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Could I Live Here? Brooklyn, NY

Brooklyn is my home. But is it forever? The effervescent energy of New York meets charm and a laid-back vibe

News flash: I’m not getting any younger. And before you alert the media, a few questions.

Will I outgrow my beloved Brooklyn and seek solace elsewhere? Will I ever be the proud owner of a dreamy brownstone with a custom kitchen? And what will happen to the Italian vibe I love as the old folks disperse and more youngish yuppie types move in? Let’s unpack.

I have always been drawn to cities where people come to live their dreams. Effervescent  energy centers full of huddled masses and such. As a small girl in Philadelphia, my dreams had little to do with the Liberty Bell and more to do with the Statue of Liberty. Because from a very early age, I knew New York was my place. I moved to Manhattan right after college and never looked back, despite a 7-year respite in the prime of my advertising career when I moved to Miami, a city which never suited me and never made my heart sing. New York had my heart, and always will. In many ways, this city was the first great love of my life. 

This brings me to my current borough of Brooklyn. I first discovered my Carroll Gardens neighborhood in the late ’90s after a terrible break-up jilted my center. To reground, I crossed the Brooklyn Bridge and found a sweet two-bedroom half a block from the F train. I shared the precious space with a roommate, and we each paid $550 a month. I began to heal from heartbreak as I walked the quaint streets of Cobble Hill and felt the spirit of Truman Capote in Brooklyn Heights. I raised myself up by painting my bedroom Prozac blue and walking the stunning Promenade and wondered why others had not moved from Manhattan. 

Back then, Brooklyn was basic in the best way. There was a little to do and a little to eat, but kids played catch in the street. There were few places to buy clothes or makeup but wonderful places like Sahadi’s for amazing Middle Eastern food (still there, ps). And there was literally one gym near me, a dingy New York Sports Club outpost that became a second home. 

After a few years in Brooklyn, I moved back to Manhattan, and then when we moved back from Miami in 2011, there could only be Brooklyn. And I haven’t left since. For those unindoctrinated, Brooklyn is big. Massive even. 

It’s 69.5 square miles compared to Manhattan’s 22.82. Brooklyn is also incredibly diverse. There is the Brooklyn of Girls fame in places like Greenpoint, Bushwick, and Bed Stuy.  There are the traditionally working-class areas of BK, like Bay Ridge, whose waterfront views and laid-back vibe make for nice living, though far from the city. You can see more orthodox Jews in Williamsburg or Crown Heights than in Jerusalem. And you can take the F train to the end of the line and ride the Cyclone at Coney Island while inhaling a hot dog from Nathan’s. As for my part of Brooklyn, it’s decidedly a bit more grown-up and full of affluent “creative professionals” with children named Ellington or Jagger and many old Italians who decorate their homes for the holidays with enormous blow-up Santas and Easter bunnies. I particularly love the Italians. 

And since my neighborhood was traditionally Italian, it still has excellent spots for lard bread, lasagna, and fresh mozzarella. But it didn’t take too long for residents of Manhattan looking for brownstone living at a lower price to get hip to the beauty of this area. And now, it’s full of clog mamas, expensive strollers, and a million places to get a matcha latte and an expensive face serum — admittedly bougie, but also so lovely.

Here’s something about me you should know. When it comes to real estate, I’m not a pioneer. 

I like to live in neighborhoods that are less up-and-coming and more here to stay. Even as a twentysomething, I partied in the East Village but was happy to hang my hat on the much menschier Upper East Side. That’s just who I am.

Next, I’m a big fan of charm; this neighborhood might be one of the most charming in the country (feel free to challenge this). Think tree-lined streets, brownstones gone wild, and a laid-back vibe that is a respite from the endless hustle of Manhattan. As soon as you get off the train, you can feel it and see a whole lot of sky. Yes, tall buildings dot downtown Brooklyn, but my community is not about that, and I love it. I have never wanted to live in a high-rise and, though a doorperson would come in handy, you can’t beat the patina of my tin-roofed two-bedroom with a beautiful courtyard view.

