Brooklyn - History and Revival

Historic Brooklyn Waterfront

Brooklyn, or New York’s other face ... It all started out in 1636 as the Dutch began to buy lands across the East River. Six small Dutch towns saw the light, among them “Breuckelen,” which was named after a small village in the Netherlands. The English soon took over and renamed these six towns as “Kings County” in 1664. Kings County’s streets have witnessed the Revolutionary War, and were occupied by British troops until the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783. The county then enjoyed the proximity of New York City in the nineteenth century, with urbanization and industrialization taking precedence as more immigrants started to settle in the borough.

As a twin city to New York, a massive influx of people commuted to the city on a daily basis to go work in factories, sweatshops, constructions, etc. The very much needed Brooklyn Bridge was thus erected in 1883 and it continues to tower proudly over the river, standing as a landmark for the city while being trampled by hundreds of merry tourists, interfering with the rushing commuters. In 1898, Kings County vanished into thin air as it merged with New York, turning it into a mere borough.

Never mind the loss of its first identity: indeed, throughout the 20th century, Brooklyners showed originality and imagination so as to stand out and not decay into Manhattan’s shadow.

During the first half of the twentieth century, the borough was a leading producer for manufactured goods. By the middle of the century, the shift to a service based economy was a harsh blow for Brooklyn, since the dislocation of its economy meant that it had to reinvent itself once again. Plus, around the same period, in 1957, the famous baseball team of the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, which injured Brooklyn’s identity once again, as they used to be a symbol of pride--they had defeated the New York Yankees in the 1955 World Series, enabling Brooklyners to have some kind of superiority over their next door neighbor. Harbors and waterfronts were neglected, Coney Island was deserted and left in the hands of gangs, Luna Park was even damaged by fire.

But Brooklynites are not easily defeated and after a few decades the borough had gathered enough strength to make its great comeback. In the 1990s, crime ebbed, and as inhabitants in search of some quietness started to move further away from the rushing center of Manhattan, the Navy Yard again became a booming industrial park. The Northern waterfront was completely transformed into a park, offering summer movie screenings, kayaking, bicycling, soccer, and now, even an outdoor pool! Coney Island too has risen from its ashes once more, with its two most famous rides, the Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel, attracting the masses once more, and more recently the new Luna Park that opened in 2010 has kept on drawing the masses in.

Sports also underwent a revival, with the minor league baseball team, the Brooklyn Cyclones, and the Brooklyn Nets rocking the NBA games. But mainly, it has been the flood of artists and real estate developers that has made of Brooklyn what it is now: Manhattan’s biggest rival in trendiness. The luxury real estate market has exploded--for instance, one of the last remaining large-scale residential development sites that hit a record ($210 million at 462-490 Kent Avenue) is currently for sale, in case you might have some money to invest.

To entertain the newcomers as well as regulars, a new shopping mall is currently under construction at the intersection of Fulton street and Flatbush Avenue. City Point will be certified LEED and will offer 600,000 square feet of retail space by 2015. To rest Brooklynites’ feet after a tiresome shopping day, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is to open a new location downtown. To make its Brooklyn location stand out and be a decent rival to Manhattan, the theater will bring your viewing experience to new heights: you will be able to select your seat online and you will be able to order food without getting up from your seat, with small tables also placed in front of each of the rows.

Now, how can we tackle Brooklyn without even alluding to hipsters, the soul of the borough. Whether you are annoyed about this trend or are a part of it, one must admit that they have successfully transformed the place into a sweet spot for nightlife. Williamsburg has no reason to envy Manhattan. Its nightlife, music venues, restaurants and small clothing shops are the latest trendiest spot to be. Moreover, all that buzzing activity is spreading among the other neighborhoods such as Bushwick and its upcoming art scene with new gallery openings like the recently new Luhring Augustine location, the Soft Wall performance, or the Bushwick Open studios scheduling more than 390 art events for its 2013 series.

Hence nowadays Brooklyn can easily bear comparison with Breukelen, thank you hipsters and real estate developers!