Some travelers sense that there are numerous “Brooklyns” developing across the USA. The theory is that mid-sized cities like Oakland, Portland, and Austin have adopted hip Brooklyn-ish qualities as part of their ongoing urban renewal: artist collectives where you put a bird on it, locally-sourced vegan food, nouveau speakeasies, you get the idea.
Unfortunately, that comparison doesn’t do justice. Every city has its own distinctive personality, and despite the evident trends, we shouldn’t dismiss them as having homogenized into the same vaguely Brooklyn-ish creature.
To that end, here are just a few reasons why the original Brooklyn is one of a kind:
Brooklyn’s identity is inextricably linked to Manhattan. New York is the biggest city in the country by a generous margin, so New York’s central borough (Manhattan) is a creative and economic engine like none other. This also means that the four outer boroughs (Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, and Staten Island) are forever high-profile by association. If Manhattan didn’t exist, in all likelihood, Brooklyn wouldn’t have the same cachet or name recognition, and it certainly wouldn’t be receiving Manhattan’s residential, tourist, and artistic overflow.
Brooklyn is not actually a city. Try as we might, it’s inaccurate to think of Brooklyn as a city. Ever since “The Great Mistake of 1898,” it’s been part of New York. People frequently claim that if Brooklyn were its own city (and if the other four boroughs also seceded), it would be the 3rd largest city in the nation… but it’s not. It also doesn’t have the hotel base, tourism infrastructure, or intra-borough transit of an independent, self-sufficient city that size. Nor does it have an airport. Despite the frequent comparisons between Manhattan/Brooklyn and San Francisco/Oakland, it’s not really the same.
Love-hate feelings toward Brooklyn are incomparably strong. Because Brooklyn is the nation’s hipster mecca, it generates an unparalleled amount of positive buzz while also absorbing the harshest criticism. Whenever people get sick of fauxhemian dresses, 20-something artists, and bartenders who dress like Gold Rush prospectors, they point the finger at Brooklyn for starting it all. On the other hand, people still flock to Brooklyn to enjoy the same creative things that were just being mocked five minutes ago. But what can you do? That’s how life is in New York, and it’s different from life anywhere else.
Do visitors compare your city to Brooklyn? What do you think?