Sometimes erroneously thought to include all or parts of Bath Beach, Dyker Heights or to be defined by the streets where the ethnicity of Italian residents is most prominent, Bensonhurst actually has a clearly defined border, with Gravesend to the southeast, Midwood to the east, Borough Park to the north, Dyker Heights to the west and Bath Beach to the southwest. Starting at the neighborhood's southern tip at the corner of Stillwell Avenue and 86th Street, the border runs north along Stillwell Avenue to Kings Highway, east to McDonald Avenue, north to 60th Street, northwest to 13th Avenue, south to 86th Street and southeast back to Stillwell Avenue.
Bensonhurst is served by two branches of the New York City Subway system: the D elevated subway line, also called the BMT West End Line, at 62nd Street, 71st Street, 79th Street, 18th Avenue, 20th Avenue, Bay Parkway, and 25th Avenue stations, and the N open-cut line (also called the BMT Sea Beach Line), at New Utrecht Avenue, 18th Avenue, 20th Avenue, Bay Parkway and Kings Highway stations. The D/M elevated and the N open-cut lines have a free transfer in the neighborhood at the D/M station at 62nd Street and the N station at New Utrecht Avenue. Bensonhurst is served by the NYPD's 62nd Precinct.
Bensonhurst derives its name from Arthur W. Benson, the former president of Brooklyn Gas, who in 1835 began buying farmland that formerly belonged to the Polhemus family. Between 1835 and 1850 Benson divided the farmland into generous lots that were sold in the following decades as part of the newly created suburb of Bensonhurst-by-the-Sea (current day Bath Beach section), which was annexed into the 30th Ward of Brooklyn in the 1890s.
In the early 1900s, many Jews and Italians moved into the neighborhood, and prior to World War II the neighborhood was about equally Jewish and Italian. In the 1950s, there was an influx of immigrants from southern Italy and most of the Jewish population left the neighborhood, leaving the area predominantly Italian. In the 1990s, there was an influx of Chinese and immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Chinese-American residents and Chinese immigrants have opened many restaurants and shops along 18th Avenue, Bay Parkway and 86th Street. The population from the former Soviet Union (refugee Jews) dissipated in recent years. Despite increasing diversity, Bensonhurst is heavily Italian-American, as its Italian-speaking community remains over 20,000 strong, according to the census of 2000. However, the Italian-speaking community is becoming "increasingly elderly and isolated, with the small, tight-knit enclaves they built around the city slowly disappearing as they give way to demographic changes."  Its main thoroughfare, 18th Avenue (also known as Cristoforo Colombo Boulevard) is lined between roughly 60th Street and Shore Parkway with predominantly small, Italian family-owned businesses, many of which have remained in the same family for several generations. Another popular local thoroughfare is 86th Street, lined by the arches that support the elevated BMT West End subway line. The 18th Avenue station was popularized in opening credits of Welcome Back, Kotter.
Murder of Yusuf Hawkins
On August 23, 1989, a 16-year-old African-American named Yusuf Hawkins was shot and killed in Bensonhurst, after he and three friends were attacked by a group of mostly Italian-American youths. At least four neighborhood residents were tried and convicted of charges related to the assault and murder.
In connection with the Hawkins murder, several trials ensued that were prosecuted by a team of veteran homicide prosecutors, including James Kohler, Edward Boyar, Paul Burns, Steven Schwartz and Douglas Nadjari. Reverend Al Sharpton led several protest marches through the streets of Bensonhurst. On January 12, 1991, before one such march, neighborhood resident Michael Riccardi tried to kill Sharpton by stabbing him in the chest. Riccardi later remorsefully said he "thought the act would make me a hero in my community." Sharpton recovered from his wounds and later asked the judge for leniency when Riccardi was sentenced. The two subsequently reconciled.
Brooklyn's "Little Italy"
Bensonhurst was stereotyped as a haven for Mafia members (Gus Farace, a reputed mob associate suspected of murdering a federal drug-enforcement agent, was found shot to death in a parked car there on November 17, 1989, and two years later the neighborhood provided the setting for the mob-themed film Out for Justice starring Steven Seagal), many of whom are believed to maintain residences in Dyker Heights, a nearby neighborhood.
On April 13, 1986, while approaching his car after leaving a meeting at the Veterans & Friends Social Club on 86th St. in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, Frank DeCicco was killed by a car bomb explosion. Lucchese crime family soldier Frank "Frankie Hearts" Bellino, who was with DeCicco, lost several toes. However, the intended target, John Gotti, was not there. Turncoats and informants would later reveal that the order for the hit came from Genovese crime family boss Vincent Gigante, who neither liked Gotti nor approved of him killing Castellano without approval from the Commission, and they conspired in his murder with Lucchese crime family leaders Vittorio "Vic" Amuso and Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso.
