First Person

While Brooklyn booms, I’m going down with the Manhattan ship

at least it's not Jersey
On the Westside Highway, looking across that other river. Photo by Garrett Paknis.

“What are you doing here?” a confused Evan asks me at Doris, the new Clinton Hill hot spot. He is my barista at the Chelsea Cafe Grumpy that I frequent on my way to Vinyasa yoga class. For more than a year, Evan has seen me in my natural West  Side habitat, making my soy cortados and engaging in pleasant/flirty conversation. His surprise at running into me in his Brooklyn stomping grounds puts what I have feared all too long into perspective: Manhattan has turned monochromatic. It is stagnant, boring, and a nightmare, which is why four to five nights a week I get on the train at some ungodly hour to the leave what is globally deemed the epicenter of the most desired city in the world to sip pale ale at an establishment made of reclaimed wood on the other side of the river.

I tell him I’m there for a friend’s party, worried that I have been recognized as an impostor. I’m some endangered creature still gripping on to my past. What’s a Manhattan girl to do in the era of Brooklyn’s turn as the star borough?

While the rest of my friends have already made the great migration from their East Village studios to inhabit sprawling flats with roof decks and community gardens in Brooklyn, I still remain trapped in my Peter Dinklage-sized Chelsea shoe box (However, Tyrion Lannister does live a few blocks from me). The asphalt jungle is more like an asphalt jungle gym.

I moved to Alphabet City the day after I graduated high school in June of 2007. Obsessed with Rent, I truly believed that I could have an authentic bohemian experience with an entourage of drag queens, artists, and sexy heroin chic hotties, minus the disease, deprivation, and crime (as this was post Giuliani’s golden gentrification). I wanted to smoke cigarettes on my fire escape in the dog days of summer and envelope this magical empire that I had fantasized living in since elementary school. And, for the most part, I have for the past six years.

One Friday night, another Manhattanite and I decided to give the Lower East Side a shot instead of bitching that we have to get on a train and leave the island for some casual entertainment in Brooklyn. Hot, loud, and crowded with B and T’s, below Houston Street has finally met its demise into the inferno of monotonous douchebaggery.

With our pride refusing to let us admit defeat and get on the L train, we decided to stick it out and make the most out of Ludlow Street. Walking by Pianos, the overpowering scent of Axe body spray permeated with desperation to obtain the usual plastic heeled-cankled lasses with the thick LI and Jersey accents and even thicker layers of bronzer, to perhaps go for a romp in a “nice” Murray Hill flat.

The former Max Fish, soon to be out of water in Brooklyn. Via.
The former Max Fish, soon to be out of water in Brooklyn. Via.

Next we tried Skinny’s, which was shut down to make room for a parking structure. Motor City, where I used to go frequently to dance in college was boarded up and abandoned. I knew it was time to get the grave marker for Manhattan at Cake Shop, where I saw a guy’s nipples peeking out from underneath faded denim overalls. The girl next to him had an “alternative” haircut in a hideous Blossom-esque floral dress that drowned whatever freshmen 15 she was clearly trying to mask. And the white kid outside with the post-punk studded vest with all the usual patches, safety pins, and not-ironic statements remained plastered onto his gangly physique like some disheveled flag on the most dog-eat-dog battlefield. All that was missing was some fucking Lisa Frank dolphin stickers to make this into even more of 1994-day care.

This is how Dirk Diggler must have felt when he came face to face with Johnny Doe, the “new kid on the street.” The painful recognition that the Lower East Side on a Friday is no longer a happening spot is literally screaming in my face at Cake Shop while I’m squashed between a huddled mass of 19 year olds sipping vodka sodas.

I used to be that 19 year old with my immaculate fake ID, traipsing up and down the island like I owned it. No bar or club was off limits. Whether it was smoking yellow packs of American Spirits inside at Lit, cavorting with older boring finance douche bags at the Gansevoort rooftop bar, or sucking at pool per usual at Max Fish, those days are no more. I’m painfully discovering that places that I used to inhabit with other privileged transplants are turning into just fond collegiate memories. When you’re standing in front of a boarded up Max Fish, you realize the owners are doing what every other 20-something has already done:  moving to Brooklyn.

