Actually, there are a large number of new buildings and construction projects in my neighbourhood – Park Slope, Brooklyn – that I hate. You see, Park Slope is traditionally an area of turn-of-the-century brownstones and townhouses, and by turn-of-the-century, I mean the 18 and 1900s, not the millennium. Anyway, as prices have skyrocketed in Manhattan over the last couple decades, more and more people have discovered this area of Brooklyn, and it’s been flooded by the usual waves of first gays and students, then yuppies, and now just about any rich, white person who isn’t able to find a place in The City, or just wants more room and a more homey environment. Of course, you could say the same about Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Willamsburg, DUMBO, Brooklyn and Prospect Heights, Windsor Terrace and, more recently, Red Hook and Fort Greene, but Park Slope was probably the nabe that really got the upscale gentrification/redevelopment ball rolling. Is it any wonder that nowadays real estate agents tend to classify anywhere down to the Gowanus or southwards through Greenwood Heights and halfway into Sunset Park as part of “The Slope”?
(Heck, since our apartment is just over the parkway, we may not even really count as the South Slope, but over the decade or so I’ve been here, I’ve seen Polish and Latino families edged out by Anglo hipsters, and 99-cent stores closed as restaurants and cafés move in. I definitely carry the liberal guilt of being on the gentrifying edge, but that’s another story.)
As this Manhattanite influx has been going on, naturally not only have rents skyrocketed, but a building boom has been born. At first it seemed like many developers would be satisfied with flipping pre-existing buildings, but now you can see huge, modern-style condos going up all over the place, each uglier (the prevailing design theme seems to be “1980s shopping mall”) and more shoddily constructed than the next. I don’t know the particulars of how and when the building-height regulations were relaxed, but I know I was certain where things were heading a couple years ago, when a condo several stories higher than the largest building on my block went up. Now you can see new construction projects opening almost daily, and many residents fear that the brownstone charm that attracted them in the first place is going to be overrun by high-rise monstrosities.
So, why do I hate this building in particular? Quite simply, it’s right behind my building, it’s huge, clearly made on the cheap, and changing the entire look and feel of the area, along with my view of the Manhattan skyline. I mean, look at how it dwarfs the surrounding townhouses.
Not only that, but construction has been haphazard, the carpenters’ unions have complained that unsafe and illegal work has been done there, and there have been at least 68 complaints lodged and 22 violations reported for this property. And guess what? The demolition contractor who worked on this site is the same one who was issued a stop work order after two workers were hospitalized due to wall collapse on another violation-heavy site on very same street!
All told, it’s no Atlantic Yards, but it’s still an oversized eyesore by neighbourhood scale, and a continually crooked project, to boot. I’m still lucky that I have a large, if careworn, apartment in the Slope at a good rate. But now, on top of wondering how long I’ll be able to afford living here, I find myself wondering how long I’ll want to.