The current neighborhood of Carnarsie lies within the former town of Flatlands, one of the five original Dutch towns on Long Island.
Canarsie was built on swamps near Jamaica Bay. It was a fishing village through the 1800s, until pollution contaminated the oysters. In the 1920s, Southern Italian immigrants along with Jews settled in the area, although the Jewish population in Canarsie in recent years has been steadily shrinking. Ferry service at Canarsie Pier withered away after the building of the Marine Parkway–Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge.
"By way of Canarsie" was a mid-twentieth century American Englishfigure of speech meaning "to come to one's destination by a roundabout way or from a distant point." It presumably arose when the Wilson Avenue Line was a principal route to Canarsie Landing. The expression has dropped from modern common parlance.
Murphy's carousel was created in 1912 by the Stein and Goldstein Artistic Carousell Co. of Brooklyn, New York and installed in Golden City Park in Canarsie, on the Brooklyn waterfront, where it operated for 20 years. The New York Times notes: "The horses were carved in Coney Island style, which eschewed the look of docile ponies and prancing fillies and produced much more muscular, ferocious creatures with bared teeth and heads often lifted in motion."
During the 1990s, much of Canarsie's white population left for Staten Island, Long Island, and Queens, part of a national phenomenon referred to as "white flight" from the inner city to the suburbs. Today, Canarsie's population is mostly black due to significant West Indian immigration in the area. East Brooklyn Community High School now serves the transfer student population. Nearly 91% of Canarsie's population is black, made up of Afro-Caribbean and African American people. People of Native American, Hispanic, or White descent make up 2% each. Another 3% is made of mixed race or other.
At the western end are mostly commercial warehouses and buildings. Canarsie has many one- and two-family homes, although there are two large public housing developments; NYCHA's "Breukelen" houses, and "Bayview" houses, and a number of small apartment buildings scattered throughout the neighborhood.
The neighborhood has many parks, including a large one (over 100 acres (40 ha)) commonly referred to as Seaview Park, but officially named Canarsie Beach Park, which expanded to the southwest in 2007.
Canarsie is home to three high-school campuses, Canarsie Educational Campus, South Shore Educational Campus, and the newer East Brooklyn Community High School, as well as several junior high schools and elementary schools. In late fall 2006, MayorBloomberg announced that five troubled high schools would close by 2010: Two were Canarsie's South Shore and Canarsie High School. According to a New York City Department of Education spokesperson, the closings were attributed to "dismal graduation rates, consistent low test scores, a poor history of educating, low performing students, and lackluster demand."
The Canarsie Courier, published every Thursday, is the oldest weekly publication in Brooklyn and is still in publication. It was founded by Walter S. Patrick on April 22, 1921. The Courier was then purchased by brothers Bob and Joe Samitz in 1959. After the passing of Joe Samitz, Mary (Mae) Samitz became co-publisher of the paper with her husband Bob and then became the sole publisher after he died. After his death in 1998, the Samitz family sold the paper to Donna Marra and Sandra Greco. Mrs. Marra became the sole publisher in 2010. The newspaper's estimated circulation is fewer than 5,000, including paid, mailed subscriptions and subscribers to their Web site, as well as newsstand and over-the-counter sales. In addition to Canarsie, the Courier is distributed in various communities in southeast Brooklyn, such as Georgetown, East New York, Mill Basin, Bergen Beach, and Spring Creek, among others.
While the Courier focuses on local community news, it also offers readers a variety of features for the discriminating reader, plus local sports, culture news, guest columns, and opinion columns by in-house editors.
^"They Drew A Line". New York Times. March 31, 1985. Retrieved 2013-03-28. Canarsie expanded during the 1950's and became a quasi-suburban homeowner community. Since then, however, more and more of the newcomers have been escaping older Brooklyn areas as they turned into black slums
^Barbanel, Josh. "Preparing for Bonus Season", The New York Times, December 10, 2006. Accessed October 10, 2007. "Mr. Sliwa grew up in Canarsie, Brooklyn, and talks about also having lived in Brownsville and near Fordham Road in the South Bronx (though he lived most recently in a rental apartment in Kips Bay)."