Park Slope

A farewell to Park Slope

September 1, 2021 By Taylor Syfan
Community Board Six boasts neighborhoods with beautiful old homes, like the ones on this block in Park Slope. Eagle photos by Paula Katinas
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There is a woman who sells rings and other jewelry in Park Slope on the weekends. Sometimes she sets up her table under the scaffolding on Fifth Avenue and Fifth Street — You know, that scaffolding around the Junior High that seems more permanent than the historic Stone House. Sometimes, though, she sets up on Seventh Avenue and Second Street by a different school. This woman has a cherry-red pixie cut and eyes carved from the same agate that is laid in the rings she sells. I don’t remember when I met her, nor whether I have ever owned a piece of her jewelry, but for the three years I’ve lived in Park Slope she has always greeted me on the sidewalk like a great aunt to a favorite niece.

“Hi honey,” she calls out, “how ya’ doing?”

I haven’t the heart to tell her that my boyfriend and I are moving to an apartment in Clinton Hill and will soon move away from Park Slope. I haven’t the heart to tell any of them, really — the many familiar faces I’ve come to know on the Slope. If I did, I’d surely have to mention, almost as though explaining away my infidelity, just how low the interest rates are right now. You know what I mean. Haven’t you heard? Well, they’re lower than low. Low enough to conjure so rare an adjective as “unprecedented.”

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“We wanted to stay in the Slope,” I would say. “But we just kept getting outbid!”

As it turns out, we are not the only couple privy to the “unprecedented” interest rates, nor the only ones interested in charming pre-war two bedrooms (or one bedrooms with space for an office) in the neighborhood. In fact, we’re not even remotely close to the only ones with such desires. Apparently, Park Slope is teaming with couples like us. Those couples just have a teeny bit more money.

The story ends happy, though, because we found an apartment we adore in Clinton Hill. Only, I wonder where I’ll buy my rings. Rather, I wonder who will be there to sell them to me. I also wonder from whom I’ll buy my coffee. For something like a year-and-a-half I worked at Café Martin; This is as much a café as it is an institution. It is well-known among the seasoned intelligentsia of middle-ish to North Slope, whether fondly or scandalously — in every case, loyally. Working at Café Martin in the afternoons introduced me to the lot of them, from the deadpan Junior High drama teacher to the vibrant women who manage the Historic Stone House to the handsome and sartorial owner of the sneaker store to the frenetic chefs and owners of the local eateries to the perpetually caffeinated doctors and the nurses at New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital to countless gaggles of subdued poets and ethereal playwrights and stylish editors and jaded non-profit workers. Et al. I will not soon forget my time at Café Martin, and I only hope that J, its proprietress post-Martin, will forgive me for being so repetitiously incompetent. It’s just that I was very busy making friends when I should’ve been sweeping, I think.

Café Martin is a short walk from the front door of the apartment on Fifth Street that I rent with my boyfriend. We won’t just miss living in Park Slope, we’ll also miss living in that apartment. One could call it a two bedroom, but what do you call a railroad-style apartment with six rooms of varying sizes and no discernible order between them? Our landlord, lucky for us, calls it a two bedroom and that is how we can afford an apartment with six rooms. We will miss our landlord. She can best be described as brassy, and she wears her grey-hair spiked on top with a mullet on bottom. You might not know she has grey hair, though, because she so often dyes it violently green. She has two small dogs, one of which dons a curly blonde mohawk. She hails from Great Britain but has lived in Brooklyn long enough to have adopted the most confounding and charming accent you have ever heard. I could never pin it down until one day I heard her say the word “airport.” For weeks, I infatuated over how Brooklyn the prefix “air” came through, but how British the suffix “port” followed up.

Our landlord’s mohawked dogs are walked by the bartender at Ginger’s Bar, a legendary gay establishment that is just down Fifth from Café Martin. I like to think of this man as something of an enigma and socialite, though I’m not sure that description captures him. He’s of a sunny disposition, is always ‘around,’ if you will, and has the most red-apple cheeks (in shape, in hue, and in sweetness) that you’ve ever seen.

