About a year ago, it was fashionable for the media to declare, "Brooklyn is a brand." They meant the trend of making everything "artisanal," self-consciously conscientious, vintage, and bearded. But even those who live thousands of miles away from the New York City know that that's far from the first and only image of the borough to be shared with the world.
This week, a movie simply called Brooklyn, adapted from the Colm Tóibín novel of the same name, recalls an earlier, 1950s vision of the place to which immigrants — mainly Irish and Italian — flocked in the hopes of eking out a living. That place still exists, too, though today's immigrants come from every corner of the world. And that place is not so far from the neighborhoods most recently mocked by Jimmy Kimmel during his weeklong residency here, where white people demand quinoa on their pizza. There is a very real danger that the rents wealthier carpetbaggers can pay will edge out everyone else. It's already happening in certain neighborhoods.
As I write this in a converted, warehouse-turned-freelance workspace in Gowanus, Brooklyn, I'm wearing thrift-store threads, drinking cold-pressed juice, and preparing to pick up my organically grown, ethnically mixed toddler from day care. So, I'm all too aware that I embody that current Brooklyn brand from head to toe. At the same time, it's an honor to be doing this in a place that still feels like it would welcome all those other mascots, from Walt Whitman to Notorious B.I.G., Peggy Olson to Hannah Horvath.
To all of you reading this in other towns, I hope we can keep exporting new and different images of Brooklyn for as long as you'll consume them. In the slides ahead, 30 depictions of BK through the ages.