Brooklyn’s biggest stories over the past decade, according to Brooklynites
It’s been an incredible decade in Brooklyn. The borough has turned into an internationally-recognized destination, and luxury residences are sprouting up like mushrooms — bringing in a flood of new residents and the pain of gentrification that comes along with it. Brooklyn has experienced explosive growth in innovative startups, and technology companies are flocking to the “Tech Triangle.”
Brooklyn Bridge Park has almost reached completion and has become a tourist magnet. Black Lives Matter and the president’s Muslim Ban triggered protests throughout the borough. The three-year battle to save the 156-year-old Long Island College Hospital, known as LICH, failed after Bill de Blasio dropped his support after his election as mayor.
A massive repair plan for the BQE, which has been falling down in slow motion throughout the past decade, sparked a groundswell of community activism that may transform the future of transportation across the city.
In short, this decade has been epic. We asked some of Brooklyn’s leaders, creatives and amazingly interesting people to give us their take on the top story of the decade in Brooklyn. Here’s what they said.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams told the Brooklyn Eagle that one of the biggest stories of the past decade was and continues to be the explosive growth of the tech sector. Since 2008, there has been a 356 percent increase in tech startups in Brooklyn — a growth rate second only to Silicon Valley.
“We are becoming the innovation capital of the East Coast thanks in part to the unprecedented investments my administration has made in STEAM education for schools throughout the borough, and I expect that growth to continue into the new decade,” Adams said.
Two displays of solidarity
Cecilia Clark, president and CEO of Brooklyn Community Foundation, told the Eagle that “two moments stand out in particular — one a natural disaster and the other a man-made crisis — but both were met with an incredible response from our communities. First, the outpouring of support to Superstorm Sandy in 2012, when thousands of Brooklynites volunteered and raised money through our Brooklyn Recovery Fund to support our neighbors in desperate need.”
Her second pick for top story is President Donald Trump’s first Muslim Ban, “which triggered massive protests at JFK and surrounding airports calling out blatant injustice, and marked the beginning of a widespread movement for immigrant rights and the creation of the Foundation’s Immigrant Rights Fund, which has deployed $1.3 million and buoyed our communities in the face of the rescinding of DACA and TPS, increased detentions and deportations, family separation, and more.”
Brooklyn the ‘brand’
Lara Birnback, executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association, says her choice of the decade is “the idea of Brooklyn as a brand — not a location. As with many things in life, this one has brought both positives and negatives. But it’s a top story for me since it touches so much of the work of community-based organizations, including the BHA. Real estate development, livable neighborhoods, transportation issues, politics and a lot more. There’s no way my mother-in-law, a Flatbush native, could have ever anticipated that “Brooklyn” would be used by people all over the world to signify ‘hip and cool.’”
Josh Vogel, a board member of the Cobble Hill Association and founder of NYC Urbanism, says the story of the decade was Superstorm Sandy. “Red Hook and other parts of Brooklyn were underwater and have still not completely recovered. It was a wake up call for residents and our elected officials. And what’s most concerning is that going into 2020, the borough that is almost entirely surrounded by water is just as vulnerable as it was in 2012.”
Expansion of parks
Karen Auster, CEO of Auster Agency, an experiential marketing agency, told the Eagle that over the past decade, “The greatest news coming out of Brooklyn has been the development and expansion of the park system, waterfront and waterways, impacting residents and visitors in the best possible way. It has truly moved people — literally, connecting people to nature and one another. The Brooklyn Bridge waterfront — and the addition of Domino Park — has added an incredible, inspired dimension to Brooklyn living and playing. Due to these infrastructure improvements, Brooklyn has become a destination for living and working — and ‘the Brooklyn way’ of life has become a recognizable and distinct brand globally.”
The (fake) ghost in the library
Comedian Lauren Maul’s favorite news story from Brooklyn from the past 10 years involves ghosts. “There was a really great ghost story in the news a few years ago about a little girl who got lost in The Brooklyn Public Library in the 1970s and WAS NEVER SEEN AGAIN. The library made a short documentary about it and everything… and the best part was that it was all made up in an elaborate attempt to inspire people to do their research instead of believing what they see on the internet. Libraries are the best!”
The tourism boom
Nick Likourentzos, managing partner at Park Plaza Restaurant in Brooklyn Heights told the Eagle, “Brooklyn Bridge Park and the boom in tourism in Brooklyn over the last ten years” is Brooklyn’s story of the decade.
Beloved businesses shutting down
Brooklyn Community Pride Center’s CEO Floyd Rumohr says the story of the decade in Brooklyn was that long-time beloved businesses like Excelsior and Langston’s closed their doors, “indicative of a broader trend of fewer and fewer queer spaces. Those that remain cater to white affluent Manhattanites, leaving many Brooklynites without spaces to socialize and play.”
The unofficial “Mayor of Coney Island,” Dick Zigun, founder of the Coney Island Circus Sideshow,” said his pick for the top story of the decade was “when Marty Markowitz approved Barclays Center and Ford Amphitheater.”
Arts and culture
Katy Clark, president of Brooklyn Academy of Music, said the top story of the decade was the growth of arts and culture in Brooklyn. “BAM opens the BAM Fisher (2012), the Weeksville Heritage Center becomes a member of the city’s Cultural Institutions Group, and this year marks the highest level of funding for arts and culture by the city across all five boroughs.”
Karen Johnson, owner of Olympia Wine Bar in DUMBO, said the story of the decade was development. “For example, Downtown Brooklyn rezoned as an office area becomes residential. Now you have so many residents in that one little area, hyper-tall towers and no way to support that. That’s not just Downtown Brooklyn, that’s all neighborhoods in Brooklyn, such as Sunset Park.”
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Give me a break. These are all the puffery things that can be true of any decade. The biggest thing about the decade is the continuing gentrification that has remade the borough into the alternate Manhattan, something that started in the 1970’s in Park Slope.
If you ever need a pneumatic, I mean a mnemonic, for how to remember when a decade ends, count your fingers. You start with one and end with ten. Next year will be the last year in the second decade of the 21st century. Mary Frost is hardly the only reporter making this error as we wind down to New Year’s Eve, but I thought I would write this once and be done with it.
Um, Marty Markowitz was a huge cheerleader for the arena that became the Barclays Center, but the BP has no power to approve such things. In this case, nor did the mayor or city council. It was a state override of zoning.