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March 2006
Whistling in Brooklyn
By Kymberlie Adams Matthews

 

Once upon a time there was a little girl who moved into a ramshackle three bedroom apartment (a bargain at $1,400 a month) in Brooklyn with her three cats, three dogs and sister, and she never wanted to leave. I love it here. And who wouldn’t? A land where corner bodegas carry soymilk, bagel stores offer three types of tofu cream cheese, and licking soy ice cream cones while walking through a lush dog-friendly park is not just a dream. A place where neighbors keep holiday lights up year-round and Coney Island is just a hop, skip and subway ride away. We have sandy beaches and sidewalk cafes serving soymilk lattes. We have riverside bike paths allowing for the best views of the Manhattan skyline. I am hooked, I am captivated, and I am in love. Here are a few of my favorite reasons to whistle in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Founded in 1910 on a reclaimed waste dump, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden represents the very best in urban gardening and horticulture. One can easily forget you are in Brooklyn while in the midst of a Japanese rock garden, cherry tree lined lawn, and conservatory where various ecosystems thrive in greenhouses. While following meandering pathways one can catch glimpses of amusing animal antics—ponds teeming with fish and turtles, bunnies peering out through lush garden beds and bird flocks roosting in trees. For three dollars (children under 16 are free), a visit to the garden makes for a wonderful break or all-day get away. 1000 Washington Avenue, www.bbg.org.

Prospect Park
Ultimate frisbee, fetch with the pooch and passionate games of kickball can all be played in this green paradise. Thanks to 19th century designers, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, Brooklynites have a 526-acre playground in their backyard. Although it could very well do without housing a zoo, the park is home to woodlands, streams, ponds, picnic areas, playing fields and a bandshell, which harmoniously blends live music with summer evenings. Charms also include the Long Meadow, a 90-acre field, Brooklyn’s only lake, a carousel, an ice-skating rink and the only urban Audubon Center in the U.S. Bounded by Flatbush Avenue, Prospect Park West and Prospect Park South, www.prospectpark.org.

Pooch Friendly
From pro-dog legislation and pooch parades to countless dog-friendly establishments, Brooklyn is a canine paradise. Prospect Park offers off-leash hours and a beach designed especially for them. Brooklyn welcomes dogs to such an extent that many local businesses put out water bowls in the summer, and jars of colorful canine cookies adorn counters year-round. Numerous bars and coffee houses are not only places for people to meet and mingle, but for dogs to sniff nose to nose. Plus, doggie daycare, pet spas, and pooch play-dates abound. There is even an ever-popular singles group called Leashes and Lovers, for people who love dogs to connect. Brooklyn is also home to groups such as the Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition (BARC) whose mission is to provide safe haven for homeless animals. I should also mention Brooklyn’s love for cats with many stores adopting shelter cats, who can often be seen nestling in sunny storefront window displays.

Veggie Friendly
Brooklynites can have soy cheese pizza, vegan banana splits, burritos filled with seitan and tofu sour cream, and bagels with scallion tofu cream cheese delivered to their door. The amount of vegan goodies Brooklyn offers is staggering. With restaurants like Vegetarian Palate, Veggie Castle, The Greens, Imhotep’s and Foodswings, is it any wonder I don’t cook? We can also head over to Scoops for vegan ice cream cones or to Cocoa Bar for a slice of the most delicious vegan cakes. Bars such as Park Slope’s Lucky 13 also offer killer vegan White Russians. Now, that’s what I call happy hour!

Park Slope Food Coop

Started in a Brooklyn living room in 1973, the Park Slope Food Coop has grown into a full-service food cooperative owned and operated by over 10,000 members. A grocery store like no other, the Park Slope Food Coop is the largest member-owned and operated food coop in the U.S. The Coop provides—in exchange for a little under three hours of work every four weeks—a unique, healthy array of foods. It’s a sure way to save a bundle on your grocery bill. 782 Union Street, www.foodcoop.com.


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