John Schaefer: Brooklyn Migration Defines Bloomberg Era

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The Great Brooklyn Migration is, for me, the defining transformation of Bloomberg’s New York.

We may have needed Giuliani’s bravado and bluster in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, but in the weeks and months that followed, New York needed a steady hand at the helm. The real estate market – which, let’s face it, is the real engine that runs this city – was suddenly uncertain. (Fleet Bank, apparently moving to head off a flight of spooked homeowners, even offered city residents free refinancing at a very low rate.)

Bloomberg provided reassurance – at least as far as the market was concerned. (That Fleet offer was supposed to last for four days but the response was so strong that they stopped it after one.) Cheap real estate had made the city of the 70s a place of remarkable artistic activity.

But what happened during the Bloomberg years was unprecedented: even Manhattan’s less elegant neighborhoods became white hot, and club after club either closed (Tonic, CBGB) or moved to Brooklyn (The Knitting Factory, Roulette). But the artistic ferment became stronger than ever. It just moved across the East River.

The Great Brooklyn Migration is, for me, the defining transformation of Bloomberg’s New York.

Brooklyn in 2001 was still cheap enough to attract indie musicians, but over the next few years it would become home to such an astonishing influx of musicians, artists, and designers – and then club owners, festival programmers, restaurateurs, artisanal brewers, distillers, and eventually, even a professional sports team – that it would change the economy of the entire borough.

You could argue that New York’s cultural clout has never been greater. But it doesn’t revolve around a single island now.

And no matter where in New York you were, the live music experience became dramatically better, even if those of us attached to the old romantic image of the smoky club hate to admit it, when Bloomberg’s smoking ban took effect.