Is Brooklyn so over?

The Brooklyn Bridge CBS News

(CBS News) If it wasn't just one of New York City's five boroughs, Brooklyn would be the fourth most populous city in the country. Over the past decade, it's become the cultural epicenter of "cool," as the incredibly high cost of living in Manhattan pushed a younger, trendsetting creative class across the East River.

But Brooklyn is changing fast -- with new sports teams, a building boom and lots of media exposure, leaving some wondering if it can hold onto its "street cred" in the face of all the development.

One of the changes is the arrival of the Barclays Center, a billion-dollar development, which will become the new home for the Brooklyn Nets basketball team, as well as for the NHL hockey team, the New York Islanders. The arena has already lured big music acts like Barbra Streisand and Jay-Z for sold-out concerts.

And then there's the hit HBO series, "Girls" that chronicles the lives of four 20-somethings struggling to make it in New York. It popularizes what has become the iconic young Brooklyn experience.

Even young Parisians use the phrase, "tres Brooklyn," to mean a cool combination of informality, creativity and equality.

The secret about Brooklyn is certainly out when USA Today does a cover story on how hip it is. And these days, "Brand Brooklyn" can help sell anything, be it granola, bangers or soda.

So, where's the line between a place having character and becoming a caricature?

Manhattan native Jonathan Butler started a real estate blog called Brownstoner after moving to Brooklyn nearly 10 years ago. He migrated to Williamsburg, then a gritty, industrial neighborhood of abandoned factories and an enclave for ethnic minorities and a burgeoning hipster scene. But since then, the borough has only attracted more money and development in the form of waterfront high-rises.

Brownstoner recently posted an article asking "Has Brooklyn Jumped the Shark?" And a New York magazine headline declared, "Brooklyn is Finished" - and then asked, "Or has it only just begun?"

"Brooklyn's been a place... that has taken on an identity as this sort of creative utopia," Butler said. "It's gone so far that some people kind of have fun with mocking it a little bit. We literally have a shop here where they sell only artisanal mayonnaise, right? But it's actually great mayonnaise."

Can the authentic thrive just blocks from a billion-dollar development project? And why should the rest of America care about all of this?

Sociologist Richard Greenwald, from Brooklyn's St. Joseph's College, said people should care because it's worked. Brooklyn has grown not only in traditional ways -- like tax breaks and development -- but it has also been fueled by art, craftsmanship and culinary success.

This renaissance -- fueled by people in search of cheaper rents -- is common in other cities, as well. The pattern tends to be that artists move in, invent, and create a space that other people want to move to.

And ultimately, the artists usually get pushed out.

  • Seth Doane

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