Friday, October 8, 2010

The Brooklyn Bridge and DUMBO: New York Travel Tips

Luis walking from Manhattan to Brooklyn across the Brooklyn Bridge (photo by Simone Cannon)

The next day, we were ready to do some exploring in the outer boroughs, so we decided to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to the chic and happenin' part of Brooklyn called DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). The Brooklyn Bridge, designed by John Augustus Roebling, was constructed between 1870 and 1883 at a cost of 27 lives and $15.5 million (about $2.5 billion in 2010 dollars) and was the first steel-wire suspension bridge in the world. Spanning almost 1600 feet (about 487 meters), it was originally designed for pedestrians and  horse drawn carriages, but 127 years later, it accommodates pedestrians, cyclists and cars (commercial traffic is prohibited). It's important to stay alert when crossing, though, to avoid collisions with cyclists. Although cyclists have a separate lane, many tourists become quickly dazzled and distracted by the incredible views and architecture of the bridge and skyline, and often inadvertently wander into oncoming bike traffic. I'm willing to bet that a run-in with an angry New York cyclist may be more of an "authentic New York experience" than most travelers really want.  

Model shoot in DUMBO, Brooklyn (photo by Luis Bastardo)  

It was an easy walk over the bridge, luckily with very little wind (sometimes you can barely hold onto the railings) and a great opportunity for Luis to get his first broad view of the Manhattan skyline. Many visitors don't bother to venture out to the outer boroughs (Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island, Queens) but that's a huge mistake. Each borough offers a different and interesting experience and some of the most amazing museums, shops, parks, festivals and food in New York (and might I say, much more reasonably priced than Manhattan). Brooklyn, for example, is home to the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, Prospect Park, Coney Island, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge (a nature reserve of 9155 acres), the New York Transit Museum and Green-Wood Cemetery where you will find the graves of Leonard Bernstein, members of the Roosevelt family, Louis Comfort Tiffany,  Jean-Michel Basquiat  and many others.

View of the Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn Bridge Park (photo by Luis Bastardo)

Brooklyn also has wonderful neighborhoods such as DUMBO, Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope, Carroll Gardens and Flatbush. We visited the part of DUMBO that lies between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges; the second section stretches from the Manhattan Bridge to an area called Vinegar Hill (named for the Battle of Vinegar Hill in 1798). Originally DUMBO was called Fulton Landing, named for the Fulton ferry depot that connected Manhattan and Brooklyn. The area later developed into an industrialized zone, housing paper goods factories among others. It first became residential in the 1970s, but didn't become truly gentrified (in the "full of expensive cafes and boutiques and no-one can afford the real estate or taxes anymore" kind of way) until the 1990's. Although the prices in this neighborhood are now as high as Manhattan, it is still a wonderful place to visit, very safe (there was only one murder in 2007 and 2009 and zero in 2006 and 2008), filled with cobblestones streets, cozy cafes, chocolate and pastry shops, theaters, art galleries and parks. We took a well-deserved break from exploring the area at a charming cafe called Almondine, voted the Best Bakery by New York Magazine, to sample their hot chocolate, sacher torte and opera cake (almond sponge cake, chocolate ganache and coffee butter cream). What's not to love about Brooklyn?       

View of the Manhattan Bridge from DUMBO, Brooklyn (photo by Luis Bastardo)

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