Virtual Brooklyn: The Borough and Its Blogs

Brooklyn pride runs deep. It’s evident in the quantity of t-shirts touting slogans like “Made in Brooklyn” or digits like “11215”, or simple letters, like “F”, which hold meaning only to the chosen ones. That Brooklyn pride has extended beyond the corner bodegas and health food stores to a place without limit, a place without zip code, a place we call cyberspace. Once you start looking online, you’ll find as many people blogging about Brooklyn as you will skinny jeans in Williamsburg. Their expertise ranges from health food to hot dogs, it’s up to the minute, and it’s open for discussion. The blogging community brings a whole new dimension to the borough – one where we can share our likes, our dislikes, our common ground, and our differences. All under the comforting veil of anonymity that a screen name like FunnyBunny718 can create.

Blogs are like the meeting ground between print media and front stoop conversation. They can be eloquent or biting as a magazine article, but they retain the currency of a conversation over a morning cup of coffee. Blogs are happening today, they are unedited, and they are uncensored. They are the opinions of your neighbors and they open up the thread for community discussions. And Brooklyn blogs, like Brooklyn residents, range in style and substance from efficient purveyors of pertinent information to lyrical meanderings of subjective opinions. Whatever blog you follow, you’ll find a community within the community, and it will open you up to Brooklyn in a whole new way.

“It aint easy,” Tupac once said, and those of us trying to feed our art while we feed ourselves know it’s true. Brooklyn may be the place to be, but that has also made it a hard place to be poor. The goal of Brokelyn.com is to make it a little easier to have fun and live well even if you don’t have money. “We’re trying to take the shame out of not having money,” says Faye Penn, who started the blog in May of 2008. “We’re an upbeat recession blog that aims to show readers how to explore new ways to have fun in Brooklyn with less money.” Brokelyn did a great Staycation series mapping out an entire weekend in Brooklyn for those of us who couldn’t afford to get away last summer. From fishing out in Sheepshead Bay to riding the Wonder Wheel at Coney Island, Brokelyn.com shows that you can make a vacation in your own backyard. You can also find tips on the best places to get cheap clothes from expensive designers and the best diners in the borough.

Brokelyn has not been without controversy, however. When Penn posted directions on how to get food stamps, there was a major debate. Some people thought it was encouraging freeloading, but Penn argued that food stamps are there to help people who can’t afford food on their own. The no-insurance guide posted on Brokelyn also got people’s emotions running high. “People get really worked up about certain things,” Penn says. “The Food Co-Op in Park Slope gets people really worked up, and so does hair. Especially curly hair.”

In working on this blog, Penn has found a lot of people with cheap secrets they want to share. And especially now, with the economy in the toilet, her blog has become extremely relevant. “Brooklyn has changed,” she says. “Conversations used to be about renovations, and now they’re about dumpster diving and DVD swaps. We’re just sharing clever, fun ways to survive the recession.”

Brooklyn is a city unto itself, and it does not belong in any shadow, not even Manhattan’s. Charles McVey, founder of NeverLeaveBrooklyn.com, set out on a mission to help Brooklyn residents discover that there is no need to go into Manhattan to find the rich cultural life. Rather, “Brooklyn has all we could possibly want to meet our cultural and lifestyle needs.” McVey grew up in Bed-Stuy, and he knew that Brooklyn had a lot of faces, all with something different to offer. But residents were isolated in their own neighborhoods. People in Park Slope didn’t know how to even get to Greenpoint, much less know what cafes to check out upon arrival. NeverLeaveBrooklyn helps residents broaden their Brooklyn horizons to see how much the borough truly has to offer. NeverLeaveBrooklyn shows up-to-the-minute information about music, art, fashion, food, and events in the borough. Broken down into neighborhoods, with unique information about each one, this site helps you access the spectrum of Brooklyn’s offerings. Since its inception in October of 2007, “Never Leave Brooklyn has grown in leaps and bounds,” says McVey. “It’s gone from posting events to posting lifestyle needs. For example, if we post something on a local DJ, instead of just saying there’s an event with this DJ, we’ll also post the music on the site so you can listen to it right there.” They also have exclusive interviews of artists and post links to other artists you might like. It’s a site that lifts the veil from some of the borough’s best kept secrets, revealing the talents right here in our own community.

Warning: if you get hooked on the following Brooklyn blog, clear your computer’s history before your mom uses it to check her email. Because when the words “Fucked in Park Slope “ get thrown in her face, she’s not going to believe it was for “research”. But truly, the site is only as devoted to human coitus as it is to weird advertisements on the F train and Almondine’s cheese-stuffed pretzels (which only have home delivery on Sundays).  FuckedinParkSlope.com (FIPS) was founded by Erica Reitman in November, 2008 in response to what she called a lack of “snarky Park Slope blogs.” The blog is a forum for cool people living in Park Slope, described in the FIPS dictionary as “ballers” and “breeders,” to “bitch about the stuff that bothers them.”  What it’s become is a hilarious, smart, and honest blog with witty contributers and an ever-growing following.

“The blog has completely turned my idea of community on its head,” says Erica. “Mostly because, for some reason, I had no idea what a cool, fun, rad community would come together over our little blog…It’s been awesome to discover that there is a loud, proud community out there of people just like us living it up in Park Slope.”
One of the oldest and most well-known blogs in the borough is BrooklynVegan.com, which surprisingly has very little to do with food or nutrition. For the most part, it’s a music blog, and it is dutifully followed by people all over New York City and in the greater music community. The founder, who goes by his screen name BrooklynVegan or BV, started this blog without much of a goal in mind. “I originally registered the domain name BrooklynVegan.com with the idea that I might make a website talking about vegan food options in Brooklyn. I just kept writing about music, though, and especially live music in Brooklyn. Before I knew it, the site had a following, the name stuck, and it just got bigger and bigger.” And big it is. BrooklynVegan has become a self-sustaining entity with lots of contributors. It features music news, coverage of events, and show listings, and even hosts its own series of live shows under the BrooklynVegan name. There’s a BrooklynVegan radio show on Sirius-XM, and people from far and wide follow the blog to hear new artists and explore diverse music. “Blogging is just a medium,” says BV. “The point is different for whoever is doing it, though they all have one thing in common: the ease of publishing content to the Internet.”

The blogs of Brooklyn are a reflection of the borough itself: they’re diverse, opinionated, and unapologetic. And because the blogs’ writers are often working for nothing but the sheer joy of it, you’ll find honest, biting accounts of life as we know it. Updated around the clock and available to anyone with computer access, blogs offer us an eagle eye of the borough. Whether it’s a suggestion for what to do this weekend, a passionate rant on the Food Co-Op, or a sense of community you’re looking for, you’ll find it all in the untamed world of cyberspace.