One of the best things about New York is the unique mix of cultures and peoples that make our city a true melting pot within the greater melting vat that is our diverse nation. But amidst the dizzying array of languages, traditions and histories, a few destinations are pure New York.
As I’ve written in the past, native New Yorkers are a distinctive breed. It’s no surprise, then, that we’ve carved out a few niches that exemplify our particular tastes and character. Williamsburg and Park Slope are two such neighborhoods, both of which epitomize what I consider New York “ethnic.” While many might think of these Brooklyn communities along the East River as white bred to the max, they are, in fact, ethnic enclaves—just not in the typical sense.
Indigenous New Yorkers don’t covet mass produced products, goods and services. We tend to favor caliber and character in the things and experiences we pay for. Lining the streets of Williamsburg and Park Slope are proprietors focused on the small batch, locally sourced, hand made stuff we appreciate. So while these places may be hipster havens to many, they are quality havens to natives—where artisanal shops and one-of-a-kind boutiques are the norm, and big name brands look completely out of place. Consider Mast Brothers, for instance, a maker of fine chocolates and a business that probably couldn’t survive anywhere but Brooklyn’s North 3rd Street.
Williamsburg and Park Slope run at a slower pace than harried Midtown or the anxious Financial District. But this more relaxed vibe is deliberate, and is considered a luxury by those who embody it. On the corner of 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue, ordering breakfast might take all of five minutes. In Williamsburg or Park Slope, on the other hand, the first meal of the day is traditionally more of a 30 to 45 minute affair—an event worthy of sitting down long enough to read the paper before delving into the frenzy of the day.
In many ways, this mindful slowing down is emblematic of being a native. New Yorkers are hardworking, ambitious people, but we are not naive to the fact that it’s important to take a moment to slow down—especially in the name of consuming a high quality egg sandwich courtesy of a chicken from a nearby farm, browsing a rack of unique, bespoke dresses tailored by an up-an-coming designer years before he or she achieves the fame they deserve, or shopping for organic groceries.
Williamsburg and Park Slope are populated by many people whose hard work has afforded them a more leisurely lifestyle and the ability to demand the best artisanal products. But as unique as Brooklynites seek to be–in the items they purchase, the places they patronize, and the activities they pursue—from my experience, most are quick to identify as New Yorkers first. What some consider the fringe, others consider New York’s pinnacle.
Featured image courtesy of Sarita Dan