In Brooklyn, everything was beautiful and nothing hurt. Photo by Tim Donnelly
In Brooklyn, everything was beautiful and nothing hurt. Photo by Tim Donnelly

Returning home on the L train Eighth Avenue bound with smudgy raccoon eyes and the stale fragrance of perfume spritzed from 12 hours prior on a Tuesday morning with the “commuters” is deemed backwards, but has become my norm. Once upon a time, the young people of the tri-state area lived in the boroughs and worked/played in the city. Now, the city is considered only a place of commerce and the socialization, sleeping and Sunday brunches are done within a few block radiuses of most Brooklyn apartments. Why come into Manhattan to be inundated with B and T bullshit with the wide-striped tacky button downs from Express and bronzed up body barely squeezing into that Forever 21 cocktail catastrophe? I should be with the rest of my eco-chic and trendy peers biking around the ‘Burg or sipping coconut milk white Russians in Bushwick on the regular.

What is a poor Chelsea girl to do? I gaze enviously out from my fire escape as herds of tourists parade on the Highline. They don’t know how much I suffer. They are free to walk single file and eat their People’s Pops but have no real understanding of the constant dilemma I encounter as a 24 year-old L.A. native stuck on 10th avenue. I beg to differ with Cherry and Ponyboy: We’re not all watching the same sunset, because it looks a hell of a lot better over craft beers and farm to table local kale salad then in some fake Louboutin, Meat Packing purgatory with Avicii blasting me from all fronts.

Yet, I refuse to give up on the borough that first enchanted me at 15 and didn’t card me for my belly button piercing on St. Marks Place. I can’t turn my back on the metropolis that has watched me metamorphosize into a walking Yelp for Manhattan services. I know what time to call Please Don’t Tell for a reservation (not that anyone still goes there) or where to get an amazing Brazilian wax. While Roberta’s currently triumphs over Magnolia cupcakes on the hip scale, to have a zip code that started with a “11” instead of a “10” just feels wrong. While Brooklyn may be exuding the Technicolor dreams of millennial promise, it lacks the Woody Allen charm and magic which Manhattan dreams are made of. Even if it remains in black and white, the Manhattan moments of getting stoned in Sheep’s Meadow and endlessly wondering around the Met are timeless, and no Brooklyn microbrewery or warehouse party can even come close to recreating.

So reluctantly, I must say RIP Manhattan; you’ve held my hair back when I have screwed up and have cultured me into the woman I am today. While I’m not running off to live in a shared artists space comprised of fixed geared bicycles in your blossoming little sister Brooklyn, I’m holding my ground and going down with the ship like any loyal captain would do. So wake me up when it’s all over because the sunset looks the best from my fire escape, watching the people enjoy their pops and knowing deep down inside that secretly all of my Brooklyn buddies would fuck a Republican just to have this view.


  1. blahhhhh

    stay in manhattan… it’s not the B & T that ruined it, it is the transplants like you that come and try to claim it for your own. You have no right to complain about the tourists, you are one.

    • blahhhhh’s got it right: stay in manhattan. or better yet, go back to LA. your writing makes you come off as a horrible (and self-loathing) snob. and learn how to spell louboutin. or make use of spell check. you’re a writer, for god’s sake.

  2. Wow. You’re a self-entitled twit. Please, don’t come to Brooklyn. You’re just as bland and boring as those “B and T” people you keep mentioning. I bet you’re fat, too, since you harp on it so much. Get over yourself and move back to LA.

  3. Chuck Tatum

    Apparently, sexism is the glue that binds you assholes together in default-defending B&T submentals and hapless tourists. Less than half of the NYC population was born in New York state, much less NYC, so it seems your “transplant” hatred covers just about as wide a net as your casual ire toward and dismissal of this young woman’s perspective. She has only praise for Brooklyn and affection for the things we can all agree make Manhattan great; is the commenting readership of this site actually crusading for the current state of the LES? Please.

    Priorities, people. Priorities.

    Mimi, you’re even worse—you should have the female-shaming knee-jerk bitch wiring in your brain that makes you think the author is fat, or that makes you even care for that matter, checked.

    Seems to me that the author is at least more self-aware than you fuckwit wannabe scenesters and snipers.

  4. vending machine

    Wow, the commenters so far are spewing some major vitriol.

    But yeah. I can get down with this article; my friends, favorite bars/restaurants, and preferred speed of life all exist in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, relocating to my neighborhoods of choice (e.g. worth the cost/effort of moving) would mean a few extra hundred in rent from what I currently pay in South Harlem. It’s been good so far, but fewer lounges and wine bars and more places that have sandwiches and decent beer would be nice.

