Flood and Renewal
The Flood of 1955 was a disaster for Brooklyn, with the commercial center and the residential district east to the river flooded in the rapidly moving current. Many Brooklyn residents, including many Italian families, moved up the hill to Town Plot in the aftermath of the Flood.
"It was like a domino effect. A couple of railroad cars came down, hit the first house, knocked it into the next house, and then they all went all at once...."
"St. Joseph's was the place where... they kept the people that were in the flood. They had the National Guard there. People had to be inoculated. The Salvation Army were the first ones on the scene with the clean water. After them came the Red Cross. I don't think anybody expected it to be as bad as it really was."
The City Plan of 1950 called for converting much of the area near the river to industrial use, because of its proximity to rail services and existing factories, and reconstruction following the flood pursued this objective. In the early '60s, the state ran the new Route 8 through this section of Brooklyn, and took 32 acres at Chase Park to construct the multi-stack interchange with Interstate 84. The previously flooded land under the highway was converted exclusively to industrial use.
"Where the highway [Route 8] is, those were three-family houses all the way up on both sides. In downtown Brooklyn, we had huge tenement buildings that sometimes had twenty-two families in them: so those people were basically displaced, and many of the Italians moved up to Town Plot...."
"I can remember the construction of the highway. I remember the dynamite wire. We would all sneak down as kids; they would have dynamite wire when they were blowing certain rocks up... they would leave it hanging around the debris.... I remember getting that wire and making designs with it."