Weingarten: Venerable Brooklyn welcomes another wave
Wondering why the F train seems more crowded than ever? Census data released in March confirm Brooklyn as the city's fastest-growing borough.
Though now known as the epicenter of mommy bloggers and Upper West Side ex-pats, for decades Brooklyn and its dwellers were much maligned. Lumped in with the Bridge and Tunnel caste, we were mocked for our accents and blamed for disco. Adding insult to injury, in the '80s we were stripped of coveted 212 status and segregated to 718 purdah. As Manhattan rents skyrocketed, residents began their exodus to the outer boroughs, causing Brooklynites to grumble that newcomers were driving up housing prices and crowding out long-timers.
For the uninitiated, Brooklyn begins at Park Slope, ends at Williamsburg and is populated by people with Midwest or vaguely Scandinavian accents. But Brooklyn has a geography and history richer than its most recent wave of posh immigrants. It's the borough commemorating the first major battle of the American Revolution, the Battle of Brooklyn. It contains Green-Wood Cemetery, resting place of a veritable who's who of 1800s socialites and ne'er-do-wells, including Tiffanys, Roosevelts and Tammany Hall leader William Magear "Boss" Tweed.
Brooklyn is where 1920s Atlantic City gangsters are brought to life in HBO's "Boardwalk Empire," and it's the birthplace of well-known organized crime kingpins Bugsy Siegel and Al Capone. It was the home of lesser-known gangsters Albert Tannenbaum and Charlie Workman, both members of Murder Inc.
In his book "Tough Jews," author Rich Cohen describes the two living an "underworld version of 'I Love Lucy,' " occupying separate apartments at 441 Ocean Pkwy., just blocks from where I grew up.
Long before the Barclays Center was a gleam in Jay-Z's eye, Brooklyn was where Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond and Carole King discovered their voices. And where Woody Allen honed his manifold marketable neuroses.
So welcome to the newbies. But remember: 1 in every 7 Americans traces family roots back to Brooklyn. Members of this latest wave of Brooklynites just might be reclaiming their pasts.Rachel Weingarten is the author of the upcoming "Real Brooklyn Girl" mystery series.