Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Borders of Sunset Park Part 2

Over at I seem to have opened up a hornet's nest by my publishing the map of Sunset Park. The blog having been picked up by NY Magazine for the same reason. It seems that some posters were umbraged at the mere notion that they might be in Sunset park instead of the fancier sounding Greenwood Heights or South Slope. Of course there are two sides to this. Some posters were obviously from the Slope proper and insist that it ends at 9th street, obviously these folks are newcomers who probably moved into their nabe two weeks ago. Then there is also another group that claims Sunset Park begins at 39th street. They also probably moved here two weeks ago. Both victims of some unscrupulous real estate agent who knew he could con the guys of an extra 30 or 5o grand if he could claim that their property were not were they were. Part of it also has to do with snobbishness and probably outright bigotry. It is really a shame.

Let us go back in time to circa 1960. Those were different times then. You could buy a decent one family for 20k in Bay Ridge and around 15k in what is now Sunset Park. Of course in those days, money was real money. Robert F. Wagner, Jr. was the mayor of New York. The are we now know as Sunset Park was by that time becoming heavily Hispanic from the area South of the Prospect Expressway to around 65th street. In those days it was mostly Puerto Ricans and Dominicans moving into the nabe. It became so saturated that by that time around 70% of the hood was Hispanic. Well, this did not sit well with the folks in the rest of Bay Ridge and Park Slope. Bay Ridge at that time ran North to approximately 45th street and Park Slope ran South to approximately 25th street. The area in between was generally know as South Brooklyn. Sunset Park? Well, it was just a park then. It was also a time were people were pushing for a charter revision to reapportion powers in the city and redraw the borders of neighborhoods. The people in Bay Ridge at that time south of 65th street, mostly white, Scandinavian, Italian, Irish etc. did not want to be associated with "those People" north of 65th street. Part of the reason was bigotry, mixed in with the fact that crime was going up north of 65th street and it was also reflecting on real estate values south of 65th street. After all people in other areas did not distinguish North Ridge from South. The same was true in Park Slope were people wanted a divorce south of 9th street. In any case, the powers that be, mostly local politicians who had pull redrew the borders and created Sunset Park as part of the charter revision of 1964. The new nabe was to be called Sunset Park after the park and would comprise the area south of Prospect Expressway till 65th street and east to 9th avenue south of the cemetery and east to 7th avenue in the north. This pissed off a lot of non Hispanics in the new nabe as they felt betrayed and some never got over it. Things deteriorated after that with many old residents beginning to move out of the nabe in droves. This also created opportunities as housing got ever so cheaper in the nabe. Things were not doing well until about the early 1980's. Sunset Park had a severe crime problem, gangs were everywhere. The DEA was always on 4th avenue making arrests and raiding places. And people south of the Expressway knew they were in Sunset Park.

The first Chinese families started to move into the neighborhood in around 1980. Nobody really took notice then. Hong Kong was soon to be turned over to back to Mainland China and our relations with the People's Republic were increasingly getting better. Although emmigration was just a trickle by the mid 90's it became a flood. The demographics were also changing. Second generation Puerto Ricans were moving out of the hood. Replaced by Mexicans, Dominicans and Salvadorians and others. A different type of Hispanic with an entrepreneurial spirit and outlook. Crime began to plummet as policing in the nabe got serious in the 68th, 66th and 72 precincts beginning with the Giulianni years in office.
One could write a dissertation on this subject. But fast forward to the present and the change is startling. To this day some of the negative history and reputation of Sunset Park still lingers on in the subconscious of many. To many newcomers who moved into the neighborhood from either Manhattan or the Midwest the horrid stories they had heard embellished by shady real estate agents looking to make a buck led to an old marketing technique. They began renaming areas on the fringe something else so they could spike up prices.
Having been here for almost 40 years I have seen things come and go and was around to hear people's stories of what the nabe was before I got here. I kind of resent the snobbishness and in some cases the outright bigotry expressed by some people who refer to others as "those people" whether they be Hispanics or Chinese and somehow don't want to be associated with the nabe. I have a solution for those folks. You van always move out, don't rename the nabe and pretend it's somewhere else. Wishing it were so, does not make it so. And for those apprehensive about the future, I can tell you that having neighbors who are Hispanic, Chinese, Italian and Scandinavian will teach you that people come in all varieties. You will find nice people in all shades as well as pricks. So I think it's time to get over yourselves if you want to live in Beverly Hills. Otherwise, pull up a chair and enjoy the show. Sunset Park at this point has nowhere else to go but up and it will be interesting to watch.

[where: 11232]
[where: 11220]

Art Deco Condos of Sunset Park

It seems that the Chinese architects building new condos on 7th avenue prefer the art deco/bauhaus style of design. The buildings seems to take one back to the thirties in look and design. I have always had a liking for art deco since I came to New York. Preferring the Chrysler building to the Empire State. In any case, at least these buildings are not the drab soviet style buildings that one would find in old Beijing or North Korea or even the square drab buildings that they built in the 40's and 50's which are typical of many of the co ops one finds in Sunset Park and Bay Ridge.


This example can be found on the corner of 50th and 7th avenues.


This one can be seen on the corner of 55th and 7th across the street from the Bay Ridge Post Office.


This one on 58th and 7th is nearing completion and is only missing the usual stainless steel balcony accoutrement.

[where: 11232]

[where: 11220]