Out with the OLD, in with the OUTRAGEOUS
Gentrification in Park Slope Brooklyn
OUT WITH THE OLD
June 2, 2009
The much beloved SALVATION ARMY THRIFT SHOP on Flatbush and 6th Avenues in Park Slope, just up the block from my apartment on Bergen Street, will be shutting its doors on June 30th.
I talked with manager Patience Anoe-Lamptey (pictured) today, when I stopped in to see what was left in stock, and to say my goodbyes. “Even in this economy, a charitable thrift store can’t survive,” Patience said with dismay. When I asked how the stores’ customers are responding to the news, Patience told me that when the customers heard of the imminent closing many were screaming “oh no!,” and wondering where they will be able to shop for comparable values – “they depend upon us” she said, with sadness in her voice.
My partner, an academic who visits me from out of state and travels the world speaking at various international panels, refers to the Salvation Army Thrift Shop fondly as “Armeé.” Filled with clothing, in separate men’s, women’s and children’s sections, arranged by style and color, the Salvation Army Thrift Shop also carry’s books, videos, music, kitchen items, electronics, and a little candy at the front door — a veritable “one-stop shopping Mecca.”
She and I frequently joke about how she really only visits me here in Brooklyn because of “Armee,” that “fabulous little Park Slope boutique.” She’s picked up countless outfits and fashion accessories there, including a green hand beaded evening purse, several black cocktail dresses, a stylish black tweed princess coat, and countless pairs of shoes, each costing only $3 -$20 – and on sales days those prices were cut in half – supplying a very manageable combination of practicality and shopping therapy.
Although we’ve hotly debated the concept of our purchases supporting Salvation Army’s views on abortion and homosexuality, my partner feels that she’s supporting reuse and recycling, instead of rampant greed and capitalism.
Today I sent my love an email with the sad news all the way to Moscow, where she is researching her new book: “Armeé to close June 20th” … she’s in shock.
IN WITH THE OUTRAGEOUS
I walked across Flatbush Avenue from “Armeé,” to check out “BKLYN Larder,” a new cheese and specialty food shop which just opened a few days ago. I stopped in, briefly, to take a peak at their “cheeses & provisions.” Scanning the blond wooden shelves, I saw row upon row of fine, bagged, chocolates and a small selection of wines. When I turned to peruse the prepared food cases – I had a shock: ONE meatball, $5.00? Cooked asparagus, $9 a pound? Octopus salad, $35 a pound! (Octopus salad?). In this economy WHO can afford those prices? And why, instead of eating octopus at $35 a pound, aren’t my neighbors choosing to save some of their extra dollars, or helping their less fortunate neighbors by donating to a responsible charity? I could gaze at the tasty dishes no longer –I walked out shaking my head in disgust.
Why am I bitching and moaning? Why am I so worked up about some old clothes and a few nick-knacks, and why do I care if someone spends their money on octopus salad?
Except for Paul’s on 5th Avenue between Bergen & Dean, the little bodegas are all closed. The eateries are high priced; the clothing has shot through the roof. But, aren’t I delighted that I live in Park Slope, in the hippest of neighborhoods with a “Walk Score” of 98?
Imagine this: (assuming I had the money), I could fulfill practically all of life’s needs within one block of my apartment, without even crossing the street! If I step out of my door on Bergen Street and walk uphill, I could stop by Eponymy Brooklyn to purchase upscale clothing that would make me look great; when I get tired from trying things on, I’d have a vegan lunch at Organic Heights, select a top-of-the line bicycle (for upwards of $700) from Ride Brooklyn to cruise the newly paved street; then I’d chain the bike in front and hang out at the bar of Melt. I’d flirt with someone cute, pick up an attractive patron, have dinner outside at one of their curbside tables including a few specialty drinks, then stumble, a little tipsy, with my date to Babeland to purchase a sex toy, and still, slightly inebriated, go home to bed my paramour, and get pregnant. Then – after a great night, I’d wake up, step out of my door, walk a few blocks to Bump to find flattering maternity clothes. Then on to my final destination, Pintchik’s Hardware, where I buy everything I need to convert my apartment to make my new “little visitor” feel right at home … I could do all of this on my side of the street, within one single block!
OK, fantasy over. I don’t have that kind of cash — plus I’m too old to get pregnant!
Sure, I’ll admit it, when I need emergency lube, I love the idea that Babeland, a women owned, sex-positive store is right on my block. And hey, I remember when the space that is now Melt was brimming with cockroaches and rats and housed a “dentist” who talked to his voices while walking down the street and I remember the rumor going ’round that he tortured cats inside. So, yes, certainly, there is something to be said for the new “look” of the 5th Avenue area Slope, with all the storefronts painted and spruced up – and fewer animals that aren’t on pretty leashes … but at what price?
When rents get so high that my neighbors move out every six months, rather than staying put for 5-20 years like they use to – ( honestly, I can’t remember who lives upstairs from me anymore). And high-priced stores take over the space that housed businesses like Adam’s “No Name” Books, and charities that served the communities’ needs like the Salvation Army’s Thrift Store, are forced to move – then development becomes gentrification, a very dirty word – and it hurts many of us who work hard and want to stay on here.
Gosh, sometimes it seems like I’d have to SELL that first born child created during my fantasy day on the block in order to afford one of those sex toys or dinner’s out.
… But, WAIT … Wait just A MINUTE! … I just had an idea! I think I’ve still got a few CUCUMBERS in the fridge…
Hey, yes, look, they’re still nice and hard and fresh! … Add a little oil and that’s dinner!
And a little more oil and I’ve got myself a night’s pleasure …
Dinner. Exercises. Pleasure.
That’s right, right here at home, I can take care of my all my needs, and I didn’t even have to LEAVE my apartment to see how the neighborhood’s changing …
All that satisfaction, and for practically no cost at all!
This is Judith Z. Miller, aka Artists Soul, wishing us all, safe, affordable and satisfied neighborhoods!
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