86th STREET in Bensonhurst

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I mean, one of these days, to walk 86th Street from the Narrows to Gravesend. It is the main east-west street in southwest Brooklyn, and contains many secrets of old. I grew up three blocks from 86th, and so, when communities were more tight-knit, I knew the butchers, the bakers and the candle stick makers by name before they either retired or moved to the suburbs. The 86th Street BMT subway at 4th Avenue was my home subway, and I rode the B16 (Fort Hamilton Parkway), B63 (5th Avenue) B64 (86th Street) and B37 (3rd Avenue) buses with regularity. Now, the B1 and B64 have been recast in unfamiliar routes, and the B37 has been altogether eliminated.

But August 22, 2011 was not the day for a complete walk. I had just gotten back from a mission to Bayswater, Queens, an outpost on the Far Rockaway peninsula, and will have to return again as the ride was cut short due to scheduling necessities on the part of the friend who drove us there. After lunch at Spumoni Gardens (where I had never before been) he went to his home, and I walked 86th from about Avenue V to the 18th Avenue station on the D. I’ll present the findings here in reverse order, from northwest to southeast.

I’m not sure when 86th Street was built out to its ultimate length. It was certainly laid out on maps by 1873, when this Beers atlas plate of the town of New Utrecht was drawn. It was just a line on a map then, though.

The center of this map, just to the left of the “86th” is where the elevated D train turns off New Utrecht Avenue onto 86th in the present day. Other than 86th, the other roads on this map have disappeared as the overall grid was constructed, which began to take place after 1900. The “Benson” on the map was the same family that produced early NYS attorney general Egbert Benson. The Van Pelt family was also long standing in the area, and the Van Pelt Mansion on what is now 18th Avenue stood over two centuries.

In this Gravesend map from the same year, 86th Street is laid out through marshes — much of southeast Brooklyn is landfilled, including the connection of Coney Island to the rest of Long Island. On this map, the Bath and Coney Island Railroad was placed on an elevated line by 1920, while the original square Gravesend street layout is still intact, as is Kings Highway at the top of the map.

18th Avenue, which crosses 86th Street just south of the 18th Avenue station on the West End el line, was one of the first roads laid out through the old town of New Utrecht. It has been subtitled for Christopher Columbus since the 1980s. From my 18th Avenue page:

A network of old roads come together at 18th Avenue just north of 86th Street, where the Brooklyn, Greenwood and Bath Plank Road (now New Utrecht Avenue), Kings Highway (now 84th Street) and the Road from New Utrecht to Flatbush (18th Avenue) intersect.

Kings County, from the colonial era to the late 1800s was made up of six separate towns: Brooklyn, Bushwick, Flatlands, Flatbush, New Utrecht, and Gravesend. Over a couple of centuries, the City of Brooklyn gradually absorbed the other towns (after part of Flatlands became New Lots). By 1896, Kings County and the City of Brooklyn were finally coterminous…but then, Brooklyn voted to consolidate with New York City, by a very thin margin, in 1898.

The town oNew Utrecht was named for Utrecht, Netherlands, the 4th largest city in that country. In Dutch, “Utrecht” is derived from two words that mean “old fort,” so that “New Utrecht” actually means “New Old Fort.” It’s remembered in Brooklyn by New Utrecht Avenue, the much shorter Old New Utrecht Road and by New Utrecht High School, which was shown in the opening credits for the 1970s Welcome Back Kotter TV show and where your webmaster took his math SATs.

New Utrecht Avenue is nearly, but not completely, dominated by the elevated West End BMT (as of 2008, the D and M trains) but it began life in 1852 as a private plank road called the Brooklyn, Greenwood and Bath Plank Road, so called because it ran from the Green-Wood Cemetery area to Bath Beach. By 1865, Charles Gunther’s Brooklyn, Bath and Coney Island Railroad was built along its length, and after Brooklyn Rapid Transit (the BRT) took it over, the route was placed on elevated tracks in 1917.

New Utrecht’s first settler was Cornelius Van Werckhaven, who arrived in New Amsterdam from Utrecht, Netherlands, in 1652. He purchased what wouldbecome Bensonhurst, Gravesend, and Bay Ridge from Dutch governor Wilhelm Kieft and later, from the Nyack Indians. His associate Jacques Cortelyou issued patents to other settlers after Van Werckhaven returned to Europe. By 1661 New Utrecht had been granted a charter by New Amsterdam Director General Peter Stuyvesant, and the town was on its way.
The town was annexed by Brooklyn in the late 1800s, and Brooklyn joined NYC in 1898.

The Marshalls clothing store
is located on the bottom floor of the old Loew’s Oriental Theatre at 86th Street and Bay 19th.
From Cinematreasures, which has a photo of the theater from 1968:

Opened on October 13, 1927 with Ronald Colman in “Beau Geste” and vaudeville on the stage. The Loew’s Oriental Theatre was known for its lavish Oriental style decor.
It was twinned in February 1977 with 1,076 seats on the orchestra level and 1,140 seats on the balcony level. In February 1984 the balcony was divided into two auditoriums, making the theatre a triple-screen operation. It was closed on May 21, 1995.


Speaking of the movies, this is the location, where New Utrecht Avenue meets 86th Street, where Gene Hackman’s Popeye Doyle has to swerve to avoid a woman with a baby carriage in 1972′s The French Connection; he is pursuing a hitman who has taken control of a northbound West End train. The sequence can be seen as part of this clip.

At first I was stumped about what bank this present-day Chase was at 19th Avenue and 86th. But look closely and you will sometimes see identifying marks. Former Dime Bank buildings are sometimes identified by representations of the Liberty dime issued from 1916-1945, sometimes called the Mercury dime since Liberty is wearing a winged cap like the Roman messenger god did. The back of the Liberty Dime is an unquestionably Roman symbol: bundles of sticks surrounding an axe called the “fasces,” symbolizing governmental authority.

Butcher, 86th Street between 19th and 20th Avenues.

Lenny’s Pizza, at 1969 86th, is indelibly imprinted as the pizzeria where John Travolta’s Tony Manero buys two slices and eats them while strutting down 86th Street at the opening scene of 1977′s Saturday Night Fever.

In the 1970s, I was amazed at how quickly the disco craze arose, and has never really left. It was just a couple of  years earlier everyone wore rags and smoked weed, vowing never to become The Man. All of a sudden, everyone wanted to be The Man. People are instinctually acquisitive, and disco was emblematic of this characteristic.

Apartment building/McDonald’s, 20th Avenue. I’m unsure if these once-grand buildings came before the construction of the el in 1917-1919, or later.

A second former theater, recognizable as such by the comedy and tragedy terra cotta masks on the pediments, just south of 20th Avenue.

Opened as the Benson Theatre in 1921, it was a 1,400 seat theatre, located in the shadows of the elevated subway in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. It was run as a dollar theatre by the Golden Theatre chain before it was twinned by splitting it down the middle and renamed Benson Twins.

Subsequently, it became a first run house. In the final days, it was closed more than it was open, and was closed in the early-1990’s for its current retail use. cinematreasures

Looking carefully, old names appear through or under modern-day signs, such as at 2075 86th.

Grand bank buildings, some identifiable, some not, are arrayed along 86th Street. This one at 21st Avenue has become a New York & Company clothing store.

The Bay Ridge-Bensonhurst area has a proliferation of streets called “Bay”, “Ridge” or “Bay Ridge” — there’s Ridge Boulevard, Ridge Court, Ridgecrest Terrace, and Bay Ridge Avenue, Bay Ridge Parkway, Bay Ridge Place, Bay Cliff Terrace, the numbered Bay streets from 7 to 54, and Bay Parkway, which early on replaced 22nd Avenue on maps. All are named for wither the Narrows or the steep hill, or ridge, that rises in Brooklyn on its east side.

When the West End was placed on an el as part of the Dual Contracts transportation purchase in the 1910s, several wider streets were given concrete spans with terra cotta embellishments. This one at Bay Parkway was undergoing renovation in mid-2011; another such, at Ocean Parkway, was wonderfully restored and appointed in 2010.

Where the sidewalks are wider, open-air bazaars selling everything from rugs to grocery items can be found along 86th Street such as this one at 2203.

Riding past on the el, this ancient sign for Orloff’s, established, as it says, in August 1902 at 2211 86th, was always partially obscured. For the present, in 2011, it was in full view. The establishment was here before the el…

Gravesend historian Joseph Ditta: According to this advertisement from the program for the Annual Fair of the Epworth League of the Cropsey Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church, August 19-21, 1909, Orloff’s sold dry goods, gents’ furnishings, and shoes.

Bensonhurst had always been identified as 85%-90% Italian-American–at least it seemed to be in the 1970s and 1980s. No longer — Asian immigrants have settled in large numbers, and Russians and other Eastern Europeans have migrated northwest from Brighton Beach.

Help me with this domed HSBC branch at 2301 86th — of course, it used to be a different bank. It likely dates to the 1930s-40s as it’s rife with Machine Age iconography, such as eagles, manly barechested men and comely barebreasted women. Beehives always have symbolized thriftiness but what of the winged wheel and other symbols?

