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Bob Marvin

Get this quotation, ascribed to Peggy Aguayo [who, I hope, actually knows better]:

"The transition began seven years ago when the first “pioneering couples and individuals” started moving to the neighborhood because they wanted interesting homes, but couldn’t afford to buy in Park Slope"

One of the main attractions of PLG, when I moved here from Park Slope 33 years ago, was that the neighborhood had long been integrated, was attracting a diverse range of people, and that "pioneering" was not needed.


What a crazy article -- and where are these Tunisian restaurants on Flatbush Ave.? The writer soom to have gone nowhere beyond City Jerk -- and must not have even looked across the street, because Sushi Tatsu isn't mentioned, either (certainly raw fish is a prime indicator of gentrification).

And as Bob mentions, one of the major draws of this neighborhood for many is that it has long been integrated.

Truly a bizarre article.


Typical article with shallow insight and the usual "code" words.
I always thought the word gentrification meant to "add people". Gentry is a latin based word that means people. So People-a-fication would seem to be what it means. This neighborhood has many people already. But people think it means when white people move in. Oh well. Like every other black neighborhood in Brooklyn, it didnt exist until white people found it. The author seems like she is Arab-American BTW.

Bob Marvin

AFAIK "gentrification" started out as a British term for upper income people ("gentry") buying and renovating working class terrace (row) houses. I never thought the term had much relevance for the US (or at least New York) because our row houses are very different [built for the middle class and much grander than English terrace houses but, in most cases, less elaborite than the biggest English town houses] and we don't have the same class structure.

Also, the idea that PLG "Like every other black neighborhood in Brooklyn, ...didnt exist until white people found it" is doubly absurd. Not only is the concept ridiculous on it's face (as "tomg, I'm sure, intended to point out and as it is everywhere) but it doesn't even make sense for those misguided individuals who actually might think in those terms. PLG has long had a black majority but, because blockbusting did not continue to it's usual completion, white people have always lived here.


Whoosh... the sound of this article flying over the head of ATP, and apparently its commenters. I guess all the quotes from residents, expressing what seems to be legitimate concern about rising rents due to "gentrification" (not the Latin definition, mind you, just that colloquial usage regular people tend to use) doesn't mean much if a newspaper article fails to mention K-Dog.


I was willing to give the article a fair shot, but right off the bat she called my supermarket "dingy". Now that's just rude.

Adrian Lesher

I'd like a Tunisian restaurant!


Excuse me, adwred, but what "residents" did the writer interview? An anonymous cashier at City Jerk (with no mention of where he lives); Oswald Thomas, who lives not in PLG but in Crown Heights, and is referred to as Mr. Jones in the next paragraph (uless that's another person, but if so he's never introduced); and "Denese," who apparently is a resident and has a salon on Flatbush (although I don't know it offhand and can't find any listing in the yellow pages -- although there is a Denise Beauty Salon, on Flatbush, at Beverley Rd., which is NOT in PLG either); and an unnamed friend of hers.

I'm not saying a discussion of gentrification isn't pertinent, either in PLG, or in Flatbush farther down, but this is, quite simply, incredibly sloppy reporting -- so I don't think anything's gone over anyone's head here. And mentioning K-Dog's would only have strengthened the author's case.

And the only vegetarian restaurants I know in the neighborhood are Ital (and some are excellent) and owned/operated by by people who would most likely not be considered "gentrification people" by the commenters in the article.

Bob Marvin

FWIW what Ms.Ohrstrom refers to as a "Rastafarian-colored shop called 'Smile for Every Sistah in You'" is actually a fairly upscale women's clothing shop that appeals to shoppers of all races [how do I know that?--my wife discovered the store after being told about it by two friends, one black, the other white].

The African born owner has lived in PLG for 12 years, so, Ms. Ohrstrom, is she a "gentrification person" or a "non-gentrification type"and which of your two brilliantly conceived categories do her customers fall into?


But that's the problem-- what was the author's point? That the neighborhood's gentrifying or that it's not? She cites rising rents, but then disses Flatbush Ave.

The reporting is clearly sloppy even if you have never been to PLG. Lime is "presumably" a newcomer? She couldn't call and check? She takes the word of one guy about things getting renamed, without doing any additional research?

But I will say this "presumably" very unpopular thing: Leaving out K-dog and Enduro is not such a glaring oversight. They are in one little corner of the neighborhood, and while I am very happy to have them both, they have not done much to change the character of PLG. Flatbush, our main drag, is still pretty nasty.


Nic--thank you for injecting a note of honesty!! With all the outrage over the reporter's sloppiness the fact is that she clearly visited PLG (as well as points south), and her report is actually pretty spot-on. While there are a few new places, our commercial offerings remain very un-gentrified. No one who has not lived here for years would walk down Flatbush or even Lincoln and think that they were in an area with a well-established middle and upper-middle class community. We see the few signs of nascent change, but first-time visitors don't. In fact, I recently had a friend visit from out of town who hasn't been here in 4 years and she commented on how the neighbohood was exactly the same. I of course immediately took her to K-Dog.


