Boerum Hill

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Rowhouses in Boerum Hill
Smith Street commercial strip

Boerum Hill is a small neighborhood in the northwestern portion of the New York City borough of Brooklyn that occupies 36 blocks bounded by Schermerhorn Street to the north, 4th Avenue to the east, Court Street to the west, and Warren Street to the south.[1] Commercial strips line Smith Street and Atlantic Avenue.[2] The neighborhood is part of Brooklyn Community District 2, served by Brooklyn Community Board 2. The Brooklyn High School of the Arts is located in the neighborhood on Dean Street and 3rd Avenue. The neighborhood is served by the NYPD's 84th Precinct.[3]



Boerum Hill is named for the colonial farm of the Dutch Boerum family, which occupied most of the area during early European-American settlement. Most of the housing consists of three-story row houses built between 1840 and 1870. In the early twentieth century, many of the buildings were run as boarding houses. Nearby was the union hall for ironworkers, who came to the city to work on bridges and skyscrapers.[4] The population today is middle and upper-middle class.[2] Despite the "hill" in the name, this area, formerly "North Gowanus" and built on landfill in the former Gowanus Swamp, is of lower elevation than most nearby land.

In the 1950s, all the neighborhoods south of Atlantic Avenue and west of Hoyt Street were called South Brooklyn. The area derived its name from being south of the original town of Brooklyn (now Brooklyn Heights) settled by the Dutch.

In the twentieth century, the north end of Smith Street was the center of New York City's Mohawk community, who came mostly from Akwesasne and Kahnawake, Mohawk reserves in Quebec, Canada.[4] (Akewesasne extends across national boundaries into New York state.) Many of the Mohawk men were ironworkers. Their wives worked at a variety of jobs and created the community for their families. For 50 years, the Mohawk families called their neighborhood "Little Caughnawaga," after the homeland of Kahnawake. Many families would travel back to Kahnawake in the summer.[5]

Boerum Hill is noted for its creative population, proximity to all transportation, abundant cultural offerings (including Roulette, Issue Project Room, and BAM),the thriving Smith Street restaurant row and Atlantic Avenue Design district.

The neighborhood has been featured in several contemporary creative works. It is the setting of Spike Lee's movie, Clockers (1995), which was filmed in the Gowanus Houses. It is the setting for two of Jonathan Lethem's novels: Motherless Brooklyn (1999), a crime mystery set on Bergen Street between Smith and Hoyt streets; and The Fortress of Solitude (2002), set primarily on one block in Boerum Hill (Dean Street between Nevins and Bond streets). In the latter novel, Lethem suggests that the neighborhood was renamed from North Gowanus in the wake of gentrification beginning in the early 1970s, the period for his lead characters' childhoods.

A 2003 "Close Up On" column in the The Village Voice confirms that account,[6] but a 2005 version of the "Close Up On" column says that Boerum Hill was the original name for the neighborhood, and revived during twentieth-century gentrification.[7]

The Boerum Hill Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.[8]

Micro Museum, 123 Smith St

Culture and the arts

Boerum Hill is known for its independent boutiques, restaurants and rows of brownstones. Boerum Hill is home of many artists who own art galleries in the neighborhood, including the "invisible dog" exhibition. Boerum Hill is home to many young families, and biking is popular in the neighborhood and nearby Prospect Park.

Notable natives and residents

Northwest: Brooklyn HeightsNorth: Downtown BrooklynNortheast: Fort Greene
West: Cobble HillBoerum HillEast: Prospect Heights
Southwest: Carroll GardensSouth: GowanusSoutheast: Park Slope


External links

Coordinates: 40°41′06″N 73°59′04″W / 40.685°N 73.98444°W / 40.685; -73.98444