Close-Up on Park Slope


Portions of this article have been updated.

Park Slope is an easy introduction to New York, a slice of Brooklyn where cats curl up on copy machines and young couples stroll arm in arm, bundled in scarves knitted for each other. No wonder As Good As It Gets was filmed here: On weekends, Slope stoops are laden with used books, furniture, and vinyl records. Passersby browse as strains of Gershwin drift from the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music onto tree-lined 7th Avenue.

“The Slope,” as some call the area, refers to the gentle incline from Prospect Park—Brooklyn’s version of Central Park. Just four miles from downtown Manhattan, or 25 minutes to Chinatown by subway, Park Slopers who work across the East River consider the commute a decent trade for peace of mind and community vibe—a vibe perhaps best felt among rows of historic brownstones on and near Prospect Park West.

Twenty-five years ago Park Slope’s grittier 5th Avenue was a ghost town. Within a mile radius of the DeGraw Street intersection, there is said to have been more than 200 abandoned buildings and 150 vacant lots. But today’s 5th Avenue—known to some as “Central Slope”—is renowned for its French bistros, sake bars, and swank boutiques. Residents can rub shoulders on election day with Senator Chuck Schumer at P.S. 321, one of the city’s premiere public elementary schools, or bump into A Beautiful Mind actor Jennifer Connelly dog-walking in a beloved community garden. Even in a squall, New Yorkers of all stripes trek to the Park Slope Food Coop on Union Street for the fresh produce.

A Swinging Slope? Smiling Pizza on 9th Street closes at 1:30 a.m., but other late-night choices along Seventh Avenue are few. Two avenues lower, however, the bar scene is laid-back and hopping with just the right energy. On rare nights when indie rock acts aren’t live at Great Lakes (284 5th Avenue), patrons will enjoy the tavern’s well-regarded, for-the-kids jukebox.

When you’re not drinking at one of the many bars, you’ll notice that Park Slope’s southern edge—”South Slope,” in real estate speak—is a racially and economically diverse cross-section of Puerto Rican, Latin American, Dominican, Jamaican, and Irish immigrants. The northern edge, meanwhile, is defined more by wealthy young families, stroller gridlock, and recent graduates blithely resuming campus lifestyles without the college.

People avow great pride for Park Slope, with its yoga classes, shots of wheat grass, and freshly baked bread. Be it your Sesame Street, Avenue Q, or Escape from New York—the place is a fine choice to settle, make a nest, and enjoy the good life.

Boundaries: Flatbush Avenue to the north, Prospect Park on the east, 4th Avenue on the west, and 17th Street to the south.

Transportation: Trains: The F to 7th Avenue drops you smack-dab in the Slope. You can also take the Q/B to 7th Avenue, the 2/3 to Bergen Street or Grand Army Plaza, or the M/R to Union Street. Buses: B67, B63.

Main Drags: Seventh Avenue and 5th Avenue are crammed with cute clothing and jewelry boutiques, used bookstores, cafés, cat clinics, and other small businesses. Fifth Avenue between DeGraw and 5th Street offers a slew of great restaurants: Mexican, Japanese, French, Vietnamese, and you can even find genuine Buffalo wings at Bonnie’s Grill. As you walk down 7th Avenue, don’t blink too hard when you think you see the same hair salon or fried ravioli take-out place from a few blocks back; pairs of establishments are fairly common.

Prices to Rent and Buy: “There are more people moving in than moving out,” says Alessandra Ruiz, an agent for Aguayo & Huebener Realty Group. Prices are more expensive the further you head into North Slope, above 3rd Street, and the closer you get to Prospect Park. For rent, one-bedroom apartments range anywhere from $1300 to $1800 and two-bedrooms range from $1500 to $2500. And $1.8 million is considered a reasonable price for a multi-family brownstone.

What to check out: The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company (372 Fifth Avenue, 718.499.9884), founded by staggering genius Dave Eggers, the BSSC literally sells superhero capes, utility belts and ray guns but is actually a front for 826NYC, a nonprofit writing center for kids. Also visit the Park Slope Food Coop, the nation’s largest member-run food cooperation, which is essential to understanding the organic and community mindset of Park Slope.

Hangouts, parks and restaurants: Prospect Park provides green space aplenty. Throw together a whole bunch of mismatched sofas, eclectic music, dim lamps, a huge selection of tea, coffee, and alcoholic beverages, live bands on Thursdays, and a relatively attractive wait staff, and you get Tea Lounge (837 Union Street, 718.789.2762). People sit here for hours. Southpaw (125 5th Avenue, 718.230.0236) is the Slope venue for indie rock concerts. And well known also are brunches, such as Sunday mornings at Rose Water (787 Union Street, 718.783.3800) with its delicious Mediterranean fare, and local favorite diner Dizzy’s (511 9th Street, 718.499.1966).

Politicians: City Councilman David Yassky, State Assemblywoman Joan L. Millman, State Senator Carl Andrews and U.S. Representative Major Owens, all Democrats.

Crime stats: Park Slope is covered by the 78th Precinct, which also includes Prospect Park and the more industrial Gowanus. As of September 25, 2005 it reported 1 murder, 5 rapes, 183 robberies, 56 felonious assaults, and 134 burglaries. (While rapes in the area have decreased considerably since last year, from 11 in 2003 to 6 rapes in 2004, robberies, felony assaults, and burglaries have seen a slight increase in numbers. There were 209 robberies this year, up from 196 in 2003; 75 felony assaults, up from 61; and 264 burglaries, up from 251. Grand larcenies dropped to 351 from last year’s 370.)

Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting the Village Voice and our advertisers.