Tag: Brooklyn

The Cons of Living in Williamsburg

The cons of living in Williamsburg by ari kellenWilliamsburg might not be the edgy artist haven that it was 10 years ago, but that’s not to say that it isn’t still a great neighborhood.  Indeed, its allure remains, and there are still plenty of bars, restaurants, specialty shops, movie theaters, and boutiques that make it well worth a visit.  For sure, wandering around the Bedford Ave L stop makes for a great afternoon, but living there?  It might have plenty of appeal, but the realities are often a bit different than you’d expect.  If you’re going to move to WilliWiasmburg, these are some

L Train: The L train has already got a bad reputation, especially on late nights and weekends, which is also the time that most people who know better than to live in Williamsburg visit to take advantage of its cool stuff.  Starting in April 2019, the train will be shut down for 15 months to repair damage from Hurricane Sandy.  This lack of service is going to be a real pain for anybody that lives off the L but works in Manhattan.  There are certain alternative choices, such as bus connections, increased service on different lines, and bike improvements, but navigating the “L-pocalypse” will still be a major inconvenience.

Hipsters: Among true hipsters, Williamsburg has lost its cred for being too gentrified and “mainstream”.  While they’ve moved onto Greenpoint, Bushwick, there are still hipsters in Williamsburg.  Even if you want hipsters, the ones living in Williamsburg are going to be the worst kind: flush with cash from their trust funds or tech jobs, and with heads full of self-importance and Bukowski.  However, some of the “real” hipsters will still hang out in Williamsburg, whether it’s to go out on a weekend or work as a bartenders or sales clerk.

Price: In a city whose cost of living has few rivals in the US, Williamsburg stands out as one of the most expensive.  The current median rent per month is $3,000, while the price per square foot is $957.  You can maybe get something that’s relatively cheaper, but it’s rare, and you’re going to need roommates, which is always a crap shoot.  And when it comes to shopping, eating, and drinking, you’ll have to put your wallet on ice afterwards.  That being said, however, you’ll still have a great time.  

Tourists: The vibe that originated with Williamsburg has caught on to a strong degree across the pond, to the extent that “Brooklyn” is an adjective in the French vernacular.  As tourists come to realize that Times Square is a horrible place, more and more of them are visiting “alternative” places in the city, such as Williamsburg.  This is particularly notable off the Bedford Avenue L stop.  

What You Didn’t Know About Prospect Park

what you didn't know about prospect park by ari kellenAlthough it isn’t as well-known as Central Park, as Brooklyn’s largest park, it’s got plenty to offer.  While you’re out exploring Prospect Park, you might want to know some trivia so you can look out for historical details you may have otherwise forgotten.  I recently read an article in TimeOut that shared some facts about the park that you may not have known.  They might surprise you:

It use to be a popular spot for farm animals: After Prospect Park first opened in 1867, it was a popular hangout spot for local livestock.  While they weren’t allowed on the land, it was a tough law to enforce, and dozens of stray farm animals were regularly found on the land.  

It was built on a battle site: During the American Revolution, the land on what is now Prospect Park was part of the Battle of Long Island, also known as the Battle of Brooklyn.  It marked a valiant stand by the soldiers of the 1st Maryland Regiment, who although vastly outnumbered by the British were able to cover for George Washington while the rest of the army retreated.  

It used to have a full replica of Mount Vernon: To commemorate George Washington’s 200th birthday, Robert Moses erected a full replica of his home.  Sadly, however, it was torn down after just two years.  

It was part of an Indian trail: In the 17th century and earlier, Brooklyn was home to Lenape Indians, who used a well-worn trail that later became the best route of travel between the Dutch towns of Brooklyn and Flatbush.  It even played a part in the Battle of Brooklyn!  When Prospect Park was established, it became East Drive.  

It’s the final resting place of some 2,000 people: Since at least the 1840s, Prospect Park served as a Quaker cemetery.  Since Quakers rejected headstones as a form of vanity, many of these graves were unmarked.  If you’re curious, you can always bring a ouija board to the park at night!