  5. I was born in a Manhattan hospital, grew up in Queens, lived most of my adult life in Manhattan, and for the last ten years, have been comfortably settled in in Brooklyn. Jordan, I enjoyed reading your essay and I think you got it right. The city is a mix of us born-and-raised types and you who come from somewhere else. Don’t pay any attention to the nasty people who think you’re not authentic, or somehow think they know better than you. When I was in college downtown, we went from Max’s Kansas City on Park Avenue to the Underground on Union Square, and the Mud Club, Danceteria and CBGB’s. Now almost every nook and cranny of Manhattan is too expensive for a good trashy romp. Even the hospitals, schools and libraries are unsafe from luxury condo developers. You’re a New Yorker as far as I’m concerned.

  6. BrooklynZOO

    On that note, please go back to LA where you came from so you can complain about all the douches there. This article is so disgustingly self-entitled, judgmental, and poorly written. Jesus. I hope you did not get paid to write this. It is people like YOU who are the problem in this city.
    Yours truly,
    A Native New Yorker

  7. Laine

    I’ll start by saying that the insults being thrown around in this thread are REALLY childish and unwarranted. “I bet you’re fat”? Really??? Come on.

    That said, this article struck me as really tone-deaf, considering the content and tone that I have come to love and appreciate from Brokelyn. This blog has given me, and many other penny-pinching Brooklynites, awesome tips on how to save money and enjoy our borough on the cheap. There’s a real sense of populism to it, and that’s what makes it special and worthy of reading.

    So why are we getting a trend-dropping, hyper-privileged piece from a young lady who is has the fortune and resources to afford Manhattan rent while still hopping over to Brooklyn for brunch and grabbing $15 drinks at the Gansevoort Rooftop? It isn’t like she moved to NYC in the “good old days”, back when rents in now-hip areas were super cheap. She moved here in 2007, WELL after the gentrification and price-hikes of every neighborhood she mentioned. And everything about the language used here, from the talk of “sprawling flats” in Brooklyn (which, I’m sorry, but NO ONE I know in Brooklyn has an apartment that could be described as anything but “sprawling”) to the reference to herself as a “poor Chelsea girl” (although I know how she intended the word “poor”, the word choice is still grating) seems to clash really sharply with what I have come to expect and enjoy from Brokelyn.

    I don’t think that Jordan is a bad writer, and I don’t think that there’s anything *inherently* wrong with her article. Perhaps her “bougie” vocabulary choices were intentional and ironic, and I just missed the joke. But I feel like we get enough of this “moneyed Manhattanite’s view of Brooklyn” stuff from the NY Times Style Section. Seeing something of that ilk from my beloved and wonderfully-scrappy Brokelyn…it’s a bit disappointing.

    • Menakales

      I disagree – she’s definitely a bad writer. She’s callow and shallow and substitutes namedropping and a glib sort of knowningness for actual knowledge and insight. Moreover, she’s more than a decade late and a dollar short on her lament for the death of Manahattan coolness – hell, I remember this kind of stuff being written back in the ’90s, and recycled again and again through the 2000’s – and to fix 2007 as the height of Manhattan’s coolness is the epitome of hilarious whitegirl cluelessness. I mean, the horse had left the barn while this silly girl was still in high school, watching fucking the movie version of RENT – which was never actually cool to begin with. All her signifiers of Manhattan cool actually scream “douchebaggery” to anybody with a clue. Sorry, but unless this is a brilliantly understated piece of self-parody, this has got to be one of the stupidest, most clueless pieces about New York that I’ve ever read. Talk about somebody who just doesn’t get it…

  8. Dick Hangslow

    2007? Seriously? The party was loooong over by then. Go back to dogpatch, you fucking tourist. We don’t need any more wannabe Scary Sadshaws. Chelsea Girl? Please. Your suburban candyass isn’t fit to lick Nico or Mary Woronov’s boots. You suck so hard it makes my asshole hurt.

  9. Hashtagsmoker

    Hate to break it to you, but the party was already over – for years – in the East Village/LES – by 2007.

    You’ve lived your entire life in New York as a tourist and you didn’t even know it.

    That’s really kind of pathetic. And you’re only catching onto Brooklyn, NOW?

    Time for you to go home, tourist – you’ll never be a real New Yorker. Buh-bye.

  10. Patrick

    Your disdain for people different than you is nauseating. The “B&T” and “Finance douchebags” to whom you think you’re so superior are more often than not the descendants of the men and women who built this city and made it the greatest place on earth. You, on the other hand, contribute nothing but a tired steroptype of a snobby, superficial person who treats this city like a playground used to let your narcissism run wild. I’ve lived in the ghettoes of the Bronx, the suburbs of Yonkers, the towers of the Upper East Side, and currently an achingly hip Brooklyn enclave, and I’ve found cool, decent, original, interesting people everywhere. You are not one of those people. You are a cliche and you suck.

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