooklynese". Later in the 1950s it was brought to fame by the television series The Honeymooners, and in the 1970s with Welcome Back Kotter, featuring a mixed-race cast, that was set in Bensonhurst. Several notable films and television programs were set there, some whose subject matter reflected the tension of the times. Of note are the Spike Lee film Jungle Fever and the cult classic movie The Warriors, about rival gangs. More recently The Bensonhurst Spelling Bee by Funny or Die with Kelly Ripa, featured a spelling-bee parody, making fun of stereotypical Italians. JoAnn from Bensonhurst, premiering in 2011, was based on her larger-than-life personality.
Notable current and former residents of Bensonhurst include:
A number of high-profile organized crime figures hail from Bensonhurst including Anthony Casso, Paul Castellano, Mikey DiLeonardo, Anthony Gaggi, Carlo Gambino, John Gambino, Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, Gregory Scarpa and Carmine Sessa.
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