For more than a century, cities around the world have compared
themselves to Paris. Many claim to be the Paris of the East: Bucharest,
Prague, Istanbul, Beirut and Shanghai to name a few. There's also the
Paris of North America (Montreal), the Paris of South America (Buenos
Aires) and the Paris of the Plains—Kansas City in the Jazz Age.
But now the wannabe city is Brooklyn. Every neighborhood with a
critical mass of bearded hipsters, bike shops and vegan cafes calls
itself "the new Brooklyn." Ballard is the Brooklyn of Seattle. Glasgow
and Melbourne both claim Brooklyn cool. And Oakland, Calif., has been
called the Brooklyn of San Francisco so many times that Julia Cosgrove,
editor of AFAR travel magazine, says she "can't bear to read another story about it."
There's even a Brooklyn of Paris: the once-gritty suburb of Pantin.
Its derelict, graffiti-covered warehouses have been taken over by
galleries and artists, turning it into the hippest place in the City of
Light. Just like in Brooklyn, real estate prices have shot up, and old
industrial buildings now house luxury lofts.
"It may have a way to go before it's on a par with Brooklyn, but I
expect it will continue to develop, considering how much investment and
risk-taking is going on there—alongside the natural flux of artists
toward the area," said artist Oliver Beer, who works both with a gallery
in Pantin and with the Museum of Modern Art's contemporary arts
outpost, PS1, in New York City.
Other signs of what's called the "Brooklynization of Paris" include
gluten-free restaurants and juice bars popping up. "It used to be when
young chefs studied under the great chefs, they wanted to open important
restaurants or go to the countryside and get their Michelin star. Now
they're rejecting that model, they're saying, 'I'm going to do more
back-to-the-roots, farm-to-table cooking in a small restaurant with a
few tables,'" said a spokeswoman for Atout France USA, the French
tourism agency in New York, describing a shift that some observers
compare to Brooklyn's culinary scene.
Tourism folks in Asheville, N.C., say their city was once called the
Paris of the South, but now they compare it to Brooklyn, thanks to
artisanal food, indie entrepreneurs and a thriving music and arts scene.
An emerging arts and entertainment district in Miami that will link to
areas like Wynwood, known for street art, is said by promoters to be
"like Brooklyn in its nascent days"—an interesting thought, since
Brooklyn was settled by the Dutch in the 1600s. And San Diego's South
Park-North Park neighborhood is called SoNo, but it would be a no-no to
compare it to Soho. Instead it claims a mix of Brooklyn and Southern
"We've become the epicenter of cool as cool is now defined," said Marty
Markowitz, 69, who was born and raised in Brooklyn in an era when it was
better-known for ethnic enclaves, working-class culture and the
Brooklyn Dodgers. Mr. Markowitz, who served as Brooklyn borough
president for 12 years and now works for NYC & Company, the city's
tourism agency, promoting all the boroughs, added: "There is no question
that Brooklyn now serves as an example for other urban centers of how a
community can transform itself into a hotbed of style."