The Licodiesi Brotherhood Society, a social club, reminds us there is still a strong Italian presence. Club members hail from Licodia Eubea, Sicily.

Engine 253, a firehouse east of 24th Avenue, is so nice I shot it twice.

The Parfitt Brothers, the architect of four firehouses in Brooklyn during 1895-96, designed Engine Company 253 (a designated New York City Landmark)… Located in Bensonhurst, one of the first six towns established in Kings County [actually New Utrecht --ed.], the upper stories display multiple step gables…

Step gables, also known as corbie or crow gables were popular in northern Europe from the 14th  to the 17th century. Inspired by Gothic and Italian  Mannerist sources, the style gained great popularity in Holland during the early seventeenth century. Of the three types of Dutch gables identified by the architectural historian W. Kuyper in Dutch Classicist Architecture, Engine Company No. 258 falls into the category of “proto Baroque.” Though the prominent churches designed by sculptor and architect Hendrick de Keyser (1565-1621) did not incorporate step gables, his flamboyant use of contrasting materials and oversized classical details did have a significant influence on the design of private residences in Amsterdam, particularly canal houses. Crowned by elaborate step gables and sandstone details, these slender multi-story brick residences were imitated by current builders in New Netherlands and were known by subsequent generations through printed images and descriptions. NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission

Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, known popularly as the Mormon Church, 2455 86th.

It’s fitting that, at the triangle formed by West 13th Street, 86th Street (yes, in Brooklyn 13th Street can intersect 86th) and Avenue U, Antonio Meucci Square is opposite a large Verizon building containing offices, relays and switches.

Meucci was the inventor of the telephone as far back as the 1850s (Alexander Graham Bell was able to obtain a patent for it before Meucci could afford one).


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162 Responses to 86th STREET in Bensonhurst

    • Jeffrey H. Wasserman says:

      I guess the dome’s the tip-off since the original Williamsburgh Savings Bank HQ is similarly domed.

    • Arthur Cohn says:

      I lived at 2302 85th street from 1936 to 1943, when I was 7 years old. The Bank was put up after Pearl Harbor. I remember a malted shop there. and after the war started, the store was used as a collection site for scrap iron, which I helped to collect.

      • CC says:

        Hey, I also lived at that 2302 85th st. address, from 1965 to 1977, age 6 to 18. I loved that old building. Used to practice hockey against those Williamsburg bank doors (the puck was soft:-). I think back on those days with great fondness. I saw The Sound of Music and many Disney films at the Benson. It was always a special event to go there. Thanks very much for the memory.

    • jeff frankel says:

      does anybody recall one above two below head shop on 86th street on the second floor? that was the best time in the day I was there in the very early 70′s or Arlene’s jeans store on bay parkway. I went to ps 128 in the late 60′s and went to Cavalo Jr High they was a store right near the school where all the fights to place from Beach Beach Boys. The leader Clayton had a fight in the school yard pretty sure he died as a teenager.Mrs Roake was the principal.I lived directly across PS 128 in an apartment. Anybody recall Jeff Frankel I am 57 now jeffrfrankel@aol.com

  1. Fred Phillips says:

    I enjoyed this posting immensely. It brought back memories from the 1960′s where I would walk along this same route, from my home in Homecrest to the Staten Island Ferry (Brooklyn). The architecture has changed very little over the years, but the businesses along the way have. I miss the old theaters throughout Brooklyn, and wish I could remember the original identities of the banks. Thanks for these pictures.

  2. Richie O says:

    The bank that you have here on the corner of 23rd Avenue and 86th Street was once the Williamsburg Savings Bank. I walked past this thing for eight years going to school at St. Mary’s which is on the next block at 85th Street

  3. Tal Barzilai says:

    Until I saw a picture for that Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I thought that the only on NYC had was at the Lincoln Center, though it could be that they are not so major around here.

  4. howie says:

    I liked your piece, very much and was sad to read about Lowe’s theatre; living as I do outside the USA I don’t get the news, right away. Missing from your blog are descriptions of the wonderful brick-laying techniques used in some of the buildings. Commensurate with using copper – penny metal – to symbollically depict Liberty for even the poorest of people in the Statue of Liberty, the artistic brick architecture one observes on 86th street shows a creative popular expression despite the obvious inflexibility of the material. I’d liked to have heard and seen more about this. Also the iron fire-escapes which are disappearing and which were so much a part of Brooklyn life need active remembrance and photographic depiction. Loved engine-house 253 but where are the clues to the gradual changeover from Dutch-Ami to Irish-Ami to Italien-Ami to Jewish-Ami to Black-Ami to Chinese-Ami (Somehow 86th st. skipped Puerto Rican generation) which life on 86th st. exemplifies? Did enslaved people spread to 86th st. from the safe haven in the Boro-Hall region? Are there any indications of underground railroad activity on 86th st? LG, howie

    • Stephanie says:

      I don’t think there’s been any sort of African-American presence in Bensonhurst. It went from Irish/Italian/Jewish to Asian/Russian pretty quickly, though there are still plenty of Italian pockets.

      • vicki says:

        I am also a native of Bensonhurst and you are right Steph, there was never really african americans or hispanics here. An African American youth was killed by Italian youths in Bensonhurst and Al Sharpton marched down 18th ave in protest. Mike Riccardi tried to kill him by stabbing him. Right now Bensonhurst is still strongly Italian with a large number of Chinese, Russian and South Asian people. I do see some Mexicans here and there though. Bensonhurst is Brooklyn’s Little Italy. There’s still about 20,000 Italian speaking natives. When my mom grew up here though it practically felt like living in Southern Italy.

        • jmaz98 says:

          I grew up on Bay 20th St. Until the 70s, at least, there was an African-American presence around Bath Ave and Bay 17-19th Streets. My grandfather had told me they were descendants of the servants that used to work in the mansions owned by the Irish in the early 20th century. .

          • Maria says:

            I grew up in the 1950′s on 85th St just off 18th Ave. There was a small number of African Americans who lived on 18th Ave between Cropsey Ave & Bath Ave. My mother told me they were decendents of slaves who had come from the south 100 years earlier. I have no idea if she was correct though.

          • robert dipaolo says:

            You are correct…there was a prescence of African Americans on Bath Ave near St.Finbars…but I was told they lived there because they took care of horses…not sure if they were trolley horses or it there was a track stable near by.

        • Mike m. says:

          Lived in bensonhurst 1939 tilabout 1970 went to p.s 200 jhs 128 lafayette hs how about irvings rest. And doyles poolroom downstairs drove a nyc taxi then went civil service live near las vegas now still hav a sister in old hood hope to go visit before I check out

    • Angie says:

      Howie – I believe there was a large Jewish presence in Bensonhurt before the Irish and Italians moved in. I’ve seen pictures from the early 1900s where many of the stores on 86th St. were owned by Jews and sold goods geared towards their culture. I grew up in Bensonhurst in the ’60s and ’70s and we had quite a few Jewish neighbors (mostly in the Bay streets and most definitely in Contello Towers).

      This was a great article, by the way! Brought back a lot of memories.

  5. kallikak says:

    Another wonderful journey down memory lane. I was especially interested in your focus on bank branches, as I was responsible for the one located at 2150-54 86th Street (corner of Bay 29th Street; now Capital One, originally Bowery Savings Bank). The Bowery acquired Equitable Federal Savings via merger circa 1980. Equitable had a small branch (we called it “the candy store”) farther out on 86th that couldn’t be expanded because the neighbors wouldn’t cut a deal.

    Our targets in the neighborhood were Dime, Williamsburgh and a couple of others who were collectively fat and happy at the time. Bensonhurst was—and probably still is—a terrific neighborhood for retail banking. After much sturm and drang with pretty much every building owner along the street, we were finally able to cut a deal at 2150. With our marketing clout, the relocated branch did very well (more than $200 million in deposits the last time I looked, many years ago). Later, as the banking sector imploded, the branch was passed to several successor entities, including the current owner, Capital One.

    P.S. How about a story on Dubrow’s at Kings Highway and E. 16th St.? I knew the owner (last of the storied steam-table clan) and attempted to co-locate a mini-branch before he sold out to the GAP.

    • robin f says:

      wow, a banker who can write! interesting backstory. I grew up in Contello Towers on Cropsey.

      • kallikak says:

        Thanks. My two brothers are professional writers. I was always more the number-cruncher, but given the opportunity…

        P.S. My job in the 70s and 80s required detailed knowledge of neighborhood demographics and traffic flows. The best way to acquire these was to walk the streets with discerning eyes and ears. Forgotten NY brings the varied pleasures of NYC’s many neighborhoods to a broad audience. Thank you, FNY staff and GAHS for your wonderful contribution to the city’s culture and history!

