By Tonight at Dawn’s Kimberly Cecchini, a New York City journalist, photographer and educator.
“Is Brooklyn in the house?!” An MC cries in the mic and the Brooklynites put their fists in the air, yelp and yell their attendance. The MC then calls for people from Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx to show their love. After New Jerseyans claim their pride, the MC checks in for anyone from Staten Island.
Audiences love when a performer pay homage to the locale; “Hey, Delhi! It’s so good to be here!” I don’t know about other areas, but when homebred New Yorkers play here, they get the crowd excited by shouting out each borough- and the “step-child” boroughs like Jersey. No matter which area we represent-and it’s reputation- we are thrilled to show our pride.
It’s an instant crowd-pleaser.
As with anywhere in the world, each of our boroughs and the neighborhoods within them has its own reputations and it’s own flavor. Each has its own taste of the good, the bad and the ugly and, no matter what, its residents are fiercely proud.
The 5 Boroughs
Manhattan-it’s what the world thinks of when they think of NYC. Although the bright lights of Times Square are iconic, most locals push through the transit hub of Midtown to get to the rest of the island. We appreciate the big museums around Central Park and delving deep into Chinatown, but we also love all the hidden gems in every neighborhood like El Museo del Barrio in historic Harlem, the hip bars, restaurants and art galleries in the Lower East Side and the free summer concerts from the South Street Seaport to Bryant Park.
Cross the picturesque Brooklyn Bridge into the quickly evolving borough that has become, for better or worse, a Mecca for everything creative and trendy-yet it still holds onto some of its grit in the shadow of the new luxury high rises. Whether it is a food festival in trendy Williamsburg, a gallery walk in DUMBO, or the annual Mermaid Parade at the end of Q train line in Coney Island, there is always something happening in Brooklyn.
Queens is often thought of as a borough for settling down, but do not be mistaken, it’s still a vibrant, bustling urban area. Although most of the boroughs are diverse, Queens is known for its strong cultural vibe; according to NewYork.com, “Among the 2.2 million people living within its 109 square miles, there are immigrants from more than 100 different countries who speak more than 138 languages.”. Ethnic options for foodies are seemingly endless and Flushing boasts a larger Chinatown than Manhattan. Queens is also home to the U.S. Open, Major League Baseball team the Mets, and two of three of New York’s international airports.
The Bronx might have the reputation for being the most dangerous, but there is much more to the borough beyond the tough streets. Those who love the most successful franchise in American baseball, flock to Yankee Stadium. The borough surprisingly has more than 40 square acres of parks and the very expansive Bronx Zoo. Lending to its diverse populous, many immigrants have historically called the borough home and today most of the new arrivals are from Latin America. The Boogie Down Bronx is also famed for being the birthplace of hip hop.
The oft forgotten about borough, Staten Island, is the most suburban of the boroughs and is connected to downtown Manhattan via the Staten Island Ferry. With a third of its residents being Italian-American, it’s easy to stumble upon an authentic meal that will rival the tourist destinations in Little Italy. The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation has rolled out a plan to transform the joke of the island, the infamous Fresh Kills (garbage) Landfill, “…into a productive and beautiful cultural destination (that) will make the park a symbol of renewal and an expression of how our society can restore balance to its landscape.”.
Beyond the 5 Boroughs
A metropolis as large as New York City has a wide reach and often it’s neighbors are seen as the unofficial boroughs (like a “red-headed stepchild”); New Jersey, Connecticut and the rest of Long Island are often grouped into this category. Each one, thank you very much, wants its own recognition. Let’s take a look at the home to my alma matter.
If you’re flying to New York City, you may actually find yourself on a landing strip in its third international airport–in New Jersey. As you travel by car up the Turnpike or by Train to New York, you may see and smell what makes Jersey the butt of jokes across the nation-besides MTV’s Jersey Shore-but there’s a lot beyond the smoke stacks of Linden. One of my college roommates at Rutgers University, wrote the most succinct article in the Daily Targum (back in the day) about why the Garden State is greater than the sum of its reputations. He heralded all the wonders that can be found within a less than three hour drive in any direction within the tiny state’s borders- mountains, dense forests, beaches (“down the shore” is much more beautiful than Seaside Heights), farms, New York City, Philly and its own storied cities.
Whether you land in Queens or Newark, hopefully you see there is much more to The Big Apple than the beacon in Midtown.