Over The River And Through The…Wait – Are We Talking The Outer Boroughs?


There’s a New York Tech Meetup, a Queens Tech Meetup and a Brooklyn Tech Meetup, and now a Bronx Tech Meetup. New Jersey and Stamford have them, too. Considering how oversubscribed the New York meetup is every month, you’d think Manhattanites would venture to explore these other venues. But few of us in the 100- zip code will venture to the outer boroughs. We can hear you snickering, Loisidas. Stop that.

The "View of the World" cover

The “View of the World” cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s a very famous Saul Steinberg New Yorker cover circa 1976 entitled View of the World from 9th Avenue, which everyone pretty much refers to as A New Yorker’s View of the World.Were Steinberg to have done this for the five boroughs, Brooklyn would be a no-man’s land, with Williamsburg, DUMBO and maybe Park Slope depicted as dots across a vastness stretching to infinity. The Staten Island Ferry would make it onto the map, slipping soundlessly through the harbor towards a reef marked ‘Staten Island.’ Queens and New Jersey would register – primarily as conduits to the three major airports. Which may also explain why many Manhattanites – although we refer to ourselves simply as New Yorkers – feel that they need a passport and/or visa to go to Queens or Jersey. Understandable. The only time Manhattan residents venture to Queens without a passport/visa is when we’re en route to the Hamptons.

As for the Bronx, Ogden Nash summed it up best in one of the shortest poems ever written: The Bronx? No thonx!

Speaking of airports, this might strike you as odd, but probably not. Many of us have been to Paris, with its Right and Left Banks. It’s a reference to the Seine, which bisects the city and is traversable by various bridges. A New Yorker would never think twice about going between the Right and Left Banks of Paris, and the same holds true of London and the Thames. True, most of London is north of the river, but should you want to take in some of the sights and galleries on the other side, or even if you just feel like crossing the Wobbly Bridge, you go, without hesitation. Well what about the Brooklyn Bridge? Yeah, right! Once, maybe, and how long have you lived here?

Ever wonder why this is? Maybe it’s because to get to different parts of, say, Brooklyn, from Manhattan, you might have to change trains, and, God forbid, even entire subway lines! And lest we forget: the process has to be repeated in reverse to get home. It’s not a straight shot. Ok, the same can be said of getting from one place to another in Manhattan at times, so why the psychological barrier/double standard?

In a word: taxis.

If you don’t feel like changing trains/need to get home or to wherever, quickly, you can grab a cab. The cabby will have no compunctions about delivering you to a Manhattan location. He may not take the optimal route (New Yorkers also always know the best route between any two points, and are often happy to share that knowledge with said cabby, most of whom attempt to ignore you or pretend not to speak English. Or, who don’t speak English.), but he’ll get you there. Would he be as readily accommodating if you gave him an address of somewhere in, say, Brooklyn?

Another thing: How many Smith Streets do you need in Brooklyn? And why no grid? And why do some streets take on a completely different name once you’ve crossed to the other side, then take up its original name once you’ve traversed some cul-de-sac? And you wonder why we avoid Brooklyn? We’d literally be lost without Siri and GPS. No wonder so many of our forebears never left the place. They tried! They got lost and gave up! Then the Verrazano Narrows Bridge was constructed – longest suspension bridge in the world; hard to miss – so they moved to Jersey. Where you do need a car, and where, again, the streets are poorly marked/make no sense. Which is why many of those forebears who did make it to Jersey are still there.

We have been known to frequent Digital Dumbo. Let the record show that we go in a pack and the Brooklyn contingent is required to navigate the New Yorkers safely back to the north-bound trains afterwards. Preferably express! And yes, we’ll even walk a few extra blocks to get there, but we’ll travel as if our subway cards have an automatic expiration time as soon as we traverse the river. We do believe that, somewhere in the backs of our minds, you know.

Anyone who lives in any of the five boroughs believes that he or she is a New Yorker and technically, he or she is. But when you ask someone from Brooklyn where they live, they’ll answer, “Brooklyn.” Ditto, Queens. A New York-New Yorker will answer, “Soho,” or “Upper West,” or “Chelsea.” Would never occur to us to say, “Manhattan.” It’s a given. Ditto snailmail: New York, New York, as opposed to “Brooklyn, NY,” or “Long Island City, NY.”

We didn’t start this thing: we’re simply reporting.

Still, when it comes to tech, we’re all in this together, tech being the great equalizer, despite the fact that we’re still waiting for someone to write the book, “Developers Are From Brooklyn; Designers Are From Manhattan.” We’ve no doubt it’ll come, maybe once the industry here and in its various enclaves in the outer boroughs have all established themselves fully and matured a bit more. In the meantime, we are what we are: New York. One of the capitals of the world, where all come to do business. A city transected by waterways and bound by bridges, tunnels and subway, where somehow it all comes together – and where we all come together – to get the job done.

Preferably somewhere in the Flatiron District.

About the author: Bonnie Halper

Bonnie Halper curates the StartupOneStop.com newsletter, which focuses on startups and entrepreneurs, and is currently being read in 50+ countries around the world.

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