        • Karen says:

          I grew up on 86th st and 20th, 2053 86th to be exact, I’ve tried to google that address several times and couldn’t recognize a single store no less the one I grew up on top of, my question is, did they change the numbers? I’d love to be able to talk with some who also grew up in the area, I went to Bensonhurst JH which was also P.S 128, we left the area in 1965 when my parents bought their first home, I was only 15 and thought my world ended haha, Ronkonkoma L.I who? What is that? It took me years to get BKLYN out of my dreams but never ever out of my heart or who I am!

          • karl constantino says:

            I remember Bensonhurst well. I too went to PS 128 and left there in 1964 and went onto Lafayette HS, graduating in 1968. Fun we had and it was a wonderful neighborhood. I still get back at least once a year to walk around and marvel at the changes, but one thing for sure, it is still Bensonhurst. I lived on 81st between 20 and 21st avenue.

          • janet says:

            I went to PS 128 I believe I was in 5th grade in 1968. I had Mr. Yelnick in 6th grade.

      • walter says:

        Robin, I lived above Margie Merz`s Grocery store, Across the street was a vacant lot. This is where Contello # 1 was built. Margie`s became Fred`s. The Burkes owned the building Harmony candy store was in, before it became Harmony it was a Tavern called The Old Oak. Contello # 3 was built where beach houses stood. The parents of friend of mine cut a deal for an apartment in 3 for the property they gave up. Another friend `s parents moved thier house down Cropsey Avenue to the South corner of Bay 50th and Cropsey. Contello # 2 took out more friend`s houses and a small U.S. Army Depot. We hung-out in the park.. Murphy`s was a wooden shack news stand but by the time # 1 was built old man Calucci was able to build the brick bldg. on Bay 47th & Crop. His son Buck sold it in 1975.

    • Pearl says:

      I would so welcome a story on Dubrows. I met my first boyfriend there in 1963. Any pictures or stories still available?

    • LRA says:

      You’re talking about Dubrow’s and skipping the Famous? Sacre bleu! And, yes, I knew Irving’s well. It predated Jahn’s, another popular hangout that replaced Woolworth, where we’d sometimes stop just before returning from lunch to JHS128 to buy 10 cents worth of M&M’s. Early ’60′s, y’know.

  6. Winnie says:

    I grew up on Fort Hamilton Parkway and 55th Street in Boro Park but I think I walked the length & Breadth of Brooklyn when I was a kid. Walked form our block to Prospect Park, Sunset Park and the other way to Leif Erikson Park. The Brighton Beach El was a 3 block walk south of Fort Hamilton Parkway and shopped on 13th avenue. I miss the Appetizer Store and the Pizzaria that we would grab lunch. Shopped in National Shoes on 13th Avenue and the Hardware store. So many years have passed since I was a kid but I will always be a Brooklyn Girl. Like I tell People, You can take the girl out of the city but you can’t take the city out of the girl. Great memories of the borough of Brooklyn.

  7. Old Skool says:

    There has to be a way besides photoshop to keep the golden arches out of the pix of the fire station. And by the way is Hackman something else or what?

  8. Suzanne says:

    I grew up on 84th Street and 15th Avenue and have only recently moved out of the neighborhood. I can recall every crack in the sidewalk walking with you down 86th Street. Thanks so much for creating this site and sharing in the history that is our city!!

    • Francesca Passalacqua says:

      Anch’io sono cresciuta sulla 84th street e 15th avenue dal 1969 al 1974/75, ho frequentato PS 204 Dyker Heights 201 and New Utricht HS. Adesso abito in SICILIA ma questo sito e foto mi fanno venire vecchi ricordi, sopratutto lo shopping il sabato a 86 Street from the Dimes SB to 25th avenue da Macdonald ‘s. Continuate a parlare di Brooklyn che a me piace tantissimo.

  9. Ferryboi says:

    Anyone know if the Van Pelt home belonged to the same Van Pelt’s that were so prominent on Staten Island? There’s a Van Pelt Ave in Mariner’s Harbor and a Van Pelt family cemetery in Richmondtown. I was always under the assumption the Van Pelt’s were local to Staten Island, but probably not a stretch to think they may have been in New Utrecht too.

  10. chris says:

    The winged wheel symbolizes swiftiness

  11. Allen Benett says:

    The McDonald’s in the building on the corner of 20th Avenue is the location of Shirt Town were Vinny bought his disco shirt in Saturday Night Fever.

  12. Adrastos says:

    Wow, this is my neighborhood, right at Bay Parkway and 86th street.

    The train station at Bay Parkway is getting a full overhaul. They have already installed new windows which are hunter green with mutons. The tiles have since been cleaned and the concrete structure has been painted as well.

    The area is losing it’s Italian feel as many, many Asians are moving into the neighborhood, and here I am, a Greek man…..were here also. !! LOL While Bensonhurst / Bath Beach is not, nor will ever be a “hip and Trendy” area or probably ever gentrified it is one of the last few truly really affordable neighborhoods. Which is good for all us working class people.

    I didn’t know Rite Aid was a theatre. Interesting.

    again, my thanks to the webmaster for taking us on this great little walk !!

    • janet says:

      86th and Bay Parkway was my neighborhood as well. Hung out at the Pizza Stop and JCH also Cropsey Park.

      • jeff frankel says:

        I went to ps 128 I am 57 now I also lived on 79st and Bay Parkway and sometimes went to the JCH I spent a short time going to Lafayette and in 75 went in the Army. One of my good friends was Jeff Sarachick he now ownes a few dog delight pet food stores in Brooklyn. I am not sure if we ever met or knew eacher been a long time but seems like we were in the same area. Oh speaking of the pizza stop my friend I think his name was Michael he parents owned it in the 70s. I used to sit in there and fold boxes for the pizza.I also had two other friends George Kirchman and John Walsh if that rings a bell.I went to Cavalero on Cropsey.

  13. John Dereszewski says:

    Excellent article – as usual – Kevin. While I grew up in far away Greenpoint, my aunt and uncle moved to Bath Beach – on Bay 8th St. – in 1957. So I got to know this neck of the woods rather well. I distinctly remember shopping on 86th St. with my aunt and discovering the bazzare like businesses that plied their wares on the extremely wide sidewalk situated beyond Bay Parkway. I had never seen anything like it, and this early experience etched itself in my memory. It’s good to see that this use still exists, though I am sure that the mix of businesses has greatly changed.

  14. K-Train says:

    If you look carefully at the concrete viaduct at Bay Parkway there are still cut-outs in the lateral beams over at 86th Street that were used to accommodate the overhead power for the former B&QT #34 Bayridge-13 Ave-86th Street streetcar line. (now B1 and B64 busses).

  15. KevinJWalsh says:

    Saturday Night Fever will be shown Saturday evening (Dec 31) on Channel 11

  16. Dave C. says:

    Great article. I checked the video of Vinny walking do’wn the street with his pizza and got swept up into all sorts of related
    You Tubes about Brooklyn accents, Italians vs. Irish, the Italians are not white”, Family Guy knocks on Italians, etc. Lots of fun! dc.

  17. Vincent La Marca says:

    I remember the Benson Twin. I watched the “Karate Kid” there in late 1984. I used to shop on 86th St. in the mid to late 1980s and I know that the theater was closed by 1988, replaced first by a Pathmark drug store and later by a Rite Aid.

  18. Don Cuevas says:

    My parents, grandparents, aunt and uncle lived up in an apartment on 86th St.. I have fond memories of both the Benson Theatre (where I went to the movies for the first time with my buddies) and the Loew’s Oriental, where I saw The Three Musqueteers at least twice.

    Also fondly remembered was Hy Tulip’s Deli, to which I would make forays, usually over the busy street by way of the El Station, to get takeout orders of hot dogs and leaden but delicious knishes. This was back in the late 40s and in the 50s.

    Don Cuevas

    • karl constantino says:

      the potato salad was so good. The corned beef sandwiches were dynamite too. Sals news stand next door was where my buddy worked and he dated a girl around the corner who was named Karen. They went to New Utrecht HS and I went to Lafayette HS.

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  22. jack says:

    I worked at Alpine motors the pontiac dealer at 86th st and 18th ave..Anyone have any pictures of that ?

  23. Dawn says:

    Uncle Bobby’s Bagels was housed where the McDonalds is on 86ht Street and 20th Avenue. a fun place to work back in the early 90′s!

    • Allen says:

      Uncle Bobby’s was next to the Benson Entrance. They were in fact in the same building. McDonalds is now where Shirt Town was (The store where Tony in Saturday Night Fever buys the shirt on the way back to the paint store)

      • Tommy says:

        Allen and Dawn: you’re both correct! Uncle Bobby’s Bagels was first located next to the Benson Theater, but Uncle Bobby’s later moved across 20th Avenue to the corner where the McDonald’s is located.

        I know this partly because I worked at Uncle Bobby’s when it first opened in 1981! I was a 15-year-old bagel baker. In fact, I even worked there before it opened, helping with the construction and other prep.

