New York

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2007, 12:00am

Not so long ago, New York City meant Manhattan - and only Manhattan - to many people. The skyscrapers that stand proudly across the island appeared to stare down on New York's other boroughs. But at least one of those boroughs, Brooklyn, is now staring right back.

Last week, its new status was given another boost when the Lonely Planet travel guides put the US second (after China) on its 2007 top ten 'to go' list - and specifically recommended Brooklyn, not Manhattan.

'I was thrilled by the news,' said David Thompson, a postman who lives in Brooklyn. 'I think the borough has deserved the recognition for a long time.'

To Brooklyn Borough president Marty Markowitz, perhaps the district's most powerful politician, the recognition has a symbolic significance. 'I don't mind if Brooklyn is the No2 to China,' he said, because compared to Manhattan, 'we are the No1.'

Before Brooklyn was integrated into New York City in 1898, it was an important city on its own, said Paul Moses, a professor in the English department at Brooklyn College, who writes a lot about neighbourhood development. 'But it has suffered a lot of neglect from City Hall ever since,' he added. 'All the business development was targeted on Manhattan.'

As a result, Manhattanites would even lump people from Brooklyn in the same category as those from New Jersey and Queens, using the derogatory term 'the bridge and tunnel crowd', meaning that they have to come to Manhattan by bridge or tunnel. Two years ago, The New Yorker magazine ran a cover depicting God banishing Adam and Eve from Manhattan to a dark and abandoned Brooklyn in an illustration called 'Unaffordable Eden'.

Mr Markowitz said at the time that the illustration needed a second panel that showed Brooklyn as the Promised Land. Yet he was surprised when he went to London late last year to promote his borough's tourism and found there was little understanding that Brooklyn had anything to offer. 'Some knew we have a bridge, but that's all,' he said.

Lonely Planet may change all that. It has dubbed Brooklyn the 'hippest part of New York City', saying: 'Any New Yorker worth their street cred knows the new downtown lies just across the East River.'

People in the tourism industry detect a change in temperature. Bill Chen, a tour guide for E-world Travel & Tours, said he was starting to suggest tourists include Brooklyn in their New York sightseeing. 'Some areas of Brooklyn are full of cool bars and clubs, which used to be exclusive to SoHo,' Mr Chen said.

Some massive real estate projects, including a new stadium for the New Jersey Nets basketball team and the redevelopment of the Coney Island beachfront, are set to transform Brooklyn's look in the next few years.

But some residents think such developments and the influx of young professionals from Manhattan are destroying traditional neighbourhoods by driving up property prices.

'It is so hot that we have to move out,' said Kim Kuzmenko, who moved to the Bronx last summer with her husband after living in Brooklyn for 19 years. 'The buildings are selling like crazy there.'

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