Overview

Brooklyn used to be an independent city until 1898, when it joined Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx to comprise the City of New York.

Now it’s one of the five city boroughs and counties: The Borough of Brooklyn and Kings County. If “The Mistake of ’98” never happened and the boroughs of New York City were separate cities, Brooklyn would be the third largest city in the U.S. after Los Angeles and Chicago. Compared to the other boroughs/counties, Brooklyn has the highest percentage of native New Yorkers and is the most populous, with over 2,600,000 residents within its 71 square miles. It is the country’s second most-densely populated county, after Manhattan.

Brooklyn’s 70 neighborhoods are very diverse and dynamic, boasting over 180 ethnicities from 130 countries and speaking 90 different languages.

Emergencies

Call 911, preferably from a landline phone. Tell them your exact location and the nature of your emergency. They can connect you with nearby police officers, emergency medical service centers, hospitals, and urgent care facilities throughout Brooklyn.

Crime

New York City is the safest major city in the United States. Brooklyn, which is even more residential and open than Manhattan, has a very low crime rate. Nonetheless, you should practice common sense as you would anywhere. Don’t leave your valuables unattended, keep your money in your front pockets, and keep your back pack or hand bag zippered shut. Heighten your awareness level when traveling on a crowded subway or bus, particularly if you look like a tourist. Touristy areas often have higher crime rates than residential ones. We don’t recommend visiting neighborhoods like Brownsville or East New York, not because they have a higher crime rate but simply because there’s not much for tourists to experience. Crown Heights also has a higher crime rate but Weeksville is worth the slightly increased risk level. See crime rate by neighborhood (keep in mind that the rates are per-thousand residents, and would be much lower when you factor in the billions of non-residents in Brooklyn each year.)

History

The area was used seasonally by the indigenous Lenape nation for centuries before 1524, when they encountered Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano in New York Bay. He was the first European to explore the Eastern coast of North America, from Florida to New Brunswick, Canada.

The first foreigners to settle the area were Dutch traders and Africans (most of whom were enslaved by the Dutch) in 1634. Greater Brooklyn was named after one of the small villages within the area, Breukelen, itself named after a municipality in the Netherlands. 

Brooklyn played a tragic but major role in the Revolutionary War that started with the Battle of Brooklyn in 1776 and ended with the death toll of the prison ships off its coast.

In the 1800s, it had 45 breweries and lead the country in agricultural production. It was the location of the first suburbs and the highest median income in the U.S. when the Brooklyn Bridge was completed in 1883. 

In the 1900s, Brooklyn went through enormous change. Both the Williamsburg Bridge and Manhattan Bridge accommodated subways, and Brooklyn’s commuter culture was born. Brooklyn was a hub of industry and shipping, powered by its thriving immigrant population and the Great Migration of African-Americans from the south. The Brooklyn Navy Yard employed 70,000 Brooklynites for WWII. Afterwards, poverty levels rose and fell. During this century, more famous writers, musicians, filmmakers, performers, and artists lived in Brooklyn at one point than (probably) any city in the world. And, yes, that includes London, Rome, Paris, and Hong Kong.

Since the last turn of the century, Brooklyn has gone through a startling renaissance. The quality of life is at its best ever. Areas like the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which had long been abandoned in a depressed, high-crime area, is now a thriving innovation and cultural hub. Brooklyn has become world-renowned for its unique charms and continues to constantly evolve.

Learn more about Brooklyn History.

Parks & Recreation

Brooklyn has over 400 parks. The biggest was Prospect Park, until the Shirley Chisholm Park opened recently. The oldest are Commodore Barry and Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park is the most popular with tourists, and one of the newest is Domino Park. Many parks offer relaxation, team and individual sports, community activities, and cultural events.

Learn more about Parks & Recreation.

Connections

Brooklyn is the eastern-most tip of Long Island and it borders the borough of Queens to the east. It connects to Manhattan across the East River with bridges and tunnels that carry subways, commuter trains, buses, cars, and pedestrians. It connects with the borough of Staten Island with the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge. All three boroughs are connected by ferries, as well.

Learn more out more about getting around.

Living here

In the year 1900, 50% of Brooklyn residents were foreign-born. Today, it’s roughly 37%. The median age is 33 years. According to recent U.S. Census Bureau data, the median income for a household is $52,135.

Brooklyn leads all other boroughs in construction of residential units and the largest growth of adults holding degrees in science and engineering. It has the fastest job growth in the city and state, particularly in fields of healthcare, technology, retail, the entertainment industry, and tourism—Thanks for that! 

The Brooklyn Accent

Many of the words used for Brooklyn locales are derived from the Dutch language and bulk of the classic Brooklyn accent is just English spoken with a Dutch accent. Many other immigrants have come over since, and now the Brooklyn accent has components of Yiddish, Irish, and Italian language. 

It’s starting to vanish with each generation but Americans have been hearing the Brooklyn accent since one of the first movie stars, Clara Bow, transitioned from silent pictures to talkies. Actors have been trying to master the accent ever since.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a person with a Brooklyn accent is uneducated. It’s more of a reflection of class and environment. Brooklyn had great public schools, like Erasmus Hall and Lafayette. Many of the the brightest, talented, and most successful people in the world have a Brooklyn Accent. Currently, 23 of New York State’s best public schools are in Brooklyn.