View Full Version : Brooklyn Joins the Tourist Loop

May 29th, 2003, 09:12 AM

Brooklyn Joins the Tourist Loop

It does not sail gaily by the Gowanus Canal. It eschews the scenery of the auto body shops on Fourth Avenue. It turns away before reaching the storied Navy Yard, Coney Island or the Ebbets Field housing development.

But for intrepid travelers yearning to stand before the luxury apartments in the building where Walt Whitman once toiled, or to glimpse the house of justice in which John Gotti finally met his Waterloo, their bus has finally come in.

Gray Line New York Sightseeing, which runs those ubiquitous double-decker tourist wagons around Manhattan, has added a Brooklyn bus that runs from Lower Manhattan to the recently renamed New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge and then throughout Downtown Brooklyn and into Prospect Heights. The red bus, which officials like to call a trolley, stops at Old Fulton Landing, the strip of Middle Eastern stores along Atlantic Avenue, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Junior's Restaurant, at the Fulton Mall.

The route may be only the latest in a long line of earnest attempts to lure travelers from that more glittering destination to the west, but there are signs that the time may be ripe. Brooklyn already has its own Zagat guide, and the new Downtown Brooklyn Marriott has been so successful at attracting events and overnight guests over the past five years that it is building an addition. Indeed, with tourism near the top of the list of priorities of the borough president, Marty Markowitz, construction is to start soon on a visitors' center for the borough in what was once its city hall.

The tour buses three for now, maybe more later have been running since May 11 in what marketing executives call a "soft opening." Michael Alvich, a vice president for sales and marketing of the company, said that he had been surprised by how full the buses had been.

Clearly, he said, "there was that pent-up interest in seeing Brooklyn."

Would that it were always so. For years, there were efforts to market the borough, which many outsiders saw as far more fabulous in its past than its present. There was the time that Howard Golden, the former borough president, organized a ride on the Q train from Midtown Manhattan to Coney Island, complete with tour guides narrating the trip. A group of cultural institutions pooled grant money to cross-promote themselves with the theme "A Day in Brooklyn." Boosters have created guidebooks, both virtual and concrete, while officials have created promotions.

Even tour buses are not entirely unknown to the area. A few years ago, said David Chien, a marketing manager at the bus company, Gray Line tried to run a loop through Brooklyn, but it was ended after a week or two because it could not arrange enough stopping places.

But if the enthusiasm among its promoters was any indication, this loop should last.

"We're going to market this wonderful trolley tour to the rest of world," said Cristyne L. Nicholas, president of the city's tourism agency, who introduced herself as a native of Midwood. "Tourism for New York City is a $25 billion industry. We're set to welcome close to 37 million visitors. We want to make sure as many of those visitors come to Brooklyn because this is where it all began," she said.

"We're very optimistic that Brooklyn is going to be a great market for us," said Tom Lewis, Gray Line's president, who also introduced himself as a native of Midwood and called it a "labor of love" to run the tours.

"I believe that Brooklyn will be the most exciting tourist location in the region," said Mr. Markowitz. By coming to Brooklyn, he said, tourists "could visit Italy, and they can visit Pakistan and they can visit all the Hispanic countries, Latino countries and China, and mid-18th century Europe that's also called Hasidim."

"And I know that once people visit Brooklyn as tourists, once you're here get ready for this now you'll never fuhgeddaboudit."

November 18th, 2007, 09:22 PM
Ugh, Brooklyn is great, but both "The Big Apple" and "Fugheddaboudit" make me want to crawl into a hole. This whole New York as a theme-park destination thing is killing me.