Thursday, February 26, 2009

bklyn: believing the hype?

There's a sign over the Kosciuszko Bridge that brings you to the Brooklyn part of the BQE, and since traffic is likely crawling, you have ample opportunity to read it.

Believe the Hype

Exclamation point included.

Reading the recent New York Times article about artisan slow food production in Brooklyn, and the quasi-fallout in follow-up Q&A responses (all found on the excellent Diners Journal blog) made me think of that sign.

My neighborhood, northmost Brooklyn, was an enclave of Polish shops and restaurants, where old men filled quiet park benches and you could buy 99 cent bars of Milke chocolate at the Key Foods. Twenty blocks south, the main drag of Bedford was already littered with foodie nooks like the Bedford Cheese shop mentioned in the original
NYT article. Brooklyn Lager was on tap in every bar, and the brewery offered frequent tours and tastings. Hipsters nestled in an uneasy corridor of a southside Williamsburg home to latins and Orthodox Jews. Further south still, Spike Lee's neighborhood was once again a safe place to live and I skirted my bicycle across the oceans, down a slight stretch of Flatbush and around Prospect Park, sometimes grabbing a coffee from Gorilla Coffee and lingering in Park Slope before skirting home through Bed-Stuy.

In those days Brooklyn still had pockets of old-time, authentic cultural traditions, though in my own neighborhood I had the vague sense that it was all being edged out. Institutions like Peter Luger's sat hulking under the train tracks while entrepreneurs named their bars after the institutions formerly occupying the space (Pete's Candy Store, Union Pool). Even the "new" Brooklyn feels old, though maybe that's just all the brick buildings. I wasn't surprised by the Times article. It's been 8 years, if not more, in the making, for North Brooklyn. And I wasn't surprised by the response, a mix of people genuinely excited, and other pointing out, patiently and not-so-much, that the bklyn of hype need not forget its own histories.

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