Hopefully I'll have a post Monday or Tuesday. It a weighty subject so I'll take my time.
In the meantime, something light for the weekend. I hope you will indulge me.
A couple of years back I wrote a subjective post comparing Montreal to Toronto and it remains a popular piece, receiving dozens of visits per week.
I wrote it based on livability and as to which city was a better place to raise a family.
It was of course highly subjective, but I remain convinced that Montreal remains a better city to live in than Toronto, with a couple of caveats, the first and most important, that you already have a good job, because Toronto, if nothing else, is the city of opportunity.
But for those well-established in Montreal, I stand by my analysis even though it is already starting to be a bit dated, written almost four years ago.
Read Why Montreal is Better than Toronto
There is of course no doubt that my opinion is tinged with a home-team advantage, but I do try to be as fair as I can.
As I've mentioned before, I spend a lot of time in Brooklyn, New York, for family reasons and have come to appreciate the borough as a pseudo second home.
Although I spend less than thirty days a year there, the time is busily spent, as my wife and I cram in as much living as we can in the time we are there, walking the streets of mid-town Manhattan, exploring our neighbourhood Downtown Brooklyn, where our hotel is located and spending time in Park Slope, (that's where my grandchildren live) supposedly one of Americas best urban neighbourhoods and one of the most obscenely expensive.
In Montreal, I rarely go downtown, living in my west-end cottage with a backyard swimming pool. My wife and I are decidedly homebodies, living the suburban life even though we are in the city.
But when we go to New York, it is a travelling adventure, each day crammed with miles of walking.
I haven't been on the Metro in Montreal in years, but use the subway system in New York on every trip even though I arrive by car.
The same goes for taking advantage of Mount-Royal park, where embarrassingly, I haven't visited in many years as well. On the flip side, I've taken my four-year old grandchild to Prospect Park on too many occasions to remember.
It occurs to me that Brooklyn, (one of the five New York boroughs) is just about the same size and same population of Montreal, so it's interesting to compare the two.
Now the first thing to understand is that Brooklyn is a bedroom community, with many citizens working or studying in Manhattan.
There is really no 'downtown' and there are but a handful of tall office buildings. In fact the tallest buildings are condos, and I counted three going up around my hotel, all over 50 stories.
But Brooklyn does resemble Montreal somewhat, at least the Plateau Mont-Royal district, giving off the same trendy, young vibe that can best be described as urban chic.
"Having just put my feet down in Montreal, one major element that stands out everywhere are the stairs. Walking down many residential streets, the open metal stairs leading to the front doors tell you you're in Montreal for sure. But they also, quite unexpectedly, remind me of another place...The front steps of Brooklyn brownstones aren't open and sinewy like the metal steps of many Montreal residences. They're big and beefy, made of heavy masonry. But look at the repetition, the bays in between, and that inviting feeling emanating from both cities' steps. When it comes to the stairs, I feel like these two great cities are kind of like cousins."
Credit: Go to; Apartment Therapy
Statistically, Brooklyn and Montreal line up closely, Brooklyn measuring 183 square kilometres versus Montreal's 192. As for population Brooklyn is bigger, boasting 2.5 million citizens, versus Montreal Island's 1.8 million.
But during the day commuters leave Brooklyn for Manhattan while the opposite effect occurs in Montreal where commuters from the surrounding suburbs, enter Montreal by day to work.
In fact one Montreal bridge, The Victoria, runs in one direction into Montreal in the morning and vice-versa at night.
The Champlain bridge uses a reserved bus lane with the same criteria.
So even on the population front, things are actually comparable.
Now you won't find many large cottages and bungalows on large lots as seen in West Island towns in Montreal, they just don't exist in any number.
It's brownstones, row houses, apartments and condos that are the order of the day and neighbourhoods are usually teeming with a wide collection of each.
Typically, housing costs are at least double the price in Montreal and in better neighbourhoods prices are even higher.
Certain parts of Brooklyn are gentrifying rapidly and there, housing prices are skyrocketing, like in the Plateau, multiplied by an nth factor.
But Brooklyn is also is home to some pretty crappy and dangerous neighbourhoods, so it is a case of choosing where to live.
Like Montreal where living in Montreal North is no thrill, it is a question of economics and where you live depends on how much you can spend.
Brooklyn and Montreal share some other interesting similarities, some nothing to be proud about.
25% of Brooklynites and Montrealers do not have a primary care physician and while 25% of Brooklynites live below the poverty line, so too, do 29% of Montrealers.
As for health care, it is rationed in both cities, in Brooklyn based on the ability to pay and in Montreal based on restricted access.
Purely a subjective observation, Brooklynites outweigh Montrealers (and Manhattanites,) considerably, I guess its all that pizza that Brooklyn is famous for!
No doubt about it, Brooklyn weather (and just about any American City except those in Alaska) have Montreal's beat hands down.
The big difference is in the winter where even in January the average Brooklyn temperature is above freezing.
There's a huge average 6 degree Celsius difference between Brooklyn and Montreal and it means that summer is about a month and a half longer and that winter, unlike in Montreal is a passing fancy.
Summer is still blazing on in Brooklyn in September and that's not hard to take!
So on the weather scale Brooklyn wins hands down...
Again Brooklyn wins.
