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A Tour of Brownsville, Brooklyn’s Jewish Past

September 26th, 2010 by DavidFreeland

Yesterday afternoon, a hot one here in the city, I was inspired to take a trip out to Brownsville, Brooklyn, once a hub of Jewish cultural life and now considered one of the most dangerous sections of New York.

Former Synagogue in Brownsville (note Star of David at top)

I was thinking of my late friend, George Sandler (father of my friend Rita), who was born in Brownsville in 1916 and grew up in the neighborhood.  While aware that many of Brownsville’s storied tenements were razed for public housing projects beginning in the 1950s, I was curious to see what might be left, in a physical sense, of Brownsville’s Jewish history.  Urban renewal seems to have impacted New York in a less overarching way than it did other U.S. cities, and, as it turns out, Brownsville still bears traces of its past.

I started with the old Loew’s Pitkin Theater on eponymous Pitkin Avenue, Brownsville’s commercial artery.  Opened in 1929, the Pitkin bears a remarkable similarity to the slightly later Loew’s 175th Street Theater in Manhattan’s Washington Heights.  George remembered coming to the Pitkin as a teenager, and, according to a 1932 New York Times account, the great Yiddish composer, Rumshinsky,  appeared here for a week’s engagement.  Outside the theater, a sign hints at plans for some sort of revitalization.

According to a 1951 book in my library on Murder, Inc., the infamous crime syndicate which grew in part out of Brownsville, “neighbors firmly believe Pitkin Avenue compares with Fifth Avenue…or any other promenade famed for its shops and shopping.”  Today, there is still much to be seen on Pitkin, including this terra cotta beauty.  It was once the Simon Ackerman department store.

And while we’re on the subject of gangsters, here’s a shot of Amboy Street, after which the notorious “Amboy Dukes” were named.

Amboy Street, home of the “Amboy Dukes”

While often cited as being a “fictitious” gang, George Sandler and others have claimed the Amboy Dukes were real.  In fact, as children George and some friends once got stuck in the Amboys’ clubhouse.  To frighten him into keeping quiet about what he might have heard, the Amboys smeared rotten eggs over his head!

Lovers of old signs will find much to savor in this remnant of what was probably a Chinese restaurant, on Pitkin.

Neon Survivor

Meanwhile, those interested in 1930s Deco will appreciate this Art Moderne-styled bank building, with Federalist touches.

Art Moderne Bank on Pitkin

I ended my tour beside the Pitkin Theater at “Zion Triangle,” a small park dedicated to Jewish veterans of the First World War.

Zion Triangle

“There were no subways at that particular time,” George once told me.  “If there were, our part of the area didn’t use them”  Instead, George explained, trolley cars supplied Brownsville residents with their primary form of transportation.  Visiting Brownsville yesterday, I came to understand George’s assertion.  Even now, the neighborhood feels removed from the rest of the city, and I needed to walk many blocks before coming to an A train.  And, of course, the A was not completed until the early 1930s, well past George’s childhood.

With its capacity for outliving the humans who create it, architecture can bring back the verve and spirit of a place in ways a mere historical plaque cannot.  After yesterday I feel more in touch with George’s personal history, and, as a New Yorker, a piece of my own.

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  • My grandfather, David Frankel, owned Richfield Clothes on 1736 Pitkin Avenue. I worked there for him when I was young and spent many a lunch time at The Kishka King eating that 12″ hot with mustard and sauerkraut and feasting on pickles/sour tomatoes right out of the barrel.

  • My last comment was complete and I do not see it at all Stuart Portnoy

  • Hello Harriet Schwartz and Ken Chernick. I too went to HES. Attended Hebrew school, drama club, day and sleep away camp. I also knew Arlene (Pixie) Udoff. Also went to jhs 263. Graduated 1962. Were you guys around then?

  • I went to Thomas Jefferson HS from 1952 to 1955. Since I lived out of the district, I had to agree to take German or Hebrew in order to get in
    I had Dr. Silberberg as my german teacher. We had great teachers!
    I now live in Pennsylvania but I remember all the fun we had in high school.

