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Brooklyn, in Baltimore’s southernmost residential area, is full of ‘little gems’

Editor’s note: The Brooklyn profile is one article in The Sun’s City of Neighborhoods series, spotlighting Baltimore communities. Other neighborhoods in the series: Highlandtown, Mount Winans, Stonewood-Pentwood-Winston, Dickeyville, Ashburton and Stone Hill.

Brooklyn is one of the southernmost residential neighborhoods in Baltimore City and “a microcosm of Baltimore,” according to Meredith Chaiken, the executive director of Greater Baybrook Alliance. The nonprofit’s mission is to lead equitable development and reinvestment in neighborhoods like Brooklyn.

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“I know we have our negative things, but too much I feel that people focus only on the craziness or the bad things,” said Kendra Summers, a paraeducator at Maree Garnett Farring Elementary School and a Brooklyn resident of seven years. “And there’s so much good and new things happening here.”

“Different generations from the same family are trying to live in the same area,” said Summers, 31. “It’s so accessible. We’ve got all these little gems.”

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Filbert Street, a one-acre plot that was overgrown and full of trash, was transformed into a community garden as part of the City of Baltimore’s Adopt-a-Lot Program, feeding neighbors in South Baltimore, teaching students about animal husbandry and hosting more than 200 native bats. Another gem, Masonville Cove, developed by the Port of Baltimore, Living Classrooms Foundation, the National Aquarium and Maryland Environmental Service, is the nation’s first urban wildlife refuge partnership.The center includes an education center for conservation, outdoor picnic tables, a fishing pier and nature trails.

History

Before Brooklyn was founded in 1853, it was a village that catered to farmers in northern Anne Arundel County. Baltimore businessmen and land owners at the Patapsco Co. began surveying the community along the sloping shores of Ferry Branch and suggested the name Brooklyn after its New York counterpart. Many of the first residents were immigrants from Germany and Poland seeking work with the chemical and shipbuilding companies, according to Concerned Citizens for a Better Brooklyn, a community group that assists the residents and small businesses in Brooklyn. From small farming villages, Brooklyn and Curtis Bay grew into important residential and industrial centers. Thousands of workers swarmed into the southern peninsula.

Physical space

Separated geographically from the rest of Baltimore City by the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River, at the southern-most point of the city limits, Brooklyn sits amid a U-shaped peninsula. The neighborhood has the camaraderie of small-town America and an abundance of row homes and attached houses. It is still near the excitement of the Inner Harbor and filled with green spaces like Garret Park and the City of Refuge Victory Garden.

Michael Dorsey, 38, is the founder of Grow Home, a nonprofit focused on urban farming and restoring parks and vacant green spaces. He has worked in Brooklyn for the past nine years.

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“By encouraging spaces to be vibrant and clean, they’re kept that way and not abused,” Dorsey said. “There’s a greater degree of pride and accomplishment and usership in the community.”

This past year, Dorsey has trained 16 young people in the Brooklyn and Curtis Bay area to join in the beautification of the community while also learning hands-on trade and job skills. The builders, ages 16 to 24, have participated in everything from harvesting neighborhood gardens to restoring roofs for historically preserved properties and preparing a church in Otterbein for in-person services.

Things to do

Brooklyn has two classic main streets: Patapsco Avenue and Hanover Street. Family-owned business Clark’s Bait & Tackle has been running for over 50 years. Places like the Hanover, a bar near Smoking Swine food truck and Diablo Doughnuts, opened this past month. One of the Hanover owners is eyeing their vacant back lot to build a skate park.

The Cove is a great place for fishing, a picnic, hiking or bird watching. Captain Trash Wheel, a 40-foot-long, trash-munching machine that has removed more than 17 tons of litter and debris from the Patapsco River, is visible.

Demographics

According to an analysis by Baltimore’s planning department, Brooklyn’s population grew from 9,586 in the 1990 to 9,996 in the 2010 Census. In 2018, the median household income was $48,723, which is lower than the city’s median income; it had higher unemployment (13%) than the city at large (7%).The median home sales price from 2017-2019 was $40,000.Data from the planning department in 2018 showed more than 80% of Brooklyn residents were white, with African American residents as the next-largest racial demographic. Hispanic residents make up 15% of Brooklyn residents.

Transit and walkability

According to Live Baltimore, Brooklyn has a Walk Score of 61 and a Bike Score of 39. With a Transit Score of 41, Brooklyn has easy access to the Harbor Tunnel and the Beltway, the I-895 and I-95 corridors as well as I-97, Fort Meade and BWI Airport.

Issues

Chaiken says Brooklyn residents fixate on two main issues: public safety and gentrification.

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“We’re trying to be proactive in our approach and really have a community-based response to safety concerns,” said Chaiken, 45. Greater Baybrook Alliance formed a violence reduction task force. They partnered with CASA, an advocacy and assistance organization for immigrants and Latinos, to ensure a significant portion of the task force are Brooklyn residents from the Latino community.

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“It’s also a concern in Brooklyn that there’s going to be encroaching development and that people who live here now won’t be able to stay.”

There were 11 homicides in 2020 and three thus far in 2021.

Leadership

Brooklyn falls under District 10 and Councilwoman Phylicia Porter, a Democrat. Brooklyn has two community associations; Jan Eveland is president of Action Baybrook, and the president of Concerned Citizens for a Better Brooklyn is Diane Ingram. State Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Democrat, represents District 46. The House contingent is Democratic Reps. Robbyn Lewis, Brooke Elizabeth Lierman and Luke Clippinger.

Stephanie García is a 2020-21 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project, a national service program that places emerging journalists in local newsrooms. She covers issues relevant to Latino communities. Follow her @HagiaStephia


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