Even on my commute out of it, Park Slope finds a way to charm me. I use an above-ground subway station where the F and the G trains stop. I take the F train to work, but every morning as I wait for it, a little after seven in the morning, the G train passes by me. Last Summer, in the belly of the Pandemic, the conductor of that specific G train nodded politely to me on his way to the next stop. At the time, you couldn’t have convinced me that any commuter actually sees the same conductor twice. I’d have liked to think this city were more gigantic and mysterious than that. It happened again, though. So, I returned the gesture, day over day, and eventually our nod became a wave. This continued through the Summer until I had surgery and was bed-ridden for three straight months. When I returned to the world in the Fall, he waved. As though he’d looked out for me all that time. As though he’d anticipated my return. As though my absence in this gigantic and mysterious world did not go unnoticed, and I was missed. Now it’s summer again and we wave still, everyday, a little after seven in the morning.

I would like to know: How do you tell a man you have never met how genuinely you will miss him?

I should look on the bright side. On my first-thing-in-the-morning laundry or grocery trips, when I am makeup-less and bed-headed, Clinton Hill will provide me some privacy; A safe-haven from running into everyone I’ve ever met. It’s like preparing for the Met Gala just to pick up my wash-and-fold in the Slope most days; I run into absolutely everyone. If not one or two playwrights or restauranteurs, then Steve Buscemi. I swear to you, that man senses when I’ve left the house without brushing my teeth or my hair and he roams the avenues until we’ve finally crossed paths. Someday, I hope we’re seated next to each other at my Park Slope diner of choice, Seventh Avenue Diner and Donuts. I’ll be sparkling and refreshed in crisp white poplin and I’ll say to him, “don’t you even recognize me, Steve?” And, we’ll have a good laugh.

This morning, I brushed my hair and I did not cross paths with Steve Buscemi. I had errands to run. I found myself on Seventh Avenue nearing the woman who sells rings at her little table. On my way towards her, I stopped to browse someone else’s little table, one with records instead of jewelry. A remarkably tall teddy-bear of a man manned that table. I asked this man what record a person should walk away with if she were to buy a record from him today. He laughed, dug up a sleeve or three from his cartons, and asked if he could play me something “that swings” on his turntable. He played a cover of “For Sentimental Reasons” by The Cleftones, right there on Seventh Avenue.

“That’s good music,” I told him.

He laughed, I paid, and he thanked me for “swinging by.”

But, I didn’t say good-bye. Did not mention the interest rates nor how many times I was outbid.

What for? For sentimental reasons, probably.

Taylor Syfan, author.

Taylor Syfan is a Brooklyn based writer and student at The New School. In the Pacific Northwest she was a freelance arts journalist, covering topics from music to fashion.


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38 Comments

  1. ELEANOR JEAN

    HI THE YOUNG LADY WHO SELLS THE JEWELRY I WONDER IF THERES ANYWAY SHE USED TO LIVE ON UNDERHILL AVE AN PARK PLACE THIS WOMAN SOLD THE BEST OF THE MOST CREATIVE HAND MADE JEWELRY EVER HOWEVER THEY MOVED A N I LOST CONTAC!! WAT A LOSS. THE LOCATION WHERE U SAY THIS WOMAN IS EXACTLY WHERE WEN LIVING ON UNDERHILL AVE SHE AN HER HUSBAND USE TO CARRY HER JEWELRY AND SELL I WAS THERE NEIGHBOR AND USE TO HELP THEM CARRY BACK IN THERE STUFF THIS WOMEN FELL IN LOVVE WITH MY DAUGHTER AN WHUD COME A FEW HOUSES DOWN AN COME PICK HER UP TO COME OVER HER HOUSE AN THEY USED TO PAINT AN LEARN ABOUT DIFFERENT STONES!!!! I CANT REMEMBER HER NAME BUT IN MY HEAD IM THINKING MELANIE/MELODY BUT NOT SURE!! I WHUD SOOOOOO MUCH APPRECIATE BFOR U LEAVE THE SLOPE IF U COULD PERHAPS FIND HER NAME OR TELL HER TID BITS OF THIS STORY I CAN ALMOST GUARANTEE U THIS STORY WHUD JOG HER MEMORY SHES THE FIRST THAT CAME TO MIND WEN I WAS READING THIS ARTICLE!! I WHUD LIVE NOTHING MORE IF THIS IS SHE TO CONNECT US BACK IN CONTAC!!!! SHE WAS SUCH A FREE SPIRITED WOMEN!!!!!
    BLESSEDLY BLESSED BLESSINGS ON U GUYS NEW ADVENTURE AN NEW ENDEAVORS!! I WISH U THE BEST I WHUD WRITE MY NUMBER BUT I DONT THINK THATS A GOOD IDEA ON SOCIAL MEDIA MY NAME IS ELEANOR HACKLEY LOOK ME UP ON MESSENGER DONT REALLY DO THE EMAIL THINGY MY IG IS PRINCESS JAHLIE U CAN DM ANYTIME FEEL FREE!! WEN U CONTAC ME I THEN WILL GIVE U MY NUMBER!!! I SURE PRAY THIS IS MY FRIEND!!!!!💙👏🏿🥰👍🏿🤎✌🏿💪🏾😇🦋❤️🙌🏾😍👏🏿💙👍🏿🥰🤎🤎😇🦋🦋🙏🏿🙏🏿💪🏾💪🏾✌🏿✌🏿👍🏿💙🦋🦋

          • Christopher Z.

