On a Clear Day You Can See Flatbush

Memories Light the Corners of Streisand’s Old Neighborhood

Photos by Eileen Reynolds

By Eileen Reynolds

Published October 04, 2012, issue of October 12, 2012.
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4. Yeshiva of Brooklyn 656 Willoughby Ave.

In the fall of 1947, Streisand started attending grade school at the yeshiva where her dad had once taught. She liked to infuriate her teachers by yelling the word “Christmas,” and it’s here that she had her first public singing appearance, in the spring of 1949 at the parent-teacher association assembly. Today, this address is home to the Aguadilla Day Care Center.

5. Vanderveer Estates 3102 Newkirk Ave., Apt. 4G

Around the time Streisand got her first taste of the limelight, her mother began courting another kind of attention. Thinking of remarriage, she began dating, and in April 1950 she found herself pregnant by an Orthodox Russian immigrant named Louis Kind. After some coaxing, Kind agreed to marry her. He got the family a new place back in East Flatbush. Streisand’s half-sister, Rosalind, was born on January 9, 1951. The rent for the new apartment was $105 a month.

Streisand didn’t love the place, and she hated her stepfather, but there was a silver lining: Nearby Nostrand Avenue was home to an outpost of the beloved Ebinger’s bakery chain.

6. P.S. 89 3109 Newkirk Avenue

As a fourth-grader, Streisand enrolled in the public school across from Vanderveer Estates. An “A” student who sang in the school chorus, she formed a trio with a couple of twins, Marilyn and Carolyn Bernstein. The three girls called themselves Bobbi and the Bernsteins and sang pop songs on the playground. After Streisand was placed in P.S. 89’s Intellectually Gifted Opportunity Program, she started smoking Pall Mall cigarettes.

7. Choy’s Chinese Restaurant 1850 Nostrand Ave.

In 1953, at the age of 11, Streisand began baby-sitting for the daughters of Jimmy and Muriel Choy, her upstairs neighbors, for 35 cents an hour. The couple owned a Chinese restaurant, where Streisand persuaded her mother to let her begin working when she was just 12. Streisand loved the Choys and their restaurant’s treyf delights, and her mother couldn’t afford to turn down the 60 cents an hour that she earned there. The family became even more strapped for cash when, on May 14, 1956, Louis Kind left and took a room at the Saint George Hotel on Clark Street.

8. Erasmus Hall High School 911 Flatbush Ave.

September 12, 1955, was Streisand’s first day of high school. Among the highlights of her Erasmus Hall career were a 93.5 freshman grade-point average; “dance gym,” in which girls wore leotards, ballet slippers and long nails and learned modern dance instead of playing sports, and Choral Club, in which Streisand sang as a member of the ensemble but never scored a solo part. She graduated, at the age of 16, on January 26, 1959. Almost immediately afterward she left Brooklyn for Manhattan, moving with a friend into a tiny apartment at 339 West 48th St.

9. Loew’s Kings Theatre 1025–1035 Flatbush Ave.

In her early teenage years, Streisand began walking the three blocks from her school to spend her afternoons at the grand Flatbush Avenue movie house, which had shown its first film in 1929. She initially walked there after school for the ice cream and the grand staircase, but she fell in love with the movies, devouring everything from old Italian films to musicals and Jerry Lewis comedies. “Guys and Dolls,” starring Marlon Brando, was a particular favorite. The theater, which showed its last film in 1977, is slated to reopen as a performing arts center in 2014, following a $70 million renovation. If the Barclays Center shows go well, perhaps Streisand can be convinced to give an encore here.

Eileen Reynolds has written for such publications as The Believer, NYU Alumni Magazine and newyorker.com.


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