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Digital Subscriptions > Lonely Planet Traveller (UK) > February 2017 > TRIBES OF NEW YORK

TRIBES OF NEW YORK

New Yorkers divide into tribes delineated by a shared outlook on life, their group identities reinforced by the places where they hang out, eat and party. There are the smart Upper East Siders, preoccupied by the next big society gala. Only when they need a ride home does their world overlap with that of the city’s immigrant cabbies, connoisseurs of Queens’ hole-in-the-wall joints where they can get the best street food from back home. The neighbouring borough is Brooklyn, home to artists and artisans whose creativity has made it a byword for cool. But even this novelty-seeking crowd will endure a subway ride to seek out Manhattan’s unmatched cultural experiences. Nowhere does jazz music better than Harlem, the quality maintained by the vibrancy of its open-mic scene. Downtown, the club queens share a love of music – whether performing it in full drag, or throwing some shapes on a subterranean dance floor. To understand these tribes – to explore their versions of the city – is to know New York like a true local.

52 best bestweekends away

@SarahMaslinNir

PHOTOGRAPHS LOTTIE DAVIES

@lottiedaviesphoto

THE BROOKLYN ARTISTE

SHAMIKAH MARTINEZ is an actor, comedian and artist whose wry feminist music videos have reached viral status (shamikahmartinez.com).

“Visitors can get bit overwhelmed by the craziness of Manhattan and think, ‘that’s what New York is’. But Brooklyn has all the creativity of NYC – at a chill pace. If it were up to me, I’d never leave. I’d stay here and soak it all in. In some parts of the city it seems there’s this weird unspoken rule that grown-ups are not allowed to play anymore. But I think the opposite: you should play your whole life. People from Brooklyn embrace and embody that instinct. Take The House of Yes: it’s a circus, movie theatre and disco party wrapped into one. It has screenings where the audience interacts with the film. It has classes where you can learn to swing from silk. These experiences mean you always leave super-inspired to create something. Being with people so engaged with their passion transports and energises you.”

BROOKLYN has become a trend, a global shorthand for cool. The ethos of Brooklyn is homespun and artisanal. Above all its denizens prize authenticity. It is a feeling so often lost in a city increasingly giving ground to the vast identikit stores of global brands. In the borough’s artsy neighbourhoods of Williamsburg and Bushwick, the artists and entrepreneurs congregate, living in warehouses and high-ceilinged lofts. Hipster, an out-dated appellation that has become a pejorative of sorts, has sometimes been used to describe those among this scene. But for the subset of true Brooklyn artists it does not correctly apply. Far from trendfollowing sheep, this rare posse churns out culture. On some nights, whole apartment blocks vibrate with the sound of roommates-turned-collaborators jamming – the next big band, perhaps, in rehearsal.

North Brooklyn Farms, overlooked by Williamsburg Bridge.

Though some Brooklyn pastimes, like growing Victorian-era facial hair and pickling vegetables, are sometimes derided as overly precious, Brooklynites really practise what they preach: appreciation of the things you can touch and feel. Albeit, connecting to a simpler time that is likely more imagined than real. North Brooklyn Farms was born of those concepts.

Homewares store Coming Soon.

‘Eat local’ is religion for many residents, and the farm, located among warehouses along the East River, is an urban altar to this prevailing philosophy. In summer, you’ll catch tattooed volunteers weeding heirloom tomatoes and planting basil. The farm hosts alfresco meals in warm weather, where guests are encouraged to eat ‘root to stem’ – everything from radish pods to courgette flowers. Take Root, in Carroll Gardens, offers a Michelin-starred version. Step into the tiny 12-seat restaurant and you’ll soon realise it is run entirely by two people: a wife-wife team who cook, clean and serve. Meals are eight courses of culinary abstraction – lamb dusted with spring onion ash, beetroot reconstituted as a vibrant gel – and eagerly awaited by guests who’ve endured months on a waiting list.

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February 2017
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