A bit closer to the Bangladeshi & Pakistani Communities…

Welcome to Kensington, New York!

Yes, yes, we know most of the things you’ve heard about this grand metropolis include fancy skyscrapers, noisy and smelly subways, the irreplaceable 5th Avenue, Central Park, amongst other touristic attractions. But what most people don’t really emphasize  is the overwhelming  diversity contained within New York City. An example of such diversity is the neighborhood of Kensington in Brooklyn.

Once you leave New York this time, you’ll have learned so much more about the way cultural diversity has evolved and the way people have organized themselves into their own cultural clusters all around the city.

An example of such “cluster” is the prominent South Asian community in this particular area of Brooklyn. Below we’ve chosen some interesting places for you and your company to visit; after all, the only way you’ll EVER get to truly know a city is by walking its corners.

Kensington, Brooklyn

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Bangladesh Muslim Center: 40.641312, -73.978500
Kensington Public Library: 40.631331, -73.975355
Council of People\'s Organization (COPO): 40.631232, -73.966071
Victorian Houses: 40.635222, -73.975056
Al Rahman Grocery & Halal Meat: 40.640987, -73.968948
Madina Restaurant : 40.643686, -73.969996
Golden Farm: 40.643893, -73.976859
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Bangladesh Muslim Center

While walking down the intersection of McDonald Avenue and Cortelyou Road, it is very likely you'll miss out on the Bangladeshi Muslim Center. Possessing of an austere and mundane apartment-building façade, there is little to indicate the center as a holy place of worship. Many Bangladeshi frequent the services offered by this center, which include worship hours and charity events. Predominantly servicing the Sunni denomination, the center also offers schooling on Saturdays between 10:00am and 2:00pm for children of all ages. Moreover, they have food available every Friday from Asr to Mahgrib, which are two out of the five prayer times required by their religion. Visitors are welcome to stop by to learn more about the culture and religion with permission from the Imam, and you are free to roam as long as classes aren't in session. The buildings interior offers a great opportunity to appreciate the displays of Islamic art. In recent decades, New York City's South Asian community has increased dramatically. Therefore, the population has pushed for the establishment of such places for their communities.
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Kensington Public Library

Walking south McDonald Avenue and after making a left, you'll see to your right the current building of the Kensington Public Library, which is relatively new as it was built in November 2012. Prior to the current site, this public library was housed in two other sites and has served the community for over 100 years. It started as a deposit station in 1908, thanks to the efforts of the Mother's Kindergarten Club of PS 134 and the Kensington Improvement League, and quickly expanded to a full-fledged branch on McDonald Avenue by 1912. By 1960, the need for more space led to its relocation to 410 Ditmas Avenue, in what was then known as “the Manor”, a building for various catered events. The current building is designed to be environmentally friendly by possessing a glass ceiling and large windows that take advantage of natural lighting to illuminate the atrium of the building. The building consists of three floors, two of which is above ground, that provides for different age groups. Like all public libraries in New York City, the Kensington Public Library serves the neighborhood by providing educational events and free access to books, videos, computers, and Wi-Fi. Many parents bring their toddlers here to incite a life long interest in reading and education in their kids, and kids from nearby public schools, such as P.S. K134, come to use the computers after school for entertainment or as an aid for their homework on the second floor of the library. Adults also benefit from this institution, ranging from access to important documents, such as tax forms, to free English language and technology classes. As you may see there are many interactive parts to this great place, so feel free to take a break inside its welcoming facilities.
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As you continue going south from the Kensington public library, you may find yourself outside of the Kensington area. This is alright mainly because we would like you to learn about an organization that does an incredible work helping out any immigrant, but especially the South Asian community. The Council of People's Organization (COPO) was formed in response to the dramatic impact of 9/11 on the South Asian immigrant community. After 9/11, South Asians in the US were subjected to rampant prejudice and increased scrutinization from the government. Much commentary has been offered, here and in many other countries, through the example of Muslim women. Muslim women provide a unique perspective into this issue as the wearing of the Islamic headscarf (hijab), or the more extensive burka, allows for a readily identifiable delineator from non-Muslim populations. Notice that the office on the street level isn't too spacious, but the organization's future plan is to extend their space. Feel free to go in and ask anything you'd like to know. The staff is very welcoming! Walking around there you would feel as if it was "Little Pakistan," the area, however, has since been transformed in the ensuing years after the terrorist attacks. Hundreds of Pakistani immigrants were deported due to visa irregularities, with still many more taking flight from the area altogether. An interviewee states, “Before 9/11 this place used to be full of life. You saw people in shops long after midnight. It was like Lashore and Karachi. Now it is dying.” With estimates placing around 20,000 people having left the area, the presence of an organization that could provide help to South Asian immigrants was vital.

