No Sleep ‘Til Park Slope
This morning I was turned on to a story in The New York Times by my managing editor, about the Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope and why, in the vernacular, people be hating on it.
For non-New Yorkers: Park Slope is a formerly radical, now upscale Brooklyn ‘hood that abuts Prospect Park and has, in recent years, come to be known for its yuppie militancy, as embodied by anti-bar, -nightlife, and -noise activists, huge off-road strollers that take up half the sidewalk, and its overall entitled insufferability.
For New Yorkers: Need I say more? And you can probably guess on which side of the debate I come down. (Apologies to friends of mine that live in or love the Slope; I don’t really hate it hate it, I just kind of get annoyed by it, and also see what about it annoys.)
At any rate, the Times article discusses how Park Slope, in the latter part of the Sixties, became “the leading edge of urban revitalization” (this is according to John Mollenkopf, director of the Center for Urban Research at the City University Graduate Center).
The article goes on:
[These people who began to revitalize Park Slope in the late 1960s] were part of a “postwar middle-class search for urban authenticity as a refuge from mass consumer culture,” said Suleiman Osman, a Slope native and assistant professor of American Studies at George Washington University, who is writing a book about the history of gentrification in Brooklyn. That authenticity, he said, generally lasts only for the first phase of gentrification. It’s a theme in modern urban history: the sense that authenticity is always slipping away. In short, this place was authentic until you people showed up. Repeat.
I bolded the above sentence because I think it’s really the key to unlocking all of this, and maybe much more. The phrase would be even more true, or truer on a larger scale, if the word “urban” were deleted, and maybe if “authenticity” were replaced by any number of words. As Tony Soprano tells his new therapist, Dr. Melfi, during the pilot episode of the classic David Chase television series, “Lately I feel like I came in at the end of something. The best is over.” Dr. Melfi responds, “I think many Americans feel that way.”
I can identify with the feeling that “it’s” always just running through my fingers: Time, the seasons, relationships, good moments, records that defined the last year. (Whence the love I felt for Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible last spring, or Feist’s “Feel It All”? Where do these emotions, the city’s collective listening to a few albums for a short time, go? Maybe they’re mothballed somewhere in a DUMBO storage facility.) In summary and return: I would like to stop the clock, to live for years in that one good summer when we had the garden parties.
At any rate, the bolded phrase in the block quote holds true in other NY neighborhoods: I know I feel that way about Williamsburg, that is was better five years ago, and that the kids who are moving in are ruining it—But certainly someone who was in Williamsburg in the late 1990s feels that way about me, too. So what is this? Why this tendency to hate what comes after and to romanticize what comes before?