  • Dear Stuart Portnoy,
    When I read your post of Nov.9,2014, about a lady named Rose and her daughter Marion, I almost fainted. Rose was my mother’s sister. Everything you said about Rose was absolutely true. She was a woman way ahead of her time. She was brilliant and if she lived in more recent times she would have been a doctor or lawyer.
    Unfortunately, my dear cousin Marion, a registered nurse, passed away almost 3 years ago. We remained very close throughout the years even though she lived in Maryland and I in New York.
    I lived across the street from Rose at 148 Blake Ave. I went to Tilden High School, but we had already moved to 842 East 55th Street, off Glenwood Rd., when I entered high school. The two family house we lived in was purchased by my Aunt Rose. She lived upstairs, we lived downstairs.
    My parents were Lena and Sam Shabat. Do you remember them at all. I have a younger brother Danny.
    I would love to hear from you. This website is absolutely awesome!

  • My grandmother was Rose Slotkin and my mother was Marion. Roses husband was Al. You are talking about my grandmother. I am a fast typist as she was. I can tell you all I know and about my fascinating life if you wish. Stuart Portnoy wrote the article I am referring to.

  • By the way, Barbara Gelfman who also wrote a comment is my beloved cousin. Her mother, my great aunt Lena, was Rose’s sister. I loved her dearly.

  • I lived at 597 Thatford Avenue between Lott and Hegeman ave in the late forties to 1958. I then moved to linden and rockaway to Mitchell Lama coop-it was to be part of the Great Society program, but never came to fruition. There was and old farm in the corner of Lott and Thatford-was a cow farm in the 1930′s and I believe the stalls were used as garages later on. On Lott and Stone avenue there was a steel company. We used to go and pick up scraps of material on the sidewalk which we called iron chalk-it wrote like chalk. There were billboard strewn lots throughout the are, which we used to climb-it was out urban rock climbing experiance. There were come very adventurous kids whom at the time I was extremely envious of, who showed no fear and would climb to the top. Many of them fell into drugs and succumbed to suicide if heroin addiction. I envy the years when one could walk from from Hegeman avenue up rockaway avenue any time day or night.

  • To my good friends representing Rose Slotkin. As a teen ager knowing and working for Rose I was fortunate and happy to know her because she was unique in every way. Despite major dental surgery and lots of pain she continued to give respect and wonderful demeanor to all who crossed her path. I liked Al a lot and he gave Rose complete respect etc. I remember how pretty Marion was and Rose was proud of her. These are folks that I will always remember but I have been going through periods of grief at home. The sound of Rose on the typewriter could be heard downstairs in the street and she was magnificent at her duties. Knowing the Slotkins and others who were similar to them gives me a feeling of warmth and happiness knowing we were all from a tightly known area as Brownsville. God Bless you all. . Stuart Portnoy Coconut Creek Florida

  • Lived on the border of east flatbush and brownsville.Went to Tilden,somers and ps 219 LOved brooklyn .It was a tough place if you were a part of that world or just could not help it.My beloved school yard had changed to be dangerous .After going to a mets game at the polo grounds we all went back to the old area where I still lived . I had a sort of a rep and told the people in the yard to get out and not come back . they all left but one who a tore his shirt off his back and told him as well to go . He then ripped a car aerial and came at me . I told him I would tear him apart if it touched me. He backed down and two weeks later was arrested at the sutter ave el station for fighting with police . THe area I left finally was in 1966 .My mother was the last one standing along with two other old time neighbors .

  • my dad grew up on that area and sang in the Stone Shul as a choir boy!! I believe it was on Strauss and Pitkin. he sang there
    w/ a Rabbi named Rabbi Spector… in the 1929′s

  • To Andy – your note of March12 – Tanenbaum Bakery – My grandfather owned a laundry store at 1604 or 07 St John’s Place- diagonally opposite the bakery and bwtn. the barbershop and apartment house He’d leave this 10 yr old kid in the store, run across the street, buy carp (now known as sable at $44/lb at Fairway), then go to the bakery for an onion roll and come back. He”d send me to Mr Flemanhauft’s candy store with a message: Tell Flemmy ”he should give you a bottle ginger ale and papa will pay later. ” When I returned he’d take a “messer” (knife), cut the roll,’ throw’ on a piece of carp and say, “Nah, ess”(now eat). While I ate he brought out either of 2 glasses for soda – a yahrzeit glass or a jelly jar. In my life, nothing has ever tasted better than that roll, carp and soda given with his love!

