Park Slope is a neighborhood in western Brooklyn, New York City's most populous borough. Park Slope is roughly bounded by Prospect Park West to the east, Fourth Avenue to the west, Flatbush Avenue
to the north, and 15th Street to the south, though other definitions
are sometimes offered. Generally the section from Flatbush Ave. to
Garfield St. (the "name streets") are considered the North Slope, 1st
St. through 9th Street is considered the "Center Slope" and 10th St.
through the Prospect Expressway is the "South Slope." The neighborhood takes its name from its location on the western slope of neighboring Prospect Park.
Seventh Avenue and Fifth Avenue are its primary commercial streets,
while its east-west side streets are populated by many historic brownstones.
The neighborhood had a population of about 62,200 as of the 2000 census, resulting in a population density of approximately 68,000/square mile, or approximately 26,000/square kilometer.
Park Slope is considered one of New York City's most desirable neighborhoods. In 2010, it was ranked number 1 in New York by New York Magazine
citing its quality public schools, dining, nightlife, shopping, access
to public transit, green space, quality housing, safety, and creative
capital, among other aspects.
It was named one of the "Greatest Neighborhoods in America" by the American Planning Association
in 2007, "for its architectural and historical features and its diverse
mix of residents and businesses, all of which are supported and
preserved by its active and involved citizenry."
In December 2006, Natural Home magazine named Park Slope one
of America's ten best neighborhoods based on criteria including parks,
green spaces and neighborhood gathering spaces; farmer’s markets and
community gardens; public transportation and locally-owned businesses;
and environmental and social policy. Park Slope is part of Brooklyn Community Board 6.
The area that today comprises the neighborhood of Park Slope was first inhabited by the Native Americans of the Lenape people. The Dutch colonized the area by the 17th century and farmed the region for more than 200 years. During the American Revolutionary War on August 27, 1776, the Park Slope area served as the backdrop for the beginning of the Battle of Long Island, also called the Battle of Brooklyn. The American Soldiers were set up on 14th street. In this battle, over 10,000 British Redcoats and Hessians
routed outnumbered American forces at Battle Pass. What appeared as a
major defeat for the Continentals was actually the first of many of
Washington's tactical retreats. The historic site of Battle Pass is now
preserved in Prospect Park, and on Fifth Avenue there is a
reconstruction of the stone farmhouse where a countercharge covered the American retreat.
In 1814, ferry service from the nearby Brooklyn Terminal linked the South Brooklyn region to Manhattan. By the 1850s, a local lawyer and railroad developer named Edwin Clarke Litchfield (1815–1885) purchased large tracts of what was then farmland. Through the American Civil War
era, he sold off much of his land to residential developers. During the
1860s, the City of Brooklyn purchased his estate and adjoining property
to complete the West Drive and the southern portion of the Long Meadow
in Prospect Park.
Park Slope’s bucolic
period ended soon after. By the late 1870s, with horse-drawn rail cars
running to the park and the ferry, bringing many rich New Yorkers in the
process, urban sprawl dramatically changed the neighborhood into a streetcar suburb. Many of the large Victorian mansions
on Prospect Park West, known as the Gold Coast, were built in the 1880s
and 1890s to take advantage of the beautiful park views. Today, many of
these buildings are preserved within the 24-block Park Slope Historic
District, one of New York's largest landmarked neighborhoods. By 1883,
with the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge, Park Slope continued to boom and subsequent brick and brownstone
structures pushed the neighborhood's borders farther. The 1890 census
showed Park Slope to be the richest community in the United States.
The Old Stone House
is a 1930 reconstruction of the Vechte-Cortelyou House which was
destroyed in 1897. It is located on Third Street between Fourth and
Fifth Avenues, beside the former Gowanus Creek.
Through the 1950s, Park Slope saw its decline as a result of suburban sprawl and declining local industries. Many of the wealthy and middle-class families fled for the suburban life and Park Slope became a rougher, more working class
neighborhood. It was mostly Italian and Irish in the 1950s and 1960s,
though this changed in the 1960s and 1970s as the black and Latino
population of the Slope increased and many of the Italian and Irish
population began to relocate.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, hippies and artists began to buy and renovate brownstones, often converting them from rooming house
into single and two-family homes, as Park Slope native and long-time
New York journalist Pete Hammill recalled in a 2008 article for New York magazine. Preservationists helped secure landmark status for many of the neighborhood's blocks of historic row houses, brownstone, and Queen Anne, Renaissance Revival, and Romanesque mansions.
After the 1973 creation of the landmark district, primarily above 7th
Avenue, gentrification began to take off. Throughout the 1970s the
blocks above 7th Avenue (closer to the Park) and increasingly below 7th
Ave, as well, saw an influx of young professional couples and lesbians.
This trend accelerated during the 1980s and 1990s as working class
families were generally replaced by upper middle-class people being
priced out of Manhattan or Brooklyn Heights. The Park Slope Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
Since the mid-1990s younger, childless professionals who in previous
decades would most likely have lived in Manhattan have been moving to
the neighborhood in ever-increasing numbers. Gentrification has also
overflowed even into the surrounding areas, such as Prospect Heights to
the north and Windsor Terrace to the southeast. The influx of these new
upper middle class residents have made Park Slope one of the wealthiest
neighborhoods in Brooklyn.
A 2001 report by the New York City Rent Guidelines Board found that from 1990 to 1999, rents in Park Slope increased by 3.5-4.4% per year, depending on what kind of building the apartment was in.
The explosion of property values inspired real estate agents to be
increasingly generous about the borders of Park Slope, not unlike the rebranding that expanded Fort Greene into Bedford-Stuyvesant; South Slope, Prospect Heights, Windsor Terrace, Gowanus, Greenwood Heights, and Boerum Hill all became to some extent part of greater Park Slope.
The negative impact, however, of gentrification
is the displacement of the population that settled here in the 1980s.
As the more affluent began to move into Park Slope, the rising rents
made it difficult for low-income residents to stay. Thanks to rent stabilization
and the "cachet" of specific addresses, it is not uncommon to find
those same early immigrants who moved into the neighborhood living
adjacent to later renters paying two to three times higher rent.
The commercial impacts of the renewal can also be seen along the
popular Fifth Avenue stretch, where numerous banks and bars have
replaced old neighborhood staples such as the Salvation Army and once popular dollar stores. Similarly, on Seventh Avenue, many small family-owned bookstores and coffee shops saw a reduction in clientele when Barnes & Noble and Starbucks
appeared in the neighborhood. While renewal and the ensuing rush of
brand name stores normally signal a driving down of prices, in some
industries such as food services, prices have gone up.
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