With all my frequent travels, I don’t get to spend enough time at home in Brooklyn these days. Yet when I do, I’m always reminded of how much I love my borough. So I’ve decided to devote the next few posts to Brooklyn, my beloved.
I’ve lived here since 1999 and have witnessed it changing drastically since my first visit in 1997. Even though my beloved borough has gone through major transformation and sometimes I hardly recognize it, I am still in love. It may not be the wide-eyed naive kind of love of the olden days but love it still is.
I will admit I occasionally get annoyed at the recent reputation of Brooklyn as the enclave of cool. Not only is it drawing crowds across the East River, it also means rents have gone up and, on a micro level, getting a table for a leisurely Sunday brunch has become an issue. On the plus side, most of my friends now live in the borough, within walking or short subway hop distance. That means, unless I have a meeting in the city, I don’t have to leave Brooklyn for days on end, as all I need is right here, both in practical and social terms. Here are some of my local favorites.
I’m a fan of The Flea, even though it’s admittedly overpriced. Still, on a sunny Saturday, I love to wander around the stalls of the outdoor market (176 Lafayette Ave between Clermont and Vanderbilt in Fort Greene), if for nothing else but some eye-candy and people-watching. Even more so, I love to stop by The Flea on Sundays, when the market takes up the interior of the stunning Williamsburgh Savings Bank (1 Hanson Place at Flatbush). When I first moved to the neighborhood, this landmark building used to house my bank. Believe it or not, I was always excited to go in for otherwise mundane banking transactions, as I got to admire the vast 63-feet-high banking hall, with elaborate mosaics and humongous tinted windows. It was quite disappointing when in 2006 my bank moved across the street into a nondescript storefront space and the Williamsburgh Savings Bank was shut down, to be converted into luxury condos. It now operates as Skylight One Hanson, a high-end event space.
When The Flea moved in this past winter, it made me happy to be able to go back into my former bank, this time around to browse around antique and repurposed furniture, vintage clothing, collectibles, and art and crafts by local artisans and designers. Plus the food vendors are great, including my favorite Brooklyn bakery-cafe, Choice Market (318 Lafayette Ave in Clinton Hill), which churns out the city’s best almond croissants.
For an afternoon snack or an evening drink, I love to pop into Habana Outpost in Fort Greene, self-proclaimed as NYC’s first eco-eatery. In case you’re wondering what that means, “eco-eateries are restaurants that use earth-friendly practices in their design, construction, and day-to-day operations.” With picnic benches made of recycled wood, solar panels, and the bike-powered blender (for the cocktails), it’s a fun and colorful place, hopping both day and night. True, it has become quite a hipster scene but it can’t be beat for people-watching and DJ-spun tunes. I love their frozen mojitos as well as the Cuban sandwiches and the corn with cotija cheese, both dished out of the red food truck parked outside.
Just wrapped up on Monday, Dance Africa organized by BAM is a yearly showcase of African and African-American dance, music, and culture. This phenomenal event has been happening every year since 1977 to heighten awareness of African culture. Taking place over the Memorial Day Weekend, it is a real community affair, with dance performances in the Opera House; an art display at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA; 80 Hanson Place); a film series at BAM Rose Cinemas; and a dance party at BAMcafé with live music. This year I didn’t catch any of the performances or concerts but I did meander around the outdoor bazaar a few times. In all these years living in the neighborhood, I have never seen it that big! There were stalls everywhere – over 250 vendors selling crafts, food, clothing… – and so many people, so much music and wonderful energy. Walking around made me realize why I’m still such an avid devotee of Brooklyn.
My ode to Brooklyn continues next week so stay tuned!