Midwood is a neighborhood in the south-central part of the New York City borough of Brooklyn. It is within Community District 14; is patrolled by the 61st, 66th, and 70th precincts of the New York City Police Department; and is served by the New York City Fire Department at a station on East 14th Street housing Engine 276, Ladder 156 and Battalion Chief 33.
It is bounded on the north by the Bay Ridge Branch tracks just above Avenue I and Brooklyn College campus of the City University of New York, and on the south by Avenue P and Kings Highway. The eastern border is Nostrand Avenue, Flatbush Avenue, or Coney Island Avenue; with McDonald Avenue or Ocean Parkway as the western boundary.
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The name, Midwood, derives from the Middle Dutch word, Midwout (middle woods; Modern Dutch: Midwoud), the name the settlers of New Netherland called the area of dense woodland midway between the towns of Boswyck (Bushwick) and Breuckelen (Brooklyn). Jan Snedeker, Jan Stryker, and Tomys Swartwout solicited from Director-General Stuyvesant the right of settling together on a level area of wilderness (vlacke bosch, the flat bush), adjacent to the outlying farms at Breukelen and Nieuw Amersfoort. Through Swartwout's suggestion, the settlement was named the village of Midwout or Midwolde. In April 1655, Stuyvesant and the Council of New Netherland appointed Swartwout a schepen (magistrate), to serve with Snedeker and Adriaen Hegeman as the Court of Midwout.
Settlement was begun by the Dutch in 1652; they later gave way to the English, who conquered it in 1664, but the area remained rural and undeveloped for the most part until its annexation to the City of Brooklyn in the 1890s. It became more developed in the 1920s when large middle class housing tracts and apartment buildings were built.
Many Midwood residents moved to the suburbs in the 1970s, and the neighborhood and its commercial districts declined. Drawn by its quiet middle-class ambiance, new residents began pouring into Midwood during the 1980s; many of them were recently landed immigrants from all over the world. The largest group were from the Soviet Union, but substantial numbers also arrived from Jamaica, Haiti, Mexico, Guyana, and elsewhere in South America; from Ireland, Italy, Poland, the Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania), and elsewhere in eastern Europe; and from Greece, Turkey, Israel, Syria, the Persian Gulf states, Iran, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, China, and Korea. In a short time, Midwood was transformed, from a predominantly Jewish neighborhood with a smattering of Irish-Americans and German-Americans, to a remarkably polyglot section of the borough of Brooklyn.
Many residents refer to Midwood as "Flatbush," or, erroneously, as being "part of Flatbush", an older and more established neighborhood and former township, which in the 19th century included modern Midwood. The usage of Flatbush to mean Midwood dates to the period when the neighborhood was first formed, and known as South Greenfield. This usage is especially common among Orthodox Jews.
Many also consider the nearby neighborhood of Fiske Terrace/Midwood Gardens to be part of Midwood, but, as in many cities, neighborhood boundaries in Brooklyn are somewhat fluid and poorly defined.
In the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, Kings Highway had Dubrow's Cafeteria, a classic cafeteria where holes would be punched in patrons' printed tickets, which would total the cost of the meal. It was a popular place to eat and socialize. In his run for the White House, Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy held a massive campaign rally just outside Dubrow's Cafeteria. A huge crowd of people turned out to hear this popular political icon speak, stretching for blocks in all directions. Years later, his brother Senator Robert F. Kennedy ("Bobby") held a similar campaign rally there for his run for President, with a similarly large audience. The community has long been known as a Democratic stronghold.
Additionally, "Levine's" was the king of the bar mitzvah suit trade, and "Jimmy's" catered to high fashion customers.
Kings Highway was home to the now famed Crazy Eddie Electronics Empire. The first Original Crazy Eddie store was located on Kings Hwy., then moved to larger quarters just south of Kings Highway on Coney Island Avenue.
A branch of the Brooklyn Public Library can be found on the east side of Ocean Avenue just south of Kings Highway.
