The Irish Haven – a pub on the corner of 58th Street in a section of Brooklyn that used to be firmly part of Bay Ridge, today it’s more like our exclave inside of an expanded Sunset Park. It’s generous to call it quite plain from the outside, with only a short Fourth Avenue front, and no windows to break up the yellow-brick facade along it’s longer side. Inside is a functional mix of no-frills flooring and high-seat tables along with well-cared-for wood paneling and vintage stools.
It is the local spot for Gaelic Athletic Association football Saturdays. Gotham is filmed here, and so was part of The Departed.
And according to a recent profile by Edna Ishayik of the New York Times, it is patronized exclusively by Irish immigrants over the age of 50 with brogues so thick, you’ll expect to walk outside and stroll the streets of Donegal.
No, at no point in the article are those words actually used. But that’s the narrative that the Times clearly decides to set.
“…in his boggy brogue…”
“…her County Meath lilt detectable, though she left when she was 7…”
“…They have lived in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, for decades — since immigrating from Ireland, or since birth…”
No one under the age of 53 is quoted. Which is shocking when you go to the accompanying photoset, because hardly anyone over the age of 53 is pictured.
It’s as if Ishayik and Times photographer Jake Naughton went to the Haven at two completely different times of day—Ishayik, in the middle of a weekday afternoon, when pretty much the only people in almost any bar are retirees that no longer have to worry about day jobs; and Naughton, later in the evening, when people with 9-to-5 jobs start to file in.
But sometimes it feels like the Times doesn’t want to write any profile of longtime southern Brooklyn businesses other than to describe them as the last bastion of retired white ethnics, in contradiction to photographs, visual evidence, or good damned sense.
And I’m really sick to death of it.
A few years ago, the Times profiled the now-closed Maple Lanes in Bensonhurst. True to form, it focused exclusively on bowling leagues displaced from Bay Ridge’s last bowling center: mostly retired, almost all Irish, Italian, or Scandinavian.
In truth, Maple Lanes rivaled Coney Island in terms of diversity. Owing to its location, and the fact that bowling is awesome, it attracted Conservative/Modern Jewish Orthodox families and Chinese and Arab teens, in addition to white adults of working age. You would know that if you had ever been to Maple Lanes. You would not know that from reading the New York Times profile of Maple Lanes.
Now, of course Irish immigrants do go to the Haven, and in greater numbers than you’d expect at most bars in Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, or Brooklyn as a whole. It’s part of the diverse crowd that makes Irish Haven a delightful place to wind down with a drink. But so are the Latino neighbors that have moved into surrounding Sunset Park and often come into the Haven later at night.
And so are the artists who set up shop in the Haven a few weeks ago, because nothing breaks down preconceptions about our neighborhood like an art show in an old Irish pub. But maybe we should be glad that the Times decided not to profile that last part, because the only other way they know how to write a profile like this is to call it: “Irish Haven Is The New Williamsburg.”