Don’t Talk To Me About Leaving: I Can’t Wait for Brooklyn to Welcome Me Back

Jamie Betesh Carter with her daughter. Family photo.

Every night when I cozy up to my 11-month-old daughter, I bring out her bin of books and let her pick two for me to read to her at bedtime. Recently, without fail, she grabs “Good Night New York City” and “Good Night Brooklyn” every single night.

For days, I wondered what it is about these books she loves so much. In fact, these weren’t her favorite books pre-pandemic. I always try and throw in a Dr. Seuss book with a cute little rhyme, and most days she lets me. But her tiny little face lights up when we grab her Goodnight New York books. It was weeks into the pandemic that I realized, she has a yearning for what she knows, and misses New York City just as much as I do.

I grew up in Brooklyn. Born and raised in Canarsie, moved to Mill Basin in my teen years. When I left for college in Western Massachusetts, I thoroughly enjoyed my time there because I knew damn well I was coming straight back to New York City when I graduated. My friends called me “The Brooklyn Girl,” and reveled in my stories about dancing at nightclubs downtown, and midnight rides to Rockaway Beach. I remember a late night conversation with my Massachusetts-bred college boyfriend. He was about to graduate and we laid in bed talking about what we’d do afterwards. I said I’d be open to trying out a new city to be close to him. “I love Boston.” Poor guy had no idea I was lying through my teeth. I was counting the days til I could get my own apartment in New York City.

Growing up in our corner of Brooklyn was special. Some of my friends had huge Victorian mansions in Prospect Park South, and some rented basement apartments. Some had single mothers who worked nights to support their kids, and some were renowned doctors. Of course, there were some, whose parents’ “professions” were never known. That’s Brooklyn…  We didn’t care that some drove Mercedes, some drove beat up 15-year-old Toyotas, and some didn’t have cars at all. What mattered is that none of it mattered. Many of us were the children of immigrants. Indian accents, Hebrew, Italian, Russian, Jamaican. Jewish, Catholic, who cared? Everyone was the same, except we were totally different.

So when the Covid-19 virus hit NYC hard, my family and I escaped to – another end of Brooklyn. We headed back to the small oasis of Mill Basin. This hidden treasure is truly a space between. Still in NYC proper, but with houses and backyards. In all honesty, we didn’t intend to leave our tiny two-bedroom in Cobble Hill at all. My dad’s death after a long battle with cancer coincided with the first day of New York’s shelter in place order. So while we thought we were staying with my mom for one week, we’re still here two months later.

Quiet Mill Basin. Photo by Jamie Betesh Carter

At night, after putting our daughter to bed and saying goodnight to Brooklyn and New York City, I lay in my childhood bedroom, reading articles titled “What hardcore New Yorkers Really Miss,” and “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” about the thousands of families fleeing New York City for more space and fresh air. The debate feels familiar, as it was just last year my husband and I were deciding where to move after finding out we were expecting our first child. I’d spend hours convincing him Brooklyn was the place for us. I’d show him old photos of The Brook Sun and Swim Club, a no-frills pool club in Canarsie where we’d go to escape the steaming hot Brooklyn summers in the 1980s. I wanted our daughter to grow up like I did, around anyone and everyone. Not so secretly, I wanted her to be a Brooklyn girl too.

With the tragic daily news updates, I grapple with our own future. In my quest for information, I stumbled on a newly formed Facebook group with thousands of NY moms exploring the option of leaving the city. Unsure of how this will play out, and tired of shelling over entire paychecks for rent in a city where going outside is feared, they’re finally looking beyond the boroughs. I mine the posts, looking to be swayed one way or the other.

In this group, people are searching for what doesn’t seem to exist. “Are there any places like Brooklyn out there, but with more space?” People go back and forth, discussing if there’s any place to truly find diversity in Nassau County, or if there are any towns with less than $40,000 in taxes in Westchester.

Sure, I long for more space, and a big backyard that’s not my mother’s. I cringe every time our rent check for our empty apartment is processed. Even before the pandemic, I worried about whether or not our daughter would even get into her zoned school for Kindergarten, and if we’d even be able to afford to continue living in Brooklyn.

Jamie with her husband. Family photo.

But I won’t give up on Brooklyn. At least not yet. I want to be here when our coffee shop reopens, when Governor Cuomo announces we can safely gather, when we watch our daughter smile uncontrollably as we push her on the swings in Carroll Park. When I can pop in my headphones and zone out on the unbearably slow F train. When I can sneak out with our daughter for a 7 AM stroll along Court Street before the city wakes up. When I can shyly smile at Bobby Cannavale and Keri Russell during our early morning coffee runs, pretending I don’t know who they are. I can’t wait to gather with our neighbors at the bar downstairs on Friday evenings, watching our kids of all different cultures run and play on the sidewalk as we have a glass of wine, hug, and welcome the weekend. I can’t wait for Brooklyn to welcome us back.

Maybe one day, you’ll find us living in one of those places they call “The Brooklyn of (insert outer suburb).” But for now, I’m not giving up on NYC. We’ll continue reading “Good Night Brooklyn” instead of saying goodbye. These Brooklyn girls are staying.

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Jamie Betesh Carter

Jamie Betesh Carter

Jamie Betesh Carter is a researcher, writer, and mother living in Brooklyn. Born and raised in Canarsie, she's weathering the Pandemic with her husband, mom, and 11-month-old daughter in Mill Basin. The thought of living anywhere but Brooklyn has never seriously crossed her mind.

