Next Exit to Brooklyn

Richard Lutz returns to Brooklyn. It’s his hometown. But it’s halfway round the world

By Jim.henderson (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Jim.henderson (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I grew up in Brooklyn. Brooklyn across the bridge from Manhattan- the place any self respecting Brooklyn boy called ‘the city.’

It was composed- still is- of neighbourhoods in this borough of 3 million. So, when I return, when I return to see family, to show my own family, I return to Midwood in Brooklyn in New York City.

That’s Midwood that was home to Woody Allen, baseball star Gil Hodges of the old Dodgers (before the team betrayed us and shunted off to Los Angeles), and home to La Streisand and Bruce Willis and Spike Lee.

It is a name of my home and all of us has a trigger inside that snaps when the name, that name, of your hometown, comes up in print, on tv, on your screen, in your head.

I’m a Brooklyn boy and even though my friend Jules has lived in this part of NYC for at least a decade, I know she is a newcomer to what is a home base for me, for my sister, for my brother, for, as a matter of fact, for Woody and Barbra and Spike.

So, I had to smile when a brief sliver of two hours north of Sydney in Eastern Australia, I headed for Brooklyn, New South Wales.

It’s at the end of a slow hot road sitting funky, a bit off the road and watery on the edge of the sweep of the Hawksbury River estuary.missed out, quiet, forgotten, off the beaten track.

I asked around in this sleepy shambly friendly place how Brooklyn came to be named….errr…Brooklyn.

Bob in the local B&B said the New York Brooklyn was settled by the Dutch (it translates as Brokenland, not because of the economy but because of its ridged shoreline) so maybe the Ozzie one that we were standing in was of Dutch descent.

Unlikely, I figured, as I surveyed the one of the two streets that really led nowhere or at least verylittlewhere.

The talkative bookshop owner didn’t know either. Her funky store on the corner of the intersection of one of the 2 streets, had walls that were littered with quotes from the first lines of famous books. Books by Joyce, Tolstoy, Camus, AA Milne, Austen, Dickens, Banks. The words seemed to flutter around the store like butterflies. Her husband painted them, she told me. A lot of time to kill in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Australia

Brooklyn Australia

Very cute. Nice touch from Brooklyn, Australia. Must bring it back to Midwood sometime.

We ambled down to the ferry that scoots around the wide mouth of the river. The ferryman knew the answer.

‘See that bridge?’ He pointed to a handsome rail span that connects Sydney with Newcastle. ‘That’s the link from a hundred years ago.’

‘That bridge was constructed by Brooklyn boys?’ I immediately did my early maths and figured the men who sorted out the famous Brooklyn Bridge did such a bang up job, that that early Ozzies basically hired them halfway round the world to slap up another similar off the shelf bridge right here in Australia. And then they named their hamlet after their hero builders.

‘Nope,’ this ferry guy said as he steered for a miniscule spot of land called Danga Island.

‘They built the one that almost bloody well fell down.’

It seems the Brooklyn boys did come after the NYC bridge was built. They were good engineers and builders. But not good enough. They dropped the huge piers Into the muddy bottom of the Hawksbury and that bridge just started rolling and wiggling as soon as the trains began trambling over it.


A point of fact: the old Brooklyn Dodger baseball team (the one that betrayed us in 1958, remember?) were so god awful in their chequered past their nickname was The Bums.

Maybe, just maybe, that should go for our bridge builders too.