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East Flatbush is a dynamic neighborhood that was once considered an amalgam of several smaller neighborhoods.

The western section of today’s East Flatbush was originally part of the Dutch town of Flatbush, while parts of the eastern side stood within the town of Flatlands. Much of the land was used for farming before the late 1890s. 

The development of East Flatbush into residential neighborhoods began around the turn of the 20th century after Henry Meyer’s Germania Land Company purchased 65 acres of farmland in anticipation of a promised subway extension. 

The neighborhood may have been known to hold Remsen Village, Rugby Wingate and Farragut, but the neighborhood of Erasmus is the only that remains a recognizable entity within East Flatbush. The area around Erasmus Hall High School for example, informally defined Erasmus from the time the school was founded in 1786 until it became a part of East Flatbush in the late 1970s when residents strove to improve their community.

From the 1960s to the 1980s, a shift in population from Italian-Americans and Jewish to Caribbean and Caribbean-American led to the development of several neighborhood associations that worked to foil real-estate agents’ blockbusting.

The groups also encouraged cooperation between the new and the old residents, one group touting the slogan, “United we can see it through; united there is nothing we can’t do.”

How East Flatbush Got Its Name

The neighborhood is an amalgam of smaller neighborhoods lying south of East New York Ave. between Kings Highway and Nostrand Ave. and, of course, east of Flatbush, a word that comes from the Dutch vlacke bos, meaning “flat woodland” or “wooded plain.”

It was formerly known as Rugby and was primarily developed in the 1920s, populated largely by the overflow from neighboring localities.

It encompasses Rugby (named by developers in the 1890s); Remsen Village (which took its name from the avenue, which in turn was named for the family of Joris Remsen, an early settler and landowner); Wingate (originally called Pig Town after the many small animal farms there, but later named for Gen. George Wingate, founder of the National Rifle Association); Farragut (named for Adm. David G. Farragut, an American naval hero of the Mexican War and the Civil War); and Erasmus, in the west of the neighborhood.

The western section of East Flatbush — bordered by Bedford Ave. — was part of the original Dutch town of Flatbush. Parts of the eastern section — delimited by Rockaway Parkway — were within the original Dutch town of Flatlands.

The area was primarily farmland until the 20th century, when developers bought 65 acres in 1892, expecting a promised subway extension. The IRT subway line wasn’t extended along Nostrand Ave. until 1912, when the area grew quickly as a residential neighborhood.

Norm Goldstein

Brooklyn-born Norm Goldstein is retired, after working 44 years for the Associated Press, the global news agency, where he served as a reporter, feature writer, editor, author and administrator. He also worked for AP as director of Educational Services and editor of the AP Stylebook. He graduated from Brooklyn College and the Penn State Graduate School of Journalism. He currently lives in Brooklyn Heights.