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Canarsie, which includes the entire 11236 ZIP code, is bordered on the east by Fresh Creek Basin, East 108th Street, and the BMT Canarsie Line (L train) to Linden Boulevard; on the north by Linden Boulevard; on the west by Remsen Avenue to Ralph Avenue and the Paerdegat Basin; and on the south by Jamaica Bay. Canarsie also neighbors East Flatbush, Flatlands, Mill Basin, Bergen Beach, and East New York. Canarsie is patrolled by the NYPD's 69th Precinct.
"Canarsie" is a phonetic interpretation of a word in the Lenape language for "fenced land" or "fort". The Native Americans who made the infamous sale of the island of Manhattan for 60 guilders were Lenape. Europeans would often refer to the indigenous people living in an area by the local place-name, and so reference may be found in contemporary documents to "Canarsee Indians". The current neighborhood lies within the former town of Flatlands, one of the five original Dutch towns on Long Island.
Canarsie was built on swamps near Jamaica Bay. It was a fishing village through the 1800s, until pollution killed the oysters and the edible fish. In the 1920s, Southern Italian immigrants along with Jews settled in the area (though the Jewish population in Canarsie in recent years has been steadily shrinking ). Ferry service at Canarsie Pier withered away after the building of the Marine Parkway Bridge. During the 1990s, much of Canarsie's white population left for Staten Island, Long Island, and Queens, part of a national urban phenomenon called "white flight" by many. Today, Canarsie's population is mostly non-white because of large West Indian immigration. East Brooklyn Community High School now serves the transfer student population.
Currently, approximately 96,000 people reside in Canarsie.
At the other end are mostly commercial warehouses and buildings. Canarsie has many one and two family homes, although there are three large public housing developments and a number of small apartment buildings scattered throughout the neighborhood. The neighborhood has many parks, including a large park (over 100 acres) commonly referred to as Seaview Park, but officially named Canarsie Beach Park, expanded to the southwest in 2007. On Jamaica Bay, beyond the Belt Parkway, lies the Canarsie Pier section of Gateway National Recreation Area.
The BMT Canarsie Line, on which the L train of the New York City Subway runs and terminates in Canarsie, connects the neighborhood to Manhattan. The L train is a local-only subway that starts at street level and proceeds above ground and then down into the interconnecting tunnels of the subway, under the East River, and into Manhattan. Bus service such as the B6, B17, B42, B60, B82, B103, and BM2 also runs through Canarsie.
"By way of Canarsie" was a mid-twentieth century American English figure of speech meaning "to come to one's destination by a roundabout way or from a distant point." It presumably arose when the Wilson Avenue Line was a principal route to Canarsie Landing. The expression has dropped from modern common parlance.
Frank Zappa's instrumental album box Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar Some More includes a piece called "Canarsie." It is introduced with the words: "Canarsie. Where everyone looks the same."
Canarsie is home to two high-school campuses, Canarsie Educational Campus and South Shore, and several junior high schools and elementary schools. In late fall 2006, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that five troubled high schools would close by 2010. Among those five were Canarsie's South Shore and Canarsie High School. According to Melody Meyer, a DOE spokesperson, the closing is attributed to "dismal graduation rates, consistent low test scores, a poor history of educating, low performing students, and lackluster demand."
Canarsie High School phased out at the end of the 2010-2011 school year. There are three small schools operating in the Canarsie Educational Campus: High School for Medical Professions (HSMP), Innovation in Advertising and Media (IAM), and Urban Action Academy (UAA). They will have their first graduating class at the end of the 2011-2012 school year.
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The Canarsie Courier, located at 1142 East 92nd Street and published every Thursday, is the oldest weekly publication in Brooklyn and is still in publication today. It was founded by Walter S. Patrick on April 22, 1921. The Courier was then purchased by brothers Bob and Joe Samitz in 1959. After the passing of Joe Samitz, Mary (Mae) Samitz became co-publisher of the paper with her husband Bob and then became the sole publisher after he died. After his death in 1998, the Samitz family sold the paper to Donna Marra and Sandra Greco. Mrs. Marra became the sole publisher in 2010. The newspaper's estimated circulation is fewer than 5,000, including paid, mailed subscriptions and subscribers to their Web site, as well as newsstand and over-the-counter sales. In addition to Canarsie, the Courier is distributed in various communities in southeast Brooklyn, such as Georgetown, East New York, Mill Basin, Bergen Beach, and Spring Creek, among others.
While the weekly focuses on local community news, it also offers readers a variety of features for the discriminating reader, plus local sports, culture news, guest columns, and opinion columns by in-house editors.
Notable current and former residents of Canarsie include: