NEWaukeean: Jonathan Brostoff
How long have you lived in Milwaukee & what brought you here?
I’ve lived in Milwaukee my whole life. My mother and father are from Washington D.C. and Chicago, respectively, and met at UW-Madison. They moved here when my mom became a Social Work professor at UWM and they’ve lived in that house ever since.
Favorite place to grab coffee/an after dinner drink?
Growing up on the Eastside, I’ve been going to coffee shops since I was in middle school. I started off at Hi-Fi Café, and spent many a late high school night at Rochambo, meeting friends, making friends, playing chess, participating in late night coffee shop philosophy, and even a few hearts broken. I’ve also been a fan of Brewed, Central Perk, Anodyne, Sweet Black Coffee, Coffee Makes You Black, and of course Alterras (OK, Collectivos), and many, many others.
That being said, today DryHootch is my favorite place to grab coffee. I’ve volunteered with and patronized them a lot over the last few years and I deeply appreciate their mission of serving our veteran community. I also love the friendly staff and the many stimulating conversations I’ve had with the great folks I’ve meet there, civilians and veterans.
Milwaukee’s many independent coffee shops and corner pubs are a vital part of our community’s shared public space. These places attract our students, artists and musicians, professionals, city dwellers and suburbanites, the young and the young at heart, from every background and orientation. They break down our many walls, allow us to meet face to face (no small challenge in our digital age), help us to rediscover our neighbors, and to discover that we’re neighbors, all of us, one community with a shared future in our beautiful city.
How does Milwaukee vary from other cities you’ve lived in/visited?
I’ve traveled all over the US, most frequently to Washington DC, Chicago, and Portland, where family members live. Milwaukee has a nice mix of progressive ahead-of-the-curb attitude and practical blue-collar mentality. While Milwaukee doesn’t have the size of Chicago, we are a much more accessible community — in many ways more flexible — and therefore we have a unique opportunity to effect positive, progressive, urban friendly-change much more quickly. We don’t have the eccentricity of Portland, but we overflow with awesome Midwestern optimism, friendliness, and a fantastic work ethic. And while DC has the infrastructure and attractions befitting our nation’s capital, they don’t have the sort of social infrastructure that Milwaukee enjoys. We need to build on our exceptional strengths and recognize the great foundations our community possesses to be a leader in a variety of ways, not only in our region, or our state, but the country, and even beyond.
Where do you see MKE in 5 years?
Something I’m very passionate about is the ability, and even the responsibility, of every person to make a positive difference, starting with their own community. The question is not “Where do we see Milwaukee in 5 years?”, as if the matter is out of our hands, but “What do we want Milwaukee to be in 5 years, in 10 years, and so on?” This is a question every individual who lives here, everyone reading these words, should ask themselves, because it is truly in our hands to build our common future. Do we want new generations of optimistic, highly educated young adults? Do we want a compassionate community that helps those most in need, that affirms the dignity and intrinsic worth of every person, that expands individual rights and celebrates our diversity? Do we want livable neighborhoods, beautiful parks, public transit options that expand job opportunities? Do we want to be a city that is known for innovation, that leads in the new economy? This future starts with the choices we make today. I believe that with hard work, something the people of Milwaukee have never lacked, we can surpass our dreams for what our great city can be.
Over the next 5 years we are primed to make some very exciting, positive changes. For example, let’s take urban planning. I recently heard a 35-story apartment tower is being considered for 700 E. Kilbourne Ave., with up to 275 units. This is one of several new residential towers in various stages of development (the Moderne, Coutoure, etc.). Combined with substantial new construction by Northwestern Mutual, growing talk of replacing the Bradley Center, ongoing discussions over the Park East land and other sites, the light rail project — all this activity is putting urban planning on the map in a way it really hasn’t been for some time. Without a doubt, some big investors are betting on Milwaukee’s future, and as a resident of this city, I naturally think they’re very wise to do so and would encourage more to follow suit. This sort of growth can have very positive effects on our community, so long as we’re planning in a way that enhances the city as a whole.
Favorite little known fact/secret/hidden gem in Milwaukee?
Milwaukee’s city hall was the tallest in the world from 1895 to 1899. I think that’s pretty cool because even though Milwaukee isn’t the biggest city, we have the potential to strive and reach significant goals. We might not have the same standing as New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, but we can, nonetheless, achieve great heights.