Brooklynites, especially those who live near the Brooklyn Bridge, the Brooklyn Museum, and other tourist attractions, were scratching their heads this week after hearing that the mayor’s new $5.7-million tourism initiative centers around telling tourists to “Just ask the locals.”
What, pray tell, does the mayor think tourists have been doing for the better part of a decade here in Brooklyn?
Tourism is booming in New York City — and as tourists cram into an increasingly generic Manhattan, more and more visitors are finding their way to our borough.
The problem has been helping them find their way around Brooklyn.
Since our offices are in DUMBO, we have been on the front lines of our own “Just ask the locals” campaign. All day long, perplexed, guide-book-toting visitors from Europe, South America, Asia and, our favorite the other day, an apologetic man from Alaska, pour off the footpath on the Brooklyn side of Roebling’s fabled bridge and are greeted by … nothing.
In an even worse state are the tourists who take a subway to Brooklyn Heights and then get to ground level. For outsiders, there’s no way to find that footpath entrance or the famous Brooklyn Heights Promenade short of doing what the mayor will now spend millions to advise tourists to do: just ask the locals.
Earlier this year, the city Parks Department was finally shamed into putting up little signs in Cadman Plaza Park pointing people in the vague direction of the footpath and the neighborhood’s scenic overlook. But those small and inadequate signs only came after a Heights native, Roslyn Beck, had been putting up quaint, hand-painted signs herself.
George Fertitta, the chief executive of NYC & Company, the city’s tourism arm, said on Wednesday that the goal of the “Just ask the locals” campaign is to “change the experience so that when people get off the plane, they immediately feel welcomed.”
No disrespect to Fertitta, but in Brooklyn, we’re much more interested in how the city can “change the experience” when tourists get off the bridge (and not for nothing, but the campaign’s reliance on the usual Manhattan celebrities and sites — Robert DeNiro on Spring Street, Tiki Barber in Central Park, Jimmy Fallon on Irving Place — strikes us as a missed opportunity to encourage tourism to Brooklyn).
It’s been clear for years that the graffiti-covered, and pretty much useless, 1980s-era maps around the Brooklyn Bridge and Borough Hall have needed to be replaced, but they still stand there, like totems harkening back to the bad old days when tourists shunned New York entirely.
The Borough President did install a well-stocked tourism office in the ground floor of Borough Hall. But this nice gesture fails for one simple reason: few tourists can find it.