Brooklyn’s Brand Ambassadors4

Posted by Deirdre // 03-07-2014

The Brand of Brooklyn

The Brand of Brooklyn

About a week after my post about Ditmas, the NY Times published this article about “the Clubhouse,” a sort of modern day Bohemian boarding house / studio, nestled on a quiet street in that very neighborhood. But Ditmas is just a bit player in the piece, which is really about the roommates and their…work. Musicians, video artists, tech stuff, you know the drill. It’s hipster to the H degree for sure, but there’s more: the house has a sponsor. Or as the NY Times refers to it, the house is “closely aligned with a new media company called BKLYN1834, which is dedicated to selling the borough’s image beyond its borders.” Um, yeah. And 1834 refers not just to the year in which Brooklyn was incorporated, but to THE AGES OF THE TARGET CONSUMER to which all the projects will marketed.

The article seemed to offer zero acknowledgment that this premise was ridiculous or at least vaguely laughable. So I immediately went to twitter to enjoy the spew of disgust that surely was being vented and add my own version of a Spike Lee-esque rant, as someone who admittedly never lived in any less than gentrified part of Brooklyn and definitely appreciates the good restaurants and shops, but who is still grossed out beyond belief by this. Yet all I saw were accolades and cheers from “friends” of the Clubhouse.

Were these people being paid? It is not an out of the question question. Is it all the more gross to me because I’m in marketing and have been a part of the conversations in conference rooms about that elusive demographic? Perhaps. Am I just really old and jaded? This too, could be the case. Thankfully, a few days later I learned that The New York Observer felt pretty much the same way and so much so that they claimed Brooklyn was “over”. The $10 latte played a part, as did the $8 million condos and all the other Brooklyn is so expensive and also just so Brooklyn that it’s become a parody of itself news of late. Look, it’s not that I moved to Brooklyn to be an artist or even pretend to be living an alternative lifestyle. And while I don’t think of “consumption as an art,” I do feel that the whole foodie/etsy/flea movement was at least interesting to behold and experience as it became a part of and helped shape the culture here. At least before it just became too much.  

“The borough’s creative class has long focused its talents and energies on producing pickles and artisanal doughnuts, bespoke blue jeans and exquisitely renovated brownstones rather than a creating definable school of art of [sic] literature, music or social movement.”

Ouch. It is selling the borough and all that’s happened here in the last ten or so years a bit short I’d say, as well as the efforts of all those who wanted to be pickle makers because they were good at making pickles (or t-shirts or jewelry), not writing novels. That’s not their fault or the borough’s fault that this is who lives here and more importantly, who has made it here. And remember what our friend Moby said about New York no longer being where artists can feel free to fail, and in this piece David Byrne (who admits he is one of the 1%) rails on about New York — at least Manhattan and much of Brooklyn — only being a playground for the rich.

I don’t want to get too off track as this was not meant to be a we-are-the-99% piece. I don’t know what it’s supposed to be. I guess I’m having an issue with the fact that there are people selling the brand of Brooklyn and not just on a t-shirt on a person but the person himself, and he’s basically cool with that. Maybe it’s just The Real World coming full circle?

This is combined with the the fact that this rise in artisanal appreciation and cool factor, along with the money that’s infiltrated Brooklyn, has come the astronomic rise in the price of these things. I’m glad that people who make things are making money but it’s gotten so ridiculous that to buy provisions for a cheese plate and dessert at the local (grass-fed, organic) cheese shop for a night in with friends, now costs what it would to go out to dinner in more normal cities. New York has always been expensive, of course – you make more money here, you live in a shoebox and that’s the way it is and always has been. Yet it has gone beyond farcical. Pickles and $10 loaves of crafted bread and up-cycled wood furniture were a bit pricier but we happily paid for the stuff because it was real and made here in our beloved borough. And we could chuckle at the Brooklandia aspect of it all because we could kind of afford it. But something seemed to have switched. And now the moneyed are not just buying up brownstones for cash but happily paying not $10 but $15 for loaves of crafted bread and then swooping in from midtown to take whatever vestige of real cool that’s left and sell it as “content” that makes it feel almost beyond repair.

Am I just too poor now that I’m a freelancer to enjoy the spoils? Is it our age? Is it another one of those exhausting conversations about Brooklyn that are now just over too? I’d love to know what you think.


