Thursday, August 25, 2011

Brooklyn Eats Manhattan

We know that nouveaux Brooklynites, following their Manifest Destiny, are "blessing the Hudson Valley with hipness," turning Philadelphia into "the next borough," and changing the Rockaway boardwalk into another Bedford Avenue. This is how gentrification travels outward into more affordable locations. But what about the increasing Brooklynization of Manhattan?

Most recently, Stone Street Coffee of Gowanus fame opened shop on 9th Avenue in Chelsea:



Pop's of Brooklyn has come from Williamsburg to 8th Street near NYU:



There are lots of examples over the past year--like the Brooklyneer restaurant on West Houston and how the Guggenheim Lab, when they set up shop in the East Village, opted to have the food served by Roberta's of Bushwick. And this year's Lower East Side Ideas Fest showcased a plethora of Brooklyn-based vendors--as Bowery Boogie commented here, it looked like "a Brooklyn takeover."

It's a kind of reverse gentrification, but more twisted, a sort of Mobius Strip of gentrification in which the New Brooklyn, which exists because it was priced out of Manhattan 10 years ago, and which sort of (but not really) resembles the old Manhattan, is coming back to Manhattan, extruded through the New Brooklyn ringer, like artisanal sausage, a kind of monster-mash of flavors, so that it feels nothing quite like Manhattan ever did and only like parts of Brooklyn have come to be in recent years. Which is to say--it feels like somewhere not New York at all.

It feels like Portland on the Lower East Side.

It feels like Nantucket by way of Bergen Street.

It feels like Wisconsin pickled in Brooklyn brine then moved to Greenwich Village.


Brooklyneer menu art

It's someone's fantasy of Brooklyn as a quaint small town, where everything is safe and clean, where people frolic in backyards, leave their doors unlocked, etc. You know the story--and what happens when the story goes terribly wrong. But it's so much more than that.

The Observer recently got to the dark heart of it, writing: "It’s as if the tumor of hipster culture that formed when the cool kids moved to Williamsburg had metastasized into a cluster of cysts pressing down on parts of the borough’s brain... Brooklyn is producing and consuming more of its own culture than ever before."

There's something powerful going on here. This is Greek-sized stuff, the mythic story of maternal cannibalism, only in reverse. Manhattan's cast-off children are getting big enough to eat the mother that rejected them. No wonder so much of this phenomenon comes obsessed with food and oral pleasure.

So what happens when Manhattan is finally devoured by New Brooklyn? You know what they'll tell us: "It's better than a bank."


James Campbell Taylor

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

Perhaps its because there's nothing remotely interesting about Manhattan that doesn't involve long waits and rude staff. Lived in NYC for ten years. I have less of a reason to travel to Manhattan for anything other than shopping.

....and, no, leaving the old porno theaters there wasn't going to make things better either.

Brooklyn is simply better.

Christine said...

I wouldn't mind if some of these people moved to the Rust Belt and left you guys alone. Put them on a greyhound bus. They can use the vacant lot down the street from me to grow organic sustainable heirloom beets and circle jerk themselves.

Terri D. said...

this? is simply brilliant writing. thanks.

Anonymous said...

Well said Jeremiah. I am an original Brooklynite and having been there and seen that--we know what is and is not. The rhetoric is such bull shit. Spin away--pr sluts on the move.
@Christine--you have a good point.

starzstylista said...

I'm from Brooklyn originally too. Brooklyn is all artisianal ponies and rainbows you know.

There are still lots of part of Brooklyn that are poor, tough, uneducated and racist. I know that's where I came from.

As for My Little Pony Brooklyn? No match for the hard glittering heartless granite-based thing that is Manhattan. It's just not.

Anonymous said...

"a sort of Mobius Strip of gentrification... is coming back to Manhattan, extruded through the New Brooklyn ringer, like artisanal sausage" and the Greek mythology reference? wow - powerful writing here - great post. love the map too. - BN

Anonymous said...

Now if we can somehow like all of this to Baudrillard's theory of simulations...

Ed said...

I'm from Brooklyn but now live in Manhattan. I think this particular post is overwrought. Too much significance is being put on what is happening with a few overhyped eateries.

Essentially there was a gap of a couple years, at the beginning of this decade, when overgentrification had hit Manhattan but not yet Brooklyn, and the northern parts of Brookyn became a sort of place of exile for people trying to get away from the Manhattan rents and attitude. This lasted for maybe three years until brownstone Brooklyn became as overgentrified as Manhattan if not more so.