Comments

  1. Nice New York story. I’m living in Miami but I miss the Brooklyn life style. I lived in Flatbush in the late 70’s. I miss going to the different ethnic stores and experiencing the foods. Coming from Harlem to Brooklyn was an exciting adventure. Every chance I get I make sure I stop and have lunch at Junior’s in downtown Brooklyn. Being gone for 34 years I see a big change in Brooklyn and all of New York.

  2. Awesome post. Couldn’t agree more. Yes there is uncertainty but people are short sited. When you are in the midst it can seem so long and helpless but people have short memories. People crave human connection and there is no better place for that than Brooklyn.

  3. LOVED your story!! After living in Pennsylvania for 4& 1/2 years I moved back to my beloved Brooklyn on March 18, 2020. Yup, just scant days before NYC got shut down. And I LOVE IT!!! Cuz I’m HOME💖💕💓💗😍😍. So, yeah, from 1 Brooklyn girl to another Brooklyn girl, I really LOVE your story.

  4. Same here, hope our old Brooklyn still pokes it’s head out for my kids once in a while.

  5. Hi Everybody, I Love Love Love , this article . I’m a Brooklyn Native living in Georgia. I totally miss New York& can relate to everything in the story that was shared. I grew up with Good Morning America & Regis Morning Show , WBLS Radio Shows watching and listening as we get our day started as well as getting ready for bed at night. I read Humans Of New York all the time . Park Slope face book Community and anything I can stay 100% connected to with New York I Do . I Love New York , it’s in my Heart & part of my world wherever I go . Thank you for lifting up this morning . I not in bv the city at this time to help out My Community, However I certainly Uplift Everyone with my family & friends and although I’m in Georgia I have Brooklyn & New York On My Mind & Heart Always 💜

  6. BBBBBD = Brooklyn born – Brooklyn bred – Brooklyn dead . A very well known Brooklyn man told me that when I first met him after hearing about him for decades. RIP Pudgy !

  7. Yay Brooklyn! Born in Bensonhurst Maternity Hospital across Bay Parkway froJum JCH. alumnis of PS97, Seth Low (Brooklyn mayor) Jr. High Schlool, Brooklyn Tech., Brooklyn College.

  8. I Love this story! It is so relatable.
    I’m also from Canarsie, born I Williamsburg.
    Living in Florida is NOTHING like NYC.
    NY heart is in Bklyn. The question of whether going back is a good idea, comes up often.
    There’s no place like home! In.my heart of hearts I do believe, that is where I belong.
    How I would love to have a slice of Pizza from Originals and go to the Diner for breakfast! I’ll be back some day ❤

  9. Nice story about growing up in Brooklyn, I was raised in Gravesend and could totally relate, i too miss the Horseback riding in Bergen Beach and playing ball in Marine park.

  10. I am a 73 old African American Woman who moved to Bklyn 42 yrs ago from Manhattan, I love Bklyn, and I loved your story! The culture, charm and grit of this city is unlike any place in the world! And, it takes a real New Yorker to understand our love for Bklyn and our commitment to this city. Thank you ❤

  11. All of this romanticism about Brooklyn and NYC rings hollow, to me at least. I spent roughly 20 years of my life in Brooklyn and it is, by far, the worst place I’ve ever lived. The day I left was the happiest day of my life.

    I am glad you like it, though, since you’re there.

  12. I’m born raised 60years Williamsburg bklyn have a house in bethel woods upstate 12years where am I with this virus good old bklyn got house up for sale in bethel they can keep the country I’ll stay n wait it out like every other die heart NYC Patriot I’m here for the long hall regards to my bklyn people nothing better stay safe n pray

  13. I once saw a patch on a jacket that said “I’ll sink with California.” That’s pretty much how I feel about Brooklyn. I wasn’t lucky enough to be born here but I got here as fast as I could and if I have to leave it will be in a body bag.
    PS: LOL at Alex, who hates Brooklyn but apparently reads Bklyner. Must be exasperating! Remind me not to read newsletters about Atlanta or San Francisco or whatever.

  14. Everybody loves home, wether it be Brooklyn, Boston, or some small town in upstate NY.
    I live in the real upstate of NY- 30 miles north of Albany. Here I breath fresh air, see a million stars in the sky, listen to birds sing, and grow beautiful flowering trees.
    Best of all, I am perfectly isolated not fearing the deadly virus. Within 45 minutes we have an unbelievable amount of hospital beds and amazing medical facilities.
    While you pay high condo or coop monthly fees, I pay $50 each time my lawn is mowed (twice a month) and about $500 a season to have my driveway plowed. I drive 15 minutes to downtown Saratoga Springs to visit coffee shops, grocery shop, attend classes at Skidmore College, attend NYC ballet performances at Saratoga Performs Arts and dine at all sorts of wonderful resturant. And in season, I can go the races every day!
    Yup, it’s different from Brooklyn.. and I bet a hole lot of people want to escape the City. I am buying another country home and selling my high style country cottage for $300k. 20 ft ceilings, lots of glass and total privacy. How amazing is that.
    If you want a beautiful and safe place to live, work, retire, or raise your family..come to the real upstate.

  15. I grew up in Brooklyn too (Sheepshead Bay/Avenue U -> Stuyvesant -> Brooklyn Coll …… South Jersey) and it isn’t the same. Conversation surrounds real estate and I was in a helping profession, without means to buy a house or co-op anywhere in Brooklyn – even in places that were no go back then. I own a house now… less than $250k, 3 br, 2.5 ba, and can partake in the dining scene in Philly & easy to get to NYC. Who needs the commuting mess, the cost at the supermarket (fruit/veg stores are missed, yes). I’d rather be comfortable and out of the rat race. If you’re not rent controlled or have an inheritance, you have to be a corporate climber, which isn’t me.

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