It was made by people paid $1.70 a day: The construction workers who helped build the park, mostly poor Irish immigrants, were paid on a daily salary that today couldn’t even buy a Starbucks coffee.  It’s hard to adjust for inflation (inflation didn’t start being properly recorded until 1913), this wasn’t a big sum by any means.  

It used to host “ice baseball”: In the 19th century, Prospect Park’s frozen lake hosted a unique winter game known as “ice baseball”.  It was much like regular baseball, except it was done with ice skates and a slightly different ball.  It attracted thousands of spectators and players from as far away at Baltimore.  

It has an historic statue of Lincoln: After Lincoln’s assassination, Henry Kirke Brown created a series of large bronze statues of the late President.  The one in Prospect Park was the first one to be dedicated, so it holds the honor of being the Union’s first Abraham Lincoln statue.  

Brooklyn’s Mohawk Community

brooklyn's mohawk community by ari kellenWhenever immigrants arrive in New York, they often congregate, creating ethnic enclaves in various neighborhoods.  While the demographics of these neighborhoods often change as older residents move out and newer ones move in, you can often see traces of their legacy: Hell’s Kitchen still features plenty of Irish pubs, places like Sammy’s Roumanian and Yonah Schimmel remain alive and well in the Lower East Side, and Mulberry Street is still dotted with Italian restaurants.  Yet in many other instances, these ethnic enclaves vanish without a trace: you’d be hard-pressed to believe that Alphabet City was once the center of New York’s “Kleindeutschland”, and chances are you haven’t heard of “Little Caughnawaga”, Boerum Hill’s small but tight-knit Mohawk Indian community.  

The Mohawk are not native to Brooklyn; they’re a tribe whose ancestral homeland is near what is now Schenectady.  They got kicked out of the region after choosing the wrong side during the American Revolution, and found themselves in reservations in Canada and northern New York.  Starting in the 1920s, Mohawk ironworkers from the Kahnawake reservation near Montreal found work building bridges and skyscrapers in New York City.  For whatever reason, these men congregated in an area that’s now in Boerum Hill.  Over time, their families moved down with them, forming an enclave known as “Little Caughnawaga”, which by the late 40s had about 700 members.  

At this time, Boerum Hill was a mostly Irish and Italian neighborhood, yet there were certain focal points of the Mohawk community.  One bar, known as the “Wigwam”, was a popular hangout spot for Mohawk ironworkers to discuss jobs and pick up mail from relatives up north.  Mohawk women would cook traditional white cornbread with kidney beans at a nearby lunch counter.  One Presbyterian church even offered sermons in Mohawk.  In 1949, a New Yorker article titled “Mohawks in High Steel” spoke of a growing neighborhood with “signs of permanence”.  Despite such signs, the Mohawk retained close ties with home; weekend and summer trips to visit friends and families in reservations up north were common.

Thanks to a rise in crime and a difficult economy, the “signs of permanence” that the New Yorker wrote about started to fade.  The community dwindled by the 60s, with many returning to Canada or marrying non-Indians and moving to the suburbs.  The Mohawk-speaking Presbyterian Church was converted into apartments, the Wigwam went out of business and traditional Mohawk bread is hard to find in Brooklyn.

While traces of “Little Caughnawaga” are few and far-between, it’s not a legacy that’s been forgotten by the Mohawk themselves.  In reservations, some Mohawk still retain thick Brooklyn accents, and ironworkers from these reservations still come to New York for jobs.  It’s nonetheless sad to see that this neighborhood has faded away, yet ultimately all things must pass.  

Great Breweries in NYC

Great Breweries in NYC, by Ari KellenBreweries have been a part of New York City’s history since the days of New Amsterdam.  In the 19th century, German immigrants brought lager beer with them to New York, and by Prohibition there were 70 operating breweries in New York, most of them in Brooklyn.  Yet by 1976, there were zero.  But starting in the 80s and 90s, a homebrewing scene began to flourish in New York, which has since spawned numerous great breweries around the city.  Here are a couple of these, based off an article that I found online:

Threes Brewing: In addition to brewing, this place hosts art shows, concerts and community meetings.  They have a kitchen space that hosts restaurants from all over the city in two-week residencies, meaning that there’s something new every time you come.  Many of the beers here aren’t distributed beyond the brewery, so this is the best chance you have to taste them.  There are 24 different beers on taps, ranging from house-made to brews from out of state.  

