Invasion of the Grit-Cleaning Strollers

by | May 18, 2008

I love writing that gets inside a place, whatever place that might be. In today’s Sunday Styles section, New York Times writer Lynn Harris gets inside Park Slope, the fast-changing Brooklyn neighborhood that’s become a point of derision for some.

When I moved to the neighborhood in 1994, I promise you, Manhattanites did not think about Park Slope any longer than it took them to blow off a party invitation. But today, you mention Park Slope on a blog or even in conversation and, especially if the reference involves the word “stroller,” the haters lunge like sharks at chum.

“Park Slope is a perfect storm of stereotypes that provoke derision,” said Steven Johnson, a local writer and a father of three. “Since Park Slope is the neighborhood most explicitly associated with urban parenting, it attracts the wrath of people who think parents have gone way overboard.”

How did it come to this? Most of the above could be said of just about any other neighborhood in our tidied-up, child-rearing-friendly New York City. Doesn’t the East Village have a Whole Foods? Hasn’t the Upper West Side become Short Hills?

How did Slope Rage become a meme unto itself, even among people who won’t take the F train below East Broadway?

Near the end of the article, Harris lets Jose Sanchez, chairman of urban studies at Long Island University, Brooklyn explains the tension. “There’s the feeling that yuppies in Park Slope are washing away Brooklyn’s grittiness and making it more like Manhattan. Brooklyn was supposed to be different. Park Slope, to some, now represents everything that Brooklyn was not supposed to be.”