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Victorian Houses and Ocean PKWY

As you return back to the heart of the Kensington area, you'll soon notice the constantly changing residency areas of the neighborhood. The Victorian style homes around Ditmas Avenue make for a rather scenic oasis in the urban landscape. In the 1920s and 30s, the area was populated predominantly by European immigrants like the Italians and Irish. Now, the area is home to an orthodox Jewish community along with a significant South Asian population. They are a pretty friendly bunch—a man from his door greeted us as we were passing his house! It will also be definitely worth walking down Ocean Parkway to admire the luxury housing available for anyone willing to reside in the heart of Kensington. You will enjoy walking along “America’s first greenway”. This sidewalk consisting of three lines also has room for biking. You will inevitably appreciate the tables made for people to interact during chess games, or any other table game for that matter. A few block west to this location, however, you'll see Co-op buildings. We have heard that it is very common for 2 or even 3 South Asian families to share an single apartment and/or a house. 

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Groceries and food

Another important aspect of the Bangladeshi and Pakistani community is the unmistakable scent of their foods. If you’re interested in expanding your culinary skills as well as your ability to cook multiple international dishes, there are a remarkable amount of markets that sell all the ingredients for any recipe. After doing a study of the grocery stores and supermarkets around the neighborhood, we’ve compiled some useful information for you, if this is something you’re looking into. We will point out a few places that will help you gather what you need. Along Church Avenue, you will find many markets that sell many of the South Asian goods and spices including alkanet roots, aniseed, asafetida, red pepper, black cardamom, peppercorns, black cumin, charoli, Indian bay leaf, coriander, fenugreek leaf, saffron, turmeric, and Inknut among others. Some of their names are “Al Rahman Grocery & Halal Meat” (675 Coney Island Ave.), “Progoti Grocery Inc.” (477 McDonald Ave), “Plautila Carniceria & Fresh Halal Meat (79 Church Ave.), and “Bangla Nagar Supermarket” (87 Church Ave.). Don’t be alarmed, you will also find a variety of American products inside many of these places.

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Madina Restaurant

After going into Al Rahman Grocery & Halal Meat grocery stores, it's time for you to taste what this culture is really about. Interestingly enough, it is possible to understand how most of the dishes offered in this typical Pakistani/Bangladeshi restaurant have evolved and how they can be used to understand more of their culture. Going back in time, once Bangladesh gained its independence from Pakistan in 1971, its history began to emerge as one that attempted to modernize every aspect of its culture, including its gastronomical practices. This has been a well recommended restaurant for you to enjoy. The staff is also friendly and they'd be more than glad to make sure you're satisfied with the service. They can guide you as to what the different dishes contain and whether they contain anything you may be allergic to; in other words, they have a pretty good idea of the kind of dishes they prepare! So, once again, don't be shy... ask away!

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Golden Farm

Walking along Church Avenue, the red awning of Golden Farm International Grocery will catch your eye with its offering of international goods and sundries. The large white lettering of the various nationalities comprising the store’s wares and foodstuffs provide illustration, in poignant microcosm, of New York's incredible diversity. The outside of the market speaks of grand abundance in its wide variety of apples and fruits.
The inside of the store is much like your average supermarket, albeit of the slightly more fruity smell. Step inside and you can peruse its cultural offerings to the sounds of classic 80s pop hits—Tears For Fears was playing as I was looking at the mountain of avocadoes. Interestingly enough, this market has been the subject of recent controversy concerning the payment of less than optimum wages to the store's employees, an incredibly relevant development considering Obama’s endeavor to introduce a living wage standard nationwide. Receiving great backlash, there have been reports of boycotts against the store among the Kensington community.

Below is the summary of our recommended tour. Summary Kensing. Tour

Thank you for letting us be part of your experience here in NYC! ________________________________________________________________________ For any further reference in regards to any of the topics presented above, please take advantage of the links below and/or our most relevant annotated bibliography:

“9 Places We Love in Kensington.” Brokelyn. N.p., 10 Jan. 2011. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.

10 things you may not know about ocean parkway. (2013, August 22). Retrieved from http://kensingtonbk.com/transportation/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-ocean-parkway

“A Bite of Bangladesh.” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 19 July 2007. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.  

“Bangladeshi in the New York Metro Area.” Unreachednewyork.com. All Peoples Initiative, Nov. 2009. Web. 28 Mar. 2014.

This webpage from 2009 provide great historical and demographic background information on the Bangladeshi population in New York City. Among the findings, South Asians comprise the largest proportion of cab drivers in New York City, with conservative estimates putting the figure at 38% of all yellow cab drivers, with 14% of those Bangladeshi. Bangladesh was known as East Pakistan once Pakistan was granted independence from India in the post WWII years. It as only in 1971 after much fighting that Bangladesh gained its independence. The civil war, and subsequent decade after were contributing push factors for Bangladeshi professionals and white collar workers to leave for New York. Around 95% of Bangladeshis in New York are Sunni Muslims. This page offers an insightful profile into New York’s Bangladeshi community, and as such is a valuable resource in understanding Kensington.

Bangladesh muslim center. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.salatomatic.com/d/Brooklyn 4714 Bangladesh-Muslim-Center

“Eating Along the G Line: Fort Hamilton Parkway Stop in Windsor Terrace  .” NY Daily News. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.

Gates, Moses. “All City New York: Little Bangledesh.” All City New York: Little Bangledesh. N.p., 28 Feb. 2009. Web. 01 Apr. 2014.

