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Your Carroll Gardens Isn't Their Carroll Gardens

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We hereby continue with Lost City's week of guest blogging at Curbed...

Live in Carroll Gardens long enough and you learn that behind every other door, there's a horrifying story. Not that I don't love the place, but it's history is one of tough longshoreman and gangsters, and it's not a pretty one. I would learn a lot of this history in casual conversations with my former landlord, Joe, a dock worker who lived on Carroll Street between Smith and Hoyt for more than 50 years before he died in 2001. His kids would tell me of hearing gunfire at night and then waking up to dead bodies lying in the street.

Joe lived in the tiny historical district of Carroll Gardens, right across for three modern, red-brick residences which rather ruined the view. (They're still there.) I had read that they took the place of the Church of the South Brooklyn Christian Assembly, built in 1873. It burned to the ground in the late 1970s. I commented to Joe that he must have regretted losing such a grand building right across the street. "Nah," he said. "They were Protestants." Later I learned that the church had gotten in the habit of attracting minority congregants from other neighborhoods, and the locals didn't like that one bit. The fire was an arson job. These days we're more civilized. We get rid of churches by turning them into condos.