(Updated – Sept 13, 2016)
Big Apple Greeter is a free service that pairs visitors from all over the world with NYC volunteer Greeters. Together they explore the neighborhoods of a New Yorker’s New York (not your typical tourist attractions) in all five boroughs. After spending two to four hours together, they often end up being life-long friends. Brooklyn is one of our visitors’ most requested boroughs.
Brooklyn, meet Brooklynn
Big Apple Greeter Joseph Briller helped a young woman from Indiana fall in love with her namesake. Grandmother Lynn gave granddaughter Brooklynn (note the two n’s) a trip to NYC for her 13th birthday present. Joseph took them to Park Slope—to both Sport Prospect and Brooklyn Industries so Brooklynn could buy clothes. Then they stopped at La Bagel Delight on 7th Avenue to eat New York bagels and muffins.
Next they walked along 3rd Street to see the beautiful brownstones. They ate lunch at the famous Junior’s. Oh, that cheesecake! Their last stop was the Mosaic House in Boerum Hill, a hilarious example of uncontrolled decorative impulse. The house is entirely covered outside in broken crockery, tile, toys, shells, stones, bits of mirror, and costume jewelry (especially butterflies.) For fashion, feasting and fun, Brooklynn thought Brooklyn was fabulous!
Junior’s cheesecake photo courtesy of Facebook.
Kehinde Wiley’s Willem van Heythuysen | Brooklyn Museum via Facebook
Kehinde Wiley: Gargantuan
On one of our Greeter outings (where Greeters go to find “hidden gems” for their visitors) we were lucky enough to discover Kehinde Wiley at the Brooklyn Museum. This 38-year-old African-American artist has a talent that can only be described as gargantuan—a word that also defines the size of his paintings.
Wiley dares to “take off” on Old Masters portraits, but he replaces the European aristocrats with twenty to thirty-ish mostly black men wearing sneakers, hoodies and baseball caps. The poses have a powerful attitude, almost as if to say, “It’s time these beautiful black people were part of art history.” His portrait of a gallant Michael Jackson sitting atop a horse was especially poignant. Jackson commissioned the painting but died before he ever saw it.
Dumbo and the Brooklyn Bridge
Head over heels about Brooklyn
Big Apple Greeter Tom Gallo sees many of his visitors fall in love with a Brooklyn they didn’t know existed. These visitors have often been to Manhattan, but not to Brooklyn. So Tom takes them to such picturesque and historic areas as Brooklyn Heights, Dumbo, and the Fulton Ferry district. Suddenly his visitors see the serenity of Brooklyn Heights with its beautiful brownstones and tree-lined streets. When they reach the Promenade, a magnificent panoramic view awaits them: the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the Empire State building in the background.
After visiting Dumbo and the Fulton Ferry districts, Tom’s visitors often have a startling revelation: these are all places where they could happily live! They are beautiful, comfortable and calming—especially compared to Manhattan—and all three districts are right off the water. Tom is delighted when this happens, and it happens all the time.
Fascati pizza | Gill V. via Yelp
Have I got a (Brooklyn) girl for you!
Matchmaker, matchmaker is what you might call Greeter Helen Spirer. She recently took out three young men from India, each in his early twenties. They were all Ph.D students in engineering and as “handsome as they were brilliant.”
Helen showed them her favorite parts of Brooklyn Heights: the church where pastor Henry Ward Beecher led the anti-slavery movement in the mid-1800s; Montague Street, the shopping street of historic Brooklyn; and the Promenade, one of New York City’s most romantic spots—the destination of thousands of first dates and wedding proposals.
While dining at Fascati Pizza on Henry Street, Helen shared that “Brooklyn has a large Indian-American population and I could fix you up with some fabulous, well-educated Indian-American girls!”
FDNY Engine 224 | Sidney G. via Foursquare
Bonding and brotherhood in Brooklyn
Greeter Rachel Conrad is convinced the gods aligned when she recently welcomed visitors from Sydney, Australia. The Meeks were a married couple who came to New York to celebrate their 30th anniversary. David Meeks is a firefighter and was hoping to visit a fire station in Brooklyn. Rachel knew of a station on Hicks Street. The firefighters were just “hanging out” and they welcomed their visitors like long lost family.
They talked over an hour and took funny pictures of everyone wearing hats and wielding hoses. The special day ended with Rachel taking a picture of the couple kissing on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Brooklyn Heights Promenade | Howard Brier via Flickr
A wedding grows in Brooklyn
A young couple from Toronto wanted to elope in New York. They also wanted a Big Apple Greeter to witness their wedding in the Manhattan Registry Office. When Greeter Julie Compton was chosen for the visit, she asked them “Why pick a dull Registry Office when my pastor will marry you anywhere in the city?” She suggested Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, or the Promenade in Brooklyn Heights.
They chose the Promenade, with its majestic views and graceful Hollyhock flowers. Julie brought her pastor, his wife, two visiting friends from South Carolina she’d met as a Greeter, and two Big Apple Greeter staff members—for a wedding party of nine!
After the ceremony, they all went for a joyous feast at a Montague Street restaurant. This was a shining example of Brooklyn showing off its openhearted nature.