No, Dorchester Is Not the New Brooklyn

Why the claim that your neighborhood “is the new Brooklyn” can never be true.

dorchester2

Original Welcome to Dorchester sign image via Adam Pieniazek on Flickr.

“Dorchester is the new Brooklyn,” proclaimed the Lower Dot blog this Friday in a post arguing that Dorchester shares the New York City borough’s hot music scene, up-and-coming restaurant culture, and diverse mix of people.

After Universal Hub’s Adam Gaffin brought wider attention to the claim, it was greeted with suspicion, which is our nice word for “outright derision.” Leaving aside the fact that if Brooklyn were its own city, it would be the fourth largest in the United States, and that Boston in its entirety is just the 21st, there’s still good reason to argue that Dorchester is not the new Brooklyn: The title has been claimed in major publications and self-promoting neighborhood blogs more than a few times.

“Queens is the new Brooklyn,” the New York Times reported in 2005.

“Doha, Qatar is the new Brooklyn,” said New York magazine in 2008.

“Oakland is the new Brooklyn,” said San Francisco Curbed in 2009.

“Troy is the new Brooklyn,” saids All Over Albany that same year.

“Is Detroit the new Brooklyn?” asked PBS in 2011.

“Montreal is the new Brooklyn,” said the Telegraph in 2012.

“Staten Island is the new Brooklyn,”  hinted Gothamist in May.

“Nashville is the new Brooklyn,” we read on Eater.com.

“Baltimore is the new Brooklyn,” sings JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound.

“Manhattan is the new Brooklyn,” joked everyone until suddenly it seemed true, according to the Awl.

It’s easy to understand why this claim has been so consistently popular. Firstly, hip Brooklyn’s culture has spread in the past decade far beyond its boundaries. It’s easy to look at your surroundings, see a new emphasis on food culture, some kids in plaid shirts, and perhaps an urban chicken coop, and proclaim yourself “the new Brooklyn.” We’re at the point where America is basically the new Brooklyn.

And second, when people say “Brooklyn” they really mean “rising standard of living” or “gentrification.” Brooklyn’s story through the past several decades is one any aspiring neighborhood would envy. The Lower Dot blog says in its description that, “We created this blog to draw attention to one part of Boston’s best neighborhood! It is diverse and hip. It offers so many shops, restaurants, and things to do.” Given that “Brooklyn” is synonymous with all these things, it serves their purposes to stoke the claim.

Unfortunately, when people talk of “Brooklyn,” they also imply a culture of early adapters—the  “we were listening to this band before you” types. In that sense, proclaiming yourself “the new Brooklyn,” is so old an idea, no self-respecting hip Brooklynite would dare utter it. There’s no better way to remove any suspicion that you might be “the new Brooklyn” than to declare yourself as such.

ADVERTISMENT

  • stairbob

    I AM THE NEW BROOKLYN.

  • Vannevar Bush

    Brooklyn is the new Pittsburgh.

  • Andrew Saxe

    As someone who has lived in both Brooklyn and Dorchester, I agree partially with Mr. Randall. But Dorchester is similar to Brooklyn in that it serves the same needs that has propelled the development of that borough.

    As related in numerous books (“The Great Inversion”, “The End of the Suburbs”, “The Triumph of the City”), Americans are migrating into desirable cities, thrusting downtown real estate prices skyward. The median condo price in “core” Boston is now over $500K. Yet numbing commutes from the outer suburbs reduce the appeal of those towns. Both factors drive middle class residents to reconsider the older “near” suburbs.

    As one of the original railroad suburbs, Dorchester fits the dictates of the new urbanism. It is proximate to public transit (the Red Line), its closely massed homes make for walkable neighborhoods, and its architecture is organically derived, varied and engaging. There are no mass-produced McMansions in this ancient landscape.

    Sadly, neglect, corruption, and myopia have caused Dorchester’s many attractive neighborhoods to be separated by blight. These ugly corridors must be overhauled in order to stitch the town back together. For Dorchester to fill its potential for Boston rigorous and creative urban planning is required.

    It’s always interesting to view the situation through the eyes of a foreigner. A friend from Germany, arriving by Amtrak from NYC, then traveling fifteen minutes on the Red Line to the Shawmut stop near my home commented on the quick commute from downtown and the inventory of sizable Victorian houses. “Do alot of bankers live in this area?” he asked. Good question.

  • Arthur Bernstein

    fUH GET aBOUT iT!