Park Slope

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The neighborhood is known for its charm, for a family-friendly vibe, for leafy streets, and century-old houses adorned with elaborate terra-cotta and brickwork. Summers, it's a green and flowery refuge from the city, with gardens that spill onto the sidewalks from the area-ways. Along the broad avenues, there's a relaxed cafe society: shops, restaurants, coffee houses.

From that description, you could be in almost any part of Brownstone Brooklyn: Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Fort Greene, Boerum Hill. But we're talking about the Slope here, the area bounded by Flatbush Avenue, Prospect Park West, and Fourth Avenue, a place that has seen its ups and downs through the generations and slowly found its way back to its roots.

This was probably the grandest of the borough's neighborhoods when it was first developed in the 1880s and '90s. Unlike Brooklyn Heights, which had flourished before the Civil War as a neighborhood of prosperous business types who had settled their own small city, quite independent of Manhattan, Park Slope was very much a creation of Greater New York, developed in the wake of the great bridge that linked the two boroughs.

Setting a pattern that would hold true a hundred years later, the neighborhood attracted wealth -- although never on the scale, say, of the Rockefellers or the Astors. Instead, the mansions that line Prospect Park West today were built for the likes of Charles Pratt (founder of the Pratt Institute) and railroad developer Edwin C. Litchfield. That was the Gold Coast, meant to compete with Fifth Avenue; it never really did, and today, the neighborhood is more often likened to the Upper West Side.

"Eightth Avenue is like Central Park West, with $2 million apartments," says real estate salesman Robert Fry. Fry, who moved into the area in 1996, a refugee from Manhattan, has found the neighborhood a terrific place to live. "It's more relaxed here than Manhattan," he says. "But it still has the pulse -- still has the vibe. It's as sophisticated as Manhattan, and I find I go less often to Manhattan -- there are more restaurants here now. And the park is my backyard."

The park -- Prospect Park -- has long been a major drawing card for residents. Developed by the same team who created Central Park, Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmstead, it stretches tk acres in the heart of the neighborhood. Like its more famous cousin, it is known for its bucolic romanticism; in fact there are some who say it beats Central Park in its planning; that the two landscape designers made their mistakes in Manhattan and corrected them in Brooklyn.

Running alongside the park, Prospect Park West presents an eclectic frontage of palatial limestones with turrets, leaded and stained windows, cupolas, canopies, balconies, loggias, and piazzas. Few house single families anymore; many of them are now schools or other institutions. Interspersed among the houses are apartment buildings that went up in the teens and twenties: art deco baubles set beside more staid, Gotham-esque high-rises. Heading up Eighth Avenue toward Flatbush, you come upon the neighborhood's great jewel: a Venetian fantasy in brick and terra cotta. This is the Montauk Club, once the haunt of the area's rich businessmen, their equivalent of Manhattan's Union League or Century. It remains a private club today.

You find most of the single-family houses in the side streets, in the named streets and block-long places -- Montgomery Place being one of area's loveliest streets. This is where the first pioneers -- called Brownstoners back then -- started showing up in the mid-60s and early 70s, buying up houses that had been turned into roominghouses in the '30s and '40s. While their counterparts across the river remade the Upper West Side, they re-created a neighborhood in the blocks between Seventh and the park.

It was an area that had been on a downslide for the better part of a generation. During the late 1940s and '50s, it was a stable neighborhood, made up mostly of working-class New Yorkers. Georgie Lee, whose immigrant grandparents had bought their building in the early 1920s, remembers it as a "wonderful place to grow up. Technically, we lived in Windsor Terrace, but we ran all over the neighborhood. My father was a cop, and my ex-husband's father was a conductor. His family had a house in the Slope, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. I don't know how they had it, but they did. They had boarders on the top floor. People who lived in a single room with a shared bathroom in the hall."

But even during Lee's childhood, there was a darker side to the neighborhood. "In our neighborhood, there was a gang, the Tigers, who were pretty tough," she remembers. "Down in the named streets, down around President, Union ... there was a gang that was very tough: The Garfield Street Gang. Some of those guys, I suppose, wound up in the Mafia."

