Every Place Just Outside Central Boston Is ‘Boston’s Brooklyn’

Behind the temptation to compare cities and neighborhoods to the New York borough.

Have you heard about Boston’s newest, hippest borough? Like so many Boston-adjacent cities and neighborhoods before it, Watertown is making a play for the title of “Boston’s Brooklyn.” That’s according to a real estate firm executive who tells the Boston Globe:

At one time, Watertown was just a relief valve for Cambridge tenants who wanted cheaper space. Now, Watertown is going to become a much cooler place. We look at it almost like it’s going to be Boston’s Brooklyn.

As Universal Hub’s Adam Gaffin pointed out, this is far from the first time a neighborhood has claimed the “Boston’s Brooklyn” moniker. Somerville most frequently takes the title, but it’s been applied to Roxbury, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, and now Watertown, too. That’s a lot of Brooklyns (and not a single Staten Island. Weird!)

Nor is this a shorthand reserved for Boston neighborhoods. The New York Times once tallied all the places that someone somewhere has declared “the new Brooklyn.”

Philadelphia is the new Brooklyn. Oakland, too, is the new Brooklyn, as are Jersey City and Anaheim. And based on dozens of recent newspaper articles (and too many blog posts to count), please consider the following additional candidates: Montreal, Queens, Nashville, Richmond, Anchorage, Buffalo, Baton Rouge, Bangalore, Warsaw and Aurora, Colo. And Doha, Qatar. All potential new Brooklyns.

Safe to say that with that many new Brooklyns floating around, the category has become too crowded to have much meaning. It persists as a trope, though, because it does evoke a certain image of trendy gentrification: good restaurants and affordable rents in the shadow of a big city skyline.

Real estate types should learn, though, that if you’re trying to attract the ironic, web-savvy millenials that give places like Brooklyn their image, comparing a neighborhood to Brooklyn out loud is usually a bad strategy. For one, the comparison is played out. Brooklyn is known for its “hipsters,” and hipsters are known for adopting trends early. The trend of comparing your neighborhood to Brooklyn is officially not early, and no one wants to feel that they live in the 17th iteration of a trend. The safest way to ensure that your neighborhood seems striving and lame, collecting none of the authentic image Brooklyn has cultivated in the past decades: declare it the next Brooklyn.