            Exactly this. The piece is written as if the entire neighborhood populated with supporting characters in the author’s story. Even Steve Buscemi exists solely to follow her around. If the intention here is social commentary, it’s a failure. If it’s sincere, then it’s super gross.

    • This story is about the low interest rate in housing and her and her boyfriend buying a house in Clinton Hill because they were being out bidded for houses in Park Slopes. The story is about her missing her every day life the people she sees and buy things from, the place she worked and met new people to become friends with. It’s about what she is going to miss when she moves away. It’s not a put down to anyone or anything.

    • S Rodriguez

      Newsflash, people are moving to cities faster than any point in recorded history. The issue you’re mad about is the housing crises that’s being directly caused by mismanagement in the city and state. Getting frustrated with her for talking about her connection to the community of Park Slope just makes you look sad and uninformed about the issues that are, allegedly, so important to you.

  2. I lived in Park Slope for 15 years… and it was a golden time in my life. It’s changed SO MUCH in the past 15 years, though, that it’s almost unrecognizable to me. All the stores I frequented and loved because I knew the owners are gone; it’s no longer the funky affordable neighborhood that made it possible for a freelance writer to flourish and thrive. I miss Park Slope, but a Park Slope of the past – gone forever. And yes, much it was lost to gentrification.

    • RoseMarie

      The whole world has changed in the past 15 years. Natives view European changes to their ancestral landscape & environment with sadness: abandoning their previous obsession with ecology, they finally acknowledge that it’s now too late to stop fracking, curb pollution, avoid oil spills & clean the oceans, clear the air & reverse climate change — all of which were destroyed for considerable profit to the few. And since we cannot eat money or breathe colossal profits, we can always colonize another planet which costs lots of money that, thankfully, we have. But I digress. What were you saying about how sad it is that Park Slope has changed? Or Bedfotd Stuyvesant or Harlem?

  3. Why don’t we discuss the reason why you keep getting outbid? Why people from Manhattan stream out into Brooklyn looking for “deals” and “space”? Because this city isn’t building enough in Manhattan and in Brooklyn and Queens. If we actually built enough in all of these centrally located neighborhoods we’d have fewer people swooping into Brownstone Brooklyn outbidding and paying all-cash. This citys desire to never change is making it change all the faster and for the worse.

    • jerseycityjoan

      You can build infinite amounts of market rate housing — but many people can’t afford that. A lot of property is bought up by investors and people from overseas who won’t put their names on public property records. We have had two generations of high population growth and almost no subsidized housing built by the federal government. What planning was done for the extra 100 million people we got between 1967 and 2006 or the additional 30 million since then? What planning are we doing now for the projected many millions of extra people we are projected to get by 2040 and 2060?

      Virtually none that I know of.

      My prediction is that much more of the area will become dominated by anonymous 80 and 100 floor residential towers. Nobody wants their kids to grow up in feeling like ants but they will. Nobody wants big public housing towers full of crime and hallways and staircases with busted out lights but they will build them because they won’t know what else to do with all the poor people.

  4. kneelbeforetigers

    I seriously couldn’t tell if this was a tester article for The Onion, or if the tone-deaf POV was on purpose…

    You’re seriously asking people to weep for a gentrifier because she’s about to lose her ring spot? Not because she’s about to be put out of her house due to the eviction crisis, or losing her job during the pandemic, or any other tragedies, but because she’s moving to another tony neighborhood where she BOUGHT a home?

    GTFO. Delete this… her ‘musings’ should have stayed in the drafts folder.

  5. It’s ridiculous that this was written in such a tone as to be surprised that what’s happening to the author didn’t happen to the people she outbid to move there in the first place.

    Really?