There were three movie theaters on Kings Highway, the "Kingsway", the Jewel and the "Avalon" (which closed in 1982). Visitors to Kings Highway are amused by the colored holiday-style lights that are strung across above the street and feature a lighted gold "Kings Crown" at a few intersections.
In the fall of 2008, the NYCDOT planned to implement an experimental congestion parking plan in the Kings Highway Business District, which would have raised parking meter rates from 75 cents to as much as $2.50 an hour. Specific streets were not then designated.
Kings Highway is currently anchored by several chain stores, such as Rite-Aid, Petland Discount, and TJ Maxx, and multiple ethnic food stores. Unique businesses include the ornate Amazon Caffe (kosher dairy), Kings Games (the largest gaming center in New York City), several high fashion outlets, jewelry stores, and sushi restaurants.
In the 1960s and the early 1970s, Nostrand Avenue between Avenues M and N was considered one of New York's best streets for shopping by New York magazine. The street was known for fashionable boutiques such as "Edna Nelkin's Jewelry," America's finest children's wear boutique, "Greenstone's" (now located on both Columbus and Madison Avenues in Manhattan), "Burton's", "Shirtland", and "The Shoe Box". As retailers retired, the street changed and became known for its automobile showrooms, including Plaza Honda. A U.S. Postal Service Facility (Zip Code 11210) can be found on Nostrand Ave. between Avenues I and J.
Avenue M, the heart of Midwood, is the central location for kosher food and butchers. While in the past it was home to Cookie's, one of Brooklyn's best known restaurants and hang-outs (also popular with the NBC studio staff), today there are no fewer than 9 kosher restaurants and 3 kosher bakeries. From the 1920s through the 1940s, the "Dorman Square Restaurant" was popular with the Vitagraph studios employees, as well as playing a role in a Vitagraph film or two. One of Brooklyn's most legendary Italian restaurants, "Restaurant Bonaparte", also catered to the actors and actresses working on Avenue M in the NBC studios at that time. Restaurant Bonaparte was known for its "Three Musketeers". It also had a wishing well fountain in its lobby entrance, filled with customers' coins. The Avenue has an elevated subway station. Until the 1970s, Avenue M had its own movie theater, The Century "Elm" (later an Emigrant Savings Bank branch, now a branch of Apple Bank for Savings). Near the end of June each year, the Midwood Development Corporation hosts the popular Midwood Mardi Gras Street Fair along The Avenue, from East 12th St. to Ocean Avenue. Shoppers can find a municipal muni-meter parking lot on East 17th Street at Chestnut Ave. just north of Avenue M. Many of the retail businesses are closed on the Jewish Sabbath and Higher Holy Days. Notable exceptions are 7–11, Pete's Pizza, Dunkin' Donuts, Chock Full O' Nuts, as well as some other non-Jewish-owned establishments like Chinese restaurants, Russian bakeries, grocers, fruit markets and newsstands.
Avenue J is a low-key commercial strip, with many kosher restaurants, deli, pizzerias, and butchers. Di Fara Pizza (at E. 15th St.) was cited by the 2008 Zagat Survey as "The Best Pizza in NYC." At $5.00 for a regular slice, DiFara's Pizza is the only non-kosher pizzeria on Ave J, likely only thriving due to its high-quality pizza, and there is usually a waiting line outside to get in. Others specialize more narrowly, such as one bakery concentrating on Russian bread. Ostrovitsky's Bakery sells gourmet cookies and cakes. A number of large fruit grocers such as Fruit Palace and Blue Ribbon offer high quality produce at competitive prices. A large selection of exotic dried fruits and nuts can be found at "Oh Nuts!" There was also once a Cookie's restaurant on the corner of East 16th St. and Ave. J. A branch of the Brooklyn Public Library can be found on East 16th. St. just north of Avenue J. The avenue had its own movie theater simply named the "Midwood" Theater (closed in the early 1980s). But Avenue J can also be hectic during weekdays, with much foot and vehicle traffic, and finding a parking spot is a big problem. Many of the retail businesses are closed on the Jewish Sabbath and Higher Holy Days. Notable exceptions are Walgreens, Associated Supermarkets, and grocers and newsstands serving the Muslim community.
