History

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Fort Greene is within Brooklyn and bordered by Vinegar Hill, DUMBO, Prospect Heights, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Downtown Brooklyn, Clinton Hill, and Park Slope. The neighborhood is named after the American Revolutionary Warfort that was built in 1776 under the supervision of General Nathanael Greene. General Greene aided General George Washington during the Battle of Long Island in 1776. Fort Greene Park, originally called “Washington Park,” is also derived from General Greene’s name and from the neighborhood. Then in 1864, Fort Greene Park was redesigned by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux; the park notably includes the Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument, which honors some 11,500 patriots who died aboard British prison ships during the American Revolution. Fort Greene is also home to mid-nineteenth century Italianate and Eastlake architecture, most of which is still well preserved. Moreover, it is known for its several tree-lined streets and classy low-rise housing.

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The New York Times dispatched reporters to put a spotlight on the poverty, increasing crime rates, infant mortality rates, unemployment, and the public health crisis and published their finding in the article “Homes of the Poor” in 1858. Times also reported the less than ideal conditions residents in Fort Greene had lived in and squatters in the area. However, by the end of the 19th century, Fort Greene and Clinton Hill became a grand and beautiful neighborhood.

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In the late 19th century, Fort Greene was plagued with poverty, crime, and the crack epidemic. However, in the late 1980s, black artists and professionals worked to restore Fort Greene to a respectable status. The artists restored the classic brownstones and the community became the center for African-American writers, singers, and filmmakers. Spike established his studio 40 Acres and a Mule in 1986.

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Gentrification took effect 1999 when it was “discovered.” Fort Greene’s 19th century architecture and brownstones appealed to those looking for a new home. Fort Greene’s location was extremely favorable, as it provided residents a home right across from Manhattan for a fraction of the cost. Many of those who moved from 1999 to present cited Fort Greene’s diversity as one of its most appealing qualities.

However, the effect of gentrification creates a rift between the old and new residents of Fort Greene. The older business owners noticed the difference between their old customers and new customers. In the eyes of the old residents, gentrification has brought both positive and negative effects on the neighborhood. On one hand, the streets of Fort Greene have become safer. Myrtle Avenue, previously referred to as “Murder Avenue” by residents, has grown into an active business district. On the other hand, the old residents of Fort Greene feel displaced by the newcomers. Quirky new cafes, restaurants, and boutiques have replaced the older businesses in the neighborhood.

In a 2000 census, blacks made up 65 percent of the population of Fort Greene. However, according to the 2010 census, they made up only 47 percent of the population of Fort Greene. From 2000 to 2010, the percentage of whites rose from 18 percent to 36 percent. Andrew Beveridge, the chairman of sociology at Queens College attributed the change in demographics to the migration of yuppies into the neighborhood. As the yuppies moved in, the price of housing and rent increased. The blacks who used to reside in that area either cashed out and sold their homes or were priced out by the increasing rent.

Fort Greene is becoming the up and coming neighborhood of Brooklyn.

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