If you’ve ever left or returned to New York by car, then you’ve seen the familiar “Welcome To” and “Now Leaving” signs that span all of Brooklyn’s entry points, on every bridge. No city has just one subheading – New York City alone has The City That Never Sleeps, The City So Nice They Named It Twice, The Melting Pot, and so on – but our borough received extra marketing attention under former borough president Marty Markowitz, who was determined to give Brooklyn so many slogans that it could one day pass for a #Brand (and lately, it has).
We’re all familiar with the “Now Leaving” signs, which bid “Oy Vey!’ and a hearty “Fuhgeddaboudit!” to those departing the borough. But what about the greetings on your way in? Which ‘Welcome to Brooklyn’ tagline embodies what we’re all about? And which ones fall short? The discerning Academy here at Brokelyn HQ pored over all eight of Markowitz’ slogans and brought us a definitive ranking, from worst to best, of every welcome sign:
8. “The Heart of America!”
Absolutely not. Have you seen this sign? Neither have we, but apparently it appears along the Jackie Robinson Parkway. Anyway, it shouldn’t. Minus even more points for adding geographic insult to metaphoric injury: the heart of America is clearly in Kansas.
7. “How Sweet It Is!”
This sign adorns the entrance to Brooklyn via the Verrazano Bridge, which shuttles a large portion of New York’s four-wheeled tourist population from other states into the city, as well as commuters from Staten Island. From the outset, this loses the slogan points. The only other New York things that cater exclusively to tourists and Staten Island are a baseball team named “Pizza Rat” and IUDs.
The slogan itself doesn’t say much. “How Sweet It Is” is more commonly thought of as part of a song by Marvin Gaye who, while legendary, never lived in Brooklyn. The phrase feels ambiguous in the extreme, and applicable to most any city. Unless, of course, it’s referring to Brooklyn as the home of both Domino Sugar factory and the inventors of Sweet N’ Low.
What’s more, anyone who lives in BK knows that it isn’t always sweet, and suggesting otherwise to commuters and tourists on their way in is just a way of sugar-coating. In a way, that’s one thing this saccharine slogan gets right.
6. “Believe the Hype!”
The “hype” around Brooklyn is a nebulous thing that falls somewhere at the intersection of naming your babies Brooklyn and thinking there’s a borough-specific way of breaking up. So this slogan, which appears on the BQE at the Kosciuszko Bridge, isn’t much more helpful than any of the two above.
If anything, Brooklynites spend more time correcting misconceptions about the city and gaping in true awe at visitors who think that spending a day on Bedford Avenue sums up the hype. In turn, this slogan perpetuates the intractable rivalry between lifelong Brooklynites and the transplants who, like the well-meaning customer at a restaurant who bookends every request with “when you get a chance,” can’t seem to get it right.
Will there ever be a hype we can all agree is worth believing in? That’s not for this sign to decide.
5. “Not Just a Borough, An Experience”
Sure, okay. But every place is an experience, and “experience” only matters if it looks good on a resume. This tagline, which you can catch coming in along the I-278, would have done better without the second clause, where it veers off into the kind of nonsense you read on novelty mugs sold by real estate companies.
Photos of this sign are rumored to be locked in a 4×4 vault with Markowitz himself, where he is enjoying the quintessential “experience” of renting a cheap apartment in Brooklyn.
4. “Name it… We Got it!”
It’s true that Brooklyn has everything that most other big cities in America have. I mean we don’t have open carry laws, but that’s not something any city should have, so. This sign welcomes passengers in from Manhattan via the Williamsburg Bridge, so we appreciate how it caters to the Brooklyn non-believers on the island who claim that getting to the borough is a “schlep” (tell me again how you get to the Upper East Side from the Upper West Side with two buses and a 20-minute walk?).
Beyond that, though, this slogan doesn’t rise to the catchphrase occasion. Also, why would you put ellipses between those two things? Unless Marty Markowitz intends for all of us to convey our slogan via iMessage conversation, it’s just awkward.
3. “Home To Everyone From Everywhere!”
This sign welcomes folks to Brooklyn along the Belt Parkway coming from Queens. It’s a nice sentiment, and a true one. Brooklyn is incredibly diverse — no thanks to the efforts of luxury developers — and it takes only stepping out your front door to feel it: cultures swirling in and among one another, residents’ willingness to learn from each other, a social consciousness that far exceeds those of neighbor states and cities.
That said, the mass displacement that has become synonymous with the city’s ongoing housing crisis is felt more in Brooklyn than anywhere else, which discredits the word “home” in this slogan and renders it somewhat of a “sugar-coating” phraseology, dismissive of a sizable percentage of the borough’s population. If the situation ever improves, the ranking might change.
2. “Where New York City Begins!”
For a slogan that doesn’t hold up in an argument with anyone not from Brooklyn, this line is pretty good! Manhattan was technically settled a decade earlier, but Brooklyn still has about 50 years on Queens and over 200 on the Bronx. This slogan champions the notion of Brooklyn exceptionalism; in borough president Eric Adams’ words, “Only Brooklyn can pull of being welcoming and in-your-face with the charm and swagger that defines our global brand.”
We have mixed feelings about the “brand” part (since actual brands don’t seem to get it), but we’ll take it. And with all the BK businesses setting up shop in Manhattan these days — Dough, Toby’s Estate, et al — this slogan actually gets truer every day! Someday, Brooklyn’s booming indie business scene may outpace Manhattan’s, and then we’ll SEE where New York City begins. WE’LL JUST SEE.
1. “Like No Other Place in the World!”
Of all the slogans that welcome you to Brooklyn, this is the one that combines factual accuracy with borough pride. If every city is a snowflake, then Brooklyn is the one with all the Whos in it.
Also, this sign hangs over a beam on the Pulaski Bridge, which means that most people seeing this sign are being guided in from Queens. So it reads as even more of a tongue-in-cheek remark to our Northern neighbors: “I don’t know about you, but we’re unlike any other place in the world.”
In summary: just the right dose of salty and sweet, multi-layered if a little oblique, and a helpful reminder for residents who pass beneath it on a bad day that Brooklyn, for all its flaws, is at the very least nonpareil.
Do you have a different ranking? Let us know in the comments section!
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