A 1941 painting reveals a lost Brooklyn street

New York City has a shadow metropolis of hundreds of demapped streets—roads, avenues, and ordinary blocks that were removed from the streetscape over the centuries because they didn’t fit the encroaching street grid or were wiped out by new development.

It’s fun to find references to them in the contemporary city. A few examples: the manhole covers embossed with “Goerck Street” across Manhattan or signs for the ‘Fourth Avenue Building” on Park Avenue South.

But a striking painting by Miklos Suba, a Hungarian-born Precisionist painter who immigrated to Brooklyn in 1924, brought to my attention another demapped street in a formerly industrial swath of the borough.

“York Street/Flint Street Corner (House in Shadow)” was painted in 1941, a clean, controlled, and geometric depiction of the back of tenement and factory buildings in Brooklyn. (Top image)

York Street is still here, stretching from DUMBO to Vinegar Hill. But what happened to Flint Street, a one-and-a-half block alley under the Manhattan Bridge approach? (Second image)

The first mention I found of it is in a Brooklyn Daily Eagle article on street names from 1869. By the middle of the century, Flint Street seemed to have vanished without a trace.

It wasn’t a casualty of the development of Cadman Plaza, which opened in 1939. Perhaps it was demapped because of changes to the Brooklyn Bridge approach, or maybe the industrial buildings of the surrounding streets subsumed it.

[Above photo: Front Street looking toward Flint Street, 1927]

I bet Suba would know. A resident of Montague Street and later Willow Street in Brooklyn Heights, Suba developing an intimate relationship with the borough he lived in until his death in 1944, capturing buildings in bold colors and devoid of people. (“Smith Street,” 1930, is another example of his work, above)

[Top image: McNay Art Museum; second image: LOC; third image: NYPL; fourth image: Whitney Museum]

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16 Responses to “A 1941 painting reveals a lost Brooklyn street”

  1. Bob Says:

    Per the website Forgotten New York (DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN STREET NECROLOGY (PART 2) January 18, 2001):

    “Location: Originally, Stewarts Alley ran from Prospect Street just east of Main Street north to Front Street (cf. map above). By 1916, directories were listing it as Flint Street.
    What’s there now? Spared by Brooklyn Bridge and BQE construction, but warehousing and parking lots are now where Stewarts Alley/Flint Street used to run.”

    https://forgotten-ny.com/2001/01/downtown-brooklyn-necrology-continued/

  2. Bob Says:

    The log of tax map changes for Brooklyn Block 45 talks about the former Flint Street near the bottom of this page (PDF) for a record during the year 1954.

    http://gis.nyc.gov/taxmap/317195019580101001.pdf?search=%22declaredClass%22:%22Sea%22,%22parameters%22:%22searchType%22:%22habPdf%22,%22inParentId%22:%22317195019580101001%22

    • ephemeralnewyork Says:

      Thanks Bob for your extra info. I’ve been trying this link since yesterday and it says it’s down, unfortunately.

  3. Bob Says:

    To find out more, I suggest contacting the Brooklyn Borough official cartographer:

    https://www.brooklyn-usa.org/topography/

  4. Greg Says:

    I wonder who Goerck was.

    • Bob Says:

      https://forgotten-ny.com/2000/04/lower-east-side-necrology/

      “GOERCK Location: From Grand Street north to East Third Street. Named by surveyor Joseph Mangin to honor his partner, Casimir Goerck. Goerck died in 1798 before the survey could be finished.

      “What’s there now? The Corlears Hook Houses, now the ILGWU Cooperative Village (south of Delancey) and the Baruch Houses (north of Delancey)”

      AND

      “MANGIN Location: From Grand Street north to Houston Street just west of the FDR Drive. A small piece of Mangin Street is still in place on Houston.

      “Mangin Street is one of the few streets in NYC in which the surveyor named a street for himself. Joseph François Mangin, a French immigrant, was a surveyor and architect who had a hand in New York’s City Hall as well as the Park Theatre on Park Row, which stood until the late 1840s, and the old State Prison at what is now West and Christopher Streets, which stood from 1797 to 1827.

      “In 1803, Mangin, with partner Casimir Goerck, submitted a city plan for Manhattan to the Common Council of New York City. The ambitious plan straightened crooked paths and evened out the shoreline. Mangin audaciously named streets for himself and Goerck. Ultimately, Mangin’s plan was passed over, in 1811, in favor of another one by John Randel, Jr. That plan is the familiar grid of numbered avenues and streets we have today.”

  5. Color blocking, Miklos Suba – This isn't happiness Says:

    […] Color blocking, Miklos Suba […]

  6. Bernie Says:

    Who is “Hausman Street”(  named for?

  7. Flint Street f/k/a Stewart’s Alley in DUMBO | Old Brooklyn Heights Says:

    […] https://ephemeralnewyork.wordpress.com/2020/09/21/a-1941-painting-reveals-a-lost-brooklyn-street […]

  8. Bob Says:

    https://forgotten-ny.com/2014/12/greenpoint-2014-part-1

    “The street names in this part of Greenpoint are of some interest. Morgan Avenue is named for 19th Century Brooklyn surveyor brothers, Hausman for a Dutch colonial settler, Monitor for the Civil War Union ironclad vessel built in a Greenpoint East River shipyard. I don’t know why a 2-block street would be named for a Greek/Roman god, but Apollo, I’d gather, was also a business of some kind in the past.”

  9. Jeremy Lechtzin Says:

    I did a deep dive on Flint Street and wrote about it here:

    https://oldbrooklynheights.com/2020/09/22/flint-street-f-k-a-stewarts-alley-in-dumbo/

  10. chas1133 Says:

    So Hopper-esque

  11. petey Says:

    i always enjoy your posts with paintings. i’d never heard of Suba, a discovery!

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