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Whither Brooklyn's turning points? Some came well before the Atlantic Yards plan

If Atlantic Yards is a symbol, as per Crain's, of Brooklyn's renaissance, we should remember that Bruce Ratner's vision, announced in late 2003, emerged well after Brooklyn had begun to be validated.

In a 1/4/12 Critic's Notbook essay titled How the View from the Critic’s Perch Has Changed, Times interim restaurant critic Eric Asimov offered a contrast between writing about restaurants today and a decade ago. Among his observations:
Brooklyn? Sure, Brooklyn is now full of wonderfully exciting restaurants. It’s really a second or third wave, though. I wrote a piece back in 2000 [A Defining Moment in Brooklyn, 3/29/00] noting an earlier Brooklyn explosion. It’s interesting to see how many of those restaurants are gone, though the ones that survived and prospered — Saul, Diner, the Grocery, Al di Là, to name a few — are really good.
Fun quote from that earlier piece:
The new age on Smith Street began on Dec. 21, 1997, when Mr. [Alan] Harding, formerly the chef at Nosmo King in Manhattan, opened the bistro Patois, the first of the new restaurants. ''Our rent was $900 when we started, and I figured if nobody came, I could live there,'' Mr. Harding said. ''Now rents have tripled.''
Lethem says BK's blander

Now, Brooklyn-to-California author Jonathan Lethem told Bloomberg News of the borough, "It's been made blander, a little more accessible and it's taken over the world."


One commenter on Brownstoner, oldtimer, observed:
The guys playing dominos on milk crates outside corner bodegas where is the sidewalks were embedded with Micheloeb caps, where have they gone?
On the other hand if I was caught on Smith Street at night I walked down the center of the street. There was very little traffic but there were a lot of social clubs and the patrons gave you the evil eye. The West Indian record shops selling drugs have gone. The prostitutes on Nevins have gone. The curbside mechanics gone. The gang fights don't get them too much hese days.
It is definitely blander but also less Taxi Driver. Even that movie doesn't capture the grittiness of south Brooklyn in the seventies, when the director chased away the scary real prositutes to bring in the extras playing hookers.
You can no go home again Jonathan.
And what about sports?

In a 12/30/11 essay in The Awl headlined Brooklyn's Return, Brent Cox wrote:
Shut up about Brooklyn already. We all know about Brooklyn, that shining city on the hill, where everything is made only of awesome. Yes, there are beards and clunky eyeglass frames and lawyers who skateboard and grandpas with noise bands. The hipsters run-off freely now, the cheesecake is largely appareled American and vice now has a market cap. There's even a successful sitcom that purports to be set there, which is as large a cultural signifier as anything—Brooklyn may be located on the western-most tip of Long Island, but where it actually lives is dead solid in the middle of the zeitgeist. It's now, it's hip, it's hot, it's happening. There is no mystery of Brooklyn to it. And this is why shut up about Brooklyn already.

Part of what put Brooklyn over the top where it is now—both beloved and reviled, a migration target and the butt of jokes—involved a fat shirtless guy being knocked out of his shoes, in front of not so many people.
His story involves the return to Brooklyn of professional baseball, albeit minor league, in Coney Island.

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