A neighborhood infinitely more nuanced than its namesake, Sunset Park repeatedly defies expectation. Once hailed as the “New Williamsburg,” Sunset Park residents have fought to keep industry in as a means to keep gentrification out.   A widely diverse area where the term “minority” is misleading, upwards of 75% of the population is Hispanic or Chinese, with a rich history of Irish, Polish and Norwegian immigration dating back to the 1800s. This means an incredible array of (affordable) culinary treats, street fairs, music and more. It also has one of the largest walk-to-work communities in the United States. A palpable juxtaposition of industry, residential and commercial, near the waterfront old railtracks meld into cobblestone and asphalt.

Still, it is not a place without problems. It was designated a federal poverty area in the 1960s. Garment sweatshops operate in basements, apartments and concealed warehouses. The illegal commuter van industry is flourishing. The Gowanus Expressway (a portion of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway) literally dissects the neighborhood, while waterfront access is blocked by large industry. As the locus of great economic, social and political debate, Sunset Park is a place to experience before developers, government agencies and community groups battle and ultimately settle on some compromise that nonetheless destroys the fabric of one of the last “hidden” neighborhoods in New York.

How to Get There:
Subway: N/R/D/M to Prospect Avenue, 25th st., 36th st., 45th st., 53rd st., or 59th st.
D/M to 9th ave or N to 8th ave.
Take any cross street and walk from the industrial waterfront through the commercial and residential areas.

10 thoughts on “Sunset Park, Brooklyn

  1. Anybody know about how do I turn my rowhome on 7th Ave into a storefront? This avenue is already zoned for commercial. How do I start the process going? Thx.

  2. wait- if 37% is below the median, doesn’t that mean that the community on a whole is doing better than the national average?

    1. hi querious – you’re right. the bigger story is the inequality within the community. for example, in 1990 the Hispanic population faced a 32% poverty rate, 43% of the Asian population could not speak English and 45% did not complete high school. Half of new immigrants previously worked as laborers or in agriculture in their home countries – so Sunset Park is a diverse immigrant enclave of largely low-skill workers without access to the right services. Another fact that makes Sunset Park unique is that the standard theoretical model of urban sociology that assumes neighborhood change is a process of invasion and succession by minority groups hasn’t held for the last 30 years. The penetration of Hispanic population has remained steady, while the Asian population more than doubled – so for now, multiplicity and diversity are here to stay.
      I would urge planners and politicians to be cognizant of the uniqueness and sensitivity of this neighborhood.

Comments are closed.