As the 1950s progressed, hard drugs -- heroin, mostly -- found their way into the area, the schools began a long, slow decline, and families like Lee's started moving out to the suburbs, to Jersey or Long Island, leaving behind them houses dismissed as too old-fashioned to compete with the sparkling new cape cods of Levittown.

So, when the first brownstoners appeared, they were something of a surprise. Along with Brooklyn Union Gas, which sank $TKk into its Cindarella Project, which rehabbed buildings in the neighborhood, the gentrifiers brought the promise of money and new businesses.

Not that they were rich -- they were a far cry from today's Wall Street millionaires. Mostly they were modest enough young professionals, with a healthy sprinkling of vaguely counterculture types. And they bequeathed a few signature institutions to the neighborhood: TK coffee shop, for instance, and, most famously, the Park Slope Food Co-Op, founded in 1973 and still going strong today.

QUOTE HERE FROM FOOD COOP PEOPLE.

They also brought with them a sensibility -- an enthusiasm for urban life -- that began to fuel a business and cultural boom that blossomed thirty or so years later with the revival of BAM, which, while not technically in the neighborhood, balances along the boundary, and the renaissance at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, which borders Prospect Park. As the neighborhood began to come back, the local public school -- 321 -- gained a reputation for excellence, which drew yet more home-buyers to the area and sparked a demand for restaurants and shops that saw, first, Seventh Avenue, and, later, Fifth Avenue, re-invent themselves as commercial strips drawing in people from the rest of the borough as well as from across the river.

"Manhattanites think all this started yesterday, but it's been a viable community since the '70s," says Peggy Aguayo, a partner in one of the neighborhood's preeminent real estate brokerages, Aguayo and Huebner. "The neighborhood is one that can accommodate people who can afford $2 million homes and people who can afford $400,000 apartments." She says the mix of professions remains largely what it's always been, with people in the arts, doctors, and lawyers -- plus some in the financial sector -- taking the place of the cops and firemen who once lived here. Robert Fry likes the neighborhood's diversity. "This is a very mixed neighborhood -- gay friendly. You'll see two ladies walking along with a baby, or two men with a baby. Everybody seems to get along. "

In addition to being gay-friendly, the Slope has always been known as extremely family friendly. Cruising up and down Fifth or Seventh Avenues, you can't help noticing the number of kids' stores -- or, for that matter, the nuimber of strollers on the sidewalks. "People like to stay in the neighborhood," says Peggy Aguayo. "My daughter grew up here, and now she's raising her kids here."

The question is, of course, where the neighborhood is headed now. Some of the older residents -- many of them among the early waves of gentrifiers themselves -- regard their newer neighbors as the barbarians at the gates, obsessed with real-estate values at the expense of the fabric of neighborhood. And, as development passes Fifth Avenue, heading for Fourth, the question of just where the neighborhood begins and ends has become increasingly common.

Aguayo says, though, that this haggling over neighborhood boundaries is nothing new. "First," she says, "people wouldn't go below Seventh Avenue. Then, they wouldn't go below Sixth. Then, Fifth. But there is plenty of new development going in now between Fourth and Fifth. People who paid a fortune to live on Eighth Avenue or the park, don't want to admit that anything other than Eighth and the Park is the Slope," she says, laughing.

And, for most people in the area, the most vivacious part of the neighborhood is the Fifth Avenue corridor. Linda TK, who with her husband tk owns Zelda Victoria, a decorating business long a fixture on Seventh Avenue, has moved to new quarters on Fifth. "The area is hipper, younger," she says. "There are all the new restaurants -- and the rent was going up on Seventh."

David Yassky, who represents the neighborhood in the City Council, is also enthusiastic about what he sees along Fifth Avenue. "Fifth Avenue has had an unbelievable emergence as a retail strip. It has transformed itself very quickly -- in a year or two. It's just amazing." He acknowledges, though, that there is a down side to some of the development mania. "The Slope overall has become more upscale, " he says, "but that's been going on for awhile. Rents are literally doubling, and some people are being forced out."

