InstaBlog: Boro Park

Author's note: Warning—this is a blog-style post based on a social media post. Beware typos and poorly elucidated thoughts. For more polish, perhaps try an article!

Last month, I took a trip out to central Brooklyn to explore the urbanism of Boro Park, a neighborhood primarily centered along 13th & New Utrecht Avenues.

If the pictures don't make it obvious, it is immediately clear on the street just how Jewish a neighborhood this is. The vast majority of people wear traditional, conservative dress, and most stores cater to them in one way or another.

Borough Park (it is spelled both ways—a potentially contentious issue in this city) has seen significant Jewish immigration since the turn of the 20th Century—primarily Modern Orthodox. However, in the early 1980s, the neighborhood population began to transition from a mixed ethnic heritage to a now predominately Haredi (& especially Hasidic) one. (As a goy, forgive me for any nomenclatural mistakes!). This conservative population has made the neighborhood the baby boom capital of New York, something you can *feel* on the street: baby strollers, young children, and teenagers abound.

This all leads to a kind of unique urbanism: this is a neighborhood of extremely mixed incomes (few follow orthodox religion for financial gain), with very specific requirements, all of which creates a level of demand for traditional retail that is disappearing in other neighborhoods. There are bakeries and food stores (and kosher pizza!?), of course, but also books stores—need a Hebrew comic book?—toy stores, and clothing stores every which way. Between income and the particular demands of the clientele, this can almost feel like a world that online retail has passed by.

The clothing stores are particular notable: it feels like there are numerous examples on every block, which is more than a bit of a throwback to an earlier era. One presumes there is not a huge market for inexpensive, modest (tzniut) clothing that meets strict fabric requirements—especially for children—which allows these niche retailers to thrive.

Between shops, shoppers, children, and a population living out in the city, the result is a lively, active streetscape, any way you look at it.

See part two here!

Based on an Instagram post.
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