One of the major differences, generally speaking, between Manhattan and Brooklyn is the proximity you have to your neighbor. In Manhattan, residents may feel piled on top of each other in shoeboxes or filing cabinets, depending on your metaphor preference, but rarely will they ever get to know one another. In Brooklyn, residents tend to have more space and fewer neighbors, yet the proximity seems closer.
Brooklynites exist closer to the urban frontier. Rarely is there a doorman between me and my neighbor’s front door, but that also means a perilous journey plodding through snowy sidewalks in a storm.
In my attempt to feel less like a visitor–I’m a newcomer, but not necessarily an outsider–and more like a neighbor, I sought to get to know Prospect Heights and Park Slope as a permanent resident on a recent Sunday afternoon. I walked down Prospect Place to 7th Avenue, admiring brownstones as Brooklynites are wont to do, picking out my favorites one by one and chatting about the elusive dream of someday owning one. My friend Adam and his sister Jenna accompanied me, and we grabbed a cup of coffee at Ozzie’s and strolled around peeking into the windows of Slope shops offering frilly evening dresses for upwards of $400 each.
As we meandered downhill to 5th Avenue, admiring the stateliness of 6th Avenue, Adam remarked, “Park Slope’s got the feeling of a college town.”
Though I’ve said the same of my former neighborhood, Greenpoint, both statements are true for different reasons. They are two disparate college towns, or perhaps Park Slope is where the professors live, while the students wreak havoc on Greenpoint.
Anyhow, we continued on our journey, checking out adorable buildings, noticing some of the changes that have occurred over the years. When I was in high school, my best friend and her mom had a ground-floor apartment on Baltic Street between 4th and 5th Avenues. Outwardly, my best friend and I played it cool, but, at 15, we were terrified to walk back to her house from the subway late at night. While strolling down 5th Avenue now, I tried to reconcile those memories with the present, piecing together the bits of urban decay that have been revitalized and made young again.
Adam, Jenna and I made a stop in Beacon’s Closet on 5th Avenue near Union–one vestige of my old neighborhood that I can still enjoy nearby–and I poked around the racks of vintage garments, remarking on how little of the 80’s ski jacket inventory will move off the racks in the Slope and that perhaps they should deposit them in their Williamsburg location. After a more successful stop in the Brooklyn Industries shop down the street–another north Brooklyn spot!–it began to snow and I realized how far from home I actually was without an umbrella.
We made a run for the Atlantic Terminal Mall where my friends could catch their respective trains home, but not before we popped into Target. After all, I’m still outfitting my apartment with gadgets and gizmos (like the as-seen-on-TV wireless light!) and needed to pick up a few things. Of course I left with cookies and a dress too. That’s just the way a trip to Target goes, and since they opened it’s fast become a staple of the Brooklyn weekend afternoon.
On my walk back across the Atlantic Yards I switched up routes, taking Bergen across to Washington. As the snowflakes dusted the sidewalks I peered into doorways with signs reading “tenants and their guests only.” It’s hard to be the new kid, or tenant, but with my younger brother, Michael, just a few blocks from me on St. John’s Place–Chevella’s excellent Mexican food situated perfectly between our apartments–and a few friends scattered through the Slope and the Heights, my feeling at home in my new ‘hood is nigh.