Brownsville Heritage House is local community and multi-cultural center devoted to education, culture, the arts and history. It operates as a nonprofit organization from the second floor of the Stone Avenue Library Branch at 581 Mother Gaston Boulevard in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn.
Brownsville has the highest concentration of public housing in the nation, with over 100 buildings and 875 stories within less than one square mile. In 2012, Time magazine named Brownsville the most dangerous neighborhood in New York City, describing UPS drivers as needing police escorts after being held up at gunpoint and a community experiencing increasing violence, even as crime rates fell to historic lows elsewhere in the borough.
Brownsville Heritage House began as the Children’s Cultural Center established in 1969 by Rosetta “Mother” Gaston, who felt the community lacked knowledge of its heritage, and began teaching children about their culture and history from her home. She died one month before Brownsville Heritage House opened its doors in 1981, and the city acknowledged her contributions to the community by renaming a section of Stone Avenue in her honor.
Brownsville Heritage House currently sponsors programs and events aimed at improving the quality of life of local residents. Typical events in 2015 include women empowerment workshops, nutritional education programs and information seminars on a variety of topics ranging from housing to public health issues. Brownsville Heritage House also functions as a museum and has ongoing exhibits by local artists and works depicting historic figures and neighboring communities. The organization is housed in an historic building that was the first children’s library built by Andrew Carnegie in 1914.