Brooklyn neighborhood tourism

The Brooklyn Paper

The Brooklyn Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) announced the winning neighborhood for the first ever Brooklyn Neighborhood Tourism Initiative. And the winner is…Fort Greene/Clinton Hill.

This heterogeneous community, just east of downtown Brooklyn, boasts majestic brownstones, pre-Civil War frame houses, lively shopping areas, historical churches and world-renowned cultural institutions, and will now feature a series of walking tours to present these treasures to visitors.

The Historic Fort Greene Walking Tour will be held regularly, with the first tour held June 21 at 1 p.m. The tour will meet at the southeast corner of Flatbush Avenue & Hanson Place, under the large red BAM sign.

Joan Bartolomeo, president of BEDC, announced, “Fort Greene is a community that is both unique and quintessentially New York. We are excited to partner with Big Onion Walking Tours to make this vibrant Brooklyn community a primary destination for tourists and New York residents alike.”

Big Onion Walking Tours, in business for more than 15 years, is among New York City’s leading tour groups. Big Onion Walking Tours President, Seth Kamil said, “Fort Greene lends itself perfectly to the breed of tours we offer. Our guides specialize in peeling back the many layers of history that make up the fabric of our city. Fort Greene is rich with cultural, literary and architectural record, as well as unknown treasures we plan to reveal. I look forward to working with the winning community organizations to create a tour that is thought-provoking and exciting.”

The Brooklyn Neighborhood Tourism Initiative Contest was open to more than 100 community organizations served by BEDC’s Re-NEW Brooklyn Program, which works to promote strong and vibrant commercial corridors as the backbone of Brooklyn’s neighborhoods. Applicants were asked to demonstrate that their community is of historic and architectural interest and has a vibrant commercial corridor that would benefit from the additional foot traffic drawn in by walking tours.

From the applications, BEDC and Big Onion Walking Tours selected three local organizations they will cooperate with to design a tour: The Fort Greene Association, the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership, and (jointly) the Pratt Area Community Council and Fulton Area Business Association. BEDC will fund the research and development of the 90-minute walking tour, while the local organizations will assist in tour development and growth.

“We are very pleased to launch our Tourism Initiative in Fort Greene/Clinton HIll,” said Matthew Rao, BEDC’s director of Commercial Revitalization. “It has a plethora of high-quality historic and contemporary attractions as well as three flourishing main business corridors: Fulton/Lafayette Streets, Dekalb Avenue and Myrtle Avenue.”

Dale Charles, economic development program manager at the Pratt Area Community Council, said, “Fort Greene has some of the oldest houses in the borough, as well as historic Fort Greene Park, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and revolutionary and civil war era historic sites. The active commercial corridors of Fort Greene/Clinton Hill feature minority and women-owned businesses and a famous Afro-centric fashion industry that help make our neighborhood special.”

M. Blaise Backer, executive director of the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership, said, “Myrtle Avenue was once the Main Street of the Fort Greene/Clinton Hill community, but it went into decline during the 1970s. Today, Myrtle Avenue is regaining its role as a bustling commercial corridor.” Backer adds that the neighborhood is so rich in history that “any number of tours could be designed here, based on everything from the area’s military history to the emergence of Fort Greene as a stronghold for African American culture and community.”

An architecture critic once wrote of Fort Greene, “Better than this it does not get.” BEDC and Big Onion Tours hope that this series of walking tours will reveal the beauty, history and vitality of the neighborhood to a wider audience.

Admission to the tour is $15 for adults and $12 for seniors, students, and NYHS members. For information and tour schedules, see www.bigonion.com or www.bedc.org.


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