Digging Ditmas Before It Was Cool2

Posted by Deirdre // 02-26-2014


You heard it here first, you guys. Well, probably not because I had no idea how to promote my blog besides emailing my friends back in 2008. But there it was, on an early iteration of this blog called I Love/Hate NY (?!)…the I’m Loving Ditmas post. It talks about a week-old Sycamore (awww!), my husband’s obsession with the neighborhood and how he wanted to buy way back in the early aughts and how in ’08 we couldn’t afford it anymore. Pffft. Why, why, WHY will we never learn from our Real Estate mistakes? The only thing we did do was have my husband’s 40th at Sycamore downstairs, which in fact was amazing and damn I wish Instagram had been around then because it would have killed you how cool that room looked. I digress.

The Farm on Adderley via Tasting Table

The Farm on Adderley via Tasting Table

All of a sudden, everyone is all up in Ditmas – Tasting Table claims that Ditmas is “Having A Moment” and that Cortelyou is basically the new Smith Street.

And a few days before that, it was Brooklyn Based’s Guide to the neighborhood, Next Stop, Suburbia. The neighborhood does look kind of suburban, but not in a sprawly, big box store way. In a houses with yards way. It was what turned my stomach a little ten years ago when my husband was begging me to move there — it felt far and not at all like the city to me. But now that our lives are so different and we leave Brooklyn only when necessary, it really seems sort of ideal, though now probably out of our reach price-wise. BB claims the train ride to midtown is only 30 minutes, which seems like a stretch to me as an average, but if you work downtown near the Q or B? Or at home?

What about schools, you say? A Bklyn Or Beyond list serve member who raves about Ditmas whenever it comes up sent his kids to PS 217 and loved it (he also posted in the Inside Schools review of the school, I noticed). I’m trying to find more information on a new school that is/was slated to open in 2015, PS/IS 437 but there were mostly construction updates and those stopped sometime in 2012 so I’m thinking it’s no longer happening. Anyone else have good or bad things to say about Elementary Schools in the area?

Next up on the stay in Brooklyn front may be neighboring Kensington, which was featured in the always lame interesting NY Times Living In a few weeks ago.


The City That Sleeps Just Fine0

Posted by Deirdre // 02-05-2014

Goin' back to Cali

Goin’ back to Cali?

I’ve read two articles on L.A. recently that made me really stop and think. Like a “wait, what?” kind of think. Like, “is L.A. actually a place I could see us?” kind of think. I grew up a New Yorker and always felt like L.A. was kind of a joke — or at least not really reality. My Dad has lived there since the early 80s and I visited him often, especially when I was younger. Those trips were always filled with Disney Land and swimming pools and tennis clubs and what I considered luxury (what really was luxury for a while after moving in with a girlfriend and her kids to their AWESOME mid-century modern house with a pool in a crazy gated community in Beverly Hills for several years, he mostly lived in more modest places, even though most came with a pool). A few times in my 20s I went there to visit and hung out with friends who lived what would be more of a life I would live there, yet I still never really thought twice about L.A. as a home and when I did move to California for a blip, it was to San Francisco.

But recently I was doing some research on L.A. for a consulting job and came across this article in T Magazine about the new arts and fashion scene there that struck me so intensely that I immediately sent this blurb to my husband, along with the full link.

“Los Angeles’s burgeoning fashion ecosystem — democratic, bootstrappy, upbeat and sometimes wantonly improvisational — seems to be drawing power from several sources, including still-plentiful real estate, a local buzz vacuum caused by the sputtering of the movie industry, creative runoff from the town’s exploding art scene and an emerging sense that sometime in the last few years, New York ceased being a locus of inventive energy and gritty potential and turned into a luxury shopping mall where the proverbial kid from the sticks with sequins in her eyes has to foam milk for 14 hours a day just to make rent”.

First of all, hilarious. But wait…bootstrappy? Improvisational? In the past I haven’t associated this type of artsy, street style with L.A. — I have several friends in the biz there and while it is laid back and more casual than New York in many ways, that seems a stiflingly non-democratic community. But a few years ago some friends moved there (without kids, mind you) to a stunning place in Venice Beach, on a canal, 5 minutes from the beach for like half of what we pay for a walk-up off of 7th Avenue. They’re graphic designers, not producers or agents, and I curse her Instagram regularly. And we’ve met others — both with kids and without — who have a nice, normal, non-Hollywood and kind of awesome life there. But also the sense that “things” are possible — that there is movement and energy and creativity happening, because people can afford to actually make it happen — is exciting and alluring. Honestly, it is the kind of vibe (sans Palm trees, of course) that drew me to Brooklyn in the first place way back in 1999. Read More…