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Thrilling History of The City of BrooklynJuly 25, 2014
Some neighborhood names appear to be jokes. Some have stuck around for centuries, despite changing connotations. Some shift with the winds of gentrification. Welcome to Blurred Lines, in which writer Keith Williams studies New York City’s changing neighborhood boundaries.
Why does “South Brooklyn” refer to Red Hook, and not to Coney Island? It’s a question that’s crossed the mind of almost every New Yorker at some point or another.
The answer is simple: as late as 1894, that area was the southern extreme of theCity of Brooklyn. What we know today as Brooklyn is better described, historically, by its synonymous designation, Kings County. For centuries, Kings County was composed of numerous towns—and, briefly, one other city—and the progression from the original six towns to one unified City of Brooklyn can be charted through 350 years of maps.
Before we begin this journey through the history of Kings County, a bit of background is needed. First: just as with Manhattan, there’s been a lot of land-filling over the years, so the geographic extremities of these maps won’t be true to what they were in the 19th century. For practical purposes, changing water boundaries have been left out.
Second: several borders in Kings County were based on rivers, streams, and creeks that no longer exist—above ground, anyway. Over the past 200 years, most of the waterways in Kings County have been rerouted into subterranean pipes, but they’re no longer apparent on the surface. For both of these reasons, a few of the boundaries on these maps are rough approximations.
Courtesy of Curbed