Recently, Ask a New Yorker bumped into Joshua Kraushar, the founder of For Your Your Brain and Belly Walking Tours of New York based in WiIliamsburg. Offering more than postcard views, the company provides immersion tours into the outer boroughs, allowing visitors to escape the thronging mobs of Manhattan and witness the local color and taste the diverse flavors of the myriad neighborhoods of New York City. A native New Yorker raised in the Lower East Side, and devoting most of his professional career as a history teacher, Joshua draws from his experience to offer visitors a unique and personal look at the Big Apple.
Joshua took some time to answer a few questions and tell us about himself.
What is a hipster?
Hipsters are generally men and women who are in their late 20’s and early 30’s. They pride themselves on being particularly ironic and independent thinkers although many dress exactly alike, wearing vintage clothing and pork pie hats. Most hipster guys are bearded and many hipster women wear similar leggings and hoop skirts. Living in Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick many tend to gravitate to indie-rock clubs and are interested in avant-garde art. Hipsters are usually liberal, well educated, generally open-minded and reasonably tolerant of old folks like myself.
What makes Williamsburg cool?
Williamsburg is cool because of its fabulous restaurants, great beer halls, concert venues, Smorgasburg, great views of the city and a less claustrophobic atmosphere than Manhattan. Williamsburg is actually four neighborhoods including a Dominican Southside, a huge Satmar Hasidic area south of the Williamsburg Bridge, a small Italian area to the east and the Hipster Northside.
I see that instead of simply giving a tour of the area, you take your customers deeper into the city, giving them more of a taste and feel of the area and the unique qualities of the neighborhoods. What has influenced you to develop your business in this direction, and what success have you had from this angle?
As a native New Yorker, a former taxi driver, a former history teacher and an avid foodie who enjoys walking and socializing with different people, I feel that I have a unique edge in terms of making the tours particularly interesting. So far my company has had positive reviews on Trip Advisor and I’m hoping that continues.
Williamsburg has gone through some dramatic changes in the past ten years. What qualities of the area are being lost and what new developments offer promise?
Williamsburg has absolutely had a radical transformation during the past ten years of rapid gentrification. With the building of luxury high rises, the riverfront has become much wealthier, and a plethora of more expensive shops and restaurants have opened up on both the Northside and Southside. Many of the restaurants are Michelin quality and attract diners from Manhattan. The area has become exceptionally crowded at night with taxis taking hipsters back and forth to the Lower East Side. The Brooklyn Brewery, Wyche Hotel and Brooklyn Bowl have attracted tourists from all over the world. It’s not unusual to see hundreds of Europeans and Japanese walking around Bedford Avenue with open tour books and street maps. Over the past five years many of the wealthier thirty somethings living in riverfront high rises have had children so there are more babies and young kids in the area. Over the past five years crime has diminished substantially. Up until 2009 cars were routinely vandalized throughout Williamsburg but today the neighborhood is considered extremely safe. Unfortunately, as the area becomes wealthier and rents rival and sometimes surpass those in Manhattan many older shops have closed and many young artists have been priced out. Over the past year at least five stores have shut down on North 6th street and have been replaced by trendier clothing stores. Many hipsters who settled in Williamsburg in the late 90’s have moved to neighboring Bushwick.
What do you see in Williamsburg’s future?
I foresee Williamsburg becoming less of a hipster haven over the next ten years as many young people will opt to live in less expensive neighborhoods like Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights. Nevertheless, young people will still flock to Smorgasburg on Saturdays and to the bars and music venues at night. I can see more wealthy tourist perceiving Brooklyn and Williamsburg in particular as a cool place to visit. Many new hotels that are scheduled open in the next few years.
How Joshua Krausar in his own words:
In terms of my bio: I was born in Manhattan’s LES, moved to Woodside Queens the day prior to the Kennedy assassination in 1963, graduated Stuvesant High School and attended the State University of New York at a much too young 16. As a teenager I worked as a page in the 42nd street library. I started driving a cab at night at 19 and got to see a very different New York in the 70’s and meet quite a few notable people during that era. In 1970 I was removed from at TWA plane just before it was hijacked and during my early 20’s hitchhiked around the world. For the bulk of my life from 1978-2012 I taught history in New York, Houston, New Orleans and New Jersey.I have written and published a book of State Limericks and am currently writing a semi autobiographical book on the 70’s I have been married to my wife Terri for 30 years and have two sons Jeremy 27 and Zack 23.
Garrett Buhl Robinson is a poet and novelist living in New York City. www.garrettrobinson.us