"I live in Brooklyn. By choice. Those ignorant of its allures are entitled to wonder why." - Truman Capote, A House on the Heights
Brooklyn, the most populous of New York City's five boroughs, also occupies the entirety of Kings County. An independent city until its consolidation into New York in 1898, Brooklyn still maintains its air of independence and has a distinct character that sets it apart from the rest of New York City. As immigrants have flocked to borough over the years, their various cultures have fused together to create a unique Brooklyn flavor and, many would say, a distinctive Brooklyn accent. Expressions such as "Fugheddaboudit" and "Oy vey!" are quintessentially Brooklyn, and now even adorn the various traffic signs posted along the borough line. Embracing its diverse culture, Brooklyn now proudly proclaims to be "Home to Everyone from Everywhere."
The borough takes its name from the town of Breukelen, near Utrecht in Holland, and indeed began as a Dutch settlement in 1646. When the New Netherlands territory was conquered by the British in 1683, Breukelen was Anglicized to "Brooklyn," and became a part of the newly formed Kings County. The first and greatest battle of the American Revolution was the Battle of Brooklyn, and it was in the aftermath of that battle that patriot Nathan Hale was executed, uttering his famous line, "I regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."
Following the American Revolutionary War, Brooklyn began its aggressive expansion, annexing the surrounding villages and incorporating them as neighborhoods. By 1896, Brooklyn had spread to occupy all of Kings County. In 1898, after much controversy and debate, the people of Brooklyn voted by a narrow margin to join with the City of Greater New York. Folks were polarized by the issue, and there are still some oldtimers today who refer to the merger as the "Great Mistake of 1898."
Despite its stereotype as a working-class borough, Brooklyn is currently enjoying a period of growth and affluence. The Brooklyn Academy of Music provides world-class theater which frequently draws crowds from Manhattan, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art boasts an Egyptology collection that rivals those in London and Cairo. Prospect Park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux after they had completed their work on Manhattan's Central Park; Olmsted has often said he believes his Brooklyn creation is the finer of the two.
The iconic Brooklyn Bridge spans the East River, connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan. This massive suspension bridge was the largest of its kind when completed in 1883, and was such a draw for tourists that stories began to crop up about hucksters "selling" it to gullible out-of-towners. Brooklyn's other venerable landmark is the amusement park at Coney Island. Although the park is definitely showing its age, aficionados claim that its seediness is a huge part of its charm. Residents and visitors alike still flock to the beachfront boardwalk to take a ride on the legendary Cyclone roller coaster or sample the quintessential hot dog at Nathan's Famous.