I Heart Park Slope

I hadn’t been to Park Slope before I moved to New York. For those not in the know, it’s in South Brooklyn, not in Manhattan. I hadn’t spent a lot of time in Brooklyn in general, except for one or two trips to Williamsburg, and one night in Dumbo.

When I was spending my last weeks at work doing nothing but researching apartments and clothes, I found an ad for a short sublet in Park Slope. The owner needed someone to stay in his apartment for two weeks, starting from the day I was set to arrive in New York.

We had a quick Skype call, I signed an agreement and sent him some money, and we stayed in touch until I was on my way to New York from LA. Sadly, due to my lack of urgency getting to LAX from Hollywood, I missed my early flight and didn’t get to meet him to get the keys. I had tickets to see The Cure that night, so I chose to stay in a hotel in Chelsea (not THE Chelsea Hotel, though the thought of giving someone head in an unmade bed there like Janis Joplin did doesn’t disgust me) and go to the Park Slope house the next day instead.

I wasn’t prepared for the way the neighborhood was going to win me over. Brownstones towered over the streets that were covered in leaves from the trees that lined the edges. There were books left in boxes for strangers to enjoy, and families walked their dogs up and down the streets together.
I found myself just going for walks just to enjoy the summer sun – something I have never thought of as a good pastime – and just smiling at everything and everyone.

Brownstones, trees, sun. Beautiful Park Slope.

The time came to leave the sublet house which was only a block away from Prospect Park, and move to another place in Williamsburg; still in Brooklyn, but in the trendier northern part. To say Williamsburg was a visual disappointment is an understatement.

In place of the brownstones Park Slope is known for, Williamsburg has a mixture of new unaffordable high-rises, old weatherboard houses, and converted warehouses. In place of the trees, garbage bags. In place of the books, nothing. In place of charming little families with dogs, rude hipsters with ironic hair.

But it wasn’t just the visuals that drew me back to Park Slope. People in Williamsburg kind of suck.* Any time I went out to get food, coffee, drinks, clothes – fucking anything – I was immediately turned off by people’s attitudes.

People walking slowly to get and give me my takeout order after standing around staring at their own tattoos for five minutes. A guy telling my friend and I not to move chairs in a café since we were ‘blocking the entrance’ (we weren’t). A guy at a bar yelling at me after I told him he’d poured me the wrong beer. Girls giving me the up and down stare and eye-roll in trendy Bedford Avenue shops. People staring at me because I wasn’t wearing a fucking hat at Toby’s Estate.

The ugly streets of Williamsburg. Pretty sunset though.

Park Slope has much more of a community vibe, and people are actually nice to each other. I have some favorite places so far, but I’m sure I’ll add many more as I spend more time here.

1. Rise – 5th Avenue and 14th Street, Brooklyn
This is not a restaurant, bar, or café. This is my kickboxing studio. I first went to Rise on a ClassPass… pass? when I was staying at my first Park Slope apartment. The instructor, Carrie, was so friendly and lovely, and even though I couldn’t meet her enthusiasm and energy at 6am, I loved training with her right away.

The classes are so FUCKING HARD, but in the best possible way. I’ve done things with Rise – jump rope, burpees, gotten out of bed at 5:30am to get the subway to Park Slope from Williamsburg to go to class – that I’ve never managed to master before. I look forward to my classes, I look forward to being challenged, and I especially look forward to training with Carrie. She remembers everyone’s name even if you’ve only met her once, she laughs at my Snapchats about how much she made my body ache in class, and she tells us all she loves us all the time. I’m so grateful I’ve found a place that makes me feel so strong and happy every time I go to a class.

2. Roots Café – 5th Avenue and 18th Street, Brooklyn
The first time I went into Roots, the owner served me and told me the drink I chose – the salted caramel latte – was her favorite drink on the menu. She also asked me where I was from and said I have a very elegant voice. She thanks every customer for coming in, invites them to come back, and remembers the regulars’ orders. In short, she makes you feel wanted.

3. Woops! Bake Shop – 5th Avenue and 17th Street, Brooklyn
I’m not sure if the guy I see most mornings is the owner, but whoever he is, he always remembers my order and makes the mornings less terrible. He also plays great music; I’m often greeted by Beatles’ album songs like ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun’ and ‘I Want to Tell You’, or some classic blues music when I walk in. They also have the best chocolate muffins I’ve ever eaten in my life.

I love living in Park Slope. Every time I leave the house I smile to myself because of how beautiful it is, even in the dark and rain. I urge anyone who visits New York to come to this neighborhood and enjoy its beauty, and pick up a free book from a stoop.

*Note: there was an exception! The people at Reunion on Union Avenue in Williamsburg are awesome.

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Justine McNamara

I'm an Australian living in New York. I work in marketing but I write about music, New York, and my own personal experiences.

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