On Coney Island Avenue in Midwood, primarily between Avenue H and Avenue P, are the U.S. Postal Service Midwood station (Zip Code 11230), The "Kent Triplex Movie Theater", and other assorted retailers.
Near Avenue L what was believed to be the largest all-kosher supermarket in the United States, Pomegranate, opened in August 2008.
Parks consist of Kolbert Park and the Rachel Haber Cohen Playground and adjacent handball and basketball courts, near Edward R. Murrow High School, and the track and playing fields of Brooklyn College and Midwood High School. Local Yeshiva boys often play basketball during lunch breaks at Kolbert Park. Kolbert is also very popular with many Russian male Seniors who can be seen heavily engaged in daily board games such as Chess. Long-time and past residents alike still refer to Kolbert Park as simply "Avenue L Park." Another park is "Friends Field" at East Second Street and Avenue L. The park is popular with baseball-playing Yeshiva boys on Friday afternoons. "Friends Field" features Baseball Diamonds and Tennis Courts. Just opposite Friends Field along McDonald Avenue is the Erasmus Hall High School Football Field (Closed to the public when not in use). The Sprawling Square block-long Midwood High School Field (East 16th–17th Street at Avenues K-L) features handball courts, tennis courts, a runners track and a field used for football, rugby and soccer. It is quite visible to passengers on the adjacent BMT Subway line. NYPD-FDNY Charity Sporting Games, as well as NY-based Daytime TV "Soap Opera" Cast Baseball Games are often held there- (The studios used for CBS TV's "As The World Turns" is nearby). Annual NYC Public School JV Varsity Football Championship and Playoff Games are held there as well. Students from adjacent Edward R. Murrow High School also use the field during school hours. For historical purposes, in 1977, Current Borough President Marty Markowitz ("Mr. Brooklyn"), (then known as State Senator Markowitz), and other pols began the Annual "Midwood Field Concerts" Series at the Midwood High School Field. The concert series was later moved to its present home at Asser Levy Park (along Sea Breeze Avenue) in Brighton Beach (opposite the NY Aquarium), and is these days is known as the "Seaside Summer Concert Series" (held Thursday evening's July and August of each year).
There are two popular public pedestrian "rest" spots within the community. The first is 'Corporal Wiltshire Square', named in Honor of Corporal Clifford T. Wiltshire, located at the intersection of Ocean Avenue where it merges with Avenue P and Kings Highway. The other is 'Sgt. Joyce Kilmer Triangle', located at the crossroads of Kings Highway and Quentin Road (E. 12th–13th Streets), so named in honor of American journalist and poet Sgt. Joyce Kilmer (1866–1918). Kilmer is a second cousin of American Actor Val Kilmer.
Midwood is a diverse multi-ethnic and multi-religious neighborhood; however, the neighborhood is predominately Jewish.
In the 1980s and 1990s, a wave of Orthodox Jews moved into the area from Borough Park, attracted by Midwood's large homes and tree-lined streets. Today, in addition to European Orthodox Jews, the area is home to a burgeoning Sephardic population. Along Kings Highway from Coney Island to McDonald Avenues are many Middle Eastern restaurants and take-out food shops.
The East Midwood Jewish Center, a Conservative synagogue, was founded in 1924. The building, located on Ocean Avenue, is a 1929 Renaissance revival structure with a capacity of 950 in the main sanctuary. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006. The Kingsway Jewish Center is an historic synagogue from the 1950s on Nostrand Avenue. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010.
