by Sinead Hunt
This week, in an effort to fulfill #18 on my list (visit all five boroughs), I decided to endure a ride on the local F train and head down to Park Slope, Brooklyn.
Although, today, the name “Park Slope” is most often associated with the gentrifying forces taking over New York City’s neighborhoods, the area wasn’t always an enclave for young families and ex-hipsters. When my grandmother bought a brownstone in South Slope in the 1940s, Park Slope was predominantly inhabited Irish and Italian working-class families. In the 1970s and 80s, however, as living in the Upper West Side and Soho became too expensive for many families, Manhattan residents began to seek alternative housing options in the outer boroughs, namely Brooklyn.
Today, Park Slope is well-known for its preponderance of yuppies and their young families. As the neighborhood’s population has changed over the years, so has its local establishments, also businesses increasingly seek to cater to the wants and needs of Park Slope’s new, affluent residents. As I walk around block with my mother and aunt, who grew up in the area, they are quick to point all the changes the neighborhood has undergone. While Park Slope today is dominated by chic coffee shops, eco-friendly dry cleaners and niche restaurants (Southern comfort and French haute cuisine fusion, anyone?), my mother is insistent that the character of the neighborhood has changed completely since her childhood, when most of establishments I see today were still seedy Irish bars.
If you’re looking to enjoy a day in Park Slope, but are also unwilling to break your budget, then look no farther than Prospect Park. Designed and constructed over a thirty-year period (1865-1895) by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux (aka the same dudes who designed Central Park), Prospect Park is a premiere destination for both Brooklyn natives and tourists alike. Though the bulk of Prospect Park is indigenous of forest and wetlands, the park boasts a number of attractions, including a zoo, an Audubon Center, an ice rink, and many other recreational facilities. I would highly recommend a stroll around Prospect Park if you’re seeking a short respite from the concrete landscape of Manhattan.
If you are looking to learn more about the rich history of Brooklyn, then consider visiting the Brooklyn Historical Society. With its diverse offering of exhibits, ranging from “Truman Capote’s Brooklyn,” to “Brooklyn Abolitionists: In Pursuit of Freedom,” the Brooklyn Historical Society offers invaluable insight into the storied history of the neighborhood.
Sinead Hunt is a first-year at Barnard and Liaison for Barnard Bite.