The Puerto Rican Community

The 1960s saw a spike in Puerto Rican Immigration to Williamsburg. The new immigrants sought out this area as a means for jobs, as there were many factories in the surrounding area and it would be easy for them to find work in places such as the Domino Sugar Factory and Refinery. (bklynlibrary.org) But the Puerto Rican community has been present in the neighborhood of Williamsburg since as early as the 1920s. They even have a street named for them, Graham Avenue, or “Avenue of Puerto Rico” located at the south end of the block. (baruch.cuny.edu) At the time of World War II, a second wave of Puerto Rican Immigrants found their way into Williamsburg and this area became an established Puerto Rican community and cultural “hub”. (southsidewilliamsburgproject.weebly.com) The Southside of Williamsburg’s streets became a flourishing Puerto Rican neighborhood, bringing about the emergence of many cultural and structural icons of Williamsburg’s history. The increase of these residents brought into action a plan for the Metropolitan Pool and Bath, a pool that is still extremely popular to Williamsburg natives today. During this time, many working class citizens are living in this area, with jobs revolving around the factories present in the neighborhood at this time. This southside area inhabited by Puerto Ricans became known as “Los Sures” or, in English, “The Souths”.¬†(ny.curbed.com)

The Puerto Rican community has thrived in Williamsburg since the 1920s, contributing a vibrant culture to the neighborhood in their time there. Puerto Rican restaurants, stores and flags crowded the streets of the southside. However, in the early 2000s, things began to take a turn for the Puerto Rican as well as the Hispanic community in general calling Williamsburg their home. A new art community was forming and unfortunately, at the expense of the Puerto Rican culture already present there. A gentrification was occurring on the streets of Brooklyn and especially Williamsburg. People noticed the cheap prices and proximity to Manhattan and began moving in. Soon, stores popped up accommodating those artists, their budgets and their preferences. Restaurants, supermarkets, and stores, all of these things began to take a sudden change. Prices increased, rent increased and the Puerto Rican community decreased. In 2000, 4,036 Hispanics lived on the southside of Williamsburg and in 2010, 3,459 remained. (Center of Urban Research of CUNY)

This not only caused a serious rift in the Puerto Rican culture that had previously thrived in Williamsburg but it also introduced a new social stratification to the area. The Puerto Ricans and other hispanics became the “poor” and those moving in became the “rich”. The north was where the “wealthy” people lived and the south was for the “lower class”. Prior to this, Williamsburg had been home to working class people, pursuing the American Dream. (http://larespuestamedia.com)

Due to these social and economic changes occurring within the neighborhood, a lot of other things have changed as well. Prices have risen, rent has increased drastically and local businesses have lost income due to newer, swanky stores opening every week. Gentrification in the area has affected a community of people who have lived in a working class, struggling, but culturally rich neighborhood for many years.

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