Tour center opens in Borough Hall

The Brooklyn Paper
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Forget Bloomindales and the Empire State Building.

Tourists flocking to New York City will soon be crossing the East River in droves to discover the brownstones, boutiques and bistros of Brooklyn.

A new, state-of-the-art tourism center at the foot of Borough Hall — the first of its kind outside of Manhattan — opened up for business Thursday.

Packed with pamphlets detailing walks through historic Fort Greene, shopping at the unique shops of Atlantic Avenue and galleries in hipster Williamsburg, the new center will hopefully help pull more of the 21 billion tourist dollars currently spent citywide into the Borough of Kings.

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday, Borough President Marty Markowitz, a driving force behind the tourism center, bragged about his beloved borough, touting the borough’s churches, cheesecake and Coney Island Cyclones, Brooklyn’s minor-league baseball team.

“Brooklyn is the next great frontier for tourism expansion,” said Jonathan Tisch, chairman of the city’s official tourism promoters, NYC & Co.

Staffed by volunteers trained by the concierge at the New York Marriott Brooklyn, on Adams Street, the center sells Brooklyn T-shirts, chewing gum, baseball caps and teddy bears.

But while visitors may soon flock to the site, those arriving on the weekend will be disappointed — the center is closed on Saturdays and Sundays. That’s because it’s inside a city building, a Markowitz spokeswoman said, noting many of the details are still being worked out.

Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, most attendees headed over to the first-ever NYC & Co. annual luncheon held outside Manhattan.

At the luncheon at the Brooklyn Marriott, Empire State Development Corporation President Charles Gargano announced plans for an expansion of the Jacob Javits Convention Center on Manhattan’s west side and NYC &Co. officials promised to promote tourism in the boroughs outside of Manhattan.

But just as attention turned to boosting the borough, one of its great institutions is closing for good.
Joe Chirico, owner of Gage & Tollner, a landmarked restaurant at 372 Fulton St., three blocks from the tourism center, announced he would close the famed restaurant on Valentine’s Day, after 125 years in business.

The Brooklyn Tourism and Visitors Center, at 209 Joralemon St. near Court Street, is open Monday through Friday, from 10 am to 6 pm. For more information call (718) 802-3846.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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