This weekend was reserved for one of the neighborhoods I was looking forward to most – Park Slope. One of my improv buddies, Victor, just relocated to the area a couple months ago after moving out of Manhattan, so we ventured out to explore together. Despite the dropping temperatures and wind chill, we had a nice adventure, all in a ten dollar budget!
Well, Park Slope is another one of those neighborhoods in New York City that is perpetually on the rise, getting more and more elite. In 2006, Natural Home magazine named Park Slope one of America’s ten best neighborhoods, rated by parks, gathering spaces, farmer’s markets and gardens, public transportation, locally-owned businesses, and environmental and social policy. Historically, Park Slope was developed during the 19th century, and was classified as one of the richest neighborhoods in the nation. The area of Prospect Park West was known as the “Gold Coast,” named for its sprawling Victorian mansions lining the park. (Think of it as an equivalent of Fifth Avenue or Central Park West.) Here’s a little trivia for you – most of you know that the LA Dodgers are originally from Brooklyn, but they actually started as the “Brooklyn Atlantics,” and played at Washington Park in the heart of Park Slope! The park was later destroyed in a fire, and the team was passed around from borough to borough until it ended up in…. Los Angeles. In the 1950’s, Park Slope observed a drastic social decline as the middle-class families fled to suburbia, and a new breed of working-class inhabited the neighborhood. Things didn’t start to change until the 90’s, when young dot-comers and professionals moved out of the rising rents of Manhattan. (Sounds like Williamsburg, huh?) Today the neighborhood seems to be a good mix of young and old, rich and poor, commercial and local. And you know it’s a cool place to live when the neighborhood boasts a large population of actors, musicians, artists, and writers.
First, I made it over to Victor’s apartment in “South Slope.” One of the nice things of moving out of Manhattan is the luxury of more space. The bedrooms were bigger, the kitchen was huge, and they have an enormous backyard! I guess it’s a trade – more space for a much longer commute. After getting the grand tour, we headed out into the cold to venture up Seventh Avenue for some lunch. Now, in preparing for these little adventures, I have generally had a lot more background information on neighborhoods in Manhattan – so unfortunately, I had not yet planned on dining options in Park Slope. I thought it would be easy to find lunch for $5.00 – $6.00, but we actually spent some considerable time hurrying through the chilly streets before we came across “Mr. Wonton.” This Chinese restaurant was offering a lunch special for $5.50, and we were both quite hungry, so we settled in for some grub. The food was mediocre, but it was nice to drink some hot tea and sit to chat for a little bit. Check out my awesome fortune! After lunch, we continued up Seventh Avenue and popped into the Park Slop Food Coop…. oh. my. GOD. This place is a great market that offers food at about 20-40% off the prices you normally pay at other markets – plus, everyone that works there is also member, so you have great people willing to assist you! The exchange is that to be a member, you must work a 2 and 3/4 hour work-slot every four weeks. But I’m seriously considering joining the coop – simply for their insane prices… they sell some spices for 13 cents! Victor and I continued up Seventh until we reached the Brooklyn Library and Grand Army Plaza. We found a modest farmer’s market and tasted some local fare, including a variety of apples I had never seen before! We also found our way around the tip of the park to see the entrance to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Unfortunately, we had just missed the free admission time slot they offer on Saturday mornings, but I am definitely planning to go back when more flowers start blooming! We turned around and headed down into Prospect Park. I had never realized that Prospect Park was so big! It was a quiet, cold day, so we enjoyed a mostly uninterrupted walk through the curving sidewalks of the area. Check out this sculpture we came across – does anyone else things this looks like a young Opa? or Kyle? After our nature walkabout, we found ourselves back down in Victor’s neighborhood. I reminded him that we still had $2.50 left to spend, so we found ourselves a cozy little coffee shop, and got coffee for $0.90 and cookies – two for $1.00! $1.90 + tip = $2.50 spent. It was nice to sit down after walking all day and just enjoy our caffeine and sugar. Another adventure accomplished! So far, this seems like the neighborhood that most closely matched my personality and style – could I brave that hellish commute to head into Manhattan? Well, at least I work from home…