Money is the nub, and the numbers tell part of the story. The average household income, according to the statistics, is $78,386 a year. However, if you talk to the real estate people, you can see pretty clearly where the neighborhood is going: One-bedrooms sell for $300,000 or so; two-bedroom/two bath apartments are goping for something in the area of $650,000 on up to $800,000 or so if you insist on prime real estate with a view of the park. If you can add, you see the drift: Households making under $80,000 a year can't afford those numbers.

There's another side of the story, too. Whereas a typical Park Slope apartment used to be a floor-through in a nineteenth-century brownstone, increasingly, buyers are looking at new construction, says Peggy Aguayo. "Those places have all been renovated by now, or mostly renovated," she says, referring to the old houses on the blocks radiating out from the park. "What you're looking at now is new construction, condos mostly" she says, and a lot of that is going into the outer reaches of the neighborhood -- between Fifth and Fourth Avenues, or in the far reaches of the area, around 14th Street or 15th Street.

Meanwhile, the houses closest to the park are still trading at the top end of the market. And, while the prices on Prospect Park West don't begin to approach prices on Central Park West or Fifth Avenue, they are among the highest in the borough. In fact, with its celebrated residents -- Sen Chuck Schumer, Celeb name Tk -- the neighborhood may simply have become what it was built to be.

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ROBERT FRY. Brooklyn Bridge:Lived in the nabe since 96. Moved from the Upper West Side. Very mixed neighborhood, gay friendly. The park is my back yard. It's a diverse neighborhood. You'll see two ladies walking along with a baby, or 2 men with a baby. Everybody seems to get along. It's more relaxed than Manhattan, but it still has the pulse -- still has the vibe. It's as sophisticated as Manhattan, and I find I go less often to Manhattan -- there are more restaurants here now. The neighborhood is a little like the Upper West Side, Eighth Avenue is like Central Park West. There are $2-3 million dollar brownstones. Apartments? 2 bd/2 bath go for $600,000 to 650,000 in Windsor Terrace; along 8th Avenue, they're soemwhere around $800,000.

Fifth Avenue -- Fourth Avenue: It's hip to live in that neighborhood. Five years ago, people wouldn't even considering that area. Fifth Avenue is a little like Smith Street.

Windsor Terrace: Used to be cops. Irish. Very family oriented. Prospect Park Southwest. Lake is on that side of the park. Other neighborhoods: Ditmas Park, Kensington: Church Avenue, Ocean Parkway, Courtelyou.

Park Slope is spilling over into Sunset Park.--RF

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DAVID SEIDEMAN: Windsor Terrace

Windsor Terrace. Moved in TK Thirteen years ago.Pritchard Square and Southwest. It's always been middle-clas Irish -- cops, firemen, there still are some, but alot have moved out. Farrell's.We knew the house was for sale. Was an old Italian lady and she wanted to sell to us. DESCRIBE HOUSE.They liked for people already in the neighborhood to buy in. This area was never as liberal as Park Slope.People who are buying here now are younger, more gentrified. Places on our street areg oing for a million. They usually rent out the upper floor to make the mortgage. These are people who've been priced out of Park Slope. You used to be able to get a deal -- but not anymore.

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Steve Redder -- Corcoran Park Slope.Selling real estate in the area for 20 years.South Slope is a strong market10th st. -17th st/18th st. (to the expressway)Fourth Avenue to ParkGreenwood Heights -- 21st between 4th and 5th avenues, near cemetary. St. John's condo. The closer to the park you go -- traditionally that was the most expensive. But those distinctions aren't as clear as they once were.People are concerned with square footage. Particularly in the condo developments. Rough prices: 2 bedroom in a full-service building : somewhere around 650,000-750,000. In a brownstone: 550-600. In five years, the prices have doubled.