  24. Jennifer says:

    Glad to finally find out what kind of store Orloff’s was. I remember first seeing the building uncovered the day they took the awnings down that covered the facade. I was on my way home from work standing on the platform of the Bay Parkway station and immediately thought to send an e-mail to Forgotten NY.

  25. PAUL says:

    FYI the MacDonald’s at 20th & 86th Street was Lach’s Haberdashery from the 30′s up to the early 60′s. There was an A&P market between 19th Ave. & Bay 20th St. When my mother took me shopping with her in the 40′s she used a shopping cart and literally could not fit $10.00 worth of groceries in the cart. The first modern supermarket to open in Bensonhurst was a Grand Union on 20th Ave. aboout a 100 feet from 86th St. built on the site of a glove factory that had closed. It was off the SE corner. It opened circa 1950.

  26. Irving D. Kaplan says:

    I grew up on 81st street between 19th and 20th Avenue. I attended PS 128, PS 186 and New Utrecht High School. My social life was at the JCH on Bay Parkway. My passion as a young boy was punch ball, stick ball, johnny on pony, four box baseball, etc. etc. Oops I forgot “the girls” !
    I left Brooklyn when I was accepted into dental school and headed for Washington DC. I was married at that time. I will never forget my friends who I played basketball with at ther “J”.
    My friends retired to Florida and I retired to Long Island.
    Respectfully submitted

    • Karen says:

      I went to 128 also, then started Lafayette and 1 month later moved to LI that was back in 1965

    • karl constantino says:

      I actually grew up down the block from you. I lived on 81st between 20 and 21st. The days of stick ball and all the fun we had is long gone, but great memories. I went to PS 128 and Lafayette HS. I played guitar with the 3 brothers who lived on your block. They lived on the left side, Dominick, Danny, and one other brother. They had a great sound and played at the club on 20th avenue. I also played at a number of the terraces on 18th avenue in the 1960s and 1970s. Time has really moved on, but Bensonhurst will always be Bensonhurst.

      • janet says:

        I must know you, I lived on 82nd between bay parkway and 21st in the Americana

        • Helayne says:

          Janet I know you, I babysat for you. Our parents were friends. My mom was Frances. You are Harriet and Sauls daughter right?

          My neighborhood as well. Lived on 82nd st between bay pkwy and 21st ave. went to 128 aka Bensonhurst jr HS from K thru 9th, went on to Lafayette grad class of 64. Just had our 50th reunion this past may and what a blast that was. I live in St. Louis now, but am heading east for a week this Sunday. Staying at my sis house in NJ but the first thing I want to do is drive into bklyn and have a slice and coke.

          Great memories on this page. Thanks to all for putting it together and keeping this up.

  27. Irving D. Kaplan says:

    I forgot: At the date of posting I am two weeks short of my 79th birthday.

    • Karen says:

      After going down to your next post I realized you may have went to 128 with my father, uncle or aunt. I know you also had to know Ms Mezma, not sure I spelled that right but anyway she was an old stern teacher and my entire family had her as a teacher haha..

      • Fran says:

        I’m smiling…grew up at 8020 bay parkway and 8001 bay parkway…Miss .Mezma was my fifth grade teacher…will never forget her. Never, never skip the first line of writing in your notebook! Lol

        • LRA says:

          You really are from Brooklyn! Can’t pronounce — or write — a final letter “R.” Her name was Mesmer (perhaps two “S’s”?) and she was a martinet. She taught in the junior-high part of 128 in my time (I finished 9th grade in 1962 and went on to Lafayette) as she did when my brother, older than I by six years, was in her class. My mother filed a complaint then with the principal when she learned that Miss Mesmer had been taking the kids’ lunch money to inflate the class donation to Mothers’ March of Dimes; a typical class donation would have been $4, that is, a dime per student, but Mesmer’s class came up with something closer to $40. That, at any rate, is how I recall my mother’s telling of the incident.

  28. Sheryl says:

    Thank you so much for this website and photos which brought back so many memories. I grew up on 85th Street in the 1950′s. So many memories. I remember the Benson Theater so well…sitting with my friends eating candy and watching Beach Blanket Bingo at least three times in one afternoon.

    Thanks for the memories. I left NY in the 70′s. I miss Bensonhurst of the 50′s and 60′s. I heard it is so much different now – even the high school I went to – Lafayette – is now a disaster with cultural gang fights, so I hear. So sad.

    Thanks again for letting me remember it as it was. What a treasure those photos are.

    • Karen says:

      I lived on the same block as the Benson, I remember going to Lenny’s for lunch, do you remember Ebinger’s Bakery, Jahns and the candy store up the block from 128

      • walter says:

        I remember when Jahns was a 5 & 10 store and many store fronts on the east side of 86th street between Bay Parkway 23rd avenue were fresh produce shops with so many customers you could barely walk by.

    • Paul Newman says:


      If you still log on to this site. Did you know, Dennis Lupo, Danny Orderino, or Anthony Chiarenza? Dennis lived above the vegetable market next to the Victory butcher shop. Danny lived above the Italian Bakery. Anthony lived in the apartment building on the corner of 85st, just across from the luncheonette and the same side of the street as the bakery. Murray Cohen and Harvey Taub lived in the same building. Sadly, Dennis died when he was around 23, and I lost track of Danny and Anthony. I was at PS128/BJHS from 1943-1952.


  29. Paul says:

    Very nice article centered around the area. I grew up in Bensonhurst (67th st, 18th av). Although I was part of the post-soviet influx of russian speaking people into the neighborhood, I still have a deep respect for the history of the area and my own fond memories of early 90′s Bensonhurst that still had very visible remnants of past eras, as well as being the last years of strong italian-american presence. These are the memories which have stuck with me…especially seeing “Lion King” at Loew’s theater in 1994, my first experience going to the movies in america. little did I know, in less than a year it would be gone, and was even less aware of the building’s history being a young, recent immigrant. Although the area has significantly changed even since I moved to another part of Brooklyn in 1999, the memories still remain.

  30. Leo says:

    Having lived at the 86th / Bay Parkway location for over 18 years and counting, I can vouch for the demographic shift in this part of Bensonhurst from the new Russian to new Asian immigrant communities.

  31. Patricia says:

    What was the name of the bakery on 86th street and bay parkway. Used to get off the B train on pay day and stop in the bakery then took the bus home.

    • PAUL says:


      It has been a while since I logged on to this website. The name of the bakery was Schlom & Deutch. It was a great Jewish bakery and just one of the many that flourished in Bensonhurst at that time. There was Gail’s on Cropsey Avenue, and Waxman’s on 20th between 84th & 85th Streets to name a couple. And of course we had Ebinger’s and all the great Italian bakeries. Now unfortunately they are but memories.


      • Karen says:

        There was nothing like Ebinger’s Blackout cake, oh and the Charlotte Rouse’s on bay pkwy, yummy…

      • Steven says:

        Thanks for that name–Schlom and Deutsch. I was racking my brain for it–I knew there was a choice of bakeries in my household, that and Ebinger’s, and many arguments were had over which was better, but I was too young to remember details. I grew up on 81st Street, between Bay Parkway and 23rd Ave, and attended PS 97, JHS 128 (which moved to Cropsey Avenue and became JHS 281 when I was in 8th grade) then Lafayette. I’m 59 years old, and moved out of the neighborhood in 1971 for good.

      • Angie says:

        There was also a great little Jewish bakery called Normandie’s on 86th St., opposite of where Bay 22 ended. Loved their leaf cookies, marble cake and bow ties! :)

      • Jason says:

        I’m glad you mentioned Gail’s. My great-grandfather started it and my grandfather took it over. He left the bakery in the late 1980s, but he still makes a mean cheesecake.

    • harvey says:

      Schlom and Deitch was the bakery. Didn’t hold a candle to Ebingers!

  32. Irv says:

    got my first “feel” at the Benson in 1948. Wow that was fun !

  33. traci says:

    Although I grew up in, and went to high school , in Astoria, I spent 5 years living in Bensonhurst..I lived on the corner of Bay Parkway and Bath Avenue..I absolutely loved walking through this neighborhood. I always felt safe, even late at night. I especially loved the eclectic mix of stores on 86th St..My favorite treat was a movie at Loews Oriental. In fact, it’s where I took my children to see their very first movie..I was sad to hear it was gone now..the interior was so cool! I love the decor of the old, original theatres so much more then the multiplexes of today…I also met my first husband on 86th St when I almost hit him with my car..I have alot of fond memories of my years there, and am currently planning a trip with my kids to visit ..they are curious to see the places where mommy grew up..I wonder if I’ll still recognize anything?

  34. Dan Hoagland says:

    Thanks for this article. I moved to Bensonhurst from Prospect Heights in 1966. A lot of memories of 86th Street for the wife and I. My family dates back in Brooklyn to 1657 and my ancestors are listed in the archives of the NewUtrecht Reformed Church. I started this board http://www.easternpkwaymemories.com/phpBB/index.php in January and I have a forum for Bay RIdge and Bensonhurst if anybody is interested in sharing pictures, memories, or both.

