Monday, January 26, 2009

The Brooklyn experience

In New York, I paid my first-ever visit to Brooklyn (except perhaps when getting to or from JFK or LGA from Manhattan), and I was favorably impressed. I was staying with a friend in Williamsburg so I saw more than my fair share of fixed-gear bikes, but I also made it out into "real Brooklyn" for a bit.

I headed over to the Brooklyn Museum and saw their ancient Near Eastern collection of Assyrian and Egyptian artifacts, as well as various paintings and decorative arts. Anywhere else in the country (or the world) this would be a first-rate collection but since it's just a subway ride across town from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan, it gets second billing and tourist hordes generally head over to the complex on Central Park. There were a handful of visitors to the Brooklyn Museum and a number of school groups but it seemed quite underpopulated.

Inspired by the Parks Conference, I wanted to see Prospect Park, as well, so took a detour through what seemed to be a regular neighborhood to visit it. Prospect Park, larger than Central Park, was also designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, and Olmsted declared it his favorite. Surely it's more fun when it's not freezing out, but I certainly did get a feeling for the place.

Of course, I've heard some of the jokes and stereotypes about living in the Outer Boroughs, and heard some of them enunciated when I mentioned that I was staying by the Bedford Avenue subway stop--in jest, I'm sure. Walking to Prospect Park, I overheard one aggrieved Brooklynite complain about the snootiness of a Manhattan resident, and made the case that he wasn't inferior simply because he had to cross a bridge or go in a tunnel to get to Times Square. I found Brooklyn delightful and after getting a brief primer on relative real estate prices, I'll say that Brooklyn is a great place to visit--even if some people wouldn't want to live there.

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