Brooklyn, New York | Neighbourhood

The unofficial Caribbean capital of North America was once an independent city, and it still feels that way. With so many museums, parks, restaurants, and neighbourhoods to explore, who needs Manhattan?

Photo by Keith Sherwood/Shutterstock.comPhoto by Brian Goodman/Shutterstock.comPhoto by R.A.R. De Bruijn Holding Bv/Shutterstock.comBrooklyn Museum, Gift Of Mrs Carll H De Silver

Streetscape

The topography of Brooklyn’s seventy-one square miles varies from the towers of Downtown to the elegant brownstone terraces of Park Slope and Prospect Heights to the Coney Island waterfront. Atlantic Avenue, running east to west, and Flatbush Avenue, running south-east to north-west, are major thoroughfares crossing the borough. They meet at the Barclays Centre, a sports and entertainment venue which sits right at the borders of the Fort Greene, Prospect Heights, and Park Slope neighbourhoods. Closer to Downtown, Brooklyn Heights sits on a bluff overlooking the East River and the Manhattan shore, and the small DUMBO neighbourhood — it’s an acronym: Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass — is a former industrial zone now made trendy by art galleries and high-tech startups.

 

Crossing the bridge

The borough’s most famous landmark of all may be the Brooklyn Bridge, crossing the East River to Manhattan. An engineering marvel in its day, its double-arched stone towers are icons of the city, and you can see them up close from the pedestrian walkway, which starts in downtown Brooklyn and ends near NYC’s City Hall. The views are spectacular, and if you start your walk from the Manhattan side, you can end by exploring Brooklyn Bridge Park, which runs for over a mile along the waterfront, through what was once industrial dockland.

 

History

Brooklyn is an English version of a Dutch name, Breuckelen, once a small town on the south-western shore of Long Island. When the English took over the Dutch colony of New Netherland in 1664 — renaming it New York — this was a landscape of small villages and farms dotted among hills. The 1776 Battle of Brooklyn was the first major military incident of the American War of Revolution. During the nineteenth century, spurred by the urban growth of Manhattan across the East River, Brooklyn grew into a major city, with its own city hall, public library, museums, and monuments. In 1898, Brooklyn was consolidated into the city of New York, losing its independent status — opponents of the move called it the “Great Mistake” — but the now borough has never lost its distinctive identity.

The 1960s brought an influx of migrants from the Caribbean, and neighbourhoods like Crown Heights and Flatbush soon became known for their Caribbean vibe. Over the past decade and a half, rising property prices in Manhattan have driven a wave of gentrification through many of Brooklyn’s neighbourhoods, bringing new (and generally younger and wealthier) residents, trendy shops and restaurants — and anxieties about changes to long-established communities.

 

Outdoors

Brooklyn isn’t just streets of brownstone houses and apartment towers. The borough is scattered with green spaces, from small neighbourhood playgrounds to magnificent parks. Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead is most famous for creating Central Park in Manhattan, but Brooklynites will tell you that was just practice for his true masterpiece: Brooklyn’s very own Prospect Park. Opened to the public in 1867, Prospect Park is a 585-acre roughly triangular oasis, boasting Brooklyn’s only lake — man-made. The park’s Long Meadow, a gently rolling lawn, half a mile long and fringed by trees, is one of New York City’s most glorious strolls.

Immediately adjoining Prospect Park is the Brooklyn Botanic Garden — famous for its avenues of cherry trees, which blossom every spring, as well as its Japanese garden, complete with vermillion torii, and a Shakespeare garden with dozens of flowers and herbs mentioned in the plays and poems of the Bard. But homesick Caribbean Brooklynites head for the greenhouses, especially in the winter. Whatever the weather outside, the tropical greenhouse is always warm, humid, and lush, and the rich scent of the vegetation takes you right back to an island rainforest.

 

Art

New York is the global art capital of the twenty-first century, and its museums — the Metropolitan Museum, MoMA, the Guggenheim — are world-famous. Visitors throng the major Manhattan museums, but what many of them don’t know is that the city’s second-largest art museum is right here in Brooklyn, on the corner of Eastern Parkway and Washington Avenue. It even has its own subway stop — that’s more than you can say for the Met. What treasures does the Brooklyn Museum have on its walls and in its galleries? Major collections of Ancient Egyptian and African art, among the world’s biggest. A stellar collection of art by women, in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Centre for Feminist Art. Plus old masters, Renaissance paintings, contemporary work by Brooklyn artists, and a few works that will be familiar to Caribbean eyes — like this late-eighteenth-century painting by Agostino Brunias (at left), depicting Free Women of Colour with Their Children in Dominica.

 

Co-ordinates

40.6º N 58.0º W
Sea level

 

Caribbean Airlines operates regular flights to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City from Caribbean destinations