  • Does anyone remember Peerless Haberdashery shop on Pitkin Avenue? I have the old business card but cannot find it, just was wondering the address or cross street. Probably 1940′s. Thanks you

  • Does anyone remember Peerless Haberdashery on Pitkin Ave, 1940′s, the address or cross street? Thank you.

  • Hi All. Interesting story. An acquaintance that I know was at a dinner that we both attended. She retired a few years ago having been a teacher. Where did she work? Yup! 263. For 30+ plus years. Another interesting aside. My orchestra teacher, Mr. Greco became the Assistant Vice Principal. Small world.

  • I to remember Wuhans chinese restaurant waiting in rain and snow to eat there. I grew up at 794 Belmont ave in east new york. went to p.s. 64, jefferson H.S. and Brooklyn college. anyone remember me –a pretty cheerleader in H.S. u can reach me at 310-454-2557 in california

  • The bank depicted was the East New York Savings Bank.the flashiest men’s wear store on Pitkin Avenue was Jack Diamond Across from the Pitkin was Katz’s poolroom which was jammed
    with mainly Jewish guys as who else had TV in the 1940′s.The Hopkinson Jewish theatre was right in back of the East New York Savings. Street name changed No more Hopkinson Ave Murder Inc combined Jewiish killers from Livonia Ave with Italian murderers from adjoining Ocean Hill

  • Herb,
    You recalled wonderful memories,

  • Barry Brodsky
    You don’t know me but I was friends with David Tabb, Michael Weiss, Harvey Zucker, Marvin Friedman, Ira Hirsch. Tabb & Zucker have passed away. Weiss lives in Bell Harbour, Marvin lives in Florida. Hirsch ? They would some times mention your name.

  • Hi Stuart,

    I moved to Brownsville and grew up there starting in 1944 when I was 3-yrs old at 106 Amboy Street between Pitkin and Sutter Avenues… until I moved to Canarsie in 1959. In all the intervening years I attended four different schools.. PS 175 from Kindergarten to the third grade and then to PS 156 from the fourth to the sixth grade. I can name every single teacher I had from Kindergarten to Brooklyn College Graduate School! Yeow! (I keep good records).

    I attended Lew Wallace JHS 66 from the 7th grade (God Bless Mr. Gus Rappaport, my 7th grade “official teacher and typing teacher) who gave me the gift of a fig newton on the day I was Bar Mitzvah’d. I was Bar Mitzvah’d in a shul on Herzel Street near Pitkin Avenue on the morning of my birthday… accompanied only by my father. I then went home, put on my “dungarees” and went to school late.

    Of course I studied for my Bar Mitzvah at the H.E.S. (from which I was expelled) and then went to Mr. Heifetz storefront Hebrew School on Blake Ave…. from which I was likewise expelled. Heifetz used to hit us with his ruler. I remember reading for his wife in the back room and when she went to sleep… I’d skip many paragraphs which, somehow… she always caught and I’d never understand how.

    I then went to Col. David Marcus JHS263 where I was in the first graduating class from that building.

    I then went on to Thomas Jefferson HS where Mr. Bernard Annenberg “rescued me” from the masses and put me in the Honor School classes which turned my life around. Bernie did this for me because he and I were both ham radio operators.

    I have some very special memories of Brownsville from ’44 to ’59. I always think of Jungle Jim’s lean-to store on the corner of Strauss Street and Pitkin Avenue where he sold flavored coconut whip and slices of coconut. I spent many happy hours in the Lowe’s Pitkin and the Lowe’s State on Strauss St. and E. NY Avenue.

    Growing up later in the fifties I frequented Sam Ash Music to buy my guitars and, in that area I went to Dubrows and Famous restaurants on Eastern Parkway near Utica Avenue with my parents. I loved Famous’ dairy dishes.

    I loved visiting the Stadium Bookshop where I purchased 78-rpm records… Eddie Fisher’s “Oh My Pappa” and Patty Paige’s “Kiss of Fire.” Of course I bought all manner of board games there too.

