Immigration was essential to the rapid development of Flatbush. The newcomers largely became working people and were responsible for the urbanization of Flatbush. The rise in immigration also benefitted Flatbush in a cultural sense. Immigrants of various cultures learned to share their space and shop together, resulting in Flatbush Avenue being a “cacophony of languages.”[i] It was a center for the Jews, Italians, and Irish to all shop. While immigration did lead to the commercial success of Flatbush Avenue, it was limited in the 1920s by the National Origins Act of 1924. This discriminatory law allowed for the admission of only 150,000 immigrants each year, mostly from Great Britain and Germany, minimally from Italy, Russia, and Greece, and excluding Africans and most Asians.[ii] However, when immigrant restrictions were lifted, a rush of people came and helped Flatbush develop into a neighborhood bustling with activity. This is demonstrated by the foundation of Brooklyn College in 1930, which “was envisioned as a stepping stone for the sons and daughters of immigrants and working-class people toward a better life.” The liberal arts college moved to the Flatbush area in 1934, and provided a means for education and progress in a time of an inflow of immigrants, which aided in the growth and development of Flatbush.[iii]
[i] Nedda C. Allbray, Flatbush: The Heart of Brooklyn (Charleston, SC: Arcadia Pub., 2004), 152.
[ii] Peter Golenbock, In the Country of Brooklyn: Inspiration to the World (New York: William Morrow, 2008), 38-39.
[iii] “Our History,” Brooklyn College, accessed: April 26, 2015. http://www.brooklyn.cuny.edu/