Lay of the Land
“Brooklyn was a dream. All the things that happened there just couldn't happen. It was all dream stuff. Or was it all real and true and was it that she, Francie, was the dreamer?”~Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Just one stop from Manhattan on the L train lies trendy Williamsburg, the neighborhood that essentially put hipsters on the map across the world (the Parisian phrase très Brooklyn means utterly cool). Though the creative hub lost its edge well before the luxury condos went up on its waterfront, it hasn’t lost its character. The oft-derided territory of skinny jeans and ironic trappings is what most people refer to when they say North Brooklyn, but a deeper exploration of the area will take visitors to the borough’s northernmost area, Greenpoint (directly south of Queens). The Polish enclave of kielbasa butchers and quiet, tree-lined streets is seeing an emergence of boutiques, innovative restaurants and, of course, rising rents.
Going south down the waterfront, Brooklyn Heights is located below the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. The upscale residential neighborhood boasts cobblestoned streets, record price–fetching townhouses and postcard-perfect views of the Manhattan skyline. Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens, home to both yuppie newcomers and long-time Italian families, are two more leafy residential neighborhoods with plenty of boutiques and cafés.
Further inland sit many of the borough’s institutions—including the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden—in Prospect Heights, as well as bucolic Prospect Park, Brooklyn’s largest green space. Just west of Prospect Park lies Park Slope, notorious for its stroller-pushing moms in designer wear and ever-growing collection of bars, restaurants and shops.
Kings County’s southern expanse—from Bay Ridge to Coney Island and Sheepshead Bay—is mostly residential, though its many hidden gems and old-world establishments attract visitors seeking to escape the borough’s gentrification wave.