    Above the Stadium Bookshop was a Chinese restaurant where I’d buy a chicken chow mein lunch for 99-cents with soup and an egg roll. That building, I later learned, was the home of Joe and Paul’s Clothing store… famed for their commercials on WEVD radio. I’d hear that station blasting away in the summer mornings through my open bedroom window in the rear of my house at 106 Amboy.

    And I have special fond memories of Penrod Clothiers on Pitkin Avenue between Hopkinson and Amboy where I bought my first powder blue pegged pants with special stitching down the sides. It was a tribute to the Puerto Rican influence that was taking over the neighborhood.

    My grandmother, Anna Weissman sold lemon ices on Pitkin and Herzel St. from a rolling pushcart. She also sold baked sweet potatoes from a metal push oven on Amboy and Pitkin in the winter. She’d cut open one end and wrap the potato with wax paper and we’d walk along the avenue squeezing the potato as though it was a toothpaste tube.

    I also fondly remember the East New York Savings Bank and the long walk down the winding marble staircase to the basement where I had a school bank account. The ENYSB came to our school classes and took class pictures if your class had 100% banking. I’d kill to see some of those class pictures again.(grin)

    I also remember the ENYSB because when I was about ten years old I used to shine shoes in front of that building. When I was fourteen I got my first “working papers” and I used to deliver the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper in the “projects” near JHS 66. Man! What a job!

    Someone earlier said JHS 66 was a “rough school.” Boy! Was that ever the truth. The police from the 73rd Pct used to drive me home daily! A kid in my 8th grade class (Mr. Schecter’s) tried to sell me a zip gun made from a car aerial, on the first day of school… bless his heart. I used to go to school with a pearl handled switchblade knife for protection. What a zoo!

    On the corner of Grafton St. and Sutter Avenue I remember buying a slice of pizza for 10-cents and when it went up to 15-cents I thought it was so over-priced that I’d never buy another slice. I guess I was so wrong! LOL!

    Anyone who grew up in Brownsville from ’44 to ’59 with special memories can always write me at:

    Stay Well,

    Roger Elowitz
    (my sister Loretta is three years younger)

  • Hi Stuart,

    Here’s a bit of interesting history taken from the Planned Parenthood website on Wikipedia:

    “The origins of Planned Parenthood date to October 16, 1916 when Margaret Sanger, her sister Ethel Byrne, and Fania Mindell opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S. in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York.[10] All three women were immediately arrested and jailed for violating provisions of the Comstock Act- for distributing “obscene materials” at the clinic.”

    I later found out that that first “clinic” started on Amboy Street between Pitkin and East New York Avenues a block from my home at 106 Amboy. I never knew it was a block away but birth control was just never on my mind back then. Just thought you’d like to know.

    You might also be interested in knowing that the H.E.S. summer sleep-away camp was at Lake Stahahee (possibly in NY State somewhere). The H.E.S. building still stands and I think it is a church. I recall the gym downstairs where I used the punching bag to butcher my knuckles. I loved shooting pool in the game room and I studied classical guitar on the third or fourth floor with Mr. Basil Cimino. I loved the dances that we went to in the evenings run by ‘Dolph… Adolph Dembo.

    Speaking of Mr. Dembo, my junior high school science teacher… he ran a course where he coached his fellow teachers to pass the principal’s exams. He was also instrumental in many of those teachers becoming school superintendents. I can remember then as though it was yesterday: Norman Peck, Mirsky, Shoenfeld, Garner, Elizabeth Daley(sp) etc. Mirsky’s parents owned a boy’s clothing store in Belmont Avenue.

    Roger Elowitz

  • Hi Roger, Gustave Rappaport always read comic books at his desk. He was a very small man who wore his bar mitzvah suit to work. The Loews Palace was on Strauss and ENY and handled the overflow from the Pitkin theater/ I knew Morris Heifetz very well. He gave me a tremendous slap across the face one day and I actually saw stars. I serenaded him with the best of my vocabulary. My Mom pleaded with him to re-admit me to the Hebrew school. I was a good boy after that remembering the frosk in the punim from before. My wife came from Park Place and Ralph Ave. We were married 51 years and I lost her in April, You mentioned Mirskys store on Belmont Ave. All the knickers and pants came from that store. Mirsky was a huge bald headed man. My cousins were the Farleys, Harold, Teddy and Alvin from Hopkinson and Sutter, across from the HES. I wish you and yours good health and happiness Stuart Portnoy 172 Amboy Street.

