Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Confessions of a South Sloper

Good Lord, I haven't been to the North end of 7th Ave in a dog's age and it sure has changed. Not along the lines of the East Village, where I still can't get over the transformation from homeless/pushers' shantytown to playground of the privileged in Tompkins Square Park, but it's way more gentrified than even when I lived there, maybe 8 years ago. And what the hell are they doing to the school down there near 2nd? I've gotta get out more often.

This isn't to say I haven't seen my share of butt-ugly construction in my neck of the woods, even if I rarely venture off of 5th Ave. From my digs in what we tartly call "SoSoSlope" or "Sunset Slope" (although it's really on the border between the South Slope and Greenwood Heights, depending on whether you're an old-timer resident or a real estate developer) on down to Atlantic one set of new condos pops up after another, each looking like the wet dream of a New Jersey mall architect circa 1980-something (expanses of green glass highlighting... the concrete staircases? Why?). Lots of blocky, tall structures with heavy-handed geometric sections in brick, teal and weird pinkish-beiges attempting to look "modernist" but coming up "cheap" or "community college dormitory" are beginning to block out the skyline. And who the hell wants to live there, I might ask? Not that I love pulling square nails dating to the dawn of the industrial age out of my feet every time I cross my apartment or worrying that all those old gas light fixtures might not be fully sealed, but from what I gather, people are paying upwards of $2,000 per month for a one bedroom in these places. I mean, I love my neighborhood, but even if I could afford it? Not ever. No. I don't get it.

I suppose I should never tempt fate, lest my landlords renovate us into the market rate (not bloody likely), and I don't claim to be a born-and-bred denizen who can complain about gentrification too much. But I can complain a little bit. I like old buildings. I like the feel of a brownstone neighborhood. I especially like being able to see the Manhattan skyline from my rear window, even if I'll always remember watching the towers fall from there and regularly inhale emissions from the expressway in my back yard. And I can't afford it if the prices keep climbing. As it is, I just moved to the Slope in the mid-90s, when things were just getting rolling before the big boom, and you saw more queer artist types sprucing up the place before the hipster/stroller-pusher set ran amok. I know that, technically speaking, I was a part of gentrification, or at least on the edge of it. And, naturally, I do benefit from it in having interesting new restaurants to go to now and then, relative safety and so on. But I'm tired of construction cranes and Starbucks, and it seems harder and harder to get away from them nowadays, without moving smack out of the city altogether. Is that the next step?

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