Other Half Brewing Co: It’s pretty small, and can get really crowded on a weekend night (seating is limited to a single table).  But it’s not a place you want to miss; luckily, the brewery has plans to double the tasting room’s size.  This isn’t a place with any sort of “fancy” atmosphere, with a beat-up antelope head on the wall and an even more beat-up bartop that once went on tour with the Rolling Stones.  But the beer here is some of the best in New York.  If you ever decide to come out to Red Hook for some beef rib at Hometown, a couple games of Mini Golf at Brooklyn Crab or a sandwich at DeFonte’s, be sure to visit.

Singlecut Beersmiths: After falling in love with European lagers, Rich Buceta became a passionate homebrewer, quitting his job in advertising to get into brewing.  Starting out as a keg-cleaner, he’s started Singlecut, an Astoria brewery with an emphasis on fresh lagers.  The barn-like brewery regularly hosts live music, which has become a part of the brewery/bar’s culture: Buceta plays guitar, the bartenders are musicians in a band, and the bar features a top-notch record collection.

Transmitter Brewing: At this Long Island City warehouse, the brewers are constantly experimenting with brewing methods, yeast and bacteria strains and barrel aging.  The barrel collection includes casks that have held every sort of alcohol, from red wine to rum.  Since most of what they make is small-batch, beers tend to run out quickly, so visit the sampling room as soon as you can.

Bronx Brewery: This place is just a good time.  On weekend nights, it feels more like a house party than a brewery, with foosball tables, comfortable couches, a small bar and a dog-friendly backyard.  Even though they don’t have a kitchen of their own, you can order from all sorts of local restaurants, and there’s a free catered dinner on Friday nights.  

Gun Hill Brewing: Soaring ceilings and a no-nonsense atmosphere make Gun Hill a great place for novices to learn more about craft beer.  The goal here is to make great beers that don’t intimidate people.  If you’re a Yankees fan, it’s a good place to catch a game.  Across the street is a food truck with hearty Dominican fare, with Gun Hill customers getting a discount.  

Flagship Brewery: Staten Island is a place with plenty of great stuff, but it can be hard to get people out there.  Yet for those tenacious few who can get onto the ferry from downtown, Flagship Brewery is a short walk away from the landing.  Fridays and Saturdays offer live music, which on other days alternates between comedy, trivia and charity events.  

Best Brooklyn Eats

The best thing about loving finding new places to eat in New York City is that you can never stop finding new, interesting restaurants. This city is so big and diverse, it is the perfect place to expand your palate. This week I spent quite a bit of time in Brooklyn, and with the help of Freewilliamsburg.com, I found some great places to eat. For those who do not know, Brooklyn is the borough to the SouthEast of the city and to get there from Manhattan you need to cross the East River. Without further ado, here are my favorite places to eat in Brooklyn.Ari kellen

Bozu
This is a Japanese eatery that specializes in small plates, so more than one might be necessary to temper those strong appetites. The sushi is of course spectacular, as you would expect from a Japanese place. Their shrimp dumplings also left me wanting more by the end of the dish. As far as picking the right poison, Their strawberry vodka with at least 8 years of aging seems to be the go-to.

Radegast Hall & Biergarten
This German Style beer garden is best in the warmer months with a semi-outdoor auxiliary seating area with shared tables. The super long picnic look is perfect for large groups of friends or meeting new friends. Indulge in the decently priced sausage grill out back and drink german beer by the liter to get the Oktoberfest feel, all year long.

Peter’s Since 1969
The best, and most comfort food for the money you spend. It is a dream to walk in and grab some meatloaf and an irresponsible amount of sides and only pay under $10. This place is good for a night in, or a pre-night out foundation. Beer and wine are on deck for those looking to wash down some heavy food with a little spirit. The best part, they deliver.