When this magazine began a decade ago, the idea that travelers would settle on Brooklyn as their primary destination was still somewhat laughable.
“You gotta remember, tourists weren’t coming to Brooklyn,” says Bensonhurst native and Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce president, Carlo Scissura, referring to the majority of the recent past. “The most they would do,” he adds, “is walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.”
Scissura should know: He spent five years as chief of staff for Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz (aka Brooklyn booster numero uno), meaning he’s literally one of the folks who helped put Brooklyn on the international map. Just this May the chamber launched ExploreBK.com, its first-ever site “geared toward the tourism market,” says Scissura. It scored 45,000 unique visitors in less than three months.
Now when tourists do walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, they’re sometimes leaving from one of at least six sleek new hotels that rose in downtown Brooklyn this year. (Or better still, the farm-friendly B&B on Lawrence Street we profile here.) Not to mention the folks who stay in Airbnb beds in neighborhoods that didn’t used to see tourist traffic and who eat at corner restaurants that used to be locals-only. According to chef Matthew Tilden, who runs Scratchbread at Lexington and Bedford avenues in Bed-Stuy, “During the week, about 35 percent of our business is European and Asian tourists.”
Cooks like Matt are one of the top three reasons people visit Brooklyn, says Scissura: “Food and Brooklyn are synonymous,” he adds, noting that he believes touring Brooklyn isn’t just for people from outside the borough. “The best tourist is also the Brooklynite,” says Scissura, “someone from Bensonhurst may never have been to Greenpoint!”
Or Sheepshead Bay, Fort Greene, Canarsie, Brownsville or many of the other neighborhoods we highlight in this issue, which is as much about exploring here as it is other nations and continents. Heck, we at Edible Brooklyn have always thought the best way to travel abroad is to simply to walk around this borough and find a place to eat. Now we just have to share our sidewalks with the rest of the world, too.
Rachel Wharton • Editor