Far from being an obscure suburb, Brooklyn was an independent city until 1898, and its vast and diverse neighborhoods (the borough has nearly twice the population and three times the area of Manhattan) have nurtured a range of noteworthy institutions. Here are five picks from my list of favorites:
BROOKLYN MUSEUM. Were this wonderfully endowed institution in, say, Kansas City, visitors would flock from hundreds of miles around. Instead, visitors head for a rival institution in Manhattan. The Brooklyn Museum does boast a larger and more prestigious collection of Egyptian art than the Metropolitan Museum (it was, for instance, the Brooklyn institution that helped bankroll the King Tut expedition), as well as exceptional pieces of Native American, African, and Asian art. Then there is the amazing "American Identities" show, which displays a wide range of works in surprising contexts, and much more. Plus several temporary shows and a family-friendly gift shop. www.brooklynmuseum.org
BROOKLYN BOTANIC GARDEN. Next door to the museum, a compact but beautifully curated collection of botanic treasures. Spring's cherry blossom festival is always a crowd-pleaser, but the Japanese Garden is beautiful in any season. The glass houses display plants from many different areas and an outstanding collection of bonsai. And that's just the beginning. www.bbg.org
GREEN-WOOD CEMETERY. Founded in 1838, it is one of the country's first "garden cemeteries." Every season brings distinctive natural beauty to the site, which is the permanent resting place of many famous New Yorkers , including DeWitt Clinton, Leonard Bernstein, "Boss" Tweed, Louis-Moreau Gottschalk, Horace Greeley, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Currier and Ives (in separate plots), Lola Montes, and many others. Many memorials feature notable architecture, and the cemetery includes one of the country's oldest Civil War monuments, as well as the graves of hundreds of Civil War veterans. www.green-wood.com/
PIETER CLAESSEN WYCKOFF HOUSE. The oldest wing of this building is the oldest structure still standing in the City, dating to 1652. The house has been restored with great care and the docents offer a richly textured interpretation of its long history. The association that runs the house has very skilfully curried support from the wide-spread Wyckoff clan and from the Caribbean-American community that surrounds the house today, offering visitors a fascinating experience. It's a long trip, but worth the trouble. www.wyckoffassociation.org
PIEROGI 2000 GALLERY. Joe Amrhein founded this pioneering art gallery in 1994, in the very first wave of bohemians arriving in Williamsburg. It has become, over the years, one of the leading showcases for new and contemporary art in New York. Its exhibition spaces are usually filled with solo shows of one or two emerging artists, while its celebrated "flat files" make the work of some 900 artists available for perusal. The gallery has a branch in Germany and an auxiliary space for large-scale art, the Boiler, nearby. www.pierogi2000.com/
Thank you, Harry, for sharing your insights into Brooklyn’s rich cultural, social and historical tapestry. If anyone is headed to New York soon, consider starting a conversation with Harry to learn more about this borough’s storied past and present from a knowledgeable local. You can find him here: Harry’s Guide Page.