There are several branches of Touro College there, a college that was started in 1970. Midwood is also home to several large orthodox synagogues, including the Young Israel of Midwood, Agudas Yisroel Bais Binyomin of Avenue L, Congregation Talmud Torah of Flatbush, the minyan factory known as Landau's Shul (offering minyanim every 15 minutes on an average day), Rabbi Avraham Schorr's former Synagogue, known as Khal Tiferes Yaakov on East 15th Street and Avenue L, The Bostoner Rebbe on Avenue J, Steinwurtzels, The Young Israel of Avenue J, The Agudah of Midwood, and several Syrian Orthodox synagogues. Synagogues based out of homes, called Shtiebelach, are also common.
On November 12, 2011, four cars were torched, and many Ku Klux Klan icons, swastikas, and other hate symbols were spray-painted on benches and other items. The following day, state Assemblyman Dov Hikind and state Sen. Eric Adams joined a protest march the against the hate crime.
St. Brendan's Parish and Our Lady Help of Christians are two Roman Catholic Church congregations located in Midwood. The Church of the Three Hierarchs Greek Orthodox serves the Greek residents of the community. The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany also serves the community.
East of Ocean Avenue, the community is also known as "East Midwood" or "Nottingham". The volunteer ambulance service serving Midwood is Flatbush Hatzoloh. The nearest hospitals are New York Presbyterian Community Hospital and Mount Sinai, both on Kings Highway. Both are certified "9-1-1 FDNY-EMS" receiving emergency facilities. Currently many homes within the community are valued at more than 500 thousand dollars, with some over a million dollars. One of Brooklyn's last remaining farms was located on the site of the apartment complex at 1279 East 17th St. (just north of Ave. M) until it was torn down in the mid-1960s. The elm tree is the community's official tree, and one local street is named Elm Avenue as a homage to that.
MTA New York City Transit routes serving the community include the B2, B6, B7, B9, B11, B31, B41, B44, B49, B68, B82 local buses and the B44 SBS Select Bus Service bus. MTA Bus Company routes include the B100, B103 local buses and the BM2, BM3, BM4 express buses.
Midwood has long played a part in both film and television production. The film industry established itself in the neighborhood in 1907, when the Vitagraph company occupied studios at 1277 East 14th near Avenue M. Scenes from films like "Hey Pop" and "Buzzin' Around," starring Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, were filmed on streets in Midwood. Warner Bros. purchased the studio in the 1920s, using it for short subjects, and moved the studio operation to Hollywood in 1939. Until 2015 the building was home to the Shulamith Yeshiva School for Girls, which moved to Manhattan Beach. A large smokestack bearing the name Vitagraph is still on the property, visible from the BMT Brighton Line, as are two brick walls from the original studio. Many Vitagraph Employees resided within the community. After Warner Bros. vacated the land (in the late 1960s-early 1970s), Yeshiva University purchased it for Brooklyn Torah Academy, the Brooklyn branch of their high school. The Shulamith School purchased the property some years later, when it merged BTA into Manhattan Torah Academy. Present day, many within the community have no clue that the Shulamith School buildings and property were once a film studio in its heyday. The Brooklyn Historical Society and the Museum of the Moving Image (Astoria, New York) have collections on The Vitagraph Studios. One present-day, longterm resident possesses a small but "private" collection (and wealth of history) on the Vitagraph Studios. An Old Vintage aerial photograph of The Vitagraph Complex (and its streets) hangs today on a wall in the Offices of the Midwood Development Corporation.
The Vitagraph Studios were later featured in a New York Times Article (2007), and in the PBS, WNET-13 TV Special 'A Walk Through Brooklyn,' hosted by David Hartman and historian Barry Lewis. Old historic photographs of the studio show that part of it also existed across the Brighton line subway tracks where Edward R. Murrow High School now stands.
"The Leading Male" men's attire store, which was once located at the corner of Kings Highway and East 12th Street, was the source for the disco attire that John Travolta and the other male cast members wore in the film Saturday Night Fever. A duplicate of the white suit Travolta wore in the film was at that time displayed in one of the showcase windows.
