I recently ventured to a foreign land where many Manhattanites dare not go: Brooklyn.
There can be something daunting about going to another borough. I’m OK with The Bronx since that’s where I’m from and comfortable with Queens because we have family there. My brother-in-law is married to a Staten Island girl, so for her I’ve made it over the Verrazano three times. Before that, the closest I got was a ferry ride (three actually, since I went to three proms.) But there’s always been something intimidating about the largest borough. I’ve been there about half a dozen times—and even met my husband on one of those sojourns—but, haven’t stepped foot in it for at least a decade.
Granted I did not go deep into its nether regions, only to Park Slope. Still, I plotted my destination on
MapQuest and it was so direct: 27 minutes reported the site. It’s taken me longer to get from the Upper East Side to Tribeca in traffic, so I figured I’d take a cab. How much could it be? Thirty-one dollars, including the tip. Gulp.
I decided to take the train home. I took the F (or “iF” as it’s often called) and made the mistake of thinking it went to Grand Central. I even asked a fellow passenger who agreed, yep, the F stops at GC. Yeah well.
I walked to get the 6, thereby ending up paying two train fares: bringing the grand total of the trip to $35. I did a little recession math (you know, when you work the numbers so that you can live with what you’ve spent) and decided that $17.50 each way was OK. (Get stuck behind a garbage truck and that’s what it costs to get to Chelsea Piers.)
But while I was in Brooklyn, I mostly enjoyed “no money fun.”
My first stop was a friend’s Ninth Street brownstone. Each street seemed to be all about the brownstones. Rows and rows of them. It reminded me of every side street on the Upper West Side, except airier. I walked along Seventh Avenue. Each shop, whether it was selling clothing, jewelry or something to eat, had an artisan feel to it; akin to Greenwich Village back when artisans actually lived there. I then decided to walk to the Brooklyn Museum.
I asked several natives for directions; all assured me that, “It’s pretty far, a good 15, 20 blocks.” I smiled on the outside and thanked them, yet scoffed on the inside. (When not in a taxi) I’m a walker. I can do 86th Street to Bloomingdale’s without breaking a sweat; 15, 20 blocks? Get outta my way.
Well, the Brooklynites weren’t kidding. It was a long day’s journey into night along Prospect Park West. The park, by the way, rivals Central Park with its beauty and amenities. The buildings opposite it were similar to the ones on upper Fifth Avenue.
I finally arrived at Grand Army Plaza and found the trifecta of culture: the Brooklyn Public Library, the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and the Brooklyn Museum, where I took in the vast collection spread out over five floors.
My day ended back in Manhattan and, although glad to be here, I was not sorry I had left; I was no longer feeling like a stranger in what I previously considered a strange land.
Lorraine Duffy Merkl is an Upper East Sider. Her column appears every other week.
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