Digging in to Sunset Park, the City’s ‘Most Interesting Neighborhood’

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Midnight on a Saturday, 50th Street near Third Avenue, Sunset Park, Brooklyn, 1999.

Aaron Lee Fineman

Midnight on a Saturday, 50th Street near Third Avenue, Sunset Park, Brooklyn, 1999.

Seventeen years ago, City Limits decided that Sunset Park, Brooklyn, was the city’s “most interesting” neighborhood. That’s how then-editor Glenn Thrush (now one of the country’s most prominent political reporters) labeled the nabe in our 1999 Sunset Park issue—one of the very few times in our 40 years of covering the city that we’ve focused so intensely on one community.

Residents of other neighborhoods might take issue with the superlatives we lauded on Sunset Park back then, but my City Limits forebears were prescient in detecting the questions of neighborhood character that have become more urgent there. The issue notes: “Sunset Park has never staked out a single, coherent identity because it has never had the luxury.” Nowadays, as Sunset Park attracts increasing outside investment, “luxury” is—literally—something the area might be seeing a lot more of, raising questions about where long-term residents and the neighborhood’s traditional industrial feel fit in.

These are the topics that tour guide (and veteran City Limits writer) Norman Oder and long-time Sunset Park advocate Maria Roca will explore on Saturday, May 14, in a 1:30-3:30 p.m. walking tour we’re calling “Sunset Park: Diverse, Complex, Contested.”

Once a Scandinavian stronghold, Sunset Park is now home to a diverse Latino population and the anchor of New York City’s largest Chinese community. It’s also a perpetual “next” neighborhood in real estate lore. Both working-class and gentrifying, Sunset Park faces tensions over growth, equity and environmental justice. Its progress and challenges will emerge as you walk on residential and commercial streets, past churches, civic buildings, and notable murals, and into the busy namesake park, with its great views and WPA-era pool. The tour will last two to two-and-a-half hours and, Oder warns, participants “should prepared for some brisk walking.”

There is a suggested donation of $20 for the event, but it is totally free for members (hint, hint). In either case, please RSVP here today to save your spot.