Labeled the “Love” train for its infamous Missed Connections, the L line is the uber pick up place – especially between the two stops separating hipsters from Manhattan’s Lower East Side and Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. But when you step off the train, the place to see and be seen is Brooklyn.
Signs of the borough’s renaissance are everywhere. Brooklyn boasts an impressive new visitor’s center, a $4.9 billion sports arena under construction, and surprisingly, even venerable institutions are alive with a nightlife buzz.
You might expect a line out the door for Friday night salsa at the Brooklyn Terrace. Less predictable is the scene at the 150-year-old Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) which on a weekend night is filled with throngs of young creative types sporting vintage fashion and androgynous hairstyles, milling around stages hosting indie-rock bands like The Antlers and Buke and Gase.
Or the lively scene at Brooklyn Museum’s Target First Saturdays, whose galleries are hopping long past midnight in an exuberant celebration of for-the-people culture. At the center of it all is Keith Haring’s early work, on display March 16 – July 8, exploring the emergence of one of America’s best loved street artists.
Graffiti in a museum poses an interesting irony, although Matt Levy of Levy’s Unique New York Tours argues that this is part of the natural progression of changing city dynamics from working class and street art to tourists and art galleries. But Brooklyn is so big – the fourth largest American city, if it were an independent city – that it encompasses all kinds of neighborhoods and all kinds of people.
One way to get a sense of its rich diversity is to join Dom Gervasi on his Made In Brooklyn Tours. In the Red Hook neighborhood, Gervasi might drop in on Cacao Prieto where Dan Preston, a former aeronautical engineer, is turning a $22 million buyout and the production from his family’s cacao plantation in the Dominican Republic into the most scientifically delicious chocolate empire.
Sample decadent chocolate bars, or better yet, sip the chocolate spirits that are set to debut on The Plaza Hotel’s cocktail menu. Walk outside, and you’ll see street art on display in murals by Chilean artist Sebastian Gross-Ossa that adorn the view from Botanica, Michelin-star chef Saul Bolton’s Mediterranean/Dominican restaurant set to reopen shortly.
Head towards Ikea to catch a New York Water Taxi back to Manhattan, and you might pass blocks of graffiti which may just lead you to agree with Matt Levy that street art revitalizes urban blight.
That’s easily acknowledged at Roberta’s pizzeria/radio station described by Levy as a “DIY, locavore, adaptive reuse, multicultural, multiethnic, rustic Americana restaurant where they grow their own herbs for the salad, and they built it themselves by hand out of an abandoned industrial-era ball bearing factory.” Or, as Sam Sifton of The New York Times puts it, “one of the more extraordinary restaurants in the United States.”
It’s a fine line between urban grit and museum-quality; Brooklyn has it all.