  35. karl constantino says:

    There are so many great memories to be had, but I remember my mother walking from Spinners on 86st and 23rd ave. She would walk 86st and enjoyed it all. I remember her taking me to Jahns for ice cream as a kid, as a teenager playing pool at the pool room on 86th street and 21st avenue downstairs from Ebingers Bakery. Zeskins for school supplies next to Jahns. Ng laundry on 21st avenue and Fongs laundry on 81st street and 20th avenue, both of which I went to school with their sons. I will always be a Bensonhurstite until I die. Today 61 years later it is as crystal clear as was yesterday the wonderful folks who lived there. All nationalities living in harmony and yes in peace.

    • Dan Held says:

      Karl Constantino … I’m 15 years older than you, and a former resident of Bensonhurst. I remember the theaters, the Loew’s Oriental, the Benson, Ebinger’s, and Schlom & Deutsch bakeries, PS 128, Lincoln HS, Jahn’s, many wonderful, nice neighbors and residents of Bensonhurst but … I also remember some residents and neighbors who were Jew-haters, and who always talked of ‘killing the n****ers if they even try to move in here … ‘, so that when you talk of ‘all nationalities living in peace and harmony’ I question whether you lived there with blinders covering your eyes and cotton stuffed in your ears? Bensonhurst was never a bastion of tolerance and acceptance of other nationalities and races, in spite of the many good people in Bensonhurst who led quiet lives working, raising families and contributing to a neighborhood’s vitality. I take pride in being a Brooklynite but I remember Bensonhurst a lot more differently than most.

      • Helayne says:

        Dan, I grew up on 82nd st between bay parkway and 21st ave. I was born in 1947 and my mother until she passed away in 1985 still was there. I moved about in 1968 when I married. In all the years I lived there I never heard one disparaging remark against those that were Jewish including me. Neither did my mother, grandmother and all my cousins, aunts and uncles who also lived in the neighborhood.

  36. Pingback: Coney Ride ’87

  37. Sheryl says:

    Oh my gosh…I lived on 85th Street in Bensonhurst from 1953 to 1979. What memories these pics bring back…the Benson Theatre…what about Loews? (wrong spelling I’m sure – it’s been so many years).

    Heard my old highschool, Lafayette is one of the worst now with multi-racial problems. It was a pretty good school back then.

    Thank you so much for the memories. Much appreciated.

  38. Frank D'Onofrio says:

    Anyone remember the name of the Glove Factory on Utrecht Ave, and possibly the name of the owner. My Aunts used to work there, back in the 1940 -1950′s.

    • Mary says:

      I believe iot was called “Della Gloves” My mother worked there too. One of the owners was called “Jennie”

  39. AG says:

    Anyone remember my grandpa Ike’s deli with his brother n laws Jules and Jerry- ”
    called Smolinsky’s”????

    • robert says:

      Wow..we were just recently talking about Smolinsky’s on 65th street…wow just the thought….

    • Marlene says:

      Jules was my Father ! It was the best Deli in Brooklyn, NY. I also remember your grandpa Ike and your Grandmother Irene. Good memories of them.

    • Shelly from Jack and Irv's says:

      Then you had to be related to Barton Silverman………..Jules was his uncle……….we were friends forever from West 9th st.

  40. Inky says:

    In the year 1942 my dad was 38 years of age. Because of his age and he was married he did not qualify for the military. He became an air raid warden. I was nine years of age. My dad and I walked the streets of Bensonhurst during air raid drills. They were mostly at night. I knew of the air raid shelters in the Bensonhurst area. The WW2 years were tough. We overcame the enemy and came out on top.
    Irv Kaplan aka Inky

  41. harvey says:

    I grew up in coney island and had a friend that lived in contello towers I graduated from Lincoln h.s. in 1963. my friend’s name is Arthur “artie” Kaplan. he would have lived in the towers around 1960-63. if anyone might know where he is or how to contact him please let me know.
    it has been 50 years since we saw each other last.

  42. joan luchen says:

    I lived at Harway Terrace for 37 years. Location Bay 50th and Harway
    The best bread was A & G Bakery. Italian bread to die for.
    Shopped along 86th Street and got the best buys on fruits and vegetables.
    I went to New Utrecht high school where there were no metal detectors or police
    ever and everyone got along. What happened???
    Do you remember Senior’s restaurant on Coney Island Avenue?
    They had the greatest food. Brooklyn was at it’s finest in those days.

  43. Paul Newman says:


    Senior’s Restaurant was located near Avenue Z and Nostrand Avenue. Are you familiar with the Basile family that lived on Bay 50th between Harway and Cropsey Avenues? The parents were Pete and Jenny. They had three children Salvatore(Sally), Marie, and Joseph(Jo-Jo). It was a two family house. They lived downstairs. Upstairs were their in-laws, Joe and Jenny Catanzaro. The time I knew them was circa 1963 – 1980.

    • diane miozzi says:

      i met joseph basile from 94 bay 50th st back in 1979 we met through our jobs working for a shipping company i spent my weekends at his house and sometimes joseph would come to philly south Philadelphia where i still live i always wondered what ever happened to him its been over 30 years that i have not seen him i hope that he is well and i would love to see him again every Christmas holiday i go to little Italy in new York to shop and eat well i hope that joseph gets this message and i would go to new York to see him again…………………….diane from south Philadelphia…………………………

  44. Gary Tomei says:

    I loved this article.
    I was born in 1936 and grew up on Bay Ridge Pkwy (75th St.) and 16th Ave. I can remember as a kid walking the old trolley tracks from my house to the library on 18th Ave. & 84th St. It always seemed like an adventure because of the enormous bushes and shrubs which grew besides the tracks. It was like a walk in a semi rural area. The library was an old wooden bldg which seemed to be something out of the early 1900s.
    When I was in NU High, 1953 through 1956, or later at Bklyn College, we used to hang out in the Famous, which I am very surprised no one mentioned. Many a night after a date or a movie or a party we would end up at the Famous or Dubrows and be there til the early A.M.
    I would hang, at times, with Bruno Gioffre, Carmines Gerace and Schirippa, Philly Gatto, Itzy Brothman, Davey Greene and company, including the Lafayette football team. I played for NU, which had the honor of being beaten by Lafayette every year while I was in H.S.
    I also remember Dennis Lupo who hung out in the Famous along with Peter Max. And I remember being saddened about his death which I believe was a suicide.

    • Gary Tomei says:

      I forgot to mention that I played on the Falcons in the Shore Pkway League. My father, Romeo Tomei was the manager.

    • Steve Schreiber says:

      Unbelievable…those names, carmine geraci, schirippa, et al. They were good friends of my friend Barry gottlieb (Lafayette ’55)who, sadly died circa 2001. I grew up in Flatbush…Erasmus hall ’56. But even more important, did you go to jack & irv’s luncheonette next to the Marlboro theater? My wife is jack’s (Greenspan) daughter.
      Steve schreiber

    • Steve Schreiber says:

      I tried posting this morning, but don’t know if it took. So, second try.
      I was absolutely amazed when I read the names carmine gervasi, Carmine schirippa et al. They were close friends of my good friend Barry gottlieb (Lafayette ’55) who unfortunately died circa 2001. Also, were Artie Penner or Sammy wiener part of the mix? Did you go to jack & irv’s luncheonette next to the Marlboro theater. My wife’s father was the “jack” (Greenspan) of jack & irv’s. I myself grew up in Flatbush & went to Erasmus hall (’56).
      Steve schreiber

    • dave larkin says:

      went to school with you in nuhs.stayed with alex santucci.i knew your cousin elaine in high school.i now live in florida for the past 40 years.

  45. jaye Artuso Grochowski says:

    I loved the article and the pictures. I lived on Bay Ridge Parkway (75th St) and 17th Avenue. I remember walking to the music store on 86th street..It was a quaint store- with lots of piano music. There were statues of composers. Taking the trolley with my dad on Sunday morning after church to Coney Island was always fun. The Dyker Theater was located on 86th street near Ft. Hamilton Parkway. It is now a parking garage. In New Utrecht High school, which I attended 1951-1954 was a group of Italian and Jewish students…we were friends with each other. I played flute in the school orchestra and school band. I graduated in 1954. NUHS will celebrate 100 years in 2015. Celebrations are planned. Anyone who attended the school may want to contact NUHS to inquire about what is planned.
    I now live in Pennsylvania, but make many trips to Brooklyn. We go to 86th street to shop and see the changes. The trains are still an attraction. I noticed some of the Italian pastry shops are no longer on New Utrecht Ave under the “EL”. Brooklyn is always “home”.

  46. Marty L says:

    Your first picture is Tony D’Aaddone’s fruit stand I worked their in the sixties. Know one mentioned Famos or Hy tullip chock full o nuts Vinny rocking away playing his guitar on
    Bay Parkway and 86th street Pizza Stop Bari pork store still their Rex bakery reliable bakery Rolla Rama skate rink and bowling.