This blog post by Moses Gates, an urban planner and licensed tour guide, details his thoughts on the neighborhood of Kensington.  It provides background information on the ethnic groups that lived in and near Kensington, and their relative positions in the neighborhood, businesses, and buildings.  He also incorporates personal anecdotes of the area, including one that took place shortly after the 9/11 attack.

“Kensington, Brooklyn.” Kensington, Brooklyn. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2014. “Kensington Library Local History.” Brooklyn Public Library. Brooklyn Public Library, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.

This article discusses the history of the Kensignton branch of the Brooklyn Public Library ranging from its conception to its current position in the neighborhood. It describes the history of the different building that housed the branch and provides historical photos of those now closed building. It also discusses the reasons leading to the change of the buildings and the building of the current building.

Raymond, Williams. “Asian Indian and Pakistani Religions in the United States.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 558. (1998): 178-195. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.

Immigration not only has increased the diversity of the United States, but in a way, it has also created its distinct religion. This migration of other ethnic groups has also affected the country’s society and culture. The number of Asian Indians and Pakistani’s doubled between the 1980s and 1990s. As a result of their large communities in the U.S, they have strived for the construction of their religious buildings, for the importation of many of their foods as well as clothing, and many services have also been created accommodating to the needs of their specific community. All of these factors put together have allowed these populations to feel as if they were home. Their belief systems have contributed to America’s religious landscape and have also demanded “new religious adaptations to pluralism in America.

” Maruoka, Etsuko. “Wearing “Our Sword”: Post-September 11 Activism Among South Asian Muslim Women Student Organizations in New York.” JSTOR. JSTOR, 2008. Web. 28 Mar. 2014.

This 2008 article from “Social Justice” offers commentary on the difficulties faced by the Muslim community in the political climate of post 9/11 America. Muslim women provide a unique perspective on this as the wearing of the Islamic headscarf (hijab) allows for a readily identifiable delineator from non-Muslim populations. The article discusses the methodology behind the study, in which two South-Asian Muslim groups from universities located within NY talking about their experiences facing prejudice and subsequent activism. The activism centers around a celebration of Muslim culture through solidarity and workshops aimed at portraying Muslim women as normal, unoppressed individuals partaking in normal activities, with specific intention to alleviate the tension between the two world from which they belong to: Islam and America. This article offers great insight into the experience of Muslim women after 9/11, with fantastic information to supplement our tour and further the discussion towards cross-cultural understanding.

Peer, Basharat. “A Walk in Little Pakistan.” New Statesmen 18 Dec. 2006: 49. EBSCO. Web. 28 Mar. 2014.

This 2007 article from the New Statesmen offers a look into the impact of post 9/11 public policy on the area along Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn, known as “Little Pakistan.” The writer discusses how after the terrorist attack, hundreds of Pakistani immigrants were deported due to visa irregularities, with still many more taking flight from the area altogether. An interviewee states, “Before 9/11 this place used to be full of life. You saw people in shops long after midnight. It was like Lashore and Karachi. Now it is dying.” With estimates placing around 20,000 people having left the area, this article provides valuable insight into the characterization of the neighborhood, which first struck me as notably quiet and sparsely active.

Saini, A. (2013, December 2). The regional cuisine of south asia in nyc, part 1: Punjab and pakistan. Retrieved from http://newyork.seriouseats.com/2013/12/regional-cuisine-south-asia-pakistan-punjab.html

“Sending Money Overseas.” Consumer.gov. Federal Trade Commission, n.d. Web. 31 Mar.

This online guide about money transfers to foreign countries provides information on what a money transfer is, how to perform a money transfer, and techniques to practice when performing such transactions.  One use of money transfers is to send money to family in a home country which is used as an example for the techniques they provide in the guide.

UTSA, RAY. “Eating ‘Modernity: Changing dietary practices in colonial Bengal.” Modern Asian Studies. 46.3 (2012): 703-730. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.

Once Bangladesh gained its independence from Pakistan in 1971, its history began to emerge as one that attempted to modernize every aspect of its culture, including its gastronomical practices. These Bengali patriots have undergone a “colonial transformation” through the articulation of new set of prejudices, values, and culinary innovations. Although we must also consider the political and economic conditions of this newly-born nation, it is possible to understand their culture through the development of the Bengali cuisine. Throughout this volume we’ll find “new gastronomic possibilities”, but there will also be evident and unavoidable similarities with the pre-colonial times of the country. Overall it has evolved into a sophisticated yet traditional-Bengali cuisine.

Vivek, Bald. “Overlapping Diasporas, Multiracial Lives: South Asian Muslims in U.S Communities of Color, 1880-1950.” Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture & Society.. 8.4 (2006): 3-18. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.

This article reminds us of the idea that the U.S has been built thanks to constant immigration of people from all over the world, which means that no one can claim complete ownership of the American soil. Through these fifteen pages the author narrates that there were a few migration patterns specifically of Indian Muslim men—due to their employment on British merchant vessels—and their settlement near the port cities. These men soon married African American and Puerto Rican women. This led to the creation of new Diasporas, which combined the cultures of the Muslim and the colored communities of the U.S.