East New York

From the (1939) WPA Guide to New York City:
East New York and New Lots, lying between Jamaica Avenue and Jamaica Bay, west of Junius Street, are less congested than neighboring Brownsville, but otherwise indistinguishable from it in appearance and social composition.

The development of East New York began in 1835 through the enterprise of John R. Pitkin, a wealthy Connecticut merchant who visualized it as a great city rivaling New York. The panic of 1837 smashed his hopes. After 1853 a modest development began. Today the residents of this section are chiefly Italians, Jews, Germans, and Russians who moved in from Brownsville, Bushwick, and other near-by crowded localities. Many of the Slavic families continue to burn candles before icons, and observe religious fetes according to the old calendar. They maintain a small school at 189 Pennsylvania Avenue for instruction in the Russian language and a community house at 120 Glenmore Avenue.

The Site of Howard's Half Way House, northwest corner of Atlantic and Alabama Avenues, recalls a famous incident of the Revolutionary War in which the proprietor of the inn, an American sympathizer, was coerced by General Howe's forces to guide them to the hill overlooking the unguarded Jamaica Pass just west of what is now the intersection of Fulton Street and Broadway. The occupation of the hill made possible the flanking maneuver that decided the Battle of Long Island in favor of the British. The Half Way House was torn down by the Long Island Railroad in 1902 to make way for its elevated tracks.

Highland Park, Jamaica Avenue from Warwick Street to Force Tube Avenue, commands a remarkable view of East New York, Jamaica Bay and mid-town Manhattan. On lower ground, facing Jamaica Avenue, are tennis courts, baseball herds, and other playgrounds. Part of this 141-acre park, including Ridgewood Reservoir at its crest, is in Queens County.

Schenck House, Jamaica Avenue and Ashford Street (in Highland Park), a stone, Dutch dwelling, was built in 1705 by Johannes Schenck, whose descendants occupied it until 1906. It was then acquired by the city for the use of the park department.

The New Lots Reformed Church, New Lots and Schenck Avenues, erected in 1823, represents the handiwork of the Dutch farmers of New Lots, who decided to build their own church because the trip to the Flatbush Reformed Church (see page 493) was too long and difficult. They hewed, hauled, cut, and planed the lumber, and erected the framework. The structure is the meeting house type with a pitch roof, steeple, and tall, pointed stained-glass windows. In the graveyard are buried members of the old families.

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