    • Sandy Beitsch says:

      Was that the Vinny that used to sing, and I use that term loosely, on 86 Street and Bay Parkway, and if so what ever happened to him?

      • Angie says:

        Sandy Beitsch – There is a group page on Facebook called “You’re Probably from Bensonhurst If….” They posted recent pictures of Vinny “or Vinny Trains” as we called him. He’s still alive and doing OK.

      • donny cohen says:

        are you the sandy beitsch who lived above me at 69 bay 29 street– if so where are you -we were just in the old neighborhood and visited 69 bay 29 looked at the names and there is still a beitsch listed on the roster–alan and i talk about you all the time– please reply

        • Sandy Beitsch says:

          Hey Donny, yep it’s I. Glad you and Alan are still kicking (and Francis?). My dad continued to live there until about 1995, then moved in with my sister, and finally died in 2005 at the age of 97. He was the last of his cohort. I am in Saint Paul. My email is: sbeitsch@yahoo.com

          • owen blatt says:

            hi, I was looking at some old pictures of where I use to live and found your e-mail. I lived with my parents at 69 bay 29th st. from 1943 to 1956 when we moved to valley stream. our apt.# was 1a. our next door nabor was Tillie and eli finkelstein. the super at that time was named nick. this sure brings back great memories.

  47. don forman says:

    I lived in the Marlboro Housing Project during the 60.s and 70,s and my kids attended Lafayette HS. I managed a Little League team at the Gil Hodges Little League in Gravesend. 86th St. was a special shopping trip delight, as was eating at the L&B Spumoni Gardens

    • Sandy Beitsch says:

      You don’t happen to have known a Merle Merlin that also lived in the Marlboro projects around that same time or a Ronnie (that’s a woman) Rizo (sp)? If so they can contact me (Sandy Beitsch) at:


    • Danny says:

      Don my family was the second family to move into Marlboro Projects. I was only one the year we moved in 1953. The first resident was a manager Mr. Antonelli who lived in building#13 address 2257 West 11th street.. I first went to public school 248 then Boddy Jr. High School then on to Lafayette School. We lived there for many years. I went into the U.S Coast Guard in the early 70′s then when I served my time came out we moved shortly after that. Remember Frank and Benny the Housing cops. So many good memories.

    • Are you the Don Forman who was married to Terry? My parents were Lou & Selma Azriel and my brother was Joey.

  48. harvey says:

    I grew up on 82/83rd st and 21st ave in Bensonhurst. as a teenager I worked at Harry and Morty’s candy store on Bay Pkway and 86th st. and in my teenage years at Castle Classics on 21st ave and for a few years a rockin’ Chevy Men’s shop. Lafayette was my HS. I remember visiting Italy and thinking how much like Bensonhurst it was with the fruit stands with their paper bags and clothes lines. I spent many an evening singing doo wop in the vestibules of the stores on 86th st.
    How ’bout Ebingers bakery with their trays filled with delicious goodies and their boxes tied with brown striped string. Woolworths which became Jahns in the 60′s.Dave Weinstein’s grocery on 86th between Bay Parkway and 21st ave. I still remember sitting on the cool marble outside the Chase bank on 19th and 86th on a hot summers day just down the block from Lenny’s Pizza of Saturday Nite Fever fame.. Great site. So many memories. .

    • jeff frankel says:

      The candy store that you worked at on 86th and bay parkay right below the train they used to lay out the candy on the counter hate to say it but as a young kid I would reach up and grap this was late 60′s. They dont make places like that anymore. Vinny or crazy vinny was part of the hood he would sing and hang out with us. All this is very rare these days

  49. Allan Bass says:

    These are great memories. I lived at 2237-81 Street, Brooklyn 14, New York from 1944 until 1964. I went to PS 97 and then to 128. I recently finished a book called the Life and times of Abremala B that describes the old neighborhood in fascinating detail. You can get it on Amazon. Its a great read about growing up in Bensonhurst in the 1940s and 50s.
    Exerpt: I remember the old italian ladies shopping on 86 street. They were all the same height , weight and age and they were always dressed in black and they always had a scowl on their face. They would shop in the Italian Pork Store which contained all sorts of pork products and cheeses from the old country; the smell was literally breath-taking! All sorts of smelly cheeses and salamis and dried pieces of wild boar complete with fur and snout, were hanging from the ceiling on thick ropes. I once wandered in there to buy some spagetti and I was overwhelmed by the variety of pasta and the stink of the store. I’m sure that the old Italian ladies who shopped there thought they had reached Nirvana because that was the only time that their scowl disappeared.

    The Bensonhurst neighborhood was a great place to grow up.

  50. Gary says:

    Memories are great, but what says Bensonhurst to me is Fankie and Tony Leccese, Robert Lhoboki, Herbie Goldenberg, Lenny Kirland, Irwin Skolick and anyone that would come out of the apartment buildings to play stick ball, touch football, tree ball and any other street game.

  51. Deborah says:

    when i was born in bensonhurst i lived on 78st and 23 ave.

  52. Deborah says:

    i was also baptist at st marys church around the corner.

  53. Noodles says:

    Hey remember HY Tulip deli and Jahn’s ice cream on 86 street PAPPA BEAR and Jimmy Emma and the rest of the RAPPERS.

    • Helayne says:

      Ah jimmy Emma. Now that brings back live memories. Wow.

      • Bert says:

        Jimmy Emma? OMG!! This was the little hood with the “gee” jacket who wrote in the Class of 1960 Lafayette HS graduation yearbook that his sole aspiration was to join the Navy.

    • maria says:

      wow that brings back memories I remember Pappa Bear ( Jerry) and jimmy Emma ,I’m still in Bensonhurst , where are u from Noodles??

  54. savino says:

    I grew up in bensonhurst from 1953 to 1961 I lived at 1962 81st street brooklyn,14,n.y… I went to p.s. 186 and JHS 128 and NU.. How come know one speaks of the street gangs like, THE VIGILANTE’S, or THE ASPHALT ANGELES ? I hung out mostly on Bay 28th street.. I think about those guys and girls quite often. That was the best place to grow up.. we Had a motto, ESSM.. doesn’t anyone out there remember that?

  55. M MEHLMAN says:


  56. joseph spinelli says:

    what was the name of the diner on 86 th st between bay 41st and 25 th ave?

    • Loretta Tormenia Purpura says:

      I only remember Del Rio dinner. Always went there after going to 4th Ave clubs. Dancing and having a good time. Many dinners on 4th ave. but always went back to The Del Rio.

    • Santo says:

      Wasn’t it called the Bay diner

  57. Sandy Beitsch says:

    I was born in 1946 and went to PS 200, JHS 128 and Lafayette HS. Some recollections from PS 200: Part of what we did in gym class was dance. One girl (third grade?) had stuffed her bra with toilet paper and it came undone, and unbeknownst to her, unraveled to the floor while dancing. Another, Bernice, was the only girl with breasts. She was very popular. We guys always tried to accompany her when she went to hang up her coat in the closet. Then there was the girl, Sheila Edison, who around the third grade told me she was going to marry me (she wised up and didn’t).

    Our principal at JHS 128 was Irving Cohen. We nicknamed him Pussyfoot Cohen as he spent a lot of time hiding out in stairwells looking for students who were going up the designated “down” staircases and vise versa. School administrators today probably wish that that was the worst of their problems. Our vice principal was a Mr. Stonehill. One day a bunch of us kids were walking to Bensonhurst Park and our route took us in front of his house. He stopped us and asked for assistance in locating a piece of his fence that he knocked off in trying to get his car into his driveway. We helped him look, but it was he who found it. He then reproached us with the comment that his old eyes were better than our young ones. One of our group, a Paul Kerlanchick(sp?) came back with the perfect rejoinder: “If your eyes are so good why did you hit the fence.” Some memorable teachers: Ms. O’Rourke from whom I learned all of my grammar (thank you), Ms. Brady who taught social studies (or was it history) and who everyone feared but who was an excellent teacher, a Ms. Long (art) who revealed her lack of artistry by using an ink stamp to “sign” our graduation albums and a Ms. Mesmer (social studies?) whose idea of teaching was to spend the entire period writing on the blackboard stuff that we had to spend the entire period copying in a special gray notebook that became known, even to the stationary stores, as a “Mesmer Book.”

    Lafayette High School was a good school when I went there, but years later when I returned to check it out there were three cops and a metal detector in the entry.

    I was one of those disgusting “teacher pet” type students in much of my public school days but made an about face once I moved to Minnesota. Don’t believe it? Check out my video “Santa Unbearded” on You Tube.

    Sandy Beitsch

    • Sandy says:

      Would you by any chance know Adrienne Browarnik? Or her married name? She went to 128 and Layette about same time as you? i’m trying to find her but don’t know her married name. We were best buddies at one time, but got separated.

  58. Loretta says:

    Great Pictures. Brought back a lot of memories. I grew up on Benson Ave. and 24th Ave. Went to PS101, BJHS, and Lafayette. Born 1948. So I moved around the whole area as I grew up. Lived 84th st. Near St. Mary’s Church-My sons went to that school for 8 years. Wonder if anyone is from my area. Always looking for people I left behind. Wonderful site. Love to just look back and remember when!

