Bernie Sanders' Brooklyn: A Look at His Old Stomping Ground
The Vermont senator was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y.
— -- Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has made his Brooklyn, New York, upbringing a regular feature of his stump speech.
But the Brooklyn that Sanders knew as a resident there in the 1940s and 1950s is quite different from the one where he has been campaigning recently.
His old schools are still there, and so are the buildings where he used to live, but the neighborhoods have changed along with some of the sentiments.
The Old Neighborhood
Sanders, now 74, was born in the borough in September 1941 and lived in a neighborhood called Midwood, near Flatbush.
Jerome Krase, an emeritus sociology professor from Brooklyn College who was born and raised in Brooklyn and grew up there at the same time that Sanders did, remembers Midwood as a largely secular Jewish neighborhood. There were also pockets of Italian-American and Irish-American families in the area.
Flatbush in the 1950s and 1960s comprised mostly white working-class or white middle-class residents, while many other areas of Brooklyn were undergoing changes as different ethnic groups moved in -- and out, Krase said.
"The major thing to see at that time in the 1950s was the beginning of the decline of the borough, which people associated with the influx of African-Americans, but they were not the cause of it," Krase said.
Post-war cutbacks at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and its eventual closure, which was announced in the mid-1960s, prompted people to move, he said.
"The city and Brooklyn itself began to experience the urban blight and white flight that afflicted so many other cities," he said.
"Fears of the changing neighborhood; that was another characteristic of Brooklyn in the 1950s and 1960s.”
Teens Those Days
Like many Brooklynites, Sanders grew up in an era of hometown pride when their baseball team, the Dodgers, won the World Series in 1955 against local rivals, the Yankees.
Ebbets Field in Flatbush was just 4 miles north of Sanders' house, likely making their subsequent departure from the neighborhood in 1957 a sore spot.
Krase said that aside from baseball games, ice skating in Prospect Park was another activity that kept teens busy, along with trips to the roller skating rinks and movie theaters on Flatbush Avenue, as well as the Brooklyn beaches like Coney Island and Brighton Beach.
Sanders made a more recent trip to Coney Island last weekend as part of the campaign, accompanied this time by his wife, Jane, Michael Stipe, the lead singer of R.E.M., and a horde of reporters.
"We would go to Nathan’s and stuff ourselves with hot dogs and French fries. It was pretty good," Sanders said.
"I remember coming here and used to go on the rides, used to be out on the beach, going swimming.”
Sanders regularly touts his being a "product of public education in New York City" after having attended P.S. 197 and later James Madison High School.
"There were a number of excellent college prep high schools in Brooklyn... and [James] Madison was one of the better academic high schools," said Krase, who attended a rival high school.
The caption in Sanders’ high school yearbook lists him as the captain of both the track and cross country teams.
Sanders has made his parent's three-and-a-half room, rent-controlled apartment a part of his stump speech, and though he hasn't publicly disclosed exactly how much they were paying for it at the time, it's safe to assume the rent has gone up.
Krase said a fair estimate for rent in the 1950s in the neighboring Bensonhurst, for instance, was $20 to $25 per month. Now, Krase says a similar apartment would go for at least $3,000 per month.
Sanders' former roommate, Steve Slavin, who lived with Sanders when they were both attending Brooklyn College in 1959-60, told The New York Times that Sanders was paying $80 per month in rent because he had the bigger room, while Slavin paid $40.
Sanders held a Sunday news conference in front of his childhood home and has stressed his ties to Brooklyn whenever he's in his old borough.
"I mean, it's obviously a very important part of my life,” he said during a campaign event in Coney Island. “It’s been 50 years since I’ve moved here but, it's a very important part of my life.”
ABC News' MaryAlice Parks contributed to this report.
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