NEW YORK — Sorry, but I've heard that
That said, I remember relatives from Brooklyn, visiting us in New England when I was a kid, muttering that Brooklyn hadn't been Brooklyn since forever. Certainly, it hadn't been worth a damn since the schism of 1898, when Brooklyn was eaten by
But to me it sounded romantic, like undiscovered country. Oddly, to tourists, Brooklyn has remained so — undiscovered.
Though tourism to New York City has soared, from 45 million visitors in 2009 to 52 million last year, the bulk of visitors stuck to Manhattan. Yet, with 2.6 million residents, if Brooklyn were still a sovereign city, it would be the fourth-largest in the country, behind Chicago.
True, six months after superstorm
But you're just visiting.
You've heard a lot of noise out of Brooklyn, and you're curious: Is Brooklyn worth a trip the next time I am in New York City?
With qualifiers, yes.
In fact, consider the following a gentle nudge: Just as I used to think it was odd to meet people who had never been to New York, now I think it's odd to meet people who skip Brooklyn. Don't these people like food? (Any list of the great new New York restaurants demands a train to Brooklyn.) Have these people forgotten that after the hotel shuttle into Manhattan, there is no longer a dramatic skyline to see?
There is from Brooklyn.
Indeed, one of the nicest things about going to Brooklyn is looking back toward Manhattan and realizing your shoulders have lowered. Brooklyn, whatever romantic image is in your head, conforms nicely.
As a child, I imagined Brooklyn was "Sesame Street," and, yes, the first time I visited as a child,
But there is, of course, the Brooklyn that doesn't conform as neatly, the part that angles for outsiders.
So now there is the Barclay Center, the new 19,000-seat arena that is home to the Brooklyn Nets. As if fate itself were commenting on the gentrification of Brooklyn, the arena opened on the same day last fall that I checked in to
Sure, the view from my room offered the kind of unobstructed view of Manhattan that cinematographers and real estate developers sweat to find. But everything else is intensely Brooklyn: the pine slats in the exposed ceilings, the toiletries, the Mast Brothers Chocolate beckoning from the mini-bar. Even the interior walls of the elevators are made of reclaimed woods. Then again, the hotel itself — Williamsburg itself — carries the comforting smell of a campfire.
One night a piece of paper slid under the door: David Byrne was performing in the parking lot across the street, and the hotel wanted to apologize for any inconvenience as a result of this very audible concert.
If I felt any inconvenience, it was that I had slipped into a perfectly appointed hipsterville. A few weeks ago, sitting in Reynards, the hotel's very good restaurant, eating grilled escarole and clams for breakfast, listening to
Did I mind either way?
Getting off the train in
That, in a nutshell, is contemporary Brooklyn, poised between indie zombie movie and sellout.
Which is to say, go.
Maybe don't go if you are prone to dressing the family in matching T-shirts. But you should go. When I am in New York on a Sunday night, I eat at General Greene (718-222-1510, thegeneralgreene.com) in the