In the aftermath of the tragic events that transpired in Paris, many neighborhoods across the five boroughs participated in memorials and partook in solemn acts of solidarity. Candles were lit, flowers were laid and skyscrapers across Manhattan were lit in the colors of the French flag. It’s relatively easy to find pieces of French influence throughout the city (though an 18th century Little France in Soho is gone) and hear the language spoken by residents and visitors. In recent years, the borough of Brooklyn has seen a rapid influx of French immigrants, specifically in the neighborhood of Carroll Gardens. Once a community with a thriving Italian stronghold, its burgeoning French population has earned it the nickname “Little France” by locals and numerous media outlets.
Located in the southern part of Downtown Brooklyn, Carroll Gardens is bordered by Cobble Hill to the north, Red Hook to the south, Boerum Hill to the east and the Columbia Street Waterfont District to the west. At first glance, it can be hard to trace the neighborhood’s Irish origins. The neighborhood got its name from Charles Carroll, an Irish immigrant who was also one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. It soon witnessed a high concentration of Irish immigrants during the 19th century. However, in the years proceeding World War II, many Irish immigrants began to move out and a new cluster of immigrants soon moved in: first generation Italians. While Carroll Gardens is still teeming with Italian locals, many French speaking locals and businesses have gained a foothold within the community for the last decade.Carroll Gardens is best reached by the F and G subway lines, both of which stop at Smith-9th Streets and Carroll Street. If you’re eager to indulge in some French traditions, look no further than Smith Street, the neighborhood’s main commercial district. Once you reach there, prepare to find a swarm of French bars, bakeries, bistros, boutiques and restaurants. Some of its most notable shops include Bien Cuit and Provence En Boute, both of which offer a wide selection of French pastries and appetizers. Some popular food choices include baguettes, napoleons, croissants, apple tarts and sourdough miche.
Beyond its restaurants and boutiques, the French character of Carroll Gardens has permeated through the education system. Both Public School 58. and the International School of Brooklyn have dual language French/English programs for children and adults, respectively.
Every July 14th, residents of the neighborhood gather around Smith Smith to celebrate Bastille Day, the French national holiday that marks the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, a Parisian prison, as well as the beginning of the French Revolution. Some of the festivities include live music, food, drink and an annual Pétanque tournament. It is said to be the one of the largest celebrations to take place outside of France, a fact that further validates the kinship between Paris and New York City.
Read on for our posts on The Top 10 Secrets of The Eiffel Tower, 18 ethnic micro neighborhoods in the 5 boroughs of NYC and 19th Century “Little France” in Soho. Get in touch with the author at @jordansimon78.