  • Hi Stuart,

    Thank you for the kind correction of the Lowes’ Palace (not the Lowes’ State). Somewhere in my collection of old papers I have a yellow Lowes’ Birthday Card… a little larger than perhaps two business cards. They’d punch the card every Saturday when you went to the movies and when you had ten punches you got into the movie free on your birthday.

    Speaking of movies… I remember chipping in with a bunch of friends to get one paid admission to the theater. He would go down to the orchestra exit door and hold it open and a half-dozen of us would sneak in to see Quo Vadis.

    Sorry to read of your wife’s passing.

    Yes! What great memories of Gustav Rappaport. I forgot about his comic books but I do recall a moth-eaten holey blue sweater he wore and the fact that he rarely shaved. I especially recall the letters that were scratched into those typewriter keys so you didn’t have to memorize which keys were which. Fortunately, I mastered the typewriter, thanks to his tutelage I’m a speed typist to this day. Ahhh! If we only had electric or electronic typewriters when I was in college!

    Since you were likely married in 1964 (I, in ’65) we are likely the same age (I’ve just turned 74) so I’ll bet we knew each other. I have lots of pictures from the old neighborhood including the Lew Wallace JHS 66 yearbook from 1955. If you graduated JHS 66 in ’55 I have your picture. I did not see you in any of the January or June 1959 Jefferson HS “Aurora” yearbooks.

    172 Amboy Street was probably close to Sutter Avenue (between Pitkin and Sutter… same as me at 106) so you were near Romar Pharmacy on the corner. Romar was Robert Margolis’ pharmacy and I worked for him when he was buying large quantities of pills and selling small bags of them all across the city. After school I’d deliver them to the Bronx, Manhattan and Queens when I was about 15-yrs old (1956).

    If you are about my age you also knew lots of guys from Amboy between Sutter and Blake: Fred Hoberman, Barry Shutzbank,
    Jimmy Resko and Alan Flaum? Barry lives near me here in Marlboro, NJ.

    And… you probably got your hair cut at Murray and Nat’s on Sutter Avenue. Do you recall that just about every single street corner had a pharmacy on it where they displayed bottles of red and blue colored water. I used to visit those pharmacies to replenish the chemicals in my A.C. Gilbert chemistry sets.

    Lots of great memories. If you send me your e-mail address I can send you lots of great pictures of the old neighborhood.

    Do take care,

    Roger Elowitz

  • Does anyone remember Kings Toy Store on Pitkin Avenue near the corner of Thatford across the street from The Kishkah King? I bought all manner of toys there including my Lionel Trains and my Schwinn Traveler racing bike.

    And anyone growing up in Brownsville remembers Woolworth’s 5¢, 10¢ and $1-up located on Pitkin Avenue between Rockaway Avenue and Chester Street. On the corner was Atkins Florist. Next to Woolworth’s was a camera shop where I bought photo chemicals and paper. Across the street was a small tabaconist where I purchased pipe tobacco. Around the corner on Chester Street was a movie theater… I forget the name.

    Other stores I remember well on Pitkin Avenue were Meyer’s Soda Fountain (near the East New York Savings Bank) where we went for sodas after dances at the H.E.S.. Next to Meyers was the Brooklyn Union Gas Company and on the corner… National Shoes.

    All I have to do is close my eyes and… I’m back there. Unfortunately, if you happen to drive through the old neighborhood there is very little still standing. My home is GONE! Fortunately, I saved a brick from it’s crumbled walls. That’s all I have left.

    While I bemoan the passing of the neighborhood we grew up in… I sadly realize that many of those buildings were over fifty years old when we moved out. They needed new roofs, new plumbing, new heating plants, new wiring and new windows. The people who bought them could never afford to fix them up. They were probably worth more as insurance claims. Down they burned!