The New York City subway system is the largest in the world. More importantly, it serves urban neighbourhoods, so transfers to buses are usually not needed. On my last trip, I walked four blocks from my grand children's home and took one train all the way to Coney Island in about half an hour.
Another advantage is express trains. From my hotel in downtown Brooklyn, an express train (stopping about every five stops) whisked me to midtown, Lexington and 59th (Can anybody guess what's there?) in under half an hour.
Another advantage is that the trains are air-conditioned, but alas it makes the underground platform stifling hot, as the transformed hot air from the trains is pumped out into the stations. Last time I waited for the 4 train in midtown Manhattan, it must have been over 40 degrees on the platform.
By the way, the New York subway system pumps so much heat into the ground, that flowers and trees bloom earlier in Spring and lose their foliage later in the Fall.
Parks and Recreation
Mont-Royal (692 acres) and Prospect Park in Brooklyn (585-acre) are both treasures where city-dwellers can escape the concrete jungle.
Mont-Royal is the prettier of the two because it lies on a mountain and is used more for nature walks, hiking, bird-watching, biking and picnicking. Both have an artificial lake
Prospect Park is more heavily used and is perhaps more accessible, jutting up against urban neighborhoods on all sides. Unlike pristine Mont-Royal, Prospect includes a kiddies zoo, many baseball fields, a tennis centre and running track.
In the summer, concerts are held at a band shell, some free, some for pay. I strolled through the park to catch a few minutes of one show, which while gratis, was actually not worth the price of admission.
But what the heck, the beer, wine and fast food under the
But it's only a half an hour subway ride to Madison Square Garden in Manhattan and about 50 minutes to Citi Field or Yankee Stadium for major league baseball..
I attended a Basketball game at Brooklyn's brand new ultra-modern Barclays Centre and was pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere.
Management has made it a priority to make it a family venue, patrons are warned through a series of ongoing announcements via the big screen that inappropriate dress, loud swearing and boisterous behaviour is not tolerated.
There are no national fast food concessions in the building, food kiosks are all local Brooklyn favourites, a step above and yes, there is even a Kosher Deli.
A great experience.
Each neighbourhood is teeming with local stores, including small food stores that serve local needs.
There are no big shopping malls as we find in Montreal, the one centre that I visited, taking my grandchild to Chuckie Cheese (an amusement centre for kids) was the Atlantic Terminal which boasted a Target and a Pathmark supermarket, one of the few large grocery stores.
By the way, my great uncle actually founded the parent company of Pathmark, but this was my first time visiting one. It was nothing special.
The rest of the mall was pretty crappy and that's being generous.
Interestingly, there is a movement to keep Walmart out of Brooklyn because of it's poor reputation as an employer. Yup, believe it or not, there are no Walmarts in New York City!
At the other end of the scale is Costco, a company that is renowned for good wages and benefits. I am a Costcoholic and found one in Brooklyn that boasts two floors.
How does it compare to the Costco in Montreal? ....Much more selection, but the prices are just about the same.
There's talk of Whole Foods putting up a large store, complete with a rooftop greenhouse, meant to satisfy Brooklyn locavores.
It may sound exotic but I also heard that the same type rooftop greenhouse project is going up in Laval, probably more to do with winter than anything else.
At any rate, Brooklyn shopping cannot compare to Montreal, with our massive malls and impressive downtown corps of shops.
There are some very expensive neighbourhoods including Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill, DUMBO and the one neighbourhood that I am most familiar with, Park Slope.
You know you are in Park Slope by the thousand dollar baby strollers being pushed by thirty-something dads in rumpled khaki cargo shorts wearing pastel Polo shirts.
Its a neighbourhood where a nice brownstone can fetch two million dollars plus and where the average income is over $100,000.
It's a Yuppie type of place where organic depanneurs boast 'hormone free chicken wings' and 'biomass charcoals' (whatever that is)
"Park Slope is considered one of New York City's most desirable neighborhoods. In 2010, it was ranked number 1 in New York by New York magazine citing its quality public schools, dining, nightlife, shopping, access to public transit, green space, safety, and creative capital, among other aspects.But Park slope is so trendy, that it's the neighbourhood everyone else loves to hate.
It was named one of the "Greatest Neighborhoods in America" by the American Planning Association in 2007, "for its architectural and historical features and its diverse mix of residents and businesses, all of which are supported and preserved by its active and involved citizenry" Wikipedia
Read this hilarious send-up. Park Slope: Where Is the Love?
But there's one thing that bothers me about Brooklyn, the endless graffiti that seems to infect all but a few neighbourhoods.
And the endless line of dingy shwarma or Hot dog carts that line the major streets, where you couldn't pay me to eat a morsel. How New Yorkers eat that crap is beyond me.
Here's some other selective comparisons;
- Both cities have excellent restaurants and prices are comparable.
- Roads conditions and traffic also comparable, but both generally stink.
- Both cities enjoy a different but equal joie de vivre.
- Drivers suck in both towns, but Brooklyn drivers are worse.
- I would rate the general rudeness and helpfulness scale as equal. Nothing to boast about neither here nor there.
So as for my final assessment of which city is better, I'll use an old gambling term.... pick em.
By the way, my biggest fear is that my grandson will learn the Brooklynese of Vinne Barbarino, he has already asked my wife why she talks funny.
How about the Welcome Back Kotter theme song
All I can respond to that is with that great Brooklynese phrase,...... 'fugheddaboudit! '