That the universe is expanding may be an occasion for dread, but what about the expansion of Park Slope? Well, here’s good news, sort of: Visits to several Seventh Avenue real-estate offices revealed that the Slope’s expansion is due less to general-relativistic necessity than to market forces.
When asked to identify the southern boundary of Park Slope, brokers frown or smile, depending on how long they’ve been in the business. Roughly speaking, the newer the agent the broader her Slope.
“In order to attract buyers, people describe neighborhoods as Park Slope that aren’t Park Slope,” an agent told me before he noticed his boss glowering at him. Borders are a touchy subject, even here.
Everyone agrees that the Slope is bounded by Flatbush Avenue to the north and by Prospect Park West to the east. That’s just simple geography. And clearly the “prime Slope blocks” are demarcated by the 34-year-old lines marking the Park Slope Historic District, which runs roughly between Seventh Avenue and the park from St. Johns Place to Third Street and between Eighth Avenue and the park from Fourth to 14th Street.
Ah, but what of the neighborhood’s western and southern frontiers? Many say the the western border is Fourth Avenue, but the opinion is hardly unanimous. Lee Solomon of Brown Harris Stevens sets it instead at Third Avenue (well, of course she does!), but Janice Cimberg, whose desk is beside Lee’s, sniffed.
“That’s Gowanus,” she said.
Oh, yeah, retorted Lee: “We’ll see when Whole Foods gets here if they call it Whole Foods Gowanus or Whole Foods Park Slope.” Touche!
“There are always these mitn derinnen [in-between] places,” Cimberg said with a shrug.
But the most-heated disagreements are about the southern border. Some say it runs parallel to the southern edge of Prospect Park, at 15th Street; others, at Prospect Avenue, beside the Prospect Expressway; still others, at 24th Street, at the southwestern corner of Green-Wood Cemetery.
“The Prospect Expressway to 24th Street, that’s the contested area,” said Ilene Levenson of Brooklyn Properties. “That area isn’t Sunset Park. Some call it the ‘South South Slope.’ Some call it ‘Green-Wood Heights.’”
South South Slope may be unwieldy, but it’s also quasi-official: in its 2005 rezoning plan, the Department of Planning referred to the area “bounded by 15th Street on the north, Fourth Avenue on the west, Prospect Park West on the east, and 24th Street and Green-Wood Cemetery on the south” as South Park Slope.
“Green-Wood Heights” hasn’t really caught on. Agents use it tentatively, maybe because it sounds like a synonym for death, a la “the big sleep,” “Abraham’s bosom,” or “Davy Jones’s locker.” (“Hand over the cash or you’re goin’ ta Green-Wood Heights.”)
“Neighborhoods didn’t need to be named ’til real estate got involved,” said Anna Anderson of Orrichio Anderson. “The salt of the earth would say, ‘I live on this street or that one.’ ”
Real-estate agents may regret the passing of a more geographically certain era, but their work requires them to accept the extension of the brand that Park Slope has become.
“People didn’t come here in the 1970s for the lattés,” Lee Solomon said. “Park Slope today is a frame of mind.”
It happens that as you head south you can get the frame for a bit less.
Jimmy Wallenstein is a freelancer writer and educator who lives in Park Slope and has a great dog.
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