Brooklyn is home. Having spent fifteen years in its thrall, which equates to roughly half my life, I can’t imagine living anywhere else. So why Brooklyn? Fuhgettaboutit! Why not Brooklyn? A small town feel in a big city state of mind. Brooklyn was originally inhabited by a group of Native Americans called Lenape, which roughly translates to “the People.” A borough rich in history, culture, art, music, film and the people at the heart of its identity. Brooklyn is all about the love.
In the first of four hoods of Brooklyn, I begin in Prospect Lefferts Gardens. A name derived from what is just around the corner – Prospect Park, Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and the historic Lefferts Manor. Flatbush Avenue cuts right through. In almost any direction, streets lined with historical brownstones, Dutch architecture, modest mansions, and small businesses, it’s easy to forget I am in a metropolitan sprawl.
On a lackadaisical Saturday, I hop on my Arbor Board cruiser to see where the day will take me. I cross Flatbush and head up Midwood Street. The neighborhood is changing. It is now in the middle of a major gentrification that only makes the neighborhood more diverse than it already is. Between the largely Caribbean and African American population and the hipster hybrids, it has become a culture collision.
Which ever way I turn, there is a choice of great coffee – Cinnamon Girl, Tugboat and Tea Company, and Tip of the Tongue to name a few – it isn’t lacking for the coffee enthusiast.
On the corner of Midwood and Rogers Ave I roll to a stop at Gratitude Café. The word itself inspires me to find more than one thing to be grateful for. A pop of mint green on the corner immediately invites me to come stay awhile. A dapper gent sits outside with his Maltese named Zuzu. Stanley is from Trinidad and has been in the hood for twenty fives years. I ask him what he likes about Lefferts. “It’s different, it’s a nice place to be. You get a little bit of everyone.”
Inside is a spectrum of color that is indicative of the diverse neighborhood. There is a row of folks on laptops clicking away the Saturday. Brewing Kitten Coffee, a local roaster in Brooklyn, it makes for a dreamy latte. Mark, who moved to Brooklyn from Haiti, brings a savory sandwich. Today is his birthday. I ask him what he is doing after work for his birthday. “I’m going home to sleep,” he replies through a big and genuine smile. He loves the hood because everywhere you go is friendly, “everybody says hello.”
If you need something a little stronger than coffee, Erv’s on Beekman located at Beekman Place off of Flatbush is no bigger than a studio apartment in Manhattan. Imagine a house party every night spilling out onto the sidewalk. A bartender adorned in a white tee and suspenders violently shaking drinks before cracking them over a cocktail glass and into our bellies. My favorite cocktail would have to be Peanut Allergy. Drink mixology at its best and for a fraction of the price one would spend in Manhattan.
Lefferts Gardens isn’t lacking. Small business’s and restaurants keep popping up. If there were more time I’d tell you more but come explore it for yourself. As Stanley says, “there’s a lot of love here. Even if nobody says it out loud… there’s a lot of love…”
©dm hall (www.darleenhall.com). Photos courtesy of ©Katya Hall (www.katyahall.com)