I HEART BRKLYN

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January 31, 2013 by iheartbrklyn

ImageMY HEART BELONGS TO BROOKLYN
 
When my friend Colleen shared the”Westchester vs Brooklyn, which is the better ‘burb” post from the blog Wee Westchester, I thought it would be a humorous take on how BOTH are fabulous places to raise your kids. I was surprised to find the author conclude that Westchester is “better”. 
 
See, I don’t believe in “better” or “best”, especially when it comes to how and where we raise our kids. Where you plant your family’s roots shouldn’t be about comparing apples with oranges. It should be about HOME. What feels like home for you. 
 
But since Wee Westchester ignited the hot topic discussion, I’ll fan the flames a bit by addressing their reasons why Westchester is a better place to raise kids…. from a Brooklyn devotee’s point of view. 
 
Because lots of us don’t lock our doors.
First of all, lock your doors. And certainly don’t announce on the world wide web that your doors are open. 
 
In all seriousness, of course I am more likely to be mugged in Brooklyn than in the ‘burbs.  It’s the chance we take for the opportunity to live in this vibrant, exciting, diverse, energetic, magical city. I happen to live in a relatively safe area of Brooklyn where I rarely feel the need to “look over my shoulder”, but at the end of the day, sh*t happens everywhere. We tragically learned recently that even elementary schools in bucolic small towns are not immune to violent crime. You just never know. You need to live where you love and hope for the best.  As for having to lock your doors in Brooklyn… I once accidentally left my door (which opens to the lobby of our building) ajar for most of the day and came home to the apartment exactly as I left it.
 
Because we don’t have to lug strollers up brownstone steps.
In my many years in Brooklyn, I have never had to use stairs to get in and out of my home. Ground floor apartments and elevator buildings are abundant here. We stroll in, we stroll out. We have doorman to sign for packages and supers to fix things. And while I now live in a multi-level apartment with stairs inside (like most suburban homes), if I’m honest, I’ll admit that I miss the single floor living that usually comes with apartment dwelling. I curse every time I have to run up the stairs because I forgot a pair of socks or my phone. I do try to remind myself, however, that all the stair climbing does help keep me in shape!  There is always a silver lining.
 
Because we have Manor Park. And Rockefeller State Park. And Greenwich Beach. 
Quite simply, we have Brooklyn Bridge Park, Prospect Park and Ft. Greene Park (to name a few).  Our air may not be quite as fresh as a suburban breeze, but we sure do live our lives outdoors. I am outdoors every day. I walk my son to school. I walk to the pharmacy. I walk to the coffee shop and Trader Joe’s. I enjoy the spectacular Brooklyn Bridge Park, a waterfront oasis just a few blocks away with it’s large grassy lawns, sandboxes and playgrounds, playing fields, bike path and spectacular views of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.  We play in the countless playgrounds and green spaces that are within a ten minute stroll of our home. 
 
When want to experience more open spaces, we go on a road trip.  Just like people in the suburbs can venture into the city for the restaurants, nightlife and culture, we can easily take a break from city life by heading to a farm or to the beach.  For us, this is what my family’s home at the Jersey Shore is for.  A change of pace and scenery when we want to see lots of stars in the sky and the expansive Atlantic Ocean.  It more than satisfies the nature craving.
 
Because we can plant flowers in our front yard without worrying about someone taking a piss on them.
We may have the random public pisser, but you inevitably have dogs peeing on your lawn in the suburbs.  Pee kills grass and turns it an unattractive shade of brown, in reality way more of a hassle than a little urine on concrete.  But the bottom line is, for people who WANT a lawn, dog pee is a small price to pay. To each his own, right?
 
I should also mention that in Brooklyn we don’t have to mow the lawn, rake leaves or shovel snow! Hallelujah! We DO have an 85 acre waterfront park just steps away that city workers take care of! 
 
Because we don’t have to double-park our cars in front of our house, run the kids and all of the stuff we need to bring inside, and then drive around looking for a parking spot. 
What seems like a hassle for others (no car in the driveway), is an absolute joy for me and other Brooklynites. We have our two feet, and the subways and buses are always running. One of my favorite things about living in Brooklyn is never having to drive, not having to get the kids in and out of the car even for the smallest errand. I never have to navigate a parking lot to avoid getting hit by a huge Chevy Suburban driven by a mom who can barely see over the steering wheel. Here, even my 17 month old can physically walk to Starbucks (holding my hand, of course!). When we are going further than a few blocks, I pop him in the stroller, my older son grabs his scooter and we are off.  Easy breezy. 
 
When we do use our car (for Costco runs, trips to the Bronx Zoo or to visit friends outside the city), it never seems like a big deal for my husband to drop us and our stuff off, take the dogs for a ride around the neighborhood and go park the car. A very, very small price to pay to enjoy the ease of daily life without a car.
 
Because the farm-to-table movement is happening in our backyard.
We do have countless fantastic restaurants in Brooklyn, I’ll give you that.  My breakfast this morning was leftovers from a yummy little Italian place down the street. But the farm to table movement seems “so 2005” here. Brooklyn restaurants have certainly been pioneers of this trend for years and years.  If you’ve ever been to the incredible food market here in Brooklyn called Smorgasburg, you’ll know what I mean!
 