Windsor Terrace--houses are smaller. Sherman St. is the nicest block. Houses there going for $1.2-1.3 million.Hot neighborhood is between 4th and 5th avenue. On 4th ave over the next 12-18 months, new condos are going in, also in the sidestreets. Fifth Avenue itself is becoming chic -- it's Smith Street all over.

STATS / Corcoranpopulation male: 29,608 population female: 32,166 median age: 33.62 college graduates: 41% white collar: 79% blue collar: 21% no. of households: 26,755 no. of family households: 13,223 average family size: 3.02 median household income: $58,249 average household income: $78,386 air pollution index: 107

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The Park Slope Food Coop, founded 1973, is the largest wholly member-owned and operated food coop in the country. In exchange for 2 3/4 hours of work every four weeks you can save up to 20%-40% off your grocery bill. In 1973 a handful of people decided to save money on food by banding together and working cooperatively. They first met in someone's house and then rented the second floor of 782 Union Street in Park Slope. In 1980 the Coop purchased the entire building. In 1997, the Coop doubled its size by expanding into the building next door, 780 Union Street. In 2002, once again bursting at its seams, the Coop purchased and expanded into the other building next door, doubling our physical space and making it possible for us to carry many new items. ____________________________________________________________________________________________David Yassky. City Council. All that I can say is a lot. (co-ops & condos going up on 4th ave & sidestreets). What it's doing is expanding the boundaries of Park Slope dramatically. 3rd & 4th Avenues and the streets between 4th and 5th hare being completely transformed. The blocks between 5th & 6th have already been transformed. The slope itself has become more upscale, but that's been going on for awhile.

In terms of affordable housing: Many of those people are being forced out. Many have already been pushed out. Rents are doubling. Typically someone has been living in an apartment 15 years, and the landlord dies, and their son or daughter realize they can raise the rent -- and they do. Families are forced out.

5th Avenue. Fifth Avenue is unbelievable. The emergence as a retai l strip with new stores & restaurant. That has been a transformation VERY QUICKLY. A year or two. That's the most noticeable change in the neighborhood -- that and the construction on 4th Avenue.

4th avenue was just kind of a highway. Some jobs will be lost, but with the growth on 5th and 4th avenue combined, I think you make up for the loss of jobs on 4th avenue. There are more jobs on 5th ave. than there were a year ago. Given the number of new stores overall, there will be enuf jobs to compensate for the loss of 4th Avenue.

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Peggy Aguayo. The boundaries of the slope have actually stayed the same. It used to be though that people wouldn'e go below seventh avenue; then they wouldn't go below sixth avenue; then Fifth....People who spent a fortune to leave between 8th and the park didn't want to admit that anything that wasn't 8th and the park was the slope.

This is not a new phenomenon. People started moving back into the slope in the 70s --

Been selling real estate since 1984 in the slope.

Thos places have all ben renovated and re-habbed. Now we're looking at new construction -- condos, mostly. _

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Georgie Lee. I grew up in Windsor Terrace -- 17th Street between 8th and 9th. The trick was to live on the side streets. To live over a shop -- to live on the avenues -- those people, we thought were poor. You had more of a problem with cockroaches, mice, rats because of the stores. My father was a cop. He made $2,000 a year, and we lived in the side streets. We could aspire to live on the park -- we called that 9th avenue; now they call it Prospect park West. On the other side was the Farrell's crowd -- they were all fire men. In the named streets were the Italians. I don't know how they owned their housesw -- families got together and lived together, I guess. Anyway, there was a gang, the Garfield Street Gang, they were all Italians, very tough. I guess a lot of them wound up in the Mafia. In our neighborhood, were the Tigers. Very tough, too. They were Irish. Timmy's family had a brownstone. His father was a conductor. He probably made about $1,500 a year. But they took in boarders. The top floors were boarders. They had a room and a shared bathroom. They didn't eat there. They just slept there. Pete grew up on 12th Street, on Seventh Avenue.

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