Friday, August 23, 2013

Brooklyn versus Montreal

Readers, I'm going to take the weekend to get into this whole issue of religion, immigration and the proposed Charter of Quebec values.
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...

Public Transportation.
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
Both cities have a magnificent urban oasis smack dab in the middle of the city.
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 stars clouds, makes for a wonderful summer evening.

Brooklyn has two of it's very own sports teams, the Brooklyn Nets and the soon to be moved New York Islanders.
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.


You wouldn't have guessed it but Brooklynites are the epitome of shop local, as most don't have cars and hauling groceries from afar on the subway, an onerous task.
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.


Like all cities, Brooklyn has the good the bad and the ugly and I can't say I'm familiar with all. Brooklyn, like Montreal is big and there are no generalizations to be made.

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.

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"
But Park slope is so trendy, that it's the neighbourhood everyone else loves to hate.
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.
Which is a better city to live in? I'd have to say that the liveabilty index is equal, except for the outragous cost of housing in Brooklyn.

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! '


  1. Editor, you forgot an important criteria.
    English-speaking people treated as a barely-tolerated minority:
    Brooklyn: Yes [ ] No [X]
    Montreal: Yes [X] No [ ]

    1. Very true. Any language can be spoken in Brooklyn without fear of harassment. New York City is more open to other cultures than Montreal. Businesses in Brooklyn can also post signs in any language in any font sizes inside and outside their buildings without fear of reprisal from a government backed linguistic Gestapo (OQLF) or self-appointed language vigilantes acting on their own.

    2. @durham

      "Businesses in Brooklyn can also post signs in any language in any font sizes inside and outside their buildings without fear of reprisal..."

      let's see what happens in brooklyn when it becomes the last english metropolis in america and when fluency in a foreign language becomes mandatory in order to land a good job there. then your comparison may become relevant.

    3. Your analogy doesn't hold water. English is not a 'foreign language' in Quebec. If Quebecers needed to learn Swahili or Nepalese in order to obtain gainful employment, then your analogy would be sound. Also, Montreal has never been a "French metropolis". It has been, since the mid-19th century when it would first have been large and important enough to deserve such an appellation, a bilingual metropolis - something it remains to this day. Indeed, you could argue it's turning into a polyglot metropolis. Hence the anxiety on the part of that segment of population that needs reviving with smelling salts every time it hears something other than French spoken on the 165 bus (the Cote-des-Neiges route).

    4. Spot on Calgarian in Montreal. I'd also add that not only has Montreal not been a French-only metropolis at any time in the past two centuries, student's claim about needing fluency in a second language to find employment doesn't hold water either. Essentially every single provincial and municipal government job in Montreal, no matter how high-ranking or paying, is open to you regardless of whether you speak two words of English based solely on the fact that you are a member of the right ethnic group. In fact, positions that weight of numbers would dictate ought to go to bilinguals in order to better service the actual demographics of the city appear deliberately held in reserve for the unilingual "de souche" majority. In close to two decades living in Montreal, I don't think I've seen more than a handful of municipal workers, Hydro employees, cops, library employees, SAAQ clerks etc. whose family wasn't here before "la conquete", even though more than half of the island of Montreal is now made up of "les autres" and rare among those government employees have been those willing or able to serve the public in English. Case in point, Diane De Courcy, Louise Harel and Pauline Marois all managed to hold high-ranking government positions in Montreal for decades without learning two words of English.

  2. You need to take the metro again in Montreal. It has a very odd way of almost instantaneously putting you back in touch with the "city".

  3. Quebec was home for 3 years but not Montreal ...the real Quebec where french is pretty much the only language is warm and inviting to anglos who speak a couple introductory phrases to show basic respect for the culture of the area. I was never treated so poorly or rudely in my life as Montreal. I was welcomed and my language respected in St Raymond Q. The infighting and absolute bigoted behavior I believe is brewed and mostly contained in the Montreal area.Quebecs implosion of culture and econony is a slow painful example of people entrenched in a belief that they are better when in fact they are equal but not better off of their own doings by accepting the stupid notion that you can supress human rights and refuse rhen to all but your own.i was surrounded by wonderful people living not one of them anglo I am sad for the REAL QUEBEC people and the shame that the separa TITS are doing to their economy and future

    1. "Quebecs implosion of culture and econony..."

      where can i see this mate? what facts do you wrongly interpret to get to these conclusions?