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In 1952, NBC Television purchased part of the Vitagraph Studios, which then became known as NBC Brooklyn. Studio 1 is along Locust Avenue. A new larger studio known as Color Studio 2 is at 1268 East 14th Street, on the northwest corner of its intersection with Avenue M. Programs including The Perry Como Variety Show, TV's adaptation of Broadway's Peter Pan with Mary Martin, The Sammy Davis, Jr. Variety Show, the nighttime version of the quiz show Tic Tac Dough, Sing Along With Mitch Miller (And His "Sing-Along Gang") (1961–64) which featured a then-young singer named Leslie Uggams, who years later became best known for her role in the historic TV epic Roots, were all taped there for later broadcast. Old NBC press releases show that two of the earliest shows to emanate from there (both then considered early NBC "Big Specials") were The Esther Williams Aqua Special (October 29, 1956), and Satins & Spurs (10/12/1954). The same Brooklyn studios were used in more recent decades to broadcast the soap opera Another World (1964–99), Another World "spin-off" soap drama Somerset (1971–76), the situation comedy The Cosby Show, and three 1975 episodes of Saturday Night Live. There was also an NBC News NASA Apollo Space Mission Special taped here, a short-lived mystery detective drama, and a weekly circus variety show (the later two for another network). Bill Cosby and crew after a period of time relocated the show to their new home at the Kaufman Astoria Studios in Astoria, Queens. The "second" NBC Cosby Show that followed (co-starring Madeline Kahn, most notably of Mel Brooks hit comedy films Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein) was also taped at Kaufman Astoria Studios.
In 1965–66, the studios were also home to Hullabaloo, a popular weekly NBC prime-time musical variety series, produced by Gary Smith and Dwight Hemion (Smith being best known for producing Barbra Streisand TV specials). Hullabaloo first aired on NBC on the evening of December 1, 1965, and its final episode was aired on 4/11/66. The program featured bands at the top of the music charts, singers and other celebrity entertainers of the period such as Sonny & Cher and Tina Sinatra, and many performers from the so-called British Invasion, like The Rolling Stones, Herman's Hermits, The Dave Clark Five, Petula Clark, Marianne Faithfull, The Moody Blues, and Donovan. It first originated from the NBC Studios in Burbank, California, and its premiere was hosted by Jack Jones. After a brief period of time the program was moved east to NBC Color Studio 2 in Midwood. During its New York heyday a few episodes were also recorded at NBC's headquarters studios in Rockefeller Center. Brian Epstein, manager of The Beatles, also hosted a Hullabaloo program from London. Neither The Beatles nor Elvis Presley were ever a guest or host of the aforementioned variety shows, however.
The Sammy Davis, Jr. show was taped in the much smaller Studio 1 located along Locust Ave. The audience entrance was on the northernmost part of East 13th, opposite the outdoor scenic storage yard. In the early 1970s the NBC TV variety show Kraft Music Hall was taped in Studio 2. Ed McMahon, country music star Eddy Arnold, and John Davidson were frequent hosts. Guests included Johnny Cash, Simon & Garfunkel, Woody Allen, Wayne Newton, Bill Dana, Alan King, Bobby Darin, Dionne Warwick, her sister Dee Dee Warwick, Mitzi Gaynor, Roy Rogers and his wife Dale Evans, and many others. Desi Arnaz hosted one episode. His ex-wife actress/TV icon comedian Lucille Ball and her kids specifically flew in from Hollywood to cheer him on, on this his return to TV. One memorable episode of the Kraft Music Hall program was hosted by comedian Don Rickles, which featured him walking off a Coney Island–bound Brighton Line subway train at the Avenue M station, then speaking about old Brooklyn memories, old childhood street games of the past while walking the avenue, then playing a game of "Kick-the-Can" and New York-style stickball, all actually taped on location on East 15th Street between Avenue M and the old Vitagraph Studios building at Chestnut Avenue.
