Famous Brooklynites, part 1: Spike Lee, Barbra Streisand, Jay-Z, Norah Jones, and more

do-the-right-thing-spike-lee-brooklyn

Manhattan may be home to some of the biggest celebrities in the world, but you shouldn’t underestimate Brooklyn’s star power. Truly iconic actors, writers, musicians and artists have called the borough home, with Brooklyn inspiring many great films, songs, and artwork. Today, many stars choose to live under-the-radar in gorgeous brownstones and apartments. Here are seven of Brooklyn’s most iconic residents, including some stars who reside here today.

Spike Lee
Filmmaker Spike Lee put the borough on the map with the film Do the Right Thing, released in 1989. The film portrays racial tensions that emerge in Bed-Stuy on one very hot summer day. Lee also set up his filmmaking company, 40 Acres & a Mule, in the neighborhood of Fort Greene. But the Brooklyn of Do the Right Thing is long gone — Spike Lee now lives in the Upper East Side and has publicly complained about the rapid gentrification of his hometown borough.

 

barbra-streisand-back-to-brooklyn-russell-james-barwood-films-pbs-great-performancesBarbra Streisand: Back to Brooklyn | Russell James/Barwood Films, Ltd. via Newsday

Barbra Streisand
Barbra Streisand, the Tony-, Emmy-, Grammy-, and Oscar-winning singer and actress, was born right here in Brooklyn. She spent her early childhood years in Williamsburg and attended the Yeshiva of Brooklyn. She moved to Manhattan shortly after graduating high school to begin her singing career, but to this day she hasn’t forgotten her time in Borough of Kings. In 2012 she stated, “Brooklyn to me means the Loew’s Kings, Erasmus, the Yeshiva I went to, the Dodgers, Prospect Park, great Chinese food. I’m so glad I come from Brooklyn — it’s down to earth.”

 

jay-z-beyonce-netsJay-Z and Beyonce enjoying the Brooklyn Nets | via missinfo.tv

Jay-Z
Jay-Z was born in the Marcy Houses, in Bedford-Stuyvesant. He also went to high school in Downtown Brooklyn with other future rappers like The Notorious B.I.G. and Busta Rhymes. Jay-Z’s own stage name was said to have been inspired by the J and Z subway lines that stop at Marcy Avenue (though he now says it came from the nickname “Jazzy.”) These days, Jay-Z lives in Manhattan with his wife Beyonce, but he’s a part owner of the Brooklyn Nets and hosted the first concert ever at the Barclays Center

 

nora-jones-bell-house-brooklynNorah Jones live at The Bell House | Garrett D. Kennedy via ConcertBlogger

Norah Jones
Norah Jones, the jazz and pop singer/songwriter, was born in Bed-Stuy to Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar and American concert producer Sue Jones. She recently caused a stir in Brooklyn when she bought an impressive Cobble Hill brownstone for $4,990,000 in the depths of the financial crisis. She then caused even more controversy when she tried to add windows to her landmarked townhouse against the wishes of the Cobble Hill Association. (Ultimately she reduced the number of windows from 10 to 7.) Such is the drama of living in Brownstone Brooklyn, but since the window controversy Jones has lived quietly in Cobble Hill.

 

peter-sarsgaard-maggie-gyllenhaal-family-park-slope-brooklyn
A happy family strolling in Brooklyn | Splash News via Daily Mail

Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard
This famous couple lives with their daughter in a Park Slope brownstone. They moved to the neighborhood in 2009 after getting fed up with their Manhattan landlord and have been visible around the neighborhood ever since. The couple even works a monthly shift at the Park Slope Food Coop.

 

patrick-stewart-F-train-brooklynPatrick Stewart just needs to brush up on his NYC etiquette | via Reddit

Patrick Stewart
Patrick Stewart is another Park Slope celebrity and a sort of Brooklyn darling. He only moved to the neighborhood in 2012, but says he first discovered Brooklyn as a kid who was obsessed with movies. These days, he’s vocal about his newfound love of Brooklyn. He has, however, talked to the press about instituting a stroller ban in the Slope, which caused some controversy with stroller-carrying residents.

 

walt-whitman-park-brooklynAn entire park dedicated to Walt Whitman | via NYC Parks

Walt Whitman
Here’s an old school Brooklyn celebrity for you! Walt Whitman grew up in Brooklyn in the early 1800s and immortalized his hometown through his writing. From 1846 to 1848 he was editor of the Brooklyn Eagle, and wrote the famous poem Crossing Brooklyn Ferry. The poem is about a man taking the Brooklyn ferry home from Manhattan — this was before the subway existed — at the end of a working day.

 

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