20.5.08

Park Slope Hate

Lynn Harris wrote a fine piece in Sunday's NY Times chronlicling and investigating Park Slope hate among Brooklynites. But, I have to disagree with Josh Grinker, owner of Stone Park Cafe in Park Slope, who said people hate Park Slope because, "they're jealous they can't live here." As enticing Grinker's "cedar-planked salmon and quinoa pilaf" merchandise sounds (actually, it sounds like a description of the symptoms of a venereal disease), I think I'll stick with "sardines and chick peas." I'm about as jealous of people in Park Slope as I am of people in Greenwich, Connecticut.

That said, there are a couple of good points made in Harris' article that should be interrogated. The first is made by Jeff Sandgrund who's lived in Park Slope his whole life: "Hipsters and people who don’t have kids are terrified of becoming grown-ups and parents," says Sandgrund, "which is what Park Slope has come to represent. So you lash out against that as if it’s the worst thing in the world, when in five years, you know what? It’s going to be you."

Fair enough, we'll all be parents. But I think he's a bit off point. If us youngsters just hated the idea of being parents and "grown-up," whatever that means, wouldn't we hate young black and hispanic mothers in Bed-Stuy and East New York with vigor, as well? What makes the white, troll-mothers of Park Slope particularly reprehensible is their sense of arrogance and entitlement, as though they were the first person ever to have a child, So please, It is 1am on Friday night, I hear you down there on the street and I am calling the cops. As Chris Rock said, "even roaches have kids."

However, I'm sure there are many people for whom Sandgrund's critique holds water. But, for me, I don't think it speaks to what I find objectionable amongst that set.

Second point to look at: "This whole thing sounds like white people being annoyed by and jealous of other white people, which I find kind of funny,” said James Bernard, a union organizer and a member of the local Community Board 6. “I live in the Slope. I love it. I talk about it as much as anyone else does. But I founded a charter school near Brownsville and I don’t hear anyone talking about Park Slope over there.”

Well, duh, dipshit. If you'd been in Fort Greene or Gowanus or Clinton Hill twenty years ago you wouldn't have heard anyone talking about the Upper East Side, either. We're talking about real estate and money. If you're in Brownsville, you probably don't have the duckets to live in Park Slope, so why would you be a part of the conversation? You're just a human pinball waiting for the gentrification-paddle to move in and thwack you out of the way and into Canarsie. And never mind the cultural-imperialism and Conrad-esq tones of "civilized vs. savage" invective in the subtext of Bernard's statement.

There are plenty of good reasons to hate on Park Slope. The arrogance and entitlement inherent in a stroller the size of an Escalade betrays the ignorance of that vehicle's pusher and the role he or she plays in the socio-economic imperialism sweeping Brooklyn. Fine. But we should have all been on that page a long time ago, and we weren't.

What hating Park Slope is really about is white self-loathing. Hating Park Slope is lazy. It's so, so easy. If you want to hate on white people gentrifying a neighborhood, start with yourself in Fort Greene. Or, yourself in Clinton Hill. Or, yourself in Bed-Stuy. Park Slope was lost long ago, and who cares, fuck that place. I don't want your gonorrhea sounding fish spread anyway.

But looking out at others and criticizing is ignorant and unproductive. Start with YOU. Start with, What Does It Mean For Me To Live On Classon Avenue? Or Franklin Avenue. Or Gates Avenue. Just because you're in the minority now, just because you feel like you live in an "authentic" neighborhood now, don't mean shit. They'll all be Park Slopes in a decade.

So fine, let's all get behind an MacLaren Stroller Targeted IED Regimen for Park Slope. But you better look hard and deep at what you're doing to Gowanus. Because the mother in Park Slope is not the issue. The hipster in Bushwick, the 22-year old yuppie in Clinton-Hill, the artist in Bed-Stuy. We're the ones who owe up some answers.

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