Many of the noted variety shows (with the exception of Mitch Miller) had a live studio audience for both rehearsals and/or actual show recording. Often NBC Guest Relations staff could be found standing on the street outside the studio offering free tickets to the dress rehearsals and/or the actual taping of those 1960s programs, and sometimes even The Cosby Show. The only exception to that was the brief Saturday Night Live stint at the studio (which was pre-filled to capacity) as well as "big name" guest or host show tapings (e.g. The Rolling Stones or Desi Arnaz, especially with the presence of Lucille Ball at the studio to cheer on Arnaz). NBC Guest Relations operated a charter bus to/from their Rockefeller Center headquarters to the Brooklyn studio for pre-ticketed 1960s audience members, so that they did not have to travel by car or subway. They also did so for The Cosby Show. Fans in the know could always be found outside the studio entrance waiting to greet their favorite celebrity, many of whom in turn were happy to stop and chat, sign an autograph, pose for a photo, all without the hassle of present-day out-of-control paparazzi. From the 1950s through the original Cosby Show years, the NBC Brooklyn studio presence in Midwood basically transformed the community's Avenue M into Brooklyn's own versions of Broadway and Hollywood. Fond memories of the great many "A-List" celebrities that had performed inside the former NBC Studios and walked the local streets still exist today. Now, many within the community, and visitors alike, do not even know that a television production studio exists at the location, nor that the adjacent present-day Shulamith School property was once an early major silent film studio. A few old classic episodes of Perry Como, Hullabaloo, and Kraft Music Hall (taped at the studio) can be found on VHS and DVD, as well as on YouTube. The Museum of Television and Radio (New York and Los Angeles) has a collection on the noted television programs.
NBC sold the studio in 2000. The facility became JC Studios. The CBS soap opera As the World Turns was taped here from January 2000 until June 2010. The series was cancelled after 54 years. The final episode aired on September 17, 2010.
According to the NYC Mayor's Office Of Film, Television and Theater, the building consists of Stage 1, which is 11,200 sq ft (163' × 70', w/a 24-foot (7.3 m) ceiling height), and Stage 2 which is 9,700 sq ft (130' × 75', with a 38'-10" ceiling height). There are 31 dressing rooms, two control rooms, hair, makeup and dressing areas, and one edit suite. Two very large and visible NBC 'N' logo signs were placed on the East 13th and 14th Street upper parts of the big Red Brick Studio 2 Building on Avenue M until The Cosby Show years. To the dismay of many remaining long-time residents,[who?] both were taken down when NBC vacated the premises, prior to the studios being sold to JC Studios.
In 2014, JC Studios closed. In June 2015, OHEL Children's Home and Family Services began creating offices in the former Studio 1 on Locust Avenue, part of the original Vitagraph Studios. Studio 2, built by NBC, will become a self-storage facility.
The nearby Edward R. Murrow High School offers its students classes in television production and had its own student-produced local Public-access television program on BCAT called T.E.R.M. Many of its former students are currently employed in some form of television production, including news at WNBC and Fox 5 WNYW.
Among movies and TV shows that have been filmed in Midwood are:
It is also mentioned in the quote "Midwood, Brooklyn, A Community From Which Great Television Entertainment Has Emanated ... from Perry Como to the '60s Hip Hullabaloo to 'The Cosby Show' to CBS daytime's 'As The World Turns'!"[attribution needed]
Famous people who grew up in, formerly lived in, or attended or graduated from a school in Midwood include:
[On the Vitagraph Studio lot in Brooklyn, located adjacent to the Brighton railroad, in what is now Midwood, called South Greenfield at the time]: William Shea, among the first actors in the Big V's stock company, recalled the Brighton's role after filming began in 1905:After the building of the Flatbush studio, interior scenes were taken at the Nassau Street address and exterior scenes at Flatbush. In a picture that had both interior and exterior scenes it was a case of collecting all necessary wardrobe and props and moving to Flatbush. It must have been a sight to see fifteen or twenty people get off a train, some carrying bundles and boxes with a sword or spear sticking out, a little bit of a fellow struggling along with a suit of armor, and various other bulky properties distributed among members of the party, but it was part of the game. Very few of the actors kicked and the populace became used to seeing us doing all kinds of stunts.
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