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Brooklyn (its name as borough of the city of New York; it is also Kings County, a county of the state of New York), the "Borough of Homes and Churches," is one of the five Boroughs of New York. It used to be and still feels much like a city in its own right, with approximately 2.5 million inhabitants. If separate from the rest of New York City, Brooklyn would be the 4th largest American city.
Brooklyn is situated on the westernmost point of Long Island and shares a land boundary with Queens which partially encircles Brooklyn to the north, east and south; Manhattan lies across the East River to the west and north of Brooklyn and Staten Island is across the Verrazano Narrows to the southwest.
Brooklyn is currently enjoying a period of growth and affluence not seen since before World War II. There's world-class theater at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the center of a proposed new arts district that will include a new art museum and a highly controversial Frank Gehry-designed sports area home for the NBA's Nets. Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Brooklyn's Prospect Park as well as Manhattan's Central Park, thought his Brooklyn creation the finer of the two. Elsewhere in the borough, Williamsburg is a hipster neighborhood and burgeoning art colony, and Brighton Beach is home to New York's largest concentration of Russian immigrants.
Brooklyn was once a separate city independent of the City of New York. The cities merged at the end of the nineteenth century, forever after lamented by Brooklynites as "the Great Mistake of 1898." However, Manhattan is frequently referred to as "the city" by residents of the other boroughs — for example, in the phrase "I'm going to the city." Many Brooklynites have a great deal of pride in their borough and most New Yorkers consider Brooklynites to have an identity distinct from that of other New Yorkers. Be careful not confuse Brooklyn and the Bronx - they are entirely different parts of New York City over 10 miles away from each other.
There are a variety of neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Small Town Brooklyn has a scrollable map of many of them:
Downtown Brooklyn, which is the central shopping and business area, anchored by Fulton St. west of Flatbush Avenue, looks similar to the downtown of almost any other major American city, with department stores, clothing and electronic shops, a Borough Hall, two universities, a major railroad station, the Brooklyn Academy of Music concert hall, many office buildings, and municipal, state and federal buildings and courthouses. Many subway and bus lines go to or through Downtown Brooklyn.
Brooklyn Heights is a residential neighborhood with elegant buildings and historic churches. It is an expensive neighborhood to live in, partly because of its great views of the Lower Manhattan skyline. The area's brownstone buildings and shopping district give it a quaint yet thriving feel.
Canarsie is a West Indian neighborhood. In recent years crime has risen to what it is today. Canarsie is largely composed of 1 and 2 family houses. The major commercial streets are Rockaway Parkway and parts of Seaview Avenue.
Cobble Hill is a quiet neighborhood of bookstores, shops, and restaurants.
DUMBO is an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. Once popular with artists for loft space, it has now become popular with a richer, trendier crowd. Walk along the riverfront park for a unique and unforgettable view of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges and the Manhattan skyline.
Park Slope Long a haven for interracial families, lesbians and gays, and everyone else with a certain kind of groove in NYC, this upscale but downhome neighborhood can be joked about as the Berkeley of New York City. Boutiques, cafés, bars, health food stores like the 30 year old Park Slope Food Coop . . . and attractive young people pushing strollers. Also home to a sizeable lesbian community since the 1970's. Take the Q to 7th Ave, the R to 9th St, or the F to 4th Ave or 7th Ave and walk the neighbourhood. Prospect Park is large, beautiful and green. Ice-skate here in the winter. Fly kites and enjoy free weekend concerts in the summer. While staying hip and vibrant, "the slope" as it is commonly referred to, also enjoys its share of wealth. The quaint, tree-lined streets closer to the park house ornate, bronwstones, townhouses, full service apartment buildings, and even a few full scale urban mansions on the parkside. These residences include the homes of names such as Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and famed actresses Jennifer Connelly and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Near the park is the Gaslight District, where old gas lights shine by night (and sometimes by day) outside the grand homes. Check out 5th Ave for the restaurants and bars.
Carroll Gardens Historians date the name to the 1960's and the real estate people like to enlarge its borders. It encompasses part of Smith St. and the nearby areas. In the 1950's and further back in time, this area was known, to the dismay of many, as Red Hook, and it still is called both Red Hook and South Brooklyn by many. Smith St. has a newly charged restaurant row, but there are still plenty of old school Italian-American gems to be found.
Williamsburg Take L train from Manhattan to Bedford or Lorimer. Many restaurants, several popular music clubs and a burgeoning art gallery district. This is now what Greenwich Village used to be - including the artsy scene complete with eclectic galleries and off-beat bars. Have dinner at Sea (N6th & Bedford) and go to the Royal Oak for a drink (N11th & Union).
East Williamsburg Centered around the Morgan Ave stop on the L train. Seemingly a desolate industrial area, this neighborhood has a strong developing music scene. It is also home to the swinger's club Grego's. Brooklyn's natural food store can be found here.
Bushwick Rich in its own history, Bushwick is home to many brownstones, mansions, and projects alike. As a low-income neighborhood, shopping can be done on Knickerbocker Avenue, whether for clothes, appliances, or food. The newly restored Maria Hernandez Park on Knickerbocker Ave. and Suydam St. is a nice spot to bring the kids and relax in the shade of the trees. While it's not like neighboring "East Williamsburg", Williamsburg, or Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick has its own sense of community, not to be confused with anything else.
Prospect Heights, just north of Prospect Park, and traditionally considered part of Crown Heights, features the Brooklyn Museum, which is first-rate but often overlooked due to the museums in nearby Manhattan; a block away from the museum is the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Take the 2 or 3 train to Eastern Parkway.
Red Hook is a formerly-bustling industrial area which is on the upswing. Settled in 1636 by the Dutch, it has seen many a boom and bust is today caught between those who like it as the sleepy part of town that time forgot vs. those who seek to restore its crown as the Queen of Kings County Commerce. Red Hook was the setting for Marlon Brando's "On the Waterfront." If you're looking for something off the beaten path, Red Hook is it. Many artists call Red Hook their home, so dont be surprised to see random sculputures, galleries, or creative gardens across from city housing or burned out buildings.
Fort Greene has some great restaurants and the Brooklyn Academy of Music which features an art-house cinema, theater, and concerts such as the Next Wave Festival.
Coney Island Ah, the famous Coney Island. Take the D, F, N, or Q trains to the end to enjoy the beach or amusements or just get your official Nathan's hot dog. The Cyclone, a 1927 roller coaster, is the most famous of the amusement park rides at Coney Island, for good reason: It packs a lot of thrill into a small lot. There is also a great view of Manhattan from the top of the Wonder Wheel (a large ferris wheel). Otherwise, the amusement park is somewhat seedy, which is part of its appeal. http://www.coneyislandusa.com/
Brighton Beach - The largest Russian-speaking community outside of the former USSR. It's unlike any other neighborhood in the city. It can be reached by the Q (local) or B (express) trains by going to Brighton Beach Avenue. Mosey on along the famous boardwalk and have a shashlik (shish-kebob) with a shot of vodka for lunch. Find more information on the experience at Wikipedia's Brighton Beach page