As for commuting, you can quickly get to the city from my apartment with the F train nearby. But for many Brooklynites, we like to stick around on the weekends and go for lazy walks around the neighborhood, which is a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

There is good shopping here, and you can easily dent your wallet from Rag & Bone to Rachel Comey to small boutiques like my favorite Meg. The food scene is just ok, which is surprising. It’s not bad at all, but it can’t touch Manhattan. Two of my favorite spots are the recently opened Cafe Spaghetti and nearby Red Hook’s fabulous Red Hook Tavern, perfectly capturing the gritty but sophisticated new spirit of the once desolate but always cool area. A killer croissant place down the street smells like heaven from a block away and is an excellent addition to the neighborhood. If you like to cook, there are decent supermarkets, great mom-and-pop fruit and vegetable stands, specialty butcher shops, and Italian bakeries. It’s a bit Euro that way, and I love it. 

There are also now a ton of workout options. Boutique fitness is the vibe from Pure Barre to Pilates, yoga to SLT. Equinox is in BK Heights if you like something more robust. 

And even though I rarely go for cocktails these days, a recent trip to watch our friend DJ at Honeycomb in Park Slope, a spot influenced by trendy Tokyo vinyl listening bars, rivaled any fabulous night I could have in the city, Japanese whiskey highballs and all. 

And now for a bit of bad news. You pay a high price to live in (my version of) paradise.

According to Realtor.com, in February 2023, “the median listing home price in Carroll Gardens was $2.3M, trending up 12.7% year-over-year. The median listing home price per square foot was $1.3K. The median home sold price was $2.1M.” That seems low to me, considering brownstones seem to go for much higher than that, but living in Brooklyn is no longer the middle-class mecca it once was and now has become a very desirable place to live. Ask Lily Allen, her husband, Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, and other low-key celebs who call this place home. During the early days of the admittedly terrifying pandemic, I found deep comfort in hibernating and hunkering down here. Looking in my yard and seeing kids playing on their swing sets was a bit of a super salve at a scary time. As Manhattan felt more and more like the set of The Warriors, I was happy to be a bridge-and-tunnel girl. And I always will be.

Should I stay or should I go? 

The Verdict

The question of whether I could live here is obvious because I do live here. We have a new puppy, and I have delighted to introduce her to my little village of life. I still get warm fuzzy tingles when I roll out of bed to get coffee on a sleepy, sunny Sunday and soak in the low-key neighborhood energy. I exhale whenever I cross the bridge back to Brooklyn after a day or night in Manhattan. I am also comforted that the poster child of my generation, Ethan Hawke, lives one neighborhood over and is a longtime resident, which is comforting. So the question is not really could I live here, but will I live here forever? 

I still have many dreams to fulfill, so maybe I’ll be here for a while or perhaps those dreams will take a lifetime. I am still endlessly inspired by New York, and I hope my Brooklyn womb keeps me safe, protected, and happy as I continue to follow my heart and walk these lovely leafy streets. New York will always be my spiritual home; returning to Brooklyn as I travel to and fro is worth the (very high) price of admission, and it’s just my tempo.

Talk to me in the comments, and come for a visit. XO

See medical disclaimer below. ↓

16 COMMENTS

  1. Always a pleasure reading your take on different cities. You illustrate your Brooklyn neighborhood so well. I can just smell the croissants. Something tells me that no matter where you travel and experience, you will never leave NY! After reading this piece, I want to live in Brooklyn! As always, a great and interesting read. Keep ‘em coming.

  2. First off- you and David need to take me to some of those Japanese inspired vinyl listening bars in Park Slope the next time I’m in town. I enjoy Brooklyn too- love all the neighborhoods ; especially Greenpoint and the vinyl shops and that river view of Manhattan. Love all the music venues in BK too – Brooklyn Steel, Elsewhere, The Ace Hotel etc… I see you staying there; it’s aligned very well with how you like to chill. It’ has the right mix of aesthetic charm, neighborhood diversity that channels your past and present experiences as a kid and an adult.
    So Sheri, Stay; just a little bit longer. – Uncle Craig

