Welcome to Brooklyn… DUCK!

Apropos of nothing, took this photo in Prospect Park yesterday, which was one of the most beautiful days I’ve ever seen. No ducks, alas — they were behind me, mobbing a family that foolishly thought they could get away with tossing out only half a loaf of bread.

Brooklyn, Prospect Park, at the pond

Was chatting with a friend the other day about the plethora of “OMG, I only make $250,000 a year, I’m so poor!” whining that seems to have broken out all over the internet lately, mostly in reaction to the expiration of Bush’s tax cuts for those making $250K or greater. I’m with Scalzi on this; when truly poor people are struggling to stay healthy and housed, I have no sympathy. But in particular I have no sympathy for New Yorkers who insist that they must live in Manhattan or they will diiiiiiie. Because Manhattan is not, and has never been, the be-all and end-all of New York City.

I don’t know if I can truly call myself a Brooklyn girl, but I’m definitely a wannabe. I kind of grew up here as a kid, until I was 5 years old, and then my parents divorced and I ended up moving down to Alabama, where I went to school. But I spent every summer in Brooklyn thereafter, traipsing around Brooklyn and the Lower East Side of Manhattan to pass the time. After college I gradually worked my way around the East Coast — with New York as the epicenter of my wanderings, always. Finally moved back here for (hopefully) good a few years ago. But what continually amazes me as I live here is — well, how cheap it is. My first apartment here was a very large one-bedroom for under $1000/month. It was in a rough neighborhood, granted — though no one in it ever gave me any trouble, I suppose because I spoke to people and treated them like human beings and not stereotypes. (Now I’m paying only a little more than that in a slightly-better ‘hood.) As with most apartments in this city, heat was included in the rent, which I appreciated given that in Boston I often struggled to pay $400/month for heat while wearing sweaters and shivering a lot. I had a car when I moved here, but got rid of it because the MTA is infinitely cheaper than a car note, gas, insurance, and maintenance. And I have more ready access to affordable, healthy food here than I have in any other place I’ve lived, because of NYC’s thriving localvore/green culture. There’s a farmer’s market in every other neighborhood, and a CSA in the ones that don’t have markets, and a community garden on every other street. Most of the folks I know in smaller towns are stuck with Whole Foods; I pay less and get better-quality food for my trouble.

Granted, I’m not a high-powered lawyer or stockbroker trying to keep up with the Joneses (or the Hamptons, or the Poconos). But I know high-powered lawyers and stockbrokers who don’t do that stuff either. They’re content to live in a gorgeous old brownstone somewhere in one of the outer boroughs for reasonable prices, and ride the subway like the rest of us. No one has to live like that.

But part of what stops these people from moving to the outer boroughs is reputation, I think. I’m continually amazed when I meet tourists who’ve never even thought about visiting Queens, or the Bronx, or Hoboken (rapidly becoming known as “New York West”), despite the sheer volume of cool stuff to see in all those places. Heck, I meet New Yorkers who’ve lived here their whole lives — usually out on Long Island — who never ride the subway. They’re terrified of it. Given how crowded the subways are these days due to budget cuts, I’m glad; rather not rub elbows with any more people than I have to. But I do boggle, sometimes, at the ignorance which underlies this attitude. These are people who’ve shaped their understanding of New York around a handful of movies — probably starting with Death Wish — gangsta rap, and other media, rather than their own observations and judgment. They don’t know any better, which is sad. But they don’t want to know any better, which is… just annoying.

So until they figure it out, I’m going to enjoy the New York that terrifies them. I’m going to explore its “dangerous” neighborhoods, and savor all its “mysterious” foreign foods, and find all the hidden treasures they’re so willing to leave undisturbed. More for me and mine, I say.

In closing, allow me to share a hip hop video that more accurately describes the Brooklyn I know than anything Jay-Z could ever come up with… from comedian Elon James White. Since it’s Sunday, after all, and there’s one thing all Brooklynians love to do on a nice Sunday morning.

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