Currently the neighborhood is undergoing a transformation; many of the original houses that date back over 90 years ago are being torn down and replaced by three-story brick apartment buildings and multi-family condominiums, sometimes referred to as "Fedders Houses" for their distinctive air conditioner sleeves.
Visitors from throughout the New York City metropolitan area flock to the neighborhood each year in late August or early September to take part in the colorful Festa di Santa Rosalia (commonly known simply as The Feast to locals), held on 18th Avenue from Bay Ridge Parkway (75th Street) to 66th Street. "The Feast" is presented by Bensonhurst resident and skilled self-promoter Franco Corrado, as well as the Santa Rosalia Society on 18th Avenue. Born in Rome, Italy, in 1955, Corrado has been an active social member of the Italian-American community for the past 20 years. St. Rosalia is the patron saint of the city of Palermo and is sometimes venerated as the patron for the entire island of Sicily. (A sizable portion of Bensonhurst's Italian-American residents are of Sicilian heritage.). The annual end-of-summer celebration attracts thousands.
Immediately after Italy's victory at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, a large portion of Bensonhurst's Italian-American community as well as several thousand participants from all over the tri-state area participated in a large victory celebration. Several local cafés and businesses paid for a city permit to close 18th Avenue to commercial traffic. It was held on the same route as the St. Rosalia Feast but stretched from 65th street to nearly 80th Street. The celebration lasted from as soon as the Italian team won until about 7:00 p.m., when the permit ran out.
Colleges and Universities
Zoned schools include:
- P.S. 48 The Mapleton School
- P.S. 186 Dr. Irving A. Gladstone School
- P.S. 128 Bensonhurst School
- I.S. 281 Joseph B. Cavallaro
- I.S. 227 Edward B. Shallow
High schools include:
References in popular culture
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- Bensonhurst is the neighborhood discussed in Shelby Steele's 1990 documentary "Seven Days in Bensonhurst", about the racially motivated murder of Yusef Hawkins in 1989.
- Bensonhurst is mentioned in the movie 25th Hour during a rant by Edward Norton.
- Bensonhurst was the setting for The Honeymooners series, featuring actor/comedian Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden, a bus driver in Brooklyn during the 1950s, but the Kramden's address (given alternately as 328 Chauncey Street and 728 Chauncey Street) is actually in the Ocean Hill corner of Bedford-Stuyvesant near Bushwick and was Jackie Gleason's childhood address.
- Bensonhurst is the neighborhood where Torpedoman Lester Gruber (Carl Ballantine), from the 1960s television series, McHale's Navy, grew up.
- The character Captain Donald Cragen (played by Dann Florek) in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit lives in Bensonhurst.
- The third episode of the 18th season (1992) of Saturday Night Live had a sketch called The Bensonhurst Dating Game, making social commentary on race relations in the neighborhood at the time. Adam Sandler and Dana Carvey play two immature Italian-American contestants who are unable to woo Julia Sweeney, oblivious to the contestants' ethnicities, from the wiles of the third contestant, Chris Rock. At the end the host, played by Joe Pesci, announces the name and address of the restaurant the lucky couple will be attending.
- The television series Welcome Back Kotter was set in Bensonhurst. The high school outside shot is of New Utrecht High School, even though in the show it is called Buchanan.
- Saturday Night Fever was filmed in Bensonhurst's Philips Dance Studio, on West 7th Street off Bay Parkway.
- The chase scene in The French Connection rolls through Bensonhurst, on 86th Street and along New Utrecht Avenue.
- Bensonhurst is one of the settings for the 1991 movie Jungle Fever.
- Mirabelli's Famous Cream Soda had its roots in Bensonhurst.
- The Sbarro salumeria opened in 1956 on 1705 65th St., corner of 17th Ave. The store has since closed and converted to other uses.
- "Bensonhurst Blues" is written by Artie Kaplan and Artie Kornfeld, two guys from Bensonhurst.
- It is the location for the film Spike of Bensonhurst.
- On the daytime soap opera General Hospital, the characters Sonny Corinthos, Lois Cerullo, Brook Lynn Ashton, Kate Howard, Olivia Falconeri, Dante Falconeri, and Ronnie Dimestico are all said to have grown up in Bensonhurst. The long-running Kate/Sonny/Olivia love triangle all goes back to their days in Bensonhurst.
