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Guide to the Brooklyn neighborhood associations and civic organizations publications ARC.167

Brooklyn Historical Society
128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn 11201

Brooklyn Historical Society

Collection processed by Patricia Glowinski

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on November 01, 2018
English. using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

 Revised by Maggie Schreiner to reflect the incorporation of additional material  , October 2018

Historical note

As of 2010, there were over 400 different neighborhoods within the five boroughs of New York City. The origins of New York City neighborhoods are thought to have stemmed from the original six wards that were chartered under Governor Thomas Dongan in 1686 in what is now lower Manhattan. Over the years, neighborhoods gradually became defined by several factors: the people that lived within the neighborhoods; neighborhood churches; and neighborhood businesses and their customers. As wealth grew in New York City, neighborhoods became increasingly segregated according to class and ethnicity. For example, in Manhattan, the wealthy began to move into enclaves uptown, while the working poor remained in the tenements of lower Manhattan. Further, Jewish and African American neighborhoods had historically been segregated.

In Brooklyn, several other factors helped to grow and define its neighborhoods. As Brooklyn consolidated, first into a city (1834) and then as a borough (1898), areas that were once independent villages or towns often became neighborhoods. Further, many working class and ethnic groups moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn to escape cramped living conditions or discrimination. As mass transit became more widely accessible during the late 19th to early 20th centuries, workers were able to live in Brooklyn and commute to their jobs in Manhattan.

Throughout the boroughs, as the middle and upper classes grew, property values within the middle and upper class neighborhoods rose. Rising property values often led to gentrification, discrepancies in public services amongst the neighborhoods, and the displacement of long-time residents. As some neighborhoods thrived, others declined. With the rise of the historic preservation movement, such as the Municipal Art Society's work in the 1950s and 1960s to preserve historic structures and neighborhoods throughout New York City, many new neighborhood associations and civic organizations drew inspiration from the movement and modeled their community organizing after it. For example, the Brooklyn Heights Association, the oldest ongoing neighborhood association in New York City (since 1910), succeeded in making Brooklyn Heights the first Historic District in New York City in 1965. From the 1960s onward, neighborhood associations and civic organizations have greatly influenced city policies and have played an important role in the preservation, restoration, and development of neighborhoods.


  1. Scherzer, Kenneth A. "Neighborhoods." In The Encyclopedia of New York City, edited by Kenneth T. Jackson, 886-887. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press; New York: New-York Historical Society, 2010.
  2. Pearson, Marjorie. "Historic preservation." In The Encyclopedia of New York City, edited by Kenneth T. Jackson, 599-601. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press; New York: New-York Historical Society, 2010.
  3. Brooklyn Heights Association. "BHA History." Accessed January 24, 2011.