    The H.E.S. is still standing. So is the schul on Amboy Street. So is PS 175 and the playground across the street. PS 156 is gone, replaced by another school building with a different number. JHS 263 is still there with the Col. David Marcus name changed to something else. Most of all the neighborhood’s buildings are GONE except they live on in blessed memory.

    Roger Elowitz (74 yrs old)
    HYacinth 5-0938 (back then)

  • Hi Stuart,

    I have lots of photos of Brownsville. Can I post them to your website? Send them to you first? May I have your email address?

    Also, when people post their remembrances of people or places the one thing they generally leave out is their age. Sadly, a difference of two or three years between us makes a substantial difference in the friends or teachers we had. I hardly knew my sister’s friends and teachers even though she was three years younger.

    For example, if you lived at 172 Amboy… did you know Donald Panico who lived in that building or nearby?

    Then again, it was not unusual for parents and children to have the same teachers. My mother went to PS175 and told me of the Dubin sisters. I never had one but I knew of them. And speaking of PS175 I distinctly recall our teachers there selling yellow packets of flower and vegetable seeds being ordered from the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. We’d plant those seeds in wooden cheese boxes. I don’t recall if we had “class plots” in the park across the street.

    I became an elementary school teacher in Bay Ridge, PS 176, and when a 2nd grader came up to me and told me her mother was in my class… I knew it was time to think about retiring.

    My mother went to JHS 84 and I recall her telling me she got the day off from school to watch Charles Lindbergh ride down Pitkin Ave. in a parade when he returned from Paris. 84 was the all-girls junior high, comparable to JHS 66 for the boys.

    Does anyone remember Toby’s Yarn Shop on the corner of Sutter Ave. and Herzl Street? What about Abe Stark Clothiers on the corner of Herzl Street and Pitkin Ave.? How about the Post Office on Sutter between Amboy and Herzl? Between Herzl and Strauss Streets on Sutter Avenue there was a shoe-shine parlor and shoe repair store that also “blocked” men’s felt hats. You’d sit in a little booth and wait for your shoes to be repaired.

    And speaking of Strauss Street… I recall them filming some scenes from “The Last Angry Man” on that block between Pitkin and Sutter.

    On Pitkin Avenue at the corner of Hopkinson I remember a Buster Brown Shoe Store where I would stand on a fluoroscope and have my feet made visible through the shoes so my mother could assess adaquate toe room while my gonads were irradiated with harmful rays. Yeow!

    Anyone remember the Barton’s and Barracini candy shops, both on Pitkin between Amboy and Herzl? Why they needed two chocolate candy shops on the same block is beyond my understanding.

    There was also a soda fountain I believe on the corner of Strauss and Pitkin Ave. where I bought Charlotte ruses and lime Rickey’s. Further down Pitkin Avenue close to the corner of Howard Avenue (across from “Kitzel Park” Veterans War Memorial) I purchased my cub scout and boy scout uniforms and scout camp apparel. I forget the name of the store.

    The corner of Pitkin and Howard had two auto supply stores across from each other. And going north on Howard Ave. toward Eastern Parkway I would go to the roller skating rink where they also held boxing matches. Next to the rink was a Studebaker dealership that I worked for as a kid delivering car brochures (most of which ended up in sewers).

    Pitkin Avenue ended and became East New York Avenue going west and between Tapscott and Union Streets I believe there was a NY State Employment Office where I applied for and got several jobs as a teenager.

    Directly across from the Lowes’ Pitkin was a delicatessen in front of which on Saturday nights you could buy all the Sunday newspapers. Seems like almost every other block had a deli or a pharmacy or a candy store.

    On the corner of Amboy St. and Sutter Ave. there was a grocery where my mother would send me to buy “a package of “B” with a request that I’d whisper to the grocer. Seems that it wasn’t “proper” to let people know you were Jewish and purchasing BACON! The adjacent corner on Amboy St. had a laundromat. And on the opposite corner was Shimmy’s Bar. I don’t know if it had a “grill.”

    Gangster-looking men would walk across the street to Romar’s pharmacy to make phone calls in his phone booths. My guess was that they were bookies placing bets.

    A few doors closer to Pitkin Ave. was a luncheonette which I think was owned by the Bonfiglio’s. I remember their kids… Frankie and Mary Ellen.

