Flatbush is a community in Brooklyn consisting of several neighborhoods. The name Flatbush is an Anglicization of the Dutch “vlacke bos” meaning “flat woodland” or “wooded plain.” Since the 1980’s the community has been increasingly populated by an influx of immigrants from Haiti, Trinidad, Jamaica, Grenada, Guyana, Barbados, St. Lucia, and Belize. It is also home to many immigrants from India and Africa, though Haitians make up the largest group. Before these groups arrived, Flatbush was already a very diverse community with many Irish, Italian, African American, Hispanic, and Jewish people living there. Flatbush remained a community of merchants and farmers until increasing immigration and industrialization in the late 1890’s caused it to develop into a more urban industrial area.
Settled and developed first by the Dutch beginning in 1651, Flatbush was its own separate city until 1896. Only in that year did the towns of Flatbush and Flatlands become incorporated into the city of Brooklyn, which then for the first time included all of Kings County.
Later, around the time of the 1920’s Flatbush was a bustling area filled with shops, tea rooms, theaters and restaurants. It was known for its attractive apartment homes, many of which are still standing today. Flatbush is also home to many churches, one of which was built in 1796, The Reformed Protestant Dutch Church, which still stands today. Prior to this church, there stood another in its stead, built in 1702, and before that was another built in 1654 by special order of Governor Peter Stuyvesant. Under this church lie the bodies of soldiers who died in the Battle of Brooklyn in the American Revolutionary War. The current building is also outfitted with a number of original Tiffany stained glass windows.
Just around the corner is historic Erasmus Hall High School, built in 1786 and donated to the New York City Public School system in 1899. Notable alumni are singer/performer Barbara Streisand, Earl Graves, publisher of Black Enterprise Magazine and Ned Irish, founder of the New York Knicks. Flatbush was also the home of the Brooklyn Dodgers Baseball team, though their playing field-Ebbets Field has long since been demolished in 1960. Brooklyn College is another notable institution housed in Flatbush and the area also includes the southernmost portion of Prospect Park.