1920, a landmark year for Brooklyn, was when subway lines stopped at New Lots and Flatbush and express lines like the Brighton Sea Beach, West End, and Culver lines connected Manhattan to Coney Island.[i] New populations of the 1920s brought a shift in the residential development of Flatbush, from single-family homes for the middle class, to larger, multi-family buildings. Newcomers, mostly from Eastern Europe or Italy, “transformed it into a quintessential urban place,”[ii] as Nedda C. Allbray writes in Flatbush: The Heart of Brooklyn. Many Jews lived along Ocean and Flatbush Avenues, and nearly 70 percent of the merchants in the growing Flatbush Avenue commercial district were Jewish. Italians settled on the east side of Flatbush Avenue, where many Irish also lived.[iii]
As Flatbush’s popularity continued to grow, its prices increased dramatically. The neighborhood also served as a gateway to development of residential neighborhoods along the shorefront of Brooklyn’s southern fringe. In The Brooklyn Daily Eagle of August 26, 1923, real estate ads boasted of Flatbush’s growing population, to the extent that the ad entitled “Join Brooklyn’s Millions in Their March to the Sea” used Flatbush’s growth to promote the purchase of real estate in the Sheepshead Bay area of Brooklyn. As early as 1923, auctions began to convince others that Flatbush was ready for another expansion down Nostrand Avenue to Sheepshead Bay. An ad compared Brooklyn’s population from 1884, 1904, 1914, and 1924—the latter three each showing a population growth of 600,000 people in just ten years each. Flatbush, according to this ad, seems to have had such a large growth in population that it could be used to attracting people into spreading out to other areas of Brooklyn that were still sparsely populated.[iv]
In the real estate and classifieds section of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle of April 14, 1929, columns describe the incredible growth of Flatbush in terms of investment. “For a concrete example of how money may be made through wise investments in real estate,” real estate broker Arthur J. Horton writes, “one has only to look at the amazing growth of Flatbush during the past eight years.” The properties along Flatbush Avenue had experienced an incredible increase in value. The success of Flatbush Avenue businesses raised property values. This increase in value, described in many news articles and newspaper advertisements, demonstrates how popular Flatbush had become as a thriving middle-class community with many Jewish, Italian, and Irish residents.[v]
[i] Elliot Willensky, When Brooklyn Was the World: 1920-1957 (New York: Harmony, 1986).
[ii] Nedda C. Allbray, Flatbush: The Heart of Brooklyn (Charleston, SC: Arcadia Pub., 2004), 151.
[iii] Ibid., 150-151
[iv] “Join Brooklyn’s Millions in Their March to the Sea,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 26, 1923. http://bklyn.newspapers.com/.
[v] “Flatbush Fertile Field for Safe Investment, Says Real Estate Broker,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 14, 1929. http://bklyn.newspapers.com/.