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So many pieces of the planet crammed into one borough
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Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most famous landmarks on New York's skyline. File photo

The borough president of Brooklyn, Marty Markowitz, is a busy man - on a normal week, Markowitz attends 55 public events.

What keeps his schedule hectic is the nature of Brooklyn, known for its sprawling cultural life, rich ethnic diversity and ongoing urban renewal.

With a population of 2.5 million, Brooklyn is New York City's most populous county and the second most densely populated of its kind in the United States, only surpassed by its famous neighbor, Manhattan. Named after the Dutch town Breukelen, Brooklyn is one of the five counties in New York City.

Renowned for its ethnic diversity, Brooklyn is sometimes called "The Planet", since it is New York City's most ethnically diverse borough, where 38 percent of the residents are foreign born.

The largest immigrant groups hail from China, the Caribbean, Russia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Ethnic diversity is also reflected in the languages spoken in Brooklyn's households: 18 percent speak Spanish while at home; almost 6 percent Russian; more than 4 percent speak French and the number of Chinese-speakers is about the same.

Brooklyn is also home to one of the most vibrant Jewish communities outside of Israel.

The famous Brooklyn Bridge is the second busiest in New York City, with 144,000 vehicles crossing it every day. The bridge, built in 1883, was the first in the world to be lit using electricity. It connects Brooklyn and Manhattan, and is 1,080 m long, from anchorage to anchorage.

Brooklyn is also home to a wealth of famous Americans. Critically acclaimed contemporary writers, such as Jonathan Safran Foer, Jonathan Franzen, Paul Auster and Siri Hustvedt, all live in the Brooklyn neighborhood Park Slope.

Other Brooklyn celebrities are filmmaker Woody Allen, poets W.H. Auden (1907-1973) and Walt Whitman (1819-1892), actresses Lauren Bacall and Jennifer Connelly, actor Wentworth Miller, comedians Chris Rock and Eddy Murphy, and TV-host Larry King.

Brooklyn is also home to the historical Coney Island amusement park, among the first of its kind in America. The famous rollercoaster called "The Cyclone", built in 1927, is listed on the United States National Register of Historic Places.

Renowned as being a hotbed of sporting talent, Brooklyn is home to many famous sports stars, such as Joe Paterno, Joe Pepitone, Joe Torre, Larry Brown, Mike Tyson and Michael Jordan.

One of the most scandalous sports incidents in Brooklyn's history, as retold in Don DeLillo's novel Underworld, was when the local team The Dodgers moved to Los Angeles.

Now, the borough boasts 143 baseball and softball fields. However, Brooklyn only has 10 Starbucks coffee shops as opposed to Manhattan's 153.

Home to one of New York's premier art museums, the Brooklyn Museum, the borough boasts a strong cultural core. The 111-year-old museum's collection includes more than 1.5 million objects, from ancient Egyptian masterpieces to contemporary art. Brooklyn also has 58 libraries, one placed within a kilometer of each Brooklyn resident.

Also two of New York City's largest and longest-running free concert series can be found in Brooklyn: the Seaside Summer Concert in Coney Island, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Concert, in Flatbush. Both were initiated by busy Brooklyn borough president Markowitz.

(China Daily by Ida Relsted January 11, 2008)

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