  59. Stephen Shea says:

    I remember when. When I was amazed how fast the workers at Ebinger’s tied a cake box with netted hair, A charlotte ruse at Schlom & Dieucth, a sicilian pizza at Rex bakery, A 12 cent entrance to the Stillwell theater on Saturday with two films and a multitude of cartoons, Real Italian Ices at fillipo’s on 86th st., A meal at the Famous cafeteria, a shake at Irving’s, pool hall above it, Mirror’s Pumpernical, Italian owned grocery stands on 86th st.,” That’s my dog Tide, he lives in a shoe. I’m Buster Brown I live there too.’, Jimmy’s bar and the Holday bar, the wooden floor of Woolworth’s, a trolly ride for 5 cents to Coney island, the Ben McCrae social club on Cropsey ave, a Good Humor sunday, Italian restaurants, two chinese on 86th st. Yes I remember it well.

  60. Shelly from Jack and Irv's says:

    you said youarried Jacks daughter, which one, I think, Marsha or Barbara? and Irv’s daughter was Judy and who could for get Howie. It was an experience and an education growning up in “The store”

    Irvings wisdow and punch lines I still use…..to this day……….Welcome back kotter was about Seth Low, it was my 9th grade class, created by Alan Sacks, he sat in front of me in homeroom……..I am friends with him still in Los Angeles……. when it was happening we always said they should do a TV show or movie………….Over the brooklyn bridge, Gary Goldbergs Brooklyn Bridge has Jack (with the cigar) as a charcter, and a few more…………..if you like you can email me and I have plenty of stories and even an original Dolly syrup sigh that I used to clean ….Jack gave it to me when they remodeled………

    by for now


    • Steve Schreiber says:

      Glad to get your input from my posting to Gary Tomei…very interested in hearing more detail. I seem to remember your name from the many guys that either worked or hung out at Jack & Irv’s. I also remember Jack endearingly referring to “Meyer the fairy”. So, I married Barbara – we just celebrated our 52nd anniversary. And just for some perspective, Barbara & I grew up in Flatbush 1/2-block from each other (Caton Ave. & St. Paul’s Place). Email us or find us on Facebook – separately Steve Schreiber or Barbara Schreiber.

  61. Rita Plush says:

    I’m writing a novel set in 1945 Brooklyn. Anyone know how to get from the 86th stop on the elevated train to Steeplechase in Coney Island.

    Thank you
    Rita Plush

  62. Rita Plush says:

    Folks can also respond to the above request to info@ritaplush.com

    Many thanks.

    Rita Plush

  63. Rita Plush says:

    Born in 1937, I also went to PS 128 and remember principal, Mr. Cohn, teachers Long and Mesmer. Also Mrs. Relkin. Maiden name is Weingarten, and I’ve recently become friends again with Myrna Handel. Marty Zeiger, Marvin Wolf, Virginia Small, Angela Licari, Murray Cohen, are some of my friends who come to mind. Contact me on this site or through my website, info@ritaplush.com

    Warm wishes

  64. PAUL NEWMAN says:

    The bank on the corner of 86th Street and 21st Avenue was the Banker’s Trust Company. I know because I had my first checking account there. Across 86th Street from the bank was 1st Woolworth’s and followed by Jahn’s Ice Cream. Across 21st Avenue was Allahand’s Pharmacy. Diagonally from the bank was Crawford’s Haberdashery. Also the MacDonald’s on the corner of 20th and 86th Street was for many years a men’s clothing store named “Lach’s”.

  65. Pauline Poremba says:

    I grew up in Bensonhurst 1843-70th street I loved reading the stories it brought back so many memories
    married 51 years and living in the Midwest sometimes i can still smell the Albers bakery I was called Paula Pagliaro went to our lady of Guadeloupe Catholic school shallow jr high and new Utrecht high

  66. Mike in fla via Bklyn says:

    16th avenue is also know Vincent Gardenia Boulevard, (the detective in the movie Death Wish). Vincent Gardenia was also known as the Mayor of Brooklyn.

  67. owen blatt says:

    I lived at 69 bay 29th st. my dad owned lester radio and t.v. on 31 st and mermaid ave in coney island moved to valley stream in 1956. famous on 86th st. was my favorite. would go to adlers on 29th st and 86th every sunday to pick up bagels and white fish, carp. it was a great time growing up. we were always at the school yard. when I tell kids today about stickball stoopball they ask me is that a new program on their I,pod.

  68. Tommy says:

    I grew up at 2251 81st and 86 St was my mall since King’s Plaza seemed really far by bus when I was kid. I moved out of New York when I was 21 which was 10 year’s ago but I go back at least once pair year and unfortunately it’s not the same. I miss the Wiz, Pizza Stop and that great Jewish deli. Even places like L&B don’t seem the same and maybe that’s because I’m older or because the yuppies have took away what’s special about Bensonhurst. Here’s to playing handball at P.S.97 and getting lunch at John’s.

  69. Mariann says:

    So nice reading about Bensonhurst. Here is what I remember, Jahns on the corner of 21 and 86 street,.Allerhands Pharmacy diagonally across..Margolis dry goods, Stirde rite, Buster brown, my mother only made us wear Stride Rite !! lol , The Farm.. George Richland.. Joes Fish market.. my parents met at the Benson.. I loved Tolins ,lived in Something Else..thanks for the memories .. Mariann From Brooklyn

  70. Jerry Jacob says:

    Wow..what a great post about the old and fond days in Bensonhurst. Living on 71 St, between 19th and 20th, 86 Street was where I would walk with Mom and Dad and our 2 wheel cart for grocery shopping. There was a candy store ( between 21 and Bay Parkway) on 86th Street where my father would treat me to a vanilla egg cream. Cannot remember the name of the candy store.

    Several years later, at age 13 I started working as a soda jerk for Joe and Joe candy store – BMT -N station on 18th Avenue , a block away from the Walker Theater.

    I still make a mean egg cream ( of course with Brooklyn’s own UBett syrup).

    I am always fond of recalling the neighborhood where we all lived and played together. It was me, Rocco Ciecco, Nunzio Franzeza, Lois Pinto, Vito Ranieri, and Richard Flores – thats diversity?

    Again, thanks for the post. Jerry

  71. I lived on 20 Ave and 81 Street for many years. This is was very enjoyable. To add some comments/thoughts: The McDonald’s on 86/20 Ave used to be a shirt store called Shirttown, where Travolta orders a shirt in the opening of “Saturday Night Fever.” I stood outside during the filming, wearing my “Disco Sucks” shirt (I had it on by coincidence). Between Shirttown and McDonald’s, it was the second location for Uncle Bobby’s Bagels (which started across the street near where the Benson Theater was located). On 85 St and 20 Ave was the very first comic book only retail store ever, started by comic book legend Phil Seuling, before it became Henry’s Camera Corner for a brief time. It’s a liquor store now, I believe. At 86th Street and 25 Ave, where the Sun Hing Seafood Market is now located, there was the Bowl-A-Rama, where you could bowl in the ’70s, then roller skate in the ’80s. They also occasionally had WWW wrestling matches there, before the building was torn down and this new one built. On the corner of 24th Avenue, on the south side, was John’s Bargain Store, who’s commercials ran constantly in the ’60s-’70s (“John’s / John’s Bargain Store / Where your dollar / buys you more”). While much of Bensonhurst was predominantly Italian, the area from 75 Street to the Bay, and 18 Ave – Bay Parkway was more evenly matched between Italians and Jews. There was an African American family living on 83 Street and 20 Ave, and a older man living by himself on 82 St, just off 21 Ave. There were also two Chinese Restaurants on 86 Street in this area, both having families who lived there (one on 20th between 82nd and 83rd. There were also a smattering of Irish families as well. That was about it for diversity.

  72. Peter D'Adamo says:

    Wonderful article. I remember a record store on 86th street, close to the corner of Bay Parkway. Don’t remember the name. Owner was a cool red-haired guy. He sold tickets to Woodstock there. Had a great inventory, but probably died as a result of Korvettes record department, which was also excellent and began to stock imports. A poster asked about a ‘second floor head shop’. I remember a place called ‘The Farm’ on a second floor at about where New Utrecht Avenue met 86th street. All the girls at Our Lady of Guadalupe would go there to buy their purple bell bottoms with contrasting color patches.

