Illustration by Sebastian Longhitano
Dec 7, 2020
Why Brooklyn needs a new Brooklyn Magazine
Even if you’ve lived in Brooklyn a long time, it’s hard to truly grasp its size.
Consider that with its 2.6 million residents, Brooklyn has more people than Boston, Atlanta, Minneapolis and Washington combined, according to recent Census Bureau data. Or that it has more Black residents than Atlanta. More white people than Portland.
It is home to more old folks than Miami Beach. More veterans than Charleston, S.C.
There are more Trump voters in Brooklyn as in Wyoming (even though he only won about 25 percent of the votes here).
And, sadly, Brooklyn had more Covid-19 deaths than any county in the United States other than Los Angeles. There were more coronavirus deaths (7,509 as of this writing) in Brooklyn than in the entire state of Ohio.
Brooklyn is both diverse and massive.
I’m excited about the relaunch of the Brooklyn Magazine because the borough needs a stronger homegrown media. Despite its size, it’s relatively under-covered. The challenge is how.
The story of Brooklyn is its growing affluence and its persistent poverty. The average household income in Brooklyn Heights is a staggering $169,555, almost double the national average. Yet there are also more people on food stamps in Brooklyn than in the entire state of Mississippi.
Brooklyn is as vibrant and remarkable as it’s ever been. It’s a mecca for cultural creatives, and for immigrants. But it’s also in the midst of a dangerous moment. The middle class—previously the heart of Brooklyn—is being priced out. Racial and religious differences will inevitably flare up.
And Covid-19 has set back the borough—with small businesses going under by the thousands and mass transit (already straining) now under-funded as well.
Will Brooklyn be able to navigate this period? It will depend in part on whether we break out of our Brooklyn bubbles—not just neighborhoods but socioeconomic bubbles–and come to really understand all of the people the borough.
It may sometimes seem like the big story of Brooklyn right now is its creative culture. Seemingly overnight, starting somewhere around the turn of the millennium, it became a mecca for some of the most path-breaking writers, singers, painters, chefs, sculptors, and entrepreneurs.
But the other big story is that, once again, Brooklyn had become a magnet for immigrants. Almost one million Brooklynites—more than 1/3 of the population—were born in other countries.
Brooklyn had previously been known as an engine of greatness—a machine that forged immigrants, thinkers, villains, heroes and cultural visionaries locally and sent them out to lead the nation: Both Notorious BIG and Notorious RBG, Al Capone and Aaron Copeland, Marky Ramone and Alan Dershowitz, Anthony Fauci and Bobby Fischer, George Gershwin and Jay-Z, Bernie Sanders and Rudy Guiliani, Barbara Boxer, the senator; Mike Tyson, the boxer.
Now it is—or at least before the pandemic, it was—also a destination, of both would-be hipsters from the heartland and strivers from Haiti. It’s developing a new identity and a new role. It’s an open question whether it will be able to manage this diversity given the economic challenges facing Brooklyn–especially high housing prices, poor school performance, racial mistrust and a mass transit system battered by coronavirus.
There’s certainly much fodder for good journalism—and a publication like Brooklyn Magazine.
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