    Next to Shimmy’s bar was a fruit store. I was always amazed at the owner’s speed in totaling the numbers he’d write on the bags.

    Across from my home at 106 Amboy was Nichol’s grocery where Mr. Nichols would have a composition notebook under the counter in which he’d record your purchases “on credit.” There was also a “dry goods store” a few doors closer to Pitkin that sold fabric. Also, across from my home on Amboy St. a bit closer to Sutter Ave. was a sheet-metal fabricator.

    So many wonderful memories of Brownsville centered around the businesses there. They were the neighborhood’s life-blood and gave the area so much character.

    Roger Elowitz (74) [732-995-4234]
    living in Brownsville 1944-1959
    Now in Marlboro, NJ and Port St. Lucie, FL

  • hi roger
    do you remember a mens clothing store at 60 amboy close to pitkin -a grocery store was next door in the mid 50′s
    abe stark was further down pitkin near legion st- sid gordon worked there during he winter
    crawfords another mens store was on pitkin near saratoga- gil hodges worked there also during the winter

  • Hi Steve,

    I see from my Google Map that 60 Amboy St. was between Pitkin and Sutter very close to the corner of Pitkin. Sorry but I don’t recall a men’s clothing store there. You could be right. I most definitely recall a soda fountain directly on that corner. Perhaps the apartment building at 60 Amboy was where a girlfriend, Sandy Scher lived? She was a tiny thing.

    A little further down Amboy going towards Sutter was a printer where I purchased a ream of specially ruled paper (to be used as a radio station logbook) when I was about 13-years old to enter a boy scout shortwave listening contest. And a bit further closer to Sutter Ave. was a grocery store… perhaps the one you alluded to. Still further down the block I recall a seltzer bottler in a two family home.

    I may have been mistaken that the clothier on the corner of Herzl and Pitkin was Abe Stark’s. You may be right that it was closer to Legion Street. Gil Hodges also had a bowling alley in either Canarsie or Gravesend Brooklyn.

    Did you know that Herzl Street was named for Theodor Herzl, an Austro-Hungarian journalist, playwright, political activist, and writer. He was one of the fathers of modern political Zionism.

    If you’d like to see what’s become of the Lowes’ Pitkin Theater please go to
    Yeow! They gutted the inside as you’ll see. I believe Pitkin Avenue was named for the farmer who owned the land.

    BTW…. in an earlier post I mentioned that Margaret Sanger opened her first Planned Parenthood on Amboy Street. That was at 46 Amboy and here are a few pictures:

    I also see now that Col. David Marcus JHS 263 has been completely renamed PS/IS 323 Mott Hall Bridges Middle School. Also, PS175 still stands as Teachers Preparatory School. The “5″ from PS 175 is still visible behind the new name sign on Blake Avenue. The playground is still there across the street but not a garden plot in sight…. only basketball courts. But a block away on the corner of Dumont and Hopkinson is Feldman Lumber just across the street from Betsy Head Park swimming pool which we used to call “Hedsey Betsy” or “The Inkwell.”

    Some things have changed DRASTICALLY while others just soldier on. Amazing.

    If you’d like to go back to see the old neighborhood but are loathe to venture there, you can still do so by going to Google Maps and putting in a cross street like Pitkin Avenue and Amboy Street. Then just navigate around all the streets by clicking on the chevrons in the gutter and away you go. What a treasure! Enjoy

    Roger Elowitz (74) 1941
    Marlboro NJ and Port St. Lucie, FL

  • Hi Everyone,

    Perhaps its been awhile since you’ve seen you high school yearbook (if you still can find it). Here is a link to the Thomas Jefferson yearbooks that’s completely on-line. There’s even a picture of me in the June ’59 edition on page 47. (Yeah! I’m the white guy and the other dude is my old friend, Lamont Bettis. I’ve completely lost touch with him.

    But, you can find almost all the Jefferson yearbooks here too as well as Tilden’s yearbooks. Just go to:

    which will take you to the home page for January, 1927. From there you can navigate to the other years. It’s a wonderful resource for looking up old friends.

    And there is the Facebook page called: Brooklyn’s Thomas Jefferson High School… that should bring back some nice memories.

    Roger Elowitz (Jeff 1959…. G.O. President)