  73. Mildred says:

    I lived on Bay 20th Street from 1942 to 1957. Before that, I lived at 8747 Bay Parkway which had a pharmacy on the corner of Benson Ave and Bay P’kway.. I think it was Kay’s Pharmacy or “K & K”, (something like that).
    I got married in 1957 and moved to East Flatbush. My memories of growing up in Bensonhurst were the best!
    My earliest recollections of 86th St. were shopping with my mother. I remember going to Ebinger’s, and to Zeskand,s Stationary store for school
    supplies. They were the only “game in town” for supplies, and boy! were
    they expensive! There usually was a vendor who sold Charlotte Russe’s
    nearby, and my mother always bought me one. I also remember seeing an
    organ grinder with a trained monkey one year. There was also a Buster
    Brown’s shoe store in the vicinity which had one of those fluoroscope
    machines. The children would run in and wiggle their toes under the X-Rays. Little did anyone know how harmful this was at that time. Lucky
    for me, that my beautiful and intelligent mother did not trust that machine, and immediately dragged me away from it. She distrusted it so much that she never bought me shoes there; but took me to a nearby Stride Rite shoe
    store. She always felt that feet were very important, and that a person would suffer their entire lives because of poor shoes. Clothes were less
    important, —(I got hand-me-downs, anyhow).
    I also attended P.S. 200, J.H.S. 128 and Lafayette H.S. I remember a Mrs. Lifton in P.S. 200 and a Mrs. Bernthal. I was recruited by the principal
    of P.S. 200 to illustrate panels for music assemblies with Barry Silfen and
    another boy whose only name I remember was George. We were always
    on the principal’s “art staff”. I think his name was Dr. Cohen. He also had
    me playing the piano for the PTA meetings with four other students, one of
    whom was Sandra Harrison. I think her instrument was an accordion.
    My best friend from first grade all the way to J.H.S. was Joan Freudiger. Her family lived one block away from P.S. 200.
    At J.H.S. 128, I also remember the principal “Pussyfoot” Cohen, for the
    same reason I’ve read in earlier messages. We also had a lovely science teacher whose name escapes me. I recall that he was short and always wore a bow-tie. However, the much hated social studies teacher, Mrs. Mesmer was remembered by so many others. She made a point of criticizing the new immigrants to this country. We were all the
    children of immigrants. She continually complained of the “babushkas” crowding our streets. Funny, – all I ever saw were fashionably dressed ladies walking up and down 86th St. People dressed up in those days. Ladies and men always wore hats, as I recall-(no jeans as we see nowadays). The immigrants especially wanted to look as nice as
    they could. Unfortunately, bad memories persist, so everyone remembers Mrs. Mesmer. I graduated from J.H.S. 128 in 1950.
    Lafayette H.S. was a typical, good, comprehensive H.S. I believe most of the high schools in Brooklyn were as good or better. The school population was about 50% Italian, 50% Jewish. I do not remember blacks or Asians. I was a good student and very active in extra-curricular activities. In my senior year, I ran for the office of Chief Justice of the
    Student Court and won both times! My campaign consisted of plastering the building with photos of me that said “Mildred Denes for Justice”. That is what my campaign managers: Jimmy Lippe and Alan Schwartz, decided to do. It worked!
    For the rest of the year, I tried to live up to my campaign promises and even dressed the same way as my photos! After that, I realized that politics was not for me. I had many favorite teachers at Lafayette H.S. There was Miss Koechling: the Geometry teacher, Mr. Blumenthal: the Chemistry teacher, Mr. Levitan: the French teacher, and many others. I also remember Herschel Russell, (nee Rosenbaum) who was my friend from 1st grade all the way to H.S. when we graduated in 1953.
    He was a very good basketball player, and was on the team with Sandy Koufax who was the team captain! Sandy of course, was also captain of the baseball team. But “Hershey” was my friend from elementary school.Barry Silfen, the artist wasalso my friend throughout school, as was Rosalind Cohen, Ruth Ginsberg, and many others. Wonderful, wonderful memories.
    What about the movie theaters? Well, there were three that I frequented. There was the Deluxe Theater on Bath Ave.
    which was the last stop for movies. It was also the least expensive. My mother, who was an opera buff always took me there to watch Italian operas. This was even before I started school. I might have been as young as three, when I saw operas, and fell asleep in the theater. My mother had been a concert pianist in Europe, but ended up being a piano teacher in Bensonhurst.
    The Benson Theater on 86th Street was the 2nd run movie house. They also had Saturday morning kiddie shows which consisted of cartoons, serial movies such as “Flash Gordon”, and a live Magic Show. The matrons watched the children to make sure they behaved. Sometimes they gave out pop-corn; included in the price of admission. It was a good deal. There
    was no TV then. They also showed operas on selected days. My mother went there, too.
    The first-run movie theater was the magnificent Loew’s Oriental. It was one of the grand old movie palaces right here in Bensonhurst. They always had a double feature, cartoons and “Movie Tone News”. An afternoon at the movies was a good three hours. I remember going there with my friend once to see Stewart Granger in “King Solomon’s Mines”. We decided to
    see it twice, and when we left the theater, we were so unused to daylight that our eyes hurt from sitting in the dark for so long.
    Since I lived on Bay 20th Street, I often went to St. Finbar’s with my friend, Elaine Muriella, who was Catholic. I am Jewish; but it mattered not. When my mother realized that I was becoming more Catholic than Jewish, she enrolled me in Beth Sholom People’s Temple which was on the corner of Benson Ave. and Bay Parkway. My Jewish education was all encompassing and I thrived there. Among my friends were the cousins, Joy and Jay Balber. I believe colonel Mickey Marcus was also a member
    of the congregation. My grandparents, aunts and uncles attended the Sons of Israel Congregation on Benson Ave.
    Bay 20th Street was like the United Nations, during the war years. It seemed that the occupants of every home came from a different country. There was a Finnish family, a Greek family, Norwegians, Swedes, Danish, many Italians from all over Italy, a Hungarian family, Polish, Austrians, you name it, — we came from all over Europe. And everyone got along;
    although people did not speak English that well. I remember “V-E Day” and “V-J Day”. We had an enormous Block Party.
    In front of each home, people put out a table of food, — ethnic, home cooked food for anyone to sample. People connected their portable radios and played music. Others were dancing in the streets, (including me! — I was 7 yrs. old at the time, and entertained anyone who would look!) It went on into the night. People were kissing and hugging
    each other whenever someone new came on the block. Everyone had a different religion, different nationality, but we were all Americans! That is what mattered! The American Flag was waving in front of every house! It was all a spontaneous declaration of joy that the war was over.
    I have so many more memories to write about. However, I’m hoping that this rings a bell for someone out there, and if any old friends want to contact me please write something in response. Thank you.

    • Sandy says:

      On the corner of Bay Parkway and Benson Ave (I think) there was an old wooden Victorian house with spires and turrets and a very creeky porch all around, where I took piano lessons. The kids would wait their turns in a room just outside the piano room. The teacher was a young Italian American man whose name I can’t recall. He was a lovely man. I loved my lessons but had to stop after 6 months. Do you remember that building?

    • Sandy Beitsch says:

      Mildred: The short science teacher with the bow tie at JHS 128 was Mr. Carr. We would greet him with: “Hello Mr. Carr, how’s Mrs. Carr and all the little kiddie Cars.”

      You were right about Mesmer and her dislike of immigrants. Once when my mother was speaking to her at one of those parent teacher conference days Mesmer told her about this “Jew boy” who stuck a lollipop stick in Mesmer’s sister’s ear and caused her to lose her hearing in that ear.


      • Mildred says:

        Hi Sandy,
        So great to know that someone else has similar memories of those years. Yes, Mrs. Mesmer was decidedly an
        antisemite. She hated all immigrants; but she especially seemed to hate Jews. (So – “nu” what else is new? -
        sad that history is repeating itself.)
        You are so right about Mr. Carr. Thank you for remembering his name. He was very likeable, as I recall. The
        students in my class called him “Kiddy-Carr”… I thought because of his short stature. Regardless, everyone liked
        him. Most likely his nickname derived from what how your classmates greeted him.
        As for the building where you took piano lessons, I do not remember that house on Bay Parkway and Benson
        Ave. with the turrets. Maybe it was somewhere else. Hope to share more memories.

  74. Sandy says:

    Thank you, Mildred. That was a great trip down memory lane — really enjoyed it. You were at Lafayette H.S. the same time as my two elder brothers. Your memories triggered so many of my own.
    When I get a chance, I’d like to write out some of my memories and post them here.

  75. Hi,

    I was often amused at a street not too far from where I grew up in Kensington, called “Old New Utrecht Ave.”; now that I know that New Utrecht means “New Old Fort”, I realize that the name of this street translates to Old New Old Fort”!

    Thanks for bringing back many fond memories.


  76. dave larkin says:

    i went to nu 1952 to 1954 when i graduated.got married in 1957 to annette battista.moved to florida in 1974.married 57 years.still in florida but always missed brooklyn.

  77. Ron says:

    Not sure if you got your answer but the domed bank you had a question about was the Williamsburg Savings Bank, my aunt worked at that bank in the 70′s.

  78. BeeBee says:

    Regarding the building with the McDonalds, the author said “I’m unsure if these once-grand buildings came before the construction of the el in 1917-1919, or later.” Before. Here is an Ebay listing for a reprint of a photo of that building dated 1914 showing no el. Search Ebay for “Bensonhurst” for other interesting pictures.

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