Bensonhurst is a neighborhood located in the south-western part of the New York City borough of Brooklyn.
Sometimes erroneously thought to include all or parts of such neighborhoods as Bath Beach, Dyker Heights, and Borough Park, or to be defined by the streets where the concentration of Italian residents is most dense, Bensonhurst actually has a clearly defined border, with Gravesend to the southeast, Midwood to the east, Borough Park to the north, Dyker Heights to the west, and Bath Beach to the southwest. Starting at the neighborhood's southern tip at the corner of Stillwell Avenue and 86th Street, the border runs north along Stillwell Avenue to Avenue P, east to McDonald Avenue, north to 60th Street, northwest to Fort Hamilton Parkway, southwest to Bay Ridge Avenue, southeast to 14th avenue, south to 86th Street, and southeast back to Stillwell Avenue.
Bensonhurst is served by two branches of the New York City Subway system: the D elevated subway line, also called the BMT West End Line, at 62nd Street, 71st Street, 79th Street, 18th Avenue, 20th Avenue, Bay Parkway, and 25th Avenue Stations; and the N open-cut line, (also called the BMT Sea Beach Line), at Fort Hamilton Parkway, New Utrecht Avenue, 18th Avenue, 20th Avenue, and Bay Parkway Stations.The D elevated and the N open-cut lines also have a free transfer in the neighborhood at the 62nd Street D Station and the New Utrecht Avenue N Station. Bensonhurst is patrolled by the NYPD's 62nd Precinct.
Bensonhurst derives its name from Arthur W. Benson, the former president of Brooklyn Gas, who in 1835 began buying farmland that formerly belonged to the Polhemus family. Between 1835 and 1850 Benson divided the farmland into generous lots that were sold in the following decades as part of the newly created suburb of Bensonhurst by the Sea (current day Bath Beach section), which was annexed into the 30th Ward of Brooklyn in the 1890s.
The U.S. Post Office-Parkville Station located at 6618 20th Ave., was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.
In the early 1900s, many Italians and Jews moved into the neighborhood, and prior to World War II the neighborhood was about equally Jewish and Italian. In the 1950s, there was an influx of immigrants from southern Italy and most of the Jewish population left the neighborhood, leaving the area predominantly Italian. Bensonhurst is heavily Italian-American, and it is usually considered the main "Little Italy" of Brooklyn. The Italian-speaking community remains over 20,000 strong, according to the census of 2000. However, the Italian-speaking community is becoming "increasingly elderly and isolated, with the small, tight-knit enclaves they built around the city slowly disappearing as they give way to demographic changes." Its main thoroughfare, 18th Avenue (also known as Cristoforo Colombo Boulevard) between roughly 60th Street and Shore Parkway, is lined with predominantly small, Italian family-owned businesses—many of which have remained in the same family for several generations. 86th Street is another popular local thoroughfare, lined by the arches of the elevated BMT West End Subway Line. The 18th Avenue Station was popularized in opening credits of Welcome Back, Kotter.
In 2000, an influx of Chinese and Former Soviet Union immigrants began to arrive. Chinese-American residents and Chinese immigrants have opened many restaurants and shops along 18th Avenue, Bay Parkway and 86th Street. The Former Soviet Union (Jews-refugee) population has dissipated in recent years.
Below the D-line elevated subway, along on 86th Street between 18th Avenue and Stillwell Avenue, is now home to an emerging southern Brooklyn's third Chinatown, along with the Sunset Park Chinatown and the Avenue U Chinatown. The emerging Bensonhurst Chinatown and Avenue U Chinatown are now increasingly carrying the majority of the Cantonese population in Brooklyn as the Cantonese dissipate from the main Brooklyn Chinatown in Sunset Park. It is slowly becoming fully developed as a Chinatown as the population and businesses are growing continuously. With the migration of the Cantonese in Brooklyn now to Bensonhurst, and along with new Chinese immigration, large clusters of Chinese people and businesses in different parts of Bensonhurst have grown pushing out all other ethnic groups at a rate never seen before. It is possible that more small Chinatowns might form as the Chinese population and number of Chinese businesses continue to grow in various sections of Bensonhurst as it can be witnessed.
According to the Daily News, Brooklyn's Asian population, mainly of Chinese have grown tremendously not only in the Sunset Park area, but also in Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights, and Borough Park. Just only in Bensonhurst, from 2000-2010 the Asian population increased by 57%. The study also shows that Asians very often live in houses that are divided into studio apartments, which means there is a possibility that the increased Asian population could be more than what the census represents and causing stressors on the growing Asian population in Brooklyn.
Currently the neighborhood is undergoing a transformation; many of the original houses dating back over 90 years ago are being torn down and replaced by three-story brick apartment buildings and multi-family condominiums, sometimes referred to as "Fedders Houses" for their distinctive air conditioner sleeves.
Visitors from throughout the New York City metropolitan area flock to the neighborhood each year in late August or early September to take part in the colorful Festa di Santa Rosalia (commonly known simply as The Feast to locals), held on 18th Avenue from Bay Ridge Parkway (75th Street) to 66th Street. "The Feast" is presented by Bensonhurst resident and skilled self promoter Franco Corrado, as well as the Santa Rosalia Society on 18th Avenue. Born in Rome, Italy, in 1955, Corrado has been an active social member of the Italian-American community for the past 20 years. St. Rosalia is the patron saint of the city of Palermo and is sometimes venerated as the patron for the entire island of Sicily (a sizable portion of Bensonhurst's Italian American residents are of Sicilian heritage). The annual end-of-summer celebration attracts thousands.