Brooklyn, New York, USA

A Cultural Incubator

by Iyna Bort Caruso

Brooklyn isn’t a city. It’s a metropolis of a borough. It’s also an idea. Its culture and urban sensibility have been exported to the point that Brooklynization is a phenomenon. Trendy restaurants, shops and businesses bearing the Brooklyn name--or one of its neighborhoods--appear in countries from Germany to Japan. 

And yet Brooklyn is very much a collection of communities, many with inviting green spaces and spectacular water views.  Brooklyn real estate prices, whether pre-war, post-war or landmark, rival those across the East River in Manhattan. That doesn't surprise Brooklynites who never saw homes in the borough as a consolation prize. 

Dumbo and Williamsburg are former industrial areas where old factories and warehouses have been rehabbed into pricy condominiums and lofts. Dumbo is the acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. This territory, largely situated between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, is now an incubator for art and technology. It has managed to retain its gritty noir feel and industrial roots, which accounts for its starring role in countless films and photo shoots. Williamsburg has become synonymous with hipster culture--music, fashion and food. The low rents that initially attracted artists to these two enclaves of reinvention are a thing of the past.   

Classic “Brownstone Brooklyn” is found in neighborhoods like Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights. Park Slope is a family-friendly community of shady blocks framed by a low-slung skyline that is adjacent to Prospect Park, the 585-acre green masterpiece designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, creators of New York’s Central Park. 

Brooklyn Heights is entirely a historic district--New York’s first, designated in 1965. The neighborhood is affluent, quiet and filled with architectural gems. One of its greatest treasures is the cantilevered Promenade that overlooks New York Harbor and Lower Manhattan as well as Brooklyn Bridge Park. The park, which opened in 2010, is a massive complex of athletic fields, food concessions, bike paths and pool with a full schedule of cultural events, entertainment and activities. From Brooklyn Heights, New York’s financial district is a quick zip on the subway. But that’s not the only way to access Manhattan. The favorite means is walking to it across iconic Brooklyn Bridge.