In the five tips by… locals talk about their city, region or country. This time artist Susan Fishgold takes us to her Brooklyn, energizing center of the New Yorks art and culture scene.
We met Mrs. Villagers many years ago when she came to an exhibit of my work in Dordrecht and wrote about it. We have been friends ever since. That’s only one of the things I love about art – meeting and connecting with friends with similar spirits all over the world.
Brownstones in Brooklyn
My art studio is on the top floor of the home I have lived in with my husband, Jay, and our son, Max, for 15 years. I spend much of my time creating there. I love this area of brownstones and beautiful gardens. My husband and I thought we would live in Brooklyn for only a year or two when we got married and then move into The City – Manhattan. But we loved it here too much to leave. We love Manhattan also, but Brooklyn is home.
Brooklyn is one of the five boroughs of New York City, along with Manhattan. They are the same city, but they are very different. `Brooklyn is what New York used to be, a town of neighborhoods filled with creativity, energy and unyielding spirit and drive.
In fact, Brooklyn only became a part of New York City in 1898, and many real Brooklynites think that was a tragedy – a great city becoming absorbed in another. Many still say they are going to The City when taking the subway into Manhattan.
In the last 15 years or so there has been an explosion of creativity and all kinds of people moving to Brooklyn. Many, if not most, of the creative people in all fields who have always flocked to New York have wound up in Brooklyn.
At first they were seeking the beautiful older buildings, big spaces to do their work, and lower cost living that all artists and people who are starting out need. But in recent years it’s just the magnetic effect – creative people flocking to a place attract more and more creative people.
Outside of finance and business, but more and more in those activities also, most of the creative energy happening in New York now – in art, dance, film, food, new ways of living and looking at the world — is happening in Brooklyn.
There are many different ethnic people living here. Many different restaurants, cafes, shops, parks. More and more people are riding bikes. There is a very good metro here as well.We are very close to Manhattan. Many artists and writers have studios all over Brooklyn.
Obviously, it’s very difficult to pin down only 5 things that we love about Brooklyn. But here are a couple of Brooklyn tips you might enjoy.
1. Coney island and Brighton Beach
We take the F train to Coney Island sometimes in the summer. Coney Island is the beach on the Atlantic Ocean. We walk along the Boardwalk down to Brighton Beach, the next beach neighborhod. There are many amusement rides, people with suntans and people enjoying a swim in the oceans.
The last time we were there we took a walk along the boardwalk to this really wonderful Russian restaurant called Tatiana’s. It is right on the boardwalk and has outdoor tables, music and great Russian food. It was fun to eat and have a really cold beer overlooking the beautiful beach.
2. Festival in Prospect Park
Celebrate Brooklyn is held in Prospect Park every summer. There are free open air concerts, outdoor movies on HUGE screens and other events every weekend during the summer months. Jay and I watched the movie “West side Story” on this huge screen along with hundreds of people, some dancing in the aisles, singing along with the songs in the movie. One big joyful group of people enjoying a summers evening.
3. Jazz at Pane e Vino
Jay, Max and I love going to Pane e Vino, one of our favorite Italian restaurants, on Smith Street near our home. Especially on Sunday evenings when there is a GREAT, mostly women’s Jazz group that plays then. Its fantastic energizing rhythms while you enjoy a Sunday dinner. The food is delicious and the waiters are welcoming!
4. Walk Over the Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge. It is about 1 ½ miles long, with a boardwalk with benches and lanes for walkers and for people to ride their bikes. There are great views from the center and plaques about the history of the bridge. Standing in the center you have a great view of The Statue of Liberty and the entire harbor and Brooklyn and lower Manhattan. Jay and I love walking over The Brooklyn bridge
We used to go to Pier 17 in Manhattan when we got there, which had a huge shed filled with shops and restaurants. We’d get a big slice of pizza and a beer and sit on the outdoor deck and look at the East River and the Promenade in Brooklyn. They are renovating now and tore down the shed. I can’t wait to see what they’re going to build.
5. Brooklyn Heights Promenade
Brooklyn Heights Promenade – 70 years ago a city planner named Robert Moses modernized much of New York City. He did this by tearing down 100 year old slums – and good neighborhoods too – and building great, magnificent 20th Century public works.
He built a highway called the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE) along the Brooklyn waterfront that speeded traffic but cut most Brooklynites off from the harbor. In Brooklyn Heights, though, one of the oldest and most beautiful Brooklyn neighborhoods, residents banded together and got him to build that part of the highway in three levels along the sides of the cliff.
Or bluff as it is called, that forms the Heights, in three levels – two for cars and trucks, north and south – and a Promenade along the top for people to walk, stroll, or sit on a park bench and talk, or read, or stare at the vast harbor that made New York what it is, and most of Manhattan, and a good part of New Jersey. It also has a beautiful view of the Brooklyn Bridge, just to the north.
For many years, my husband and I lived a block or two away, and we could hear the foghorns of ships in the harbor from our bedroom window in the brownstone we lived in then. At night, after dinner, we would walk down to the Promenade on top of highway, and walk a little bit, and sit on a bench, our bench, and watch the sun set over Manhattan and the harbor with it’s tiny ships and ocean liners.
And as we sat there, people would stroll by, many people, out for an after dinner walk. Some jogging or walking their dogs. And we would watch them. There was a wonderful rhythm to it all. I would write or sketch and Jay would read.
Sometimes it was like sitting on your porch saying hello to friends who came by. But many times we just watched people walk, every person’s walk telling the story of their life.
In the past few years, the city has built a park below the Promenade, along the old shipping piers reaching out into the harbor beneath it that hadn’t been used in many years; filled in land, planted trees, and put in areas to skate, walk, play all kinds of sports and even have dinner or a few drinks, all right on the edge of the East River. It’s beautiful.
We are only 5 tips allowed but we do want to share this with you as well:
The Barclay Center
Het Barclay Center opened about a year ago and is in the heart of downtown Brooklyn. Before that there was a big empty lot there for 40 years. When it opened it connected all the surrounding downtown Brooklyn neighborhoods into one continuous community. It was like putting the head, or the heart, back into the body of Brooklyn. There are many music and sports events there. The architectural building actually looks like a spaceship that has landed.
The Brooklyn Museum
Every First saturday at The Brooklyn Museum, they have free art , and entertainment programs for all ages from 5 to 11 p.m. Michelin-starred Saul restaurant and bar is open all evening. The Counter café serves sandwiches, salads, and sweets, as well as wine and local beer
Brooklyn Academy of Music
There is this incredible cultural center at BAM Brooklyn Academy of Music. Jay and I go there to see powerful movies, sometimes plays and dance performances. It is a cultural Hub for downtown Brooklyn.