Because our kids will never hear the neighbors doing it upstairs.
Yes, we sometimes hear the upstairs neighbors, but you know what that means?  We HAVE upstairs neighbors.  We have friends literally at our doorstep. As a stay at home mom, if I ever need a dose of adult conversation, I literally step outside my apartment door and chat with the doorman or a neighbor. I love the social aspect of city living.  I crave it when I am at my family’s home at the shore for an extended visit.  One of my best friends is moving into our building soon and I can’t wait for the impromptu playdates and post-bedtime glasses of wine without even having to put my shoes on, and being able to walk our kids to school together.  
 
Because we’ll never be hip. And we’re okay with that.
Brooklynites are hip? Well, we are definitely not hip.  The thought of my husband wearing skinny jeans is literally enough to send coffee squirting out of my nose. In fact, each Brooklyn neighborhood is an amazingly diverse community full of regular, friendly, cool and un-cool people from all around the world. 
 
I live in a true neighborhood, a small town right in the middle of the big city.  Every day, I walk out my front door to views of the majestic Brooklyn Bridge and the towering skyscrapers of Wall Street, views millions of people from around the world travel to see every year.  And the view never gets old.  It never fails to excite and energize me. Then I walk my son 5 blocks to his wonderful, charming little pre-school, two more blocks to the local coffee shop and one more to my little neighborhood gym. On the way, I encounter friends and acquaintances from school and from church.  We smile, we stop and chat, we catch up. I don’t live here because the people are hip, I live here because the people are warm and interesting and different.  I live here because Brooklyn IS the good life. 
 
Because many of us have shorter commutes than parents in Park Slope.
I can’t comment on the commute for the Slopers, but from our home in Brooklyn Heights, I can be anywhere in Midtown (up, down, east or west) in 30 minutes or less. Door to door. No driving to the train, no train schedules to follow. Every Monday, I head to 45th & 8th to take a dance class at a world famous studio with an incredible teacher who has danced on Broadway and London’s West End.  I hop on the A train and I’m there in no time. After class, I have Manhattan at my feet. I can go virtually anywhere in the city and be near a subway train that will get me home to the kids in a flash.  
 
Because preschool doesn’t have to be $10,000 a year.
Yes, our preschool costs around 10 grand.  But we love it.  It is the cutest, loveliest school with amazing teachers and totally worth every penny we spend for the two years each my sons will go there.  It is an exceptionally warm community and we are so grateful to be a part of it.  Next year, when my son is ready for kindergarten, there is a good (free!) public elementary school just around the corner. We could debate the costs of living in the city vs the suburbs, but I believe The New York Times has done this and concluded it’s not necessarily less expensive to live in the ‘burbs.  Certainly, there are many factors involved beyond the cost of preschool.
 
Because we rarely sit in traffic.
I am sure driving around Westchester is lovely, but I simply prefer a daily life that doesn’t involve a car. Stroller life is less stressful for me, especially since I’ve been blessed with two great stroller sleepers. When my toddler falls asleep while out and about, I can still get all my errands done (pick up milk, grab a coffee, even have lunch out), without disturbing him. He’s a city kid so the noise doesn’t bother him one bit! When we get home, I simply wheel him into the apartment and leave him in his stroller until he’s fully rested.  If we were in the car and he fell asleep, which he inevitably would, what would I do?  Leave him in there? I prefer not to have social services knocking on my door!
 
Because you’ll never, ever see a fedora.
Ok, this one kind of stumped me. I can’t remember the last time I saw a fedora.  Seriously, I’m not even sure I know exactly what that is. They do sound kind of fun.
 
Beyond the misconceptions about family life in Brooklyn that the Wee Westchester blogger perpetuates, there are other advantages of city living that we enjoy here. I love having THE BEST performing arts at our doorstep. In his four short years, my older son has been to three Broadway shows, the Big Apple Circus, the Little Orchestra Society, Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden, to name just a few of his many cultural experiences.  In the next two months alone, we have plans to attend Disney on Ice at the brand new Barclay’s Center, the kid’s film festival at BAM and to the Broadway Playhouse series at Lincoln Center.  I love that! Of course, I would take my son to NYC cultural events if I lived outside the city, but it would happen a lot less often and it certainly wouldn’t be as easy.  And the opportunities for extracurricular activities are incredible in the city. My son just started dance classes at a world-renowned dance center right here in Brooklyn.  The local theater classes for kids are taught by Broadway performers. We have a connection to the arts that is so exciting for this admitted theater geek and for my arts-loving child. This is just one of the amazing benefits my kids have growing up in Brooklyn, but for me, it is an important one. 
 
The point is, the “which is better” argument is a lot like arguing over whether it is better to have a dog or not.  Dogs are a lot of work. Trust me. I have two. They are also loving and cuddly and furry and they keep my feet warm at night.  The question is not whether it is better to have a dog, but how much do you want it.
 
They say home is where the heart is and my heart belongs to Brooklyn, for sure. It feels like home and makes my family happy. Isn’t that all that matters? I consider myself blessed to have found my “place in the world” and I certainly don’t begrudge others for having found theirs.
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