12 Oct 2010 11:54 pm   //   Filed under: Brooklyn, New York is different

Reader reaction to my post about leaving Brooklyn

I received a lot of feedback on my post this morning, “On leaving Brooklyn.” It turns out I hit upon something a lot of people wanted to talk about—how Park Slope has spiraled downhill. Some of the responses are below.

But first, the piece had a serious flaw, which several readers identified: I never settled on a definition of “Park Slope.” I struggled with this while I was writing. You can draw a line around Park Slope, and 21st Street (where I live) isn’t in it. But 21st Street’s neighborhood has no name (we just call it “21st Street”), and I do most of my shopping, socializing and recreation in Park Slope. So I’ve always identified Park Slope as “my neighborhood.” Park Slope is also so massive, it influences the neighborhoods that surround it — a string of gentrified blocks that stretch from Brooklyn Heights to Windsor Terrace, which the newspapers call the Brownstone Belt. I also took it in stride that people from Park Slope frequently go to places like Coney Island, Dumbo, Fort Greene, and Williamsburg for fun (and to drink on warehouse rooftops). So that explains the sprawling geography of the post, even though I was focused on one particular neighborhood.

Also, a lot of people failed to read the last paragraph, or failed to understand what I meant. I know I am going to have gripes with Manhattan—the Financial District is barely a neighborhood at all—but it will be a fresh helping of gripes, not the leftovers I’ve been chewing on for years.

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On Twitter, @ironicsans nailed it, saying “Occasional moves give fresh perspective on the city. Enjoy it.”

@amrosario wrote, “Just so you know, you’re very perceptive regarding the ‘Park Slope attitude.’ I thought I was being a grumpy old guy re:the Slope”, and added, “So I think, if you move into manhattan, you’ll be writing that same blog post within a few years.”

@bigjondaniel wisely asked, “Does every generation think their kids are worse parents than they were?”

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On Facebook, several of my friends in Park Slope praised my post. I won’t name names, but I was glad to have their support. One friend wrote,

“I’ve lived in South Slope 12 years, but I only started feeling like a gentrifier once the huge influx of real gentrifiers started a couple years ago.”

* * *

I also received a handful of comments by e-mail. They are uniformly thoughtful and interesting. Here are some of them:

“Oh, this makes me so sad.  I left Park Slope in ’05 for other reasons and I never noticed the deterioration you’re talking about.  I miss the Brooklyn I knew a great deal, so while I’m not doubting your observation, I’m going to pretend it isn’t true.  I’m just not ready to give up the Park Slope of my memories.”

“It’s too bad you feel this way, it sounds like you live on an exceptional block. Yes the area is CHOCK FULL of douches, but I don’t think you’re going to do any better in Manhattan. Most likely, no one in your new building will be saying hello in the elevator. As someone who’s lived in 3 of 5 boros, I have found that neighbors run the gamut from friendly to curmudgeon and it’s up to you to change their attitude.”

“While I can understand your frustration with socially inept, rude people now in the hood, I can tell you it’s an old story. I grew up in Park Slope in the 60’s and 70’s, attending grade school at St. Francis Xavier and playing stickball on President St. My folks wanted to leave because of all the new “snobby” people moving in…basically the first wave of gentrifiers. They went out of their way to impose their  generally superior attitude on us hoi polloi, the street curs that they wouldn’t even acknowledge while they walked their Afgan hounds down the block, even if they’d seen us there a hundred times before. Now some of those people are likely the kindly old timers you speak of. No doubt they’ve brought a nice bohemian vibe to the nabe, but the Gelato shops and sushi places also crowded out most of the butcher shops, the bakeries and deli’s that made Park Slope a real working class commumity for so many decades. So perhaps it’s all a matter of perspective. For me, Park Slope started to lose it’s soul then. Good luck with Manhattan. Maybe the UWS would be a fine place to settle…it reminds me of Park Slope, just louder, bigger, more crowded, and more expensive. And…more rude, too-hip twenty and thirty-somethings that didn’t want to spend the trust fund money in Williamsburg or SoHo.”

“I think you are just getting older and have less tolerance of things.  The bearded guy may very well be a very nice and considerate person, but he may have been preoccupied at the time.  Big strollers and dogs have been in PS for a much longer period than 2002.”

“Since when does Park Slope = Brooklyn? Not that I disagree with your basic sentiments about Park Slope, but there are other neighborhoods in Brooklyn, you know. I moved to the Slope in 1985 and was already annoyed with the changes by the time you arrived, though we didn’t move out until 2008. Guess what? There are plenty of other Park Slope refugees — of the good kind — in our new neighborhood…and we still live in Brooklyn.”

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Elsewhere, Brownstoner ran a link to my piece, unleashing their famously brutal commenters. So I can check that off my bucket list.

Also tonight, I got a mention on the mighty Fucked In Park Slope blog.

Update: Curbed, too!

Update: And Gothamist!