Introduction to the Brooklyn Maps

by Thomas Beller

02/01/2003

119 Pierrepont St, Brooklyn NY 11201

Neighborhood: Uncategorized

Neighborhood maps of Brooklyn have recently been added to this web site.

If you visit them you will immediately notice a problem. The problem, I suppose, has to do with the ambition on the site, which is to have maps covered with red dots each linking to a story that relates in some way to that particular place on the map. To say we hope to create a mosaic of different voices and moods out of such an arrangement sounds suspiciously like something you might put on a grant application. This is not a grant application. But we want something from you.

The problem is that the Brooklyn maps are empty. They are just maps. They are empty of red dots, which in the Neighborhood means empty of consciousness. We have sprinkled the vast neighborhoods with green dots, which let you know where you are. But there is not much in the way of Brooklyn Stories. This is due to the fact that Brooklyn is very big, and at the same time, not very dense. Also, the maps are brand new. If there is a person, place, thing, animal, vegetable, mineral in Brooklyn that you have been thinking about as an essay topic, now is a good time to send write it down and send it in.

To look at the Manhattan maps is to feel a kind of intimate vertigo. You are high above the buildings, and yet you can readily make out individual landmarks. The roof of Madison Square Garden looks like something you could land on. The plaza of Lincoln Center is like a bulls-eye. Looking down into the crevices of lower Manhattan you feel a hint of the claustrophobic closeness you might feel if you were looking up from those same crevices. The roofs of the Twin Towers, which are still there on those maps, look like you could practically reach out and touch them. Not just the roofs, but the sides of the buildings, too. The verticality of Manhattan gives the maps a dimensionality which is not present in the Brooklyn Maps.

The rhythms of the Brooklyn Neighborhoods play out, as seen from above, differently than in Manhattan. Perusing any of those Brooklyn Neighborhoods is like looking at a quilt from far above. The eye is drawn less to the verticality than to the strange incursions of urban planning that are hard to conceptualize when you are walking around in their midst. The way a highway’s curves, or a manmade canal, or railroad tracks cut into and define a neighborhood, for example.

Now that we have Brooklyn maps we can start thinking about Queens, the Bronx, Milwaukee, San Francisco, and Phnom Penh. Meanwhile, we hope to get be posting more Brooklyn stories in the near future.

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