  6. Chief Wildcat

    I grew up reading Judy Blume books as a kid, no shade to her at all, but Girl…this “Are you there God, it’s me Margaret?” moment is beyond tone deaf. Perhaps this should have been a diary entry, unless you fully intended to display your privilege with this rather bland attempt at garnering sympathy and or attention for your white woman tears. I lived in Park Slope multiple times in my life since the late 90’s. Never have I felt compelled to mourn the loss of a spacious apartment, convenience, cafes or community quirkiness. I thought we stopped the faux lamenting in 2020 at the onslaught of the Coronavirus pandemic, during the “national reckoning” when social justice was trending from the uptick in police brutality and racial violence. I guess #woke and #BLM are just hashtags of convenience serving as bandaids, balms and algorithm infused salves, temporarily soothing the shame and guilt of knowing- you will never actually relinquish the rose colored glasses that afford your insurmountable opportunity and accessibility, for a glimpse of reality AKA, the World (brimming with inequality) revolving around you.

    Caucacity is unabashedly real AF in spite of an ever dwindling Democracy enabling the intentional decimation of reproductive and voting rights, a devastating earthquake to an already stigmatized “shithole” country, a raging storm that literally gave rise to more physical and emotional displacement. While homelessness, new variants and a mental health crisis steadily incline… you contemplate finding comfort in Cobble Hill. Don’t worry, I am confident you will find a new favorite coffee shop for an over priced, oat milk latte courtesy on stolen Lenape land. Nevertheless, I keep hope alive, clinging to quotes from Humanitarian Mothers, true literary Queens, who’s carefully, crafted words filled blank pages and lives with hopes and dreams of optimism. Please Wake up and #neverforget Park Slope separation anxiety is a luxury. Black joy is an act of radical self love and resistance, therefore still I rise, remaining resilient despite the normalcy of institutionalized ignorance and insensitivity.

    • It is, of course, possible that this author recognizes injustices that exist in NYC and the country as a whole while simultaneously lamenting her forced move out of the neighborhood she loves. White women are allowed to have feelings that don’t center on you. I don’t see you acknowledging anywhere in your rant the sheer privilege of Americans of all colors in comparison to the majority of the world’s population. Does that mean you don’t care? Does that mean you’re ignorant and insensitive?

  7. Nativeson

    I was raised in Crown Heights and East Flatbush. I moved to Fort Greene where I met my wife. We moved into her family’s brownstone in Park Slope when it was still Working Class. We moved back to Crown Heights, twice, then back to my family’s home in East Flatbush. We then moved to a Rent Stabilized apartment in Clinton Hill. We’ve lived here almost 30 years now. We’ve raised children and grandchildren here. I’ve lived in New York 66 years now. I’ve lived in the East Village, The Bronx and Westchester. I love Brooklyn the most, and I love Clinton Hill the most. She’ll do fine there.

  8. Tbh most of the people commenting don’t understand the piece. The author realizes that nobody will care when she moves. As much as she wants to believe that the train conductor waves only to her or that the jewelry seller isn’t just hoping to make a sale, she knows she’s one of millions of people in the city, and her existence is insignificant to all these people she passes daily in her neighborhood. And that’s why it hurts that she’s being pushed out of Park Slope—it further reinforces her insignificance. …All that said, I happily left Park Slope (and NYC) this summer after five years. I’ve never been to a neighborhood in NYC in which I’d rather live, but even Park Slope wasn’t all that. The author will find new happiness elsewhere.

  9. Thomas Mullaly

    Never commented here before. Happened upon this article in my feed. Not much to add, since the below posters have all pegged the same issues. This is infuriating. This author is bad and should feel bad.

  10. After reading all of the spot-on, negative reviews of this article, I have only one question: what did you expect from someone who actually and unironically self identifies as a member of the “intelligentsia”?
    Good Lord.

  11. After reading all of the spot-on, negative reviews of this article, I have only one question: what did you expect from someone who actually and unironically self identifies as a member of the “intelligentsia”?

  12. I. Ian Richards

    Real talk, this article is dumb. Is dumb because a privileged white person who moved into Park slope by “out bidding” people of color is apparently stunned that I can happen to them. Is it done because of the fetishizing the neighborhood culture and dynamic, window things were only recently placed there for people like her. And now she’s going to do this to people in Clinton Hill.

  13. You really published this huh?

    Imagine thinking that anyone wants to read this tone deaf, entitled dreck. Of course you’re a student at The
    New School, it’s like they make cookie cutter privileged white kids into the insufferable garbage they always aspired to be, quite efficiently I might add. Please rethink your status as self proclaimed “intelligentsia”, at least until after you graduate, and maybe acquire an ounce of self awareness while you’re at it.