- The title track of Black 47's album Green Suede Shoes features the lyric, "I just got a message from a brother of Maria/Come on out to Bensonhurst, we all want a piece of ya."
- In the cult classic movie The Warriors both the Jones Street Boys and The Saracens hail from Bensonhurst.
- In the film Do the Right Thing, Sal and his two sons, Vito and Pino, live in Bensonhurst.
- The title character in the film The Adventures of Ford Fairlane is from Bensonhurst.
- Bensonhurst is mentioned in the short story Only the Dead Know Brooklyn by Thomas Wolfe, which appeared in the New Yorker in June 1935.
- Episode 206 of the television series Wonder Showzen contains a segment titled "Bensonhurst- Whassmatta You?" in which the puppet Clarence interacts with strangers using stereotyped Bensonhurst lingo.
Notable natives and residents
- Alexander Zhang
- Paul Malignaggi, professional boxer
- Steve Augeri, musician
- Rich Aurilia, baseball player San Francisco Giants
- Scott Baio, actor (sitcoms Happy Days, Joanie Loves Chachi, Charles in Charge) and conservative commentator
- Abe Burrows, playwright, writer of Guys and Dolls and Can-Can
- Kerry Butler, actress
- Victor Calderone, club music dj and producer
- Vincent D'Onofrio, actor Law & Order: Criminal Intent
- Vic Damone, singer
- Millie Deegan (1919–2002), professional baseball player in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
- Joey Fatone, singer (member of boy band 'N Sync)
- Jerry Ferrara, actor Entourage
- Daniel Franzese, actor (film Mean Girls)
- Harvey Fierstein, actor, playwright and screenwriter
- John Franco, baseball player New York Mets
- Daniel Glass, music producer
- Gary David Goldberg, television producer
- Elliott Gould, actor
- Philip Habib, diplomat
- Barbra Streisand, singer, actress
- Buddy Hackett, comedian
- Kenny Hickey, Johnny Kelly, and Peter Steele (rock band Type O negative)
- Richard Jeni, comedian
- Curly Howard, of the Three Stooges
- Moe Howard, of the Three Stooges
- Shemp Howard, of the Three Stooges
- Gabe Kaplan, actor, comedian, and professional poker player
- Artie Kaplan, Dean of New York studio musicians
- Larry King, talk show host
- Artie Kornfeld, Songwriter, Music Producer, Creator of Woodstock Music & Arts Festival 1969
- Sandy Koufax, baseball player, Los Angeles Dodgers
- Adam Lazzara, lead singer of local band "Taking Back Sunday"
- Jesse Liberty, author and gay activist
- Tony Mamaluke, former ECW star
- Robert Merrill, operatic baritone
- Rhea Perlman, actress
- Iggy Pop, musician
- Leah Remini, actress
- Carl Sagan, astronomer/teacher/author
- Steve Schirripa, actor in HBO's The Sopranos
- Tony Sirico, actor in HBO's The Sopranos
- Ralph Snyderman,physician, scientist, administrator
- Ray Suarez, news correspondent
- Anthony J. Terlato, Winemaker, Horatio Alger Award Winner, "Father of Pinot Grigio" in the U.S.
- Frank Abbandando
- Carlo Gambino
- John Gotti
- Sammy "The Bull" Gravano
- Mikey DiLeonardo
- Vito Genovese
- Tommy Lucchese
- Benjamin "Bugsy" Seigel
- ↑ 62nd Precinct, NYPD.
- ↑ Brooklyn's Large Estates: What Has Become of the Old Farm Lands of the City of Brooklyn?, accessed July 31, 2006
- ↑ Santos, Fernanda (January 6, 2009). "For Italians in Brooklyn, Voices on Streets Have Changed". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/07/nyregion/07italians.html. Retrieved August 22, 2009.
- ↑ Lubasch, Arnold H. (October 13, 1990). "Bensonhurst Defendant Faults Mistrial". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1990/10/13/nyregion/bensonhurst-defendant-faults-mistrial.html. Retrieved August 22, 2009.
- ↑ "School & Zone Finder." New York City Department of Education.
- ↑ Martin, Douglas (July 28, 2002). "Millie Deegan, 82, Pioneer In Women's Baseball League". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/28/sports/millie-deegan-82-pioneer-in-women-s-baseball-league.html. Retrieved September 22, 2009. "Mildred Eleanor Deegan was born on Dec. 11, 1919, in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bensonhurst.... She excelled in track and field at Lincoln High School, and after graduation played amateur softball with a team called the Americanettes."
- A History of Bensonhurst - A History of the Neighborhood
- Brooklyn's Ethnic Neighborhoods - An ethnic picture of New York