Neil Diamond (yes, I actually know who he is) summarized it best: “Brooklyn is not the easiest place to grow up in, although I wouldn’t change that experience for anything.” Brooklyn, which was once synonymous with Spike Lee, BIG and Jay-Z, is now overrun with hipsters and other transplants who have forever changed the infamous city.
I feel myself transform when I’m back home. There’s a rush of adrenaline that never dies and seeps into my legs, surging me forward through the crowds of people who can never walk fast enough. The commute consisting of 1.5 hours (one way) is agonizing, compared to the 10-15 minute walk that takes me all over the city of Maastricht. My ears and eyes are on heightened alert, watching not only the people around me, but the creatures that inhabit the subways and sidewalks. The smells of the city entice my senses and try to trick my brain into thinking it’s hungry. The sounds of the city include humans shouting, sirens, garbage trucks, and other noises that clash with the familiar church bells I hear in the Netherlands.
Simultaneously, my spirit was relieved to be back home, surrounded by people who know and get me. I don’t have to explain any English phrases – in fact, I need to be updated and learn the latest slang! I haven’t laughed that hard in years and was ecstatic to be back during March Madness to watch my alma mater, Syracuse University, compete. There is a true bond that exists between alumni from Division I schools that remains unrivaled (more on this later). As I caught up with old friends, a key topic kept reappearing in our discussions: gentrification.
I guess Brooklyn was the only logical borough for gentrification, with its beautiful views across the Williamsburg bridge. Queens is already multicultural, Harlem had its transformation a few years ago, Staten Island is too far and even the Bronx is slowly being infiltrated. The benefits of gentrification are undeniable. Brooklyn is now on the map as a culinary powerhouse, certain neighborhoods have improved and crime has decreased. But this luxury isn’t experienced borough or city wide, which is my major grip.
I recently read an interesting perspective entitled When Your City Disappears, which summarizes my sentiments exactly. My Brooklyn has disappeared. But it doesn’t matter. No matter how much Brooklyn changes, I’ll always love and rep BK and can’t wait to come home… even if it’s not the “home” I remember.