      "...the separa TITS..."

      haha. you a humorist?

    2. Bang on...the province is filled with french bigots...

  4. UN GARS BIEN SYMPATHIQUE DE FRANKFORTFriday, August 23, 2013 at 7:01:00 AM EDT


    Forget NYC.
    Maybe you should visit the 90% of the world where so called "Charters of Hate" make the PQ's plan for a Charter of quebec values like nothing compared to what goes on in 90% of the world.
    You have discredited yourself with your narrow mindedness and open bias.

    1. what's that percentage again, mate? maybe it will magically morph into a truth if you repeat it another few times.

      you should really let go that islamophobia though. it fits you allright, but it doesn't fit the epoch you live in.

    2. Un Gars, I think few people would disagree with you about religion and issues with them in modern society.

      There is no place in the world for theology that can make "logical arguments" that promote killing of people that draw cartoons that offend them for example.

      Since some religions, basic tenants of their beliefs do not allow for the separation of "church and state" as we have in the modern world, they are clearly incompatible with first world democratic principles that are the foundation of our society.

      Separation between church and state is "super important". the state operates under the rules of human rights. Not Quebec human rights, the larger ones without "cultural contexts".

      Human rights within the borders of this land should be immutable. This is what protects us from each other and the future.

      Even if you have a people that hijack the political system there are rules larger then that they cannot fuck with. Thats why it's always scary to see the people pass laws to mess with this stuff.

      The cultural dress that is used is not important to the larger questions about the incompatibilities of some religions to "play nice" with each other and agnostics.

      People can get wear what they want in a modern society. I find tattoo's disgusting. How can I get that added to the list of things not allowed?

      The larger discussion is ugly but unavoidable if there are *REAL* tensions within a state about it. Quebec is not a "hotspot".

      In Quebec these are all fabricated issues for the benefit of the govt.

      No matter what your views on religion it's clear that this is a MANUFACTURED issue on behalf of the PQ not a sincere attempt to deal with anything except get their most ardent supporters to drop to the ground and start masturbating.

    3. Well said cebeuq - you're dead on and accurate. It is totally manufactured to drive out more "no" votes - this time based on religion and culture differences rather than language. Anyone that cannot see this for what it is, is less than astute.

  5. Lord Dorchester

    Both great neighbourhood cities. But, Brooklyn has Manhattan on it's door step while we have Laval. Match point Brooklyn.

  6. Flawed comparison.

    Brooklyn is but a borough of a municipal and a suburban in a metropolitan area. Montreal is a municipal and the center of a metropolitan area.

    Also, what does it mean by Lexington and 3rd? Intersection of Lexington Ave. and 3rd St.? Third street is not midtown and Lexington Ave. does not go to Lower Manhattan. If it means between Lexington and 3rd Avenues then there is the Grand Central Station.

    However, are we stooping this low now? Comparing Montreal and Brooklyn? Literature that I read from 1950s and 1960s compare Montreal with New York.

  7. "...Brooklynese of Vinnie Barbarino"

    That park photo brought me right back to the Sweat Hogs and my first big crush on John Travolta (which I still have, lol). I guess that`s where they filmed some of the intro.

    Who remembers these? Welcome Back,
    Barbarino song

    1. Haha...the good old days. I was just a wee kid back then but that song brings back memories. In fact, I am in the middle of watching one of the episodes of Welcome Back, Kotter now and it's still funny today, lol.

      Season 1 Episode 2

    2. Thanks Roger Rabbit, that was fun to watch. I had a pair of jeans just like Freddy Boom Boom Washington wore. I wasn't a wee kid then but maybe 9 or 10 years old. So many great memories!

    3. C'est beau la culture canadienne (sarcasme).

    4. Get over your insecurities. It's getting old.

    5. Hi Laurie, I just took a look at the Barbarino song and LMAO. Hey, Travolta even had talent back then, lol.

    6. "Roger Rabbit" Mdr!(Lol)

    7. @Editor

      You can't stop what's coming.

      S.R, or should I say Simon, has brought this on himself.

