After being a Flatbush resident, I did what can be seen as the total opposite: I moved to Park Slope. Yes, the fancy part of town. And on the opposite side of Prospect Park. Park Slope is considered a family-oriented neighborhood but nevertheless it still holds its reputation as being posh and quite overpriced.
I got a room at a reasonable cost on the liveliest avenue the Slope has to offer: The fantastic 7th Ave. The walk to the train station was now a good 7 minutes away, but walking past all the restaurants, coffee shops, and other culinary joints made me happier than a 1 minute walk past Prospect Park in Flatbush ever had. Moving here was a relief compared to from where I had come. And I felt I had really earned it after the hard times I experienced before. No yelling neighbors who wanted to kill their children so they could have some peace. No abused animals barking in the lonely dark. And no bed bugs to worry about anymore.
So I really enjoyed time in the Slope. One of our favorite neighborhood bars was just two blocks up: The Austrian Steinhof and its great happy hour special. A little bit of Germanness and home brought to me by simply sipping their Franziskaner or looking at the ads in that pub. Being able to go out after work and eat at one of the numerous restaurants on 7th Avenue was enough to keep my attention occupied for months. Then of course celebrating at a few dance bars on 5th Avenue, which had to be explored by me and the roomies every once in a while.
The cultural experience I had so badly longed for before was now right at my doorsteps. I could see myself developing a completely different social life and having more diverse networks than ever before. Just going to the gym, which was two minutes away, and attending all of their different classes felt simply good. My dream of living in an area that was in New York but did not necessarily feel like New York seemed to have come true. At the same time I did not feel threatened when returning home late at night. That was before word had spread on several instances of rape and molestation around 5th Avenue. Today I still feel safe in the neighborhood, though.
I now had two trains to choose from if worse came to worse. So while the Q got stuck for two full days during the blizzard of 2010, the R on 4th Avenue was running just fine and getting me to the places I had to be. The F-train, with its local stops, still only took me 20 mins until I was in the Lower East Side. And if we felt like partying in Williamsburg, we surely had the G (whenever it decided to run), which we could take a short ride up to Lorimer Street.
True, my room was about half the size it had been before. But this time I had a gorgeous roof top from which I could see New Jersey and Manhattan at the same time. Celebrate Brooklyn in the summer was just 10 minutes away (by foot), and I made a point to see almost all of their Saturday evening concerts from June on. The oldest theater of Brooklyn, the Pavilion, was a fast walk up to Prospect Park West and, even though it was not too comfortable to sit in, I still had the chance to see a few good movies during rainy or cold days.
Of course you start adapting to everything after a while. And surely Park Slope is not without flaws. Annoying children running loose on the sidewalk, while their mothers are talking with each other and expecting you to move out of the child’s way. An appalled look from the caretaker once she realized I just did not care if her spoiled brat fell down in front of me and pointed out they better watch their children better.
And every once in a while you saw a mother carry a baby to a bar. No one needs a crying infant at a place you want to get drunk at. Also worth mentioning are the high prices for groceries and the outrageous rip-off at the one and only Union Market. Even though it is considered a gourmet store, I had a few fights with the cost-value relationship of the items they offer. What had been known in Flatbush as funny looks towards white people now turned back into the opposite. My Dominican friend once visited me (he is black) and felt very uncomfortable walking the streets of this neighborhood. He claims everyone was observing him, waiting for him to make a wrong move. I wouldn’t know. But it wouldn’t surprise me. I have yet to find an area in which both races are equally accepted. While 7th Avenue is still quite snobby, 5th Avenue can be seen as the Latin part of the hood. Many Hispanic folks live here, own their store, or like to wander around. It is a peculiar aspect of the Slope but it surely exists.
A stroll past those two summer street fair on both 5th and 7th Avenue made up for all the hardship accompanied in living in the Slope. Just walking all the way down to Crown Heights and seeing the differences in worlds was an eye-opener to me. Sometimes you simply know when you fit into a hood and when you don’t. I like to believe I have found my perfect match just here, in the quiet, overpriced Slope!
[For another post on Park Slope, go to Life in Park Slope!]