So now there is no effective diffence between the degree of overgentrification between the northern third or so of Brooklyn, and the overgentrified southern two thirds of Manhattan. The logical next step is that restaurants catering to yunnies in one place will open branches in the other.

I'm told that there are now cool places in Brooklyn farther out along the subway lines, but if this process continues they will be swallowed by overgentrification a couple of years from now in turn. Its too much trouble to check out something that isn't going to last long.

Gregory said...

Echoing what Ed said. Even if this is well written and makes one or two good points, you just come off sounding like a bitter old man who wants kids to get off his lawn and remembers how it was back in the good old days.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget Toby's Publick House being built on the corner of Mulberry and Kenmare. The manager told me that this will be the "outpost" for their "flagship" operation in the South Slope. The entire facade of the storefront was rebuilt to resemble the original in Brooklyn.

Jeremiah Moss said...

another common trope--the old man who wants the kids off his lawn. every time i hear it, i think: so what's wrong with that? why is the old man supposed to want kids tearing up his yard?

onemorefoldedsunset said...

Yeah, we get the same stuff in Brooklyn that you're getting around you. Bareburger, & the Goorin Hat Shop just set up very recently, just as they're setting up near you. Bicycle Habitat came in from Soho, & now bearded bikers hand out outside the closed up Garry Jewelers (aagh!). The guys behind the EV Brindle Room are taking over a local bar & grill on 11th.St. The investors behind Stone St. are major Manhattan restaurant owners. It's market-driven cross-pollination, and isn't necessarily pleasant from either end. I'm burned out by this stuff. It feels like living in an artisanal, fedora wearing theme park. We talk of moving all the time, but where next? Apparently Sunset Park is the new "hot" real estate market.

starzstylista said...

Ed is right, except it's not just food Ed, it's a kind of zeitgeist.

Brooklyn always had it. I remember when I was young, very young in the 60s, 6 or 7 years old, I would see people from Manhattan and they would look "different" to me. I couldn't quite figure it. Then, when I got a little older, I thought they were not as "curly" as people in Brooklyn, but I could not even articulate what that meant exactly.

It was true then and it's true now. When I was six and thought curly, what I was trying to say was Brooklyn is (was) more baroque. Something about Brooklyn lends itself to roccoco production - like those candy wrappers. It's the difference between Prospect Park and Central Park. Brooklyn was never and will never be the new Manhattan, and Manhattan is largely impervious to such influences. It will consume them, sure, but influence, not so much.

Too weak, too tired, too poor, too demanding of a decent life, too SLOW, move to Brooklyn. Brooklyn will embrace you, and you will feel like you are living in the City, but be clear, you are not.

Manhattan will embrace any fad, roccoco brooklyn smoked and massaged hot dogs if money can be made. If MONEY can be made. If SUCCESS can be had. That has always been at Manhattan's hard heart. Even in the 70s in the East Village people came here to make their fortune. Making one's fortune is not just about cash, but if you make your mark, cash will (relatively speaking) come along.

Then you can blow it on whatever you want, because Manhattan offers that too.

John said...

Yo Jeremiah, yes this all very annoying and it sucks. BUT - I don't get the schadenfreude ridden reference to the robbery of those kids in Bed Stuy. It seemed a little mean spirited.

They were in a band and they were just looking for a place to live. Granted they look like total idiots, their band name sucks and their music probably sucks too, but New York has always attracted musicians and artists and that's not a bad thing.

You need to differentiate a little between mediocre yuppie shit and genuine creativity. Otherwise you risk becoming less a crusader for the city's spirit and just a mindless reactionary.

Anonymous said...

maybe it's time to leave New York. White people ruin everything.

Blayze said...

In some ways I agree, in others I don't. Alot of these new joints are owned by hard working families just trying to make a living, much like the New York of old. Sure, there are a good chunk of them that cater to high end crowds and feature pointless artsy food combinations. But look past them, especially in certain parts of Brooklyn not completelty awash in the shiny glint of gentrification, such as Bed-Stuy or Crown Heights, and you'll see there are some new good hearted joints not catering to the overly hip.

Plus I'd much rather have them versus another Starbucks or other suburban chain. That is why Manhattan fails and Brooklyn is winning this race.

Jeremiah Moss said...

John, i'm not sure i felt schadenfreude for the bed-stuy kids. but maybe you're picking up on something i wasn't aware of.

Little Earthquake said...

Portland, Wisconsin, Nantucket...I've been to those places, and nowhere in NYC "feels" like any of them right now.