    8. Hi Roger. Yes he did, and such a heartthrob too!


    "A rise in wealth tax coupled with another one-off levy means more than 8,000 French people will pay a top marginal rate of 100 per cent on income this year."

    100% income tax for the top 8000 earners in the country this year.

    It's funny to see the left finally admit it's maybe a bit much.

    100% income tax, no point in working for the entire year.

    When you factor in your costs of living you are actually going backwards.

  9. "It was of course highly subjective, but I remain convinced that Montreal remains a better city to live in than Toronto"

    AHAHAHAAHAHAHA I can't wait until I'm set up in T.O. and some jackass Montreal Anglo wanders into the bar I'm and starts bleating "MONTREAL HAS CULTURE AND SOUL! TORONTO HAS NO GOOD BAGELS OR SMOKED MEAT!" before I throw my drink in his face and tell him to go back where he came from on one of the planes that leave for Montreal every day.

    1. Effectivement,Montréal est la seule ville possédant une âme au canaya (pour l'instant).

    2. Actually, Horhay, a chain called The Bagel House is busting out all over the GTA. The founder of the franchise used to work for the Bagel Shop on St-Viateur and The Centre Street Deli in the suburb of Thornhill is owned by the daughter of the former owners of the Snowdon Deli.

      So much for no bagels and smoked meat in Toronto.

  10. Des manifs s'organisent contre la venue de prédicateurs islamistes

  11. "Mike OConnor

    The fact that rent is 1/3 from Ontario, and my pay is the same is the only reason to stay here. Recruiting for management/executive positions(offered in Quebec) are often posted in Ontario, not Quebec. Why? Quebec is caught up in a no win fight! If they separate, no one will be dealing with them for a long time. Pay people(who don't care about the separation) who are educated, experienced and happy, to boost moral. Teach them how the rest of the world works together, without hate for Anglophones."

    "Teach them how the rest of the world works together..."

    "...without hate for Anglophones."

    Certains anglos ne sont pas très branchés sur les médias :)




  15. Le Québec va démarrer sa production de pétrole

  16. Given that the Catholic Church does not respect, and is in fact is downright hostile toward, this so-called “Quebec value” of gender equality (in truth, a generic Western value that is common to all) by forbidding female priests, bishops and cardinals, I look forward to the PQ banning any future visits from the “anti-Quebec-values” Pope…

    That is, unless they’re simply pandering for votes from their base in Hérouxville and similar areas that will never see any immigrants go there.

    Oh, err, never mind that “unless”… it’s quite obvious exactly what this cynical government is doing… to everyone except to the residents of Hérouxville and similar rural areas.

    Might as well never mind the PQ having any integrity with regard to what they want to ban. After all, they want to give the crucifix an exemption from their stated goal of secularity for “heritage” reasons, while they conveniently ignore that the Canadian flag belonging in the Blue Chamber has been a part of Quebec’s cultural heritage for much longer than Duplessis’ crucifix. Hypocrites.

  17. "After all, they want to give the crucifix an exemption from their stated goal of secularity for “heritage” reasons, while they conveniently ignore that the Canadian flag belonging in the Blue Chamber has been a part of Quebec’s cultural heritage for much longer than Duplessis’ crucifix. Hypocrites."

    Hypocrites??? You're being too kind !! LOL

    Let's keep embarrassing them, shining the light on the obvious idiotic faux-pas's they keep committing. They make it....ever so easy we must admit, ...AND the end, it's what they deserve, be outed for the duplicitous, manipulative and malicious assess they really are !!

  18. La charte des valeurs fera consensus, selon Pauline Marois

    Bien d'accord avec notre première ministre.

  19. "Arsenault Jure n'avoir rien à se reprocher""

    Looks like we're going to be hearing a lot more about union corruption over the next few weeks. It's nice to see they're finally going to the source of the problem.

    From the article:
    «Vous n'êtes pas sa savoir que je suis allé en vacances avec M. Accurso, il y a plusieurs années; autre temps autre mœurs. Au dernier congrès de la FTQ, nous avons adopté un code d'éthique et avons changé nos habitudes»

    Am I missing something, or did he say "yes we were very corrupt, but we stopped last year."?