Is Pete Hamill Responsible for the Brooklyn Boom?


Almost 40 years ago, the writer Pete Hamill wrote an article in New York magazine declaring Brooklyn "the sane alternative" to Manhattan. "Art galleries are opening. Neighborhoods like Bay Ridge and South Brooklyn now have boutiques and head shops. People who have been driven out of the Village and Brooklyn Heights by the greed of real-estate operators are learning that it is not yet necessary to decamp for Red Bank or Garden City. It is still possible in Park Slope, for example, to rent a duplex with a garden for $200 a month, a half-block from the subway; still possible to buy a brownstone in reasonably good condition for $30,000, with a number of fairly good houses available for less, if you are willing to invest in reconditioning them." This week, Hamill returns after a long hiatus in Manhattan, and finds, not surprisingly, that Park Slope is fancyland, and that some things have been lost in its transformation. "Today, there are dozens of real-estate offices along Seventh Avenue and more on Fifth Avenue, and many houses were going for $2 million and more," he writes. The people he sees on 7th Avenue "are in their twenties, most of them gym-thin. Shoulder bags hang from their shoulders while other bags form humps on their backs. Their thumbs flick across tiny keyboards. They talk into cell phones. They never make eye contact with anyone, as if adhering to some paranoid manual of New York behavior. Instead, they glance into restaurants, hurry past art-supply stores, dress shops, delicatessens, heading to places that are provisional, not permanent, parts of their narrative. They rent." Hard to buy when the places are $2 million, of course. He's not completely nostalgic for the old, old neighborhood, though, the one that was dangerous. As he says, "Gentrification is better than junkies."
Brooklyn Revisited [New York]
Sunset. Photo by arimoore.

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