Past Meets Present II

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Mitchell Trinka is a multimedia journalist living in New York. During his summer internship at the New York Times Fort Greene/Clinton Hill Local, he spent some late nights in the public library, searching through old photos from Brooklyn’s past. He went out with the black and white images, took shots of the same spots, and melded them together to not only show what’s changed in the borough, but also to ask where it’s going. While we may grumble about gentrification and development, it’s clear from these photos that the basic character of Brooklyn’s neighborhoods and leafy sidewalks is ingrained in the borough–and is here to stay.

Aside from around Central Park, when’s the last time you saw a horse-drawn buggy? Near the turn of the 20th century, they were the only private transportation in many parts of New York. The inset photo, taken in 1885 on Atlantic Avenue in Cypress Hills, illustrates just how much has changed over the last 125 years–there’s no longer a train running down the middle of the road and, thanks to the invention of the automobile in 1885, we no longer ride in open-air carriages unless we’re feeling nostalgic (or romantic).

Despite intensive development in Downtown Brooklyn, The Dime Savings Bank of Brooklyn on DeKalb Avenue remains intact. The inset photo of the bank, taken in 1940, is a view that’s currently shrouded by fencing and foliage, but when construction is wrapped passersby are sure to stop and admire the Greek revival building once again.

Bedford-Stuyvesant is another place that’s seen its fair share of change–and then some. Some blocks in the neighborhood have gone from verdant and homey to downright dilapidated and abandoned, without so much as a city trash can on the corner. This block on Van Buren Street, has fared relatively well over the years. The inset photo, taken in 1978, shows finely manicured gardens. Today the front yards are less carefully landscaped and there are several “For Sale” signs on the street, but much of the character of the block’s brownstones has been preserved.

Check out previous Past Meets Present posts in our archives and on our blog.

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