Map and Photos of Bensonhurst Bensonhurst is named after Arthur W. Benson, who began buying farmland in the area in 1835 and dividing the land into lots that were sold as part of the newly created suburb of Bensonhurst. In the early 20th centuray, Jewish and Italian immigrants moved into the neighborhood. In the 1950s, an influx of immigrants from southern Italy and an exodus of the Jewish population left the area predominantly Italian. In the 1990s, many Chinese and Russian immigrants began to arrive in Bensonhurst. Bensonhurst is famous for, among other things, being the filming location for the movie "Saturday Night Fever" (you can still get a slice where Tony Manero did, at Lenny's Pizza, 1969 86th Street, or see the house used as the exterior of the Manero home, 221 79th Street; unfortunately the disco itself was torn down in 2005). Despite the changes in demographics, Bensonhurst is still called "the REAL little-Italy of New York City" by many residents and visitors, a title it shares with Bath Beach.
New Utrecht, one of the original six towns settled on Long Island, was in the Bensonhurst area (84th Street between 16th and 18th Avenues, roughly). Jacques Cortelyou, a surveyor, began selling lots in the area to create New Utrecht starting in 1655-1657. One of the first, if not THE first, houses built in the town was the Nicasius De Sille house which stood at (roughly) 18th Avenue and 84th Street. Anthony Janszoon van Salee was a free black Moroccon who settled in New Utrecht in 1630 and became a prominent merchant and landowner, and who may have been the first Muslim settler in the New World.
One of the greatest car-chases ever flimed, in 1971's The French Connection, starts off in Bensonhurst at Bay 50th Street, runs up Stillwell Avenue to 86th Street in Bath Beach, and then continues north on New Utrecht Avenue to 62nd Street in Dyker Heights. The car crash that takes place just after Popeye Doyle leaves the 25th Avenue train station actually occured at 86th Street & Stillwell Avenue and was unplanned -- someone not involved in the filming was driving to work and drove through the shot. The movie company paid for the damage to his car. For the main shot looking out of the front of the car, stunt driver Bill Hickman drove from Bay 50th to Bay 24th Street -- 26 blocks -- at speeds in excess of 70mph, while being egged on by director William Friedkin, who was in the back seat with a camera. During this shot, there was no traffic control. It was shot "running lights, narrowly missing people, cars, things like that -- and that was all live". Getting "permission" to use the elevated subway train allegedly required a $40,000 bribe and a one-way plane ticket to Jamaica for the recipient of the bribe -- because he knew he was going to lose his job for letting the flim shoot what they wanted to for the chase scene. The train, back then, was the B train; today it's the D line. Filming took place between 10AM and 3PM to avoid rush hour express subway traffic, and the center (express) track was used. The French Connection went on to win 5 Oscars: best picture, director, editing, actor and adapted screenplay.
Our primary source for neighborhood names and locations is the
New York City Department of City Planning. Additional information is from Kenneth Jackson and John B.
Manbeck's book The Neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Brooklyn by Name by Leonard Benardo and Jennifer Weiss. Neighborhood boundaries, where shown, are approximate, and are often a matter of great local debate and dissent. You can send us YOUR opinion by using the feedback link below...
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