The fact remains that this is NYC, 2011, and not any of those places.

You can wax nostalgic til the cows come home about a past that never really existed. Or you can live in the present and try to change what you don't like.

The romanticized NYC of years past is the local equivalent of the idealization (or demonization) of the 1950s - it never existed except in some people's minds. It was neither as great or as bad as people will tell you.

Today's misguided nostalgia and xenophobia (Midwesterners!) is as sorry and lame as that of any other era. The only difference is that because it targets whitey, it's defensible to some.

I live in New York City 2011, and it still feels like New York to me. If you feel as though you cannot enjoy the city for its supposed resemblance to some far-flung imaginary suburb, that's too bad.

Anonymous said...

Disagree. I've lived in Williamsburg and Greenpoint for the last 15 years and every restaurant opening here lately is a branch of something from Manhattan (La Esquina, Tavo Sommer, Inoteca, Spitzers).

Bleep said...

How I yearn for the old days, when New York City never changed, when the culture never shifted or was altered by myriad new influences from other parts of the world, when New York City was just the way I liked it ...

ShatteredMonocle said...

Regarding the old man wanting the kids off his lawn: Take a stroll through the LES on a Saturday night, and if you don't feel like that old man, then you are one of the people fucking up the lawn.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget Grumpy coffee on West 20th Street where they have also forced us to listen to their painful slit your wrists new folk music along with twee coffee rituals.
I hate the music of hipster Brooklyn more than anything else they think they're better at.

James Taylor said...

I agree with starzstylista that there's an indifference about Manhattan that makes it somewhat imperviousness to the same influences that certain Brooklyn neighborhoods seem happy to devour.

The fact that a New Brooklyn-inspired restaurant should open in Manhattan conveys everything both its arch self-awareness and clear limitations.

Eric Brasure said...

Perhaps if the denizens of Manhattan spent less time complaining about how boring Manhattan is becoming and more time helping Manhattan to remain interesting, Brooklynites wouldn't have to do it for them.

Anonymous said...

Those who think Jeremiah is just about cranky nostalgia aren't getting the point or nuance or irony (and I mean irony in the classic, not hipster, sense). Personally I like reading him for the application of psychoanalysis to our city--in this post, Brooklynites "returning to the rejecting mother," particularly through the oral fixation of food/coffee - great!

I'm no saint, having moved to my little Ave A $175 a month studio in 1983, and later paying a bribe to a super for a $250 one-bedroom nearby, thus contributing in my own way to the ruination of the East Village (though I like to think I'm not a yunnie). But I do chafe when I hear people telling me that they live in Brooklyn, or when they think that their artisanal culture somehow trumps my local elderly orthodox Jewish shoe repairman who listens to tapes of the messiah, Rabbi Schneerson (and who is holding on to his store for dear life); or that their breeding skills render them somehow different and more special, as they contribute to the population explosion and sidewalk obstruction; or their adherence to a pretentious foodie-ism and the stomach- and coffee-driven life, which according to Livy--and the Roman would know-- was the sign of a culture in decline.

Parts of Brooklyn have become a symbol for all this. So yeah, I hate Brooklyn, or those parts. Don't wish to be across the bridge, sorry. Though I am thinking of moving to Flushing, where I work--now that's a hidden treasure. A couple of weeks ago there were Dragon Boat races on the Flushing Meadow Park pond, genuine cuisine that was not over-priced, babies that sat ignored or were left to their own devices, and hovering it over it all the glorious monument of the World's Fair unisphere (and of course the vigil keepers of the Mary sighting).

The city still lives, in other words. What Brooklyn transfers have to offer is so measly and precious in comparison: so no thanks. I can get what they have in Portland (Maine or Oregon). What they represent is what I left those places for, in fact. But I'm sure their intentions are impeccable.

Jeremiah Moss said...

Anonymous 8:48, you just became my favorite Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Let's call this like it really is. Businesses that could not afford to operate in Manhattan left for Brooklyn or chose to open there to begin with. Now that Brooklyn has had a bit of a renaissance, the most successful of those businesses that have profited from the borough's growth are considering entering the Manhattan market where the big boys play. We don't have retail space for the $3k per month crowd in Manhattan, and the players that can afford $20k+ per month after they built their business in Brooklyn are hanging their hopes on making it in the city. Some of them will make it, and some of them will retreat to Brooklyn - or bankruptcy court. One thing is for sure, they're not doing the borough a favor by trying to gain a footing amongst the real players.

