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Some thoughts on Brooklyn in the L Magazine, via selected "notable" Brooklynites (plus Prokhorov); Park Slope writer says "it's nice" to see arena

In its final print issue, the L Magazine (going web-only, but sister publication Brooklyn Magazine goes monthly) offers On Their Brooklyn: Notable Brooklyn Residents Reflect On Their Chosen Borough, and there are some interesting quotes/observations, as I note below.

Essentially, they say, Brooklyn is a great place to visit and consume culture, if you can afford it. Same for living here.

Of course, the list is hardly comprehensive. Those interviewed are predominantly involved in culture, entertainment, and media, within the hipsterish zone of the L's readership. (Two guys from Vice Magazine, two from The Brooklyn Flea/Smorgasburg.)

The one online commenter (Chevon) observed, "Is there a reason there are no black women in the story?"

There are (only) two elected officials, the current and former Borough President, and virtually no residents of the less heralded parts of of Brooklyn to the east and south. Immigrants? Well, a few well-heeled ones.

There's also one ringer, Brooklyn Nets' owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who lives in Moscow. 

(Hey, why not query famed "Brooklynite"--or, at least, Brooklyn developer--Bruce Ratner? Don't they both advertise? Note that the L, once scabrously critical of the Atlantic Yards scene--remember Daily News Jerks Off Atlantic Yards Developer, Slow, Then Fast?--later featured more Nets-friendly coverage, as did its glossy sibling.)

The whole issue's worth a look.

From Kokies to Nitehawk

Gavin McInnes, Co-Founder of Vice Media, cites the cocaine-fueled Williamsburg bar "Kokies, duh," as the place that represented Brooklyn when he first came, and now cites Nitehawk Cinema in Williamsburg, where the "fries are perfect, the movies are great, and Joe the bartender is always playing some amazing song I’ve never heard before."

"The Williamsburg metamorphosis from junkie to Disney has been fascinating to watch," he says. "The purists may hate it but I’m lucky in that it’s perfectly mirrored my own life. Brooklyn is the American dream."

Of course that was accomplished with a rezoning that didn't quite work out as promised.

Chelsea Leyland. a British-born DJ, model, actress and fashion commentator, offers a comment--sincere? winking?--that encompasses the Brooklyn cliche: "It's a place where everyone is making their own chocolate and body scrubs and that itself stands for everything yummy that I love in the world."

Representing today's Brooklyn

Skye Parrott, Photographer, suggests the Brooklyn Flea in Fort Greene is "the apex of Brooklyn." 

Says Eric Demby, Co-Founder of Smorgasburg and Brooklyn Flea, "[L]ooking back, I feel like working for Marty Markowitz and then starting the Flea and Smorgasburg, it’s so fulfilling to feel like you can have an impact in such a gigantic chaotic place. Seeing the community of makers and entrepreneurs that’s sprung from the markets is also a daily warm fuzzy."

Pete Shapiro, owner of Brooklyn Bowl, mentions the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg.

Artist Tom Fruin cites Brooklyn Bridge Park... "another former industrial off limits zone converted to a park, marina, sports and arts destination." With a questionable financing plan.

About the arena

Writer Ben Greenman suggests the Barclays Center represents Brooklyn, "if for no other reason that we all saw it go up. There was political debate. There was apprehension. But one day, there it was. I go by it almost every day, and it’s nice to feel that there’s a playoff team (infrequently) or a pop star or a circus in the vicinity."

Greenman lives in Park Slope, and presumably was among those worried about "carmageddon"--and doesn't have the time or interest to delve into the project's tainted history.

Prokhorov cites a 1990s visit to Brighton Beach. Now--in comments surely prepared with his well-school advisors--he calls Brooklyn "the capital of cool. There’s a hipster vibe, but also something electric and gritty, fueled by the mix of people from all over the world. Also, for me, of course, it’s the home of the Brooklyn Nets."

Political quotes

Former Borough President Marty Markowitz claims Brooklyn's "full renaissance" is "similar to the 1950s, Brooklyn reached the zenith and now we’re back to people celebrating all things Brooklyn. People all over the world are fantasizing what life is like in Brooklyn." (For very different reasons than during the era of The Honeymooners.)

At least Markowitz has the history and breadth to suggest that "great kosher delicatessens... and Brooklyn pizza" represented Brooklyn in the past, "And Junior’s. Juniors was then and Junior’s is now." (He likes to make sure he covers the bases, doesn't he?)

Today he suggests it's more diverse: "Places reflect that international tone. And the Brooklyn Nets. Hopefully the Islanders too." (How exactly do the Nets represent Brooklyn?)

Current Borough President Eric Adams suggested, "We are a worldwide brand that symbolizes cool and chic, and that is no accident. Our brand is our people, their resilience and can-do spirit." Only parts of Brooklyn.

Some skepticism and rue

Concert promoter Todd P (who lives in Queens), says Brooklyn is now represented by "There's a hole in the ground on Bedford Ave where they’re finally putting in that Whole Foods and the Apple Store. Also every $400/night boutique hotel lobby." He does also mention new spaces opening up.

Artist Danny Simmons, Chairman of Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, laments, "While the arts that seemed so integral to the rhythm of life in the the borough flourished, so did the amount of people who moved here to be tangential to that creativity. Instead of artists, we have arts institutions finding a home here. The borough has lost much of its authentic and grassroots appeal." 

That means gentrification. So Brooklyn "has become a great place to take in cultural activities, but not so great anymore for cultural creators."

Then again, Wes Jackson, founder of Brooklyn Bodega and Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival says Brooklyn is "As strong as ever" while--seemingly contradictory--acknowledging "We just need to make sure we maintain its diversity."

Actor Adrian Grenier cops to Brooklyn as a place he could once afford "afford in order to be a creative person. But this was 20 years ago, I’m afraid it’s not as affordable today. I think it’s partly my fault."


  1. Norman, most of those chosen in the article also seem to represent a certain age and class of people who settled in Brooklyn around 20 years ago with not much money, and now have experienced a decent amount of success and security. Most of the stories are very similar. So of course, there is kind of complacency and avoidance of the more horrifying sides of Brooklyn's "improvement". There is no discussion of the tenant displacement, the flipping of houses, the harassment of tenants in neighborhoods that are rapidly gentrifying. In that sense it is pretty limited.


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