As part of our Dear NYC series, photographer Scott Heins has assiduously recreated old photos of this city we call home through a 2020 lens. Upon completing the assignment, Heins reflected on the one constant here: "if anything defines New York City, it's change." Previously, we shared the photos from Staten Island and Manhattan; this time around we're headed to Brooklyn.

RKO Bushwick Theatre

RKO Bushwick, 1998 - 2001.

RKO Bushwick, 1998 - 2001.

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RKO Bushwick, 1998 - 2001.
Larry Racioppo / Courtesy of the NYPL

Here we see the old Beaux Arts RKO Bushwick Theatre in the late 1990s or early 2000s, when it was already left to sit in abandonment for a few decades. The glory days of the theater were long gone by then — the spot originally opened in 1911, as a Percy Williams-owned vaudeville theater. The following year (through 1930) it became part of the B.F. Keith’s chain, complete with a Wurlitzer. It wasn't until 1930 that it became a movie theatre for the RKO-Keiths, according to Cinema Treasures, and it operated as such until closing in 1969.

RKO Bushwick, December 2020.

RKO Bushwick, December 2020.

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RKO Bushwick, December 2020.
Scott Heins / Gothamist

The corner of Broadway and Howard Avenue doesn't look all that different today, and the old theater still stands. Since 2004, it has been home to the Brooklyn High School for Law and Technology.

Church Avenue & Old New Utrecht Road

Corner of Church Avenue and Old New Utrecht Road, 1950s.

Corner of Church Avenue and Old New Utrecht Road, 1950s.

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Corner of Church Avenue and Old New Utrecht Road, 1950s.
Max Henry Hubacher / Courtesy of the NYPL

According to Forgotten New York, way back when. "Old New Utrecht Road served two purposes. It enabled local farmers to get their goods to market, and it also served as a dividing line between the farms themselves. But, after the Blythebourne and Borough Park developments got under way, the old farms were sold and then divided into lots; streets that had existed on surveyors’ charts for years were cut through in a rigid grid pattern; and our old farm roads pretty much ceased to exist." This photo was taken in the 1950s, when a streetcar still ran through the area. This was likely the Church Avenue line, which shut down in 1956, around the time Robert Moses was building his highways.

Corner of Church Avenue and Old New Utrecht Road, December 2020.

Corner of Church Avenue and Old New Utrecht Road, December 2020.

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Corner of Church Avenue and Old New Utrecht Road, December 2020.
Scott Heins / Gothamist

Today, there is pretty much no trace of 1950s Brooklyn left at this corner.

Brooklyn Heights Promenade

View from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, 1970s.

View from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, 1970s.

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View from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, 1970s.
Morris Huberland / Courtesy of the NYPL

While the Brooklyn Heights Promenade has largely remained the same since it was built, the view has changed. And it changed significantly at the time this photo was taken in the early 1970s — around two decades after it was dedicated, and just before the Twin Towers were finished.

View from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, December 2020.

View from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, December 2020.

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View from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, December 2020.
Scott Heins / Gothamist

Today, One World Trade Center stands in place of the fallen towers, and just below the promenade sits Brooklyn Bridge Park, a creation that's only about a decade old. What has remained the same of this area, however, is that the view is one of the best in the city. Long before the Promenade was built, in 1864, Abraham Lincoln visited "the crest that gives Brooklyn Heights its name" and upon exiting his carriage declared, "There may be finer views than this in the world, but I don't believe it."


As part of our month-long Dear NYC series, we're looking through the New York Public Library's vast offering of photographs which span the history of the city. You can find these images through the NYPL’s Digital Collections portal, which is open to all.