For the most part, Brooklyn's claim to fame is that the borough has become the playground of NYC's middle class. And for that, I am not impressed.

rLr said...

lived in brooklyn from 1948 to 1967. we kept our doors open all day. i was a girl scout, bought ice-cream from the good humor man, watched alot of TV. then hung out on avenue J, kings highway. i went to manhattan beach brighton beach. & coney island for fire works. they had a few good resturants in carol gardens & sheepshead bay, but where i lived we had chinese & one big coffee shop. the ladies played "moh jon", i thought it was a jewish game. i never saw many real americans, there were like 3 people in my school w/blond hair. either you were askenazi, sefardic, sicilian, or naplanese. my grandparents didnt always speak english. somewhere very far away there were black people. i moved into the city because anyone else who was intelligent creative or interesting did too. there were not that many. i cant relate @ all to any of this. mostly because its very complex & out of my experience. i cant get the food terminology, & the sociology behind most of it. lots of new words! why bother learning them? if i dont know what it means, i sure dont want to eat it! now my friends moved back to brooklyn. & they dont go into the city much. we never thought THAT day would come! go figure.

LRL said...

jeremiah: that menu cover is gorgeous! it looks like an antique from 100 yrs ago! love to frame it whats your problem?? its a real collectable. bet it IS an old illustration. 8:48 anon: do you realize most of hasidic rebbi shmeersons followers ARE in brooklyn??

akissner said...

New York is just a theme park/safari for a lot of people. Admission fees in the form of rent. It's an extended stay destination for people to take back with them to Wisconsin or California or Colorado and say, "remember those two years we lived in New York, that was crazy!" Sure, many of them end up staying and making their lives here, but a huge number also get tired of it and go back.

Anonymous said...

There are worse things than a few poxy Brooklyn eating places. Seems like a distraction from bigger issues. The old Manhattan/Outer Boroughs stuff always attracts a lot of comments though. A good opportunity for people to release their anxieties, & assert their authenticity. Who gives a crap? The kid who just graduated from college, whose Daddy got him a job on the Wall Street Journal, making more money than I’ll ever make & living a sweet, parent subsidized life in a $3,000 rental on Avenue A bothers me more. And the tearing down of old places for monstrous new crap. The inter-borough sniping is lame after a while.

Eric Brasure said...

@Anonymous 8:48:

Yeah, but at what point do you have to throw up your hands and say "okay, this is what Manhattan is now?" Because I guarantee you that the Brooklyn-based coffee house (I refuse to call them coffee shops) and restaurants are not displacing your "local elderly orthodox Jewish shoe repairman"--that's already happened, over and over again, in Manhattan. That ship has sailed.

The time to do something about it was 20 years ago, when the financial-based economy that the NYC government went after was in its infancy. Now Manhattan is basically one big urban amusement park for i-bankers and hedge fund managers, and 90% of who can make a living there does so serving them. Who the hell needs more than one cupcake bakery? No, who needs ONE cupcake bakery?

In the grand scheme of things, I just can't get upset that some Brooklynites are now opening branches in Manhattan. They're not the problem, and to say that they are is missing the point.

Fran Sky said...

Portlander here...don't shoot! We've been dealing with gentrification of our "urban" neighborhoods for years. I wonder what city we should blame for this? Perhaps it's not Portland that is "ruining" Brooklyn but a momentum in US culture towards not getting all of life's necessities (and artisan cheeses) by strangers from afar. I still love NY though. Keep up your steely snark Brooklynites while I hang with my peeps making hand dyed knitted boucle dog vests.

mingusal said...

...and here in Queens we live with our real and inexpensive ethnic food (rather than "reimagined" organic burgers and mac & cheese), our long-time neighborhood businesses, our actual multi-ethnic neighbors from around the world, and our lower rents, and quietly laugh at both of you.

Anonymous said...

Oh Brooklyn. I grew up near Kings Hiway and Flatbush Ave.That is Brooklyn, not the sissy hipster Wmsburg, etc. I wish everyone would stop calling certain fey, affected, phony areas of my boro "Brooklyn." ask any REAL Brooklynite.

Daniel I. Raskin said...

Hilarious.

Pat said...

Oh God help us. Bedford Cheese is having "a gathering place for all minds and palates" at 67 Irving Place in Manhattan that promises to educate us in, among other things, paring cheeses and Mast Brothers (surprise, surprise) chocolate. I wish I could spray their window with a vintage can of Kraft Cheese like the Marc Jacobs store was spray painted on Bleecker Street.