Maybe it's better to have some mixed publicity. We don't want gentrification to happen too quickly. We wouldn't want to see tensions form among the "gentrication" and the "non-gentrification" classes. And, quite frankly, I'd prefer it if Star Bucks and other chain stores not come in and compete with and replace K-Dog and our other beloved local run stores.


Actually Matt, having a Starbucks nearby apparently *helps* local coffee houses, driving more people and business to the local guy:

Don't Fear Starbucks:
Why the franchise actually helps mom and pop coffeehouses.

I personally find their coffee to be lousy and refuse to go there. But I would hardly complain if their presence brought other dining options to the neighborhood.

With Starbucks charging well over 5 bucks for a grande cappucino with an extra shot, something tells me that K-Dog has nothing to fear.

So let them come, overcharge, and instill confidence for other (preferably non-chain) dining options, I say.


Essentially the writer of the piece seems to be pointing out the blindingly obvious insight that prices for housing have gone up in PLG over the past 3 years (hello? welcome to Anywhere, USA!), but PLG isn't actually nice enough to warrant the price increases. She cites 3 unidentified or partially/unreliably identified people in PLG who think that the price increases suck (and what renter, no matter what colour they are, feels otherwise?) and that improvements to apartments, shops, and restaurants should all be done by landlords and other small business owners for free out of the kindness of their hearts (and with no regard for their own ability to pay their bills). Oh, and these same reliable sources also say that the cops only want to help white people (excuse me - gentrification people).
I think this reflects worst of all on the Observer, who were careless (or malicious) enough to publish this slop pile of thinly-veiled innuendo.
And on the topic of local stores: I don't want a Starbucks, but I do want a Gorilla. K-Dog's food is good, but let's face it, their coffee is the pits. It tastes like they haven't cleaned the machine since they opened the place.


Yes, the main point of the article seems to be that prices have increased but 'amenities' have not. Which is a valid argument, though (as Lucy points out) it could be made lots of places over the last few years.

One point I found funny is the idea that the police are at the beck and call of the 'gentrification people' (which is a good name for a band). I call to complain about street noise and late-night loiterers and get no response at all. As a GP, I would be happy if the local police were more atuned to my quality of life.


The Observer article was not good reporting, that's for sure, as we all know the neighborhood has been racially and economically mixed since at least the late 50's.

I love living near Flatbush-- it is full of shops and restaurants and life. It is always crowded and therefore safe. For residents: If people don't like Caribbean food, they should hop the train to Hell's Kitchen or Brighton Beach. Gentrification does not have to mean ethnic/class homogenization & Starbucks. Our neighborhood has some of the best food in the city. (ok, we're a Caribbean household) For non-residents: try not to be too scared of the people of color when you come and visit, we are not all cannibals.


Here's a dictionary definition: the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.

I know the general consensus on this website is "all about the amenities"; I just hope at some point ATP can seriously address what is proving to be an ongoing issue for long-time PLGers, and all the gentrifying neighborhoods on this side of the Park - that housing costs are increasing as a result of largely white, upper middle class influx in to less affluent neighborhoods.

I won't hold my breath, but it is a request.


Bob Marvin:

Re: the first comment to this post. I have a lot of respect for you and your work, but you either misread the quote or purposely obtuse. This article is about PLG, not LM.

A simple "Google" of NYC Census will net you the link in my name.

And if you don't want to look it up, PLG was less than 10% non-hispanic white in 2000, and in most parts of PLG, closer to 1%.


I visit PLG 2-3 times a year and grew up there. While a handful of whites remained in the neighborhood during the 70s and the 80s (mostly on the one-family zoned blocks)the neighborhood was like 99% black during my youth. The biggest change in 70s and 80s was from black American to West Indian. As a black American it was hard to embrace that change.

There were tons of great shops on Flatbush when I was a child. My mom were just talking about the bagel shop that used to be at Parkside and Flatbush. The 70s blackout, mysterious fires and white business flight all but changed the strip to nothing but beauty shops and businesses that catered to the new majority- West Indians. Immigrants are very entrepreneurial.

I do notice the influx of new folks who would much prefer the mix of businesses found in Park Slope to what they must contend with in PLG. I understand your pain...I was a GP-er in Harlem during the 90s. We GP-ers danced for joy when we got out Fairway on the upper west side. Before that I had to shelp to Morningside Heights and the high 90s for food.

Downsides to being a GP-er: the locals will hate you; The police will not feel your pain about noise or loittering, or folks peeing in front of your house; and the amenities will suck for years. We won't even talk about the schools. Why do you think we left Harlem, NYC et al., for Ohio?

