This weekend, we signed a lease on a way-too-expensive-especially-with-broker-fees apartment in Park Slope, a neighborhood in Brooklyn. Those of you who are not up with your Neighborhood Definitions, Park Slope is where people in our demographic and income bracket go when they have kids and have to move out of Manhattan. For the same price as a one bedroom in Manhattan, you can get a three bedroom apartment in Park Slope. Which is exactly what we did when we signed a year lease for an apartment in the South Slope.
I’m already totally in love with the neighborhood. It’s called Park Slope because it borders Prospect Park, Brooklyn’s version of Central Park. Park Slope is also highly walkable, with a mix of independently owned businesses and residential similar to what any sane city should have. It has subway stops so I can get to Manhattan quickly. And because it has all these wonderful qualities, it is now an EXTREMELY family friendly neighborhood. (These are, of course, the same qualities that make Vancouver awesome. Park Slope is basically a more expensive Commercial Drive.
But, at this point in my life, the family aspect is one of my favorite parts. There are parents our age everywhere, all with kids under ten. I haven’t seen this kind of family neighborhood since I lived in Vancouver. Even in Silverlake, families are common, but not expected. Everywhere I went, people were out with their kids. We went for dinner at a small Italian restaurant on Saturday night, and I figured it would be socially acceptable to bring Ben, even if he was the only small child in the place. But when we got there, two of the eight tables in the place were occupied by families. It was so nice to be someplace where EVERYONE HAS SMALL CHILDREN.
I suppose we could have accomplished the same level of family & community in L.A. by moving out to Eagle Rock or Pasadena. But everything in Los Angeles was built with cars in mind, not people. All the urban areas here, with the exception of a few shopping districts, assume that people are using cars to get there. It just seems stupid to me to have to drive to get to a park. I believe that living life on a walkable scale is the most civilized way to exist in an urban area, which is why I am so drawn to NYC…and why we chose Park Slope.
The family density also means that there are no end of community family activities. We’re already signing up to join Congregation Beth Elohim, which is one of the oldest and largest Reform Jewish communities in America. They have Tot Shabbat <i>every single week</i>, as opposed to once a month, to accommodate the families in the area…and we’re applying to get Ben into their excellent, highly-rated preschool facility as well. There’s all sorts of facilities offering family activities and classes for preschool-age children, including a huge YMCA facility. The Y alone offers storytimes, indoor sports for families, and all sort of stuff that will help Ben stay social until we can get him into a new preschool. The family density also means there’s additional private businesses teaching the arts to small children. Within two blocks of our apartment, there is the Brooklyn Design Lab, offering art lessons for Ben-sized children, and the Hootenanny House offering music lessons. A few blocks further away is the Brooklyn Arts Exchangewith tumbling, theater and dance classes. And, best of all, we can walk to EVERYTHING, and we won’t have to waste time driving and parking every time we take Ben to do something outside the house!
My goal is to stay in Park Slope for at least two years. I want to be able to join the community, sign on at the food co-op, meet other parents, participate at the local temple. I want Ben to be able to go to kindergarten at the highly-rated public school near our house (from which there is pickup to after-school activities at Beth Elohim). But most of all, I want to be able to live someplace where I can not only walk everywhere, but take joy in the walking. Yes, the weather is going to be extreme in winter and summer, but the neighborhood is beautiful, full of historic brownstones. I’ll be able to ride my bike without fearing for my life, too – and I am especially looking forward to spending some weekends riding around the NYC metro bike path system.
Wikipedia has an entire history of Park Slope, for those of you interested in the background of the community. But I am so looking forward to living in this new neighborhood. I think it will be someplace all three of us will really be able to call “home”.