Monday, August 23, 2010

Why Hamilton Is Not the New Brooklyn

Listen, as someone who lived in Brooklyn for over a decade before coming up north no one more than I would like to believe that Hamilton could be the new Brooklyn (except maybe Torontonians, and I’ll get to them in a minute).  This is a phrase that’s been thrown around since before I moved here over five years ago (most recently in the Globe & Mail).  However, I think it’s time to kill that rumour, and here’s a detailed list of five reasons why.

1.  First and foremost, if Hamilton were Brooklyn that would mean that Toronto would be Manhattan.  This is where Torontonians might be invested in such an analogy.   Sorry to disappoint, but Toronto is so far from being Manhattan that it would be faster and easier to actually walk to the real borough than try to make Toronto into Manhattan.  Toronto is a fine city, “clean” as one of my New York friends once said, but it is a polite, well-rehearsed version of a city.

2.  Hamilton has no pretensions as to what it is, and that is one of the things I like about it.  It is what it is, which is a struggling steel town that houses a well-regarded university.  Culturally, it’s got great local music and art scenes as well as the Art Gallery of Hamilton and a Royal Botanical Gardens (okay, it borders Burlington).  However, Hamilton’s unknown theme is “Coming Soon.”  Most major changes are in a state of arrested development known as ‘coming soon,’ and that seems fine with a majority of the city’s inhabitants.

3.  Many of the people who have made Brooklyn Brooklyn didn’t actually grow up there.  They moved from Manhattan because the rents were too high or they came directly to Brooklyn from other parts of the United States.  When my partner was first moving to Hamilton, we came up for a visit and to find her a place to live.  At the border we told the officer we were on vacation and that we were going to Hamilton.  He replied, “No one goes to Hamilton on vacation.” 

People from Toronto talk about moving to Hamilton, but rarely does anyone actually bite the bullet, or they do but can’t stick it out because their friends won’t visit.  Torontonians can be worse than Manhattanites when it comes to making the trip out.  You’d think it involved a border crossing with mandatory cavity searches.  If you want to think that Hamilton is the new Brooklyn, then pack it on up and move on out here.

4.  Three things in a nutshell:  restaurants, shopping, transportation options. [Edit 11.25.12: this is changing.]

5.  Finally, why does it need to be thought of in that way?  People often ask me how it was to move from Brooklyn to Hamilton.  I’ve always said it was fine because I didn’t expect Hamilton to be New York City.  It wasn’t a case of lowered expectations but an idea that Hamilton would be its own thing, and that’s what’s really important here.  Let Hamilton develop into its own, cool, funky city.  It doesn’t have to be the Brooklyn of Ontario (what a title!).  It needs to be Hamilton.

I could probably talk about other things, but I think that these five areas are really the major reasons why Hamilton is not, nor will be, the new Brooklyn.   And you know what, that should be just fine.

[Edit 11.25.12 - I realize due to a recent article, people have bee visiting this post.  What should be clear is that Hamilton rocks - because it is Hamilton and not a pale imitation of another city.  And if you want to try Hamilton, check out our listing on Sabbatical Homes]


  1. That's sucks! For a second I thought I was living in the new NYC and my life didn't seem to smell as much as baby poop!

  2. Well.. the Hammer DOES have a really good mexican food place. BKLN is still struggling with this. But frankly? It reminds me more of Pittsburgh.

    Transportation is the number 1 deal breaker. I can now get to JFK from atlantic center AND get some interesting shopping done while I'm at it. Oh and I get to read more on public transportation too.

    It's also missing the people's beach, Coney Island.

    But then again, I'd probably go barefoot more in Hamilton. It just seems like that kind of town.

    If Hamilton thinks it is "coming soon", Brooklyn knows it has arrived. Some of us snobby types actually think we've managed to kick Manhattan to the curb and step over her.

    ..Artemis-Exotic Brooklyn

  3. I think you're missing the point with this article?!

    I THINK the article is trying to say that like Brooklyn, Hamilton is coming to terms with who it is as a little, less affluent city close to one of the biggest and fanciest cities in Canada.

    Sheesh. Don't be so literal :)