So to all you GPs... keep up the good fight. And yes, my relatives who a longtime residents of PLG do find you annoying. And no they are not poor; they're homeowners just like you.

Bob Marvin

I don't think we have a real quarrel "adwred." I don't doubt your figures, but, nevertheless, there HAVE always been considerable numbers of White people here, in absolute, if not percentage terms. Granted, I'm MOST familiar with LM, which is certainly part of PLG, but skews the figures a bit.

I think I got the [Peggy Aguayo] quote right in my first comment AND I still think that the idea of being a "pioneer" here 7 years ago, or 33 years ago, for that matter, is absurd.

I also still dislike the term "gentrification," for reasons I already stated, but never meant to imply that the phenomenon, for which it has become a name, exists.

OTOH, maybe I AM being obtuse, but not deliberately so.

Bob Marvin

After reading bklynexile's post I should add that my perception of substantial numbers of white people living here in the '70s and '80s applies to Lefferts Manor and a number of other blocks in which historic rowhouses predominate. When I moved here the apartment buildings WERE still integrated, but the white residents were, for the most part quite elderly and ready to depart. IIRC one of PLGNA's goals in the mid-70s was to maintain integration in neighborhood apartment buildings--that goal was not met.

My impression is that there has been only a modest increase in the percentage of white homeowners in the time I've lived here. The change in apartment buildings, with many young whites moving here in recent years, is another matter.

Bklynexile's point, about the change in businesses following the 1977 blackout, is well taken. As a photographer, I especially miss Bedford Camera, one of the few shops on the PLG stretch of Flatbush Avenue that was actually looted and [IIRC] never reopened. [There was some looting further south on Flatbush Ave., but PLG, and Flatbush in general, did not suffer the sort of devastation that destroyed commercial streets in areas like Bushwick]. However, I remember hearing rumors during the '77 blackout, thankfully false, that all of Flatbush Ave. was being looted. I didn't have the nerve to see for myself until the lights came back on.

Time to be logical

Inflation in real estate prices increased a huge amount everywhere in the country. Demographics are changing in every city in the country. There is nothing whatsoever unique about Brooklyn in this regard. Also, please don't forget it's the SELLERS of properties that set the prices, not buyers. They could easily sell to a friend or relative or someone in their community for a lower price. Whether they do that or not, that's completely utterly 100% their choice. The buyer does not force them to take more money.

As usual lately, the media fixates on racial divide in this country whether it actually applies to the story or not. I don't know if it's something sinister or if it's just a lack of intelligence and they can't see any depth, nuance or layers to a story. The journalism departments in colleges in this country are obviously going way downhill.


"As of the 1980 census, the neighborhood's mix of 40,000 people was 70 percent black and 15 percent white, with the rest mainly Hispanic, Asian, and Middle Eastern. Residents point to their successfully integrated, middle-class community as a measure of the organization's [PLGNA]success." NY Times, September 28, 1986.

Brooklyn exile - I repeat that this has been a mixed neighborhood since at least the 50's. My Jamaican neighbors moved here from 59-62 (five households). We are a middle class Caribbean household who fairly recently moved back.

My father was born here in 1936 and it wasn't racially mixed back then, but it was economically mixed.

Concerns about 'gentrification' are confounded with concerns about the welfare of poor people, the availability of affordable housing for working people, and preservation of ethnic coherence/identity by neighborhood. Americans are more comfortable talking about race than social class, and love simple slogans and identity politics.


The neighborhood (of course depending on how it is circumscribed) is not nor has it ever been "like 99% black" (please see my previous post). It is known to native BKs who have heard of it as a mixed neighborhood.

Table PL P-103: Total Population by Mutually Exclusive Race and Hispanic Origin
New York City Community Districts, 1990 and 2000
and Total Housing Units
1990 2000 Change 1990-2000
Brooklyn Community District 9 Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
Total Population 110,715 100.0 104,014 100.0 (6,701) -6.1
Nonhispanic of Single Race: - - - - - -
White Nonhispanic 11,813 10.7 11,733 11.3 (80) -0.7
Black/African American Nonhispanic 86,675 78.3 79,466 76.4 (7,209) -8.3
Asian or Pacific Islander Nonhispanic 1,309 1.2 819 0.8 (490) -37.4
American Indian and Alaska Native Nonhispanic 284 0.3 183 0.2 (101) -35.6
Some Other Race Nonhispanic 167 0.2 816 0.8 649 388.6
Nonhispanic of Two or More Races - - 2,416 2.3 - -
Hispanic Origin 10,467 9.5 8,581 8.2 (1,886) -18.0


Bboy thanks for the stats - just to clarify, though, Community District 9 does not encompass the same boundaries as what is commonly understood to be Prospect Lefferts Garden.

I think the District 9 boundaries might actually be a more effective reflection of how people experience their physical community, but again, its not PLG.

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