Ah, the view.
From atop a hill in Sunset Park, there are marvelous vista of the harbor, the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and the Manhattan skyline — and the setting sun.
This is the park, built in the 1890s, that gave its name to its surrounding neighborhood on Gowanus Bay in the west of Brooklyn, originally home to indigenous Indians who farmed the area before the Europeans came in the 1600s. Then the Dutch found the fertile soil and the waterways to their liking, acquired the land from the Canarsies and began farming along the waterfront.
It became more of an urban community after Brooklyn was made a city in 1834 and developed further with the building of horse car lines and factories in the area.
The neighborhood grew dramatically after Irving T. Bush bought oceanfront property and built Bush Terminal in 1895, a complex of piers, warehouses and factory lofts that created Brooklyn as a major port for shipping and made Sunset Park into a busy waterfront area. Later, the Brooklyn Army Terminal was constructed (1919) as a military ocean supply depot that operated through World War II.
But the building of the Gowanus Expressway, completed in 1941, virtually cut the neighborhood off from the waterfront and workers began leaving, changing the nature of Sunset Park once again.
Indeed, Sunset Park is a prime example of how Brooklyn neighborhoods change ethnically as well as geographically. It was settled by the Irish escaping the potato famine at home around 1845. Then Scandinavians settled in sections that became known as Finntown and Little Norway. Hispanics came to the neighborhood too. And now it is primarily known as the home of Brooklyn’s Chinatown.
The neighborhood has Greenwood Heights to its north, Borough Park on the east, Bay Ridge to the south, and the Upper New York Bay to the west.
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.