The Other Brooklyn
Brooklyn is on fire right now. Neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Greenpoint and Park Slope and Bushwick are lighting up the map. Hit television shows shoot there. Personal narratives all over the Internet are featured there. Conversations about where to live are centered there. Real estate prices are sky high. Williamsburg may even be more costly than Manhattan and that is truly saying something.
I’m down to go to Brooklyn any time. I’m down to go to the city in general any time. ( I mean, I have a picture of me gloriously standing in Brooklyn Bridge Park, basking in the Dumbo skyline.) What stops me is the expensive train fare since I’m still on Long Island. But my twenty-something ‘financially grey space’ experience is another post altogether.
Brooklyn has so much to offer. But. I do have to pause slightly. Just slightly. Because while it’s kind of cool just how ‘hip’ Brooklyn has become, it’s not the Brooklyn I’m too familiar with.
I grew up on Ocean Parkway in a Syrian Jewish neighborhood.
To me, Brooklyn is seeing men in yarmulkes walk to shul and orthodox families living in big brick houses that are super close together. It’s seeing a community that is as tight-knit as the bricks houses that are super close together.
To me, Brooklyn is the beat up version of Coney Island; the one where I was warned not to go. You’re going to Astroland with Marina? Don’t. Not a good idea. My mom spoke of the run-down history of the boardwalk, of the seedy spots where a parent should ideally be holding their 11-year-old’s hand.
To me, Brooklyn is the bustle on Kings Highway and the Middle Eastern restaurant my grandpa loved. Falafel. Souvlaki. It’s the storefronts and grocers in Chinese and Russian. It’s the kosher butcher where I went with my mom after she picked me up from school. It’s the loud trains zooming past over our heads.
To me, Brooklyn is where my family still resides. In an apartment on Knapp Street, near Sheepshead Bay; not far from the ebb and flow on Emmons Avenue by the water. Brooklyn is where my family used to reside. In a Syrian Jewish household on East 5th street that held many Passover seders and Purim plays.
To me, Brooklyn is where family excursions took place. Strolling through the Botanical Gardens in the heat and walking through paths of bright orange tulips. The Prospect Park Zoo. Crawling into ‘ground hog’ holes and eating a strawberry shortcake popsicle while staring at the seals.
L&B Spumoni Gardens in Gravesend. Devouring Sicilian slices on a red picnic table by the white fence. (I make sure I get my fix every now and then.) An amusement park near a bay. Near a Toys R Us and a Wendys. We always pass it when stuck in traffic on the Belt Parkway.
To me, Brooklyn is where my close friends used to live. In apartment buildings on Avenue K and M and Bensonhurst. It’s our footsteps walking to the Q train. It’s us girls huddled together on the platform, ready for adventure.
When I conjure up images of Brooklyn, I think back to the minutiae of the day to day. I think of the night sounds and the crowds and the hustle. I think of another kind of Brooklyn. And I recall it fondly.