Wits—and Beer—Determine NYC’s Best Bourough

When I agreed to take part in the Municipal Arts Society of New York’s “Better Borough” competition, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Was the event going to be a friendly debate? A round-table discussion? Some trash-talking that ended in fisticuffs? Presumably, the question of which was the better New York City borough, Manhattan or Brooklyn, was to be decided on this night—and apparently, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island had already been ruled out. Prepared for anything, I gamely boarded the Peking, an old European mercantile ship docked in the neutral territory of the East River.

Upon entering the ship, each of us was given both a voting card with a big “M” on one side and “B” on the other and a glow-in-the-dark bracelet—pink for Manhattan, green for Brooklyn. Keeping with the theme of hometown pride, zip codes were worn in place of name tags—no personal identities here—and Brooklyn Beer and cosmopolitan cocktails helped prepare each group to defend its neighborhood (and beverage preference).

Soon, the discussion began. Satirist Andy Borowitz—based in Westchester, N.Y., and thus geographically neutral—moderated a panel of local celebrities from Manhattan (chef/author Mario Batali and Apollo Theater executive director David Rodriguez) and Brooklyn ( Brooklyn Brewery president Steve Hindy and writer/Studio 360 radio host Kurt Andersen). Questions were directed to each borough pair, with the other given a chance for a rebuttal; audience members then would raise their voting cards to indicate which side had a more convincing argument. The process seemed civilized enough, but in practice it more closely resembled a pep-rally—or a gang war. With each statement, speakers were drowned by howls of support from their respective cheering section.

Most of the questions posed revolved around cultural superiority—which borough has the better art scene, fashion scene, food—and nearly all of the answers were self-glorifying. For example, when asked which borough had the cooler Fifth Ave., the Brooklyn representatives pointed out how there is such a great wealth of restaurants on their Fifth Ave., and that some of the best Manhattan chefs have emigrated to their Park Slope. Manhattan’s rebuttal was something to the effect of: I live on Fifth Ave., I didn’t even know there was ANOTHER one, but apparently we taught them all how to cook.

At the end of the debate, the official results were presented. Brooklyn won, eight points to four! However, the results might have been skewed by Brooklyn’s turnout, which was larger than Manhattan’s. Perhaps this was because Manhattanites seemed fairly certain of the “Better Borough” answer regardless of the debate.

After the voting, questions were taken from the audience. This resulted, again, in more mudslinging. Finally, a splinter faction from Queens called for coexistence and reminded us all how much we have to offer each other. His sentiments were met with mixed reviews.

After all was said and done, the group of mostly smug Brooklynites took a Water Taxi back to Brooklyn for the official after-party at DUMBO’s Superfine. There was great food, drinks, and company. Those from Brooklyn enjoyed the taste of satisfaction from winning, and those from Manhattan didn’t really care what the people from Brooklyn thought anyway, because everyone knows that the best borough really is…

Categories: Cities