It’s an oft-repeated fact that if the borough of Brooklyn were still independent, it would be one of the biggest cities in the nation. According to the Brooklyn Economic Development Corporation, in 2000, the U.S. decennial census counted Brooklyn’s population at 2,465,326, making it New York City’s most populous borough. If considered an independent city, the borough would rank as the fourth largest in the United States after the rest of New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
Independent or not, Brooklyn as a neighborhood embodies enough history and cultural, architectural, and demographic diversity to make it a city unto itself—as any Brooklynite will be happy to tell you.
Call it Breuckelen
Before it was a teeming sub-metropolis, Brooklyn was the little Dutch settlement of Breuckelen. Founded by the Dutch West India Company, Breuckelen was New York State’s first official municipality, and one of five settlements established by the Dutch (the others being Flatlands, Bushwyck, Flatbush, and New Utrecht.)
English settlers ousted the Dutch inhabitants in the mid-1600s, and by 1683, the English General Assembly of Freeholders reshuffled New York into 12 counties—with the now-Anglicanized Town of Brooklyn as the seat of Brooklyn/Kings County.
According to the community website brooklynonline.com, “Brooklyn/Kings County has two names because it took some 200 years for Brooklyn to annex the other parts of Kings County. When the City of Brooklyn annexed the City of Williamsburgh and the Town of Bushwick, the area became known as the eastern district of the City of Brooklyn, and Williamsburgh lost its final ‘h.’”