  3. A pleasant article to read by a Parisian. Perhaps we could swap flats sometime? 😀 Here in Paris, neighbourhood life is very pleasant. I also live in a lively neighbourhood, mixed between young and not so young people, impregnated with a social fabric at the crossroads of African, Jewish and Asian cultures (Tunisians, Moroccans, Africans from Algeria, Cameroon, Senegal and other parts of the great black continent, Chinese). Students, filmmakers, designers and wall painters, journalists, grocers, bakers, butchers, garbage collectors, bars, restaurants… life abounds here, and it’s wonderful. I’ve been living here for 37 years, and I rest here regularly. I like to walk in the streets of Paris, which is finally a big village, with no high towers, just Haussmanian or more sober buildings, with shops of all kinds, from the classiest shop to the most absolute mess. My greetings to the inhabitants of Brooklyn! 😀 And the Californians too (I have lived in SF for 8 months ten years ago). And thanks to David for allowing me to exchange these few words with a Brooklynite.

    • That would be absolutely amazing and thanks so much. Would love to come to Paris and do a pourrais-je vivre ici direct from the City of Lights.

  4. Well, first off, I love your writing style because it’s so readable and flavorful. As is Brooklyn, which you sell convincingly, and where it seems a foodie revolution is overdue!

    • Thanks for this. Great food in BK in general just somehow not the best in my neighborhood but suspect that could change.

  5. Love the article! I am having the same thoughts about staying on my rock (Roosevelt Island) versus leaving NYC as I get older. It all boils down to affordability – nothing gets cheaper as time goes by!
    I would stick it out for as long as I can, I mean, when you have everything you love right at your door step…..
    I need to go hangout in your hood more often!

  6. You made me incredibly home sick and missing my leisurely weekend walks from Prospect Heights through Park Slope and around Carrol Gardens and Cobble Hill before backtracking all too late to save myself from sore feet. But the city does that to you, keeps you walking and walking and wanting one more street, one more unexpected find, one more micro neighborhood or hole-in-the-wall that took 10 passings to see. Welp, the trees will have to stand in for croissants for now but you need to stay there and delivery vicarious vibes. (Not me thinking Lily Allen left David Harbour for Daniel Craig and you had the serious neighborhood intel… alas all is well!)

  7. Sheri, It was great to revisit my old neighborhood of Carroll Gardens and see it anew through your eyes. As I stated in the comment section of your previous article about Boston, I lived in Brooklyn from 1978 through 2004, and in Carroll Gardens from 1989 until 2004. I started visiting the neighborhood earlier in the 80s as my brother lived on Luquer Street. He lived above a longtime local named Sol and his common-law wife. Sol participated in the religious parade every year where volunteers, dressed from head to toe in black, from one of the local Catholic churches, carried the Giglio through the streets and took monitory donations from the community. Of course, back then Carrol Gardens was a very different place. It had a much more Italian flavor, which was reflected in the stores and restaurants, many of which are gone today. Sam’s Italian Restaurant and Staubitz Market, one of the best butcher shops in NYC, seem to both still be in existence in nearby Cobble Hill, but Helen’s, restaurant and the pizza shop with outdoor garden seating in summer on the corner of Court and 1st Place are both long gone. It was also different culturally and although very safe, it had more of an edge. My brother told me about a car that pulled up in front of his brownstone. A woman got out and the man at the wheel leaned forward to retrieve something and my brother could see a holstered gun under his jacket. Anna Batiato, who lived below me in the same apartment since 1930 had a nickel plated 32 revolver sitting on her TV. What she would have done with it if someone tried to break into her apartment was another story. And nobody would ever break in, because the Gardens was always one of the safest places in the city. Most burglars knew enough to stay away for fear of what they might encounter when they got inside someone’s apartment.

    I enjoyed the lush front yards and abundance of tree lined streets. I also enjoyed a top floor apartment of 1,400 square feet with Manhattan skyline views and an abundance of light for $1,000 a month. There used to be a realtor in the “Gardens” named Allan. When my wife and I were moving in together we enlisted his help because of the ads that he had posted every week in the Village Voice that listed amazing sounding apartments. He took us on a tour of 3 or 4 large and affordable apartments. As we were finishing our tour and walking down 1st place between Court and Clinton, Allan spotted a young couple emerging from a brownstone. He asked if they were still planning to move, and they replied in the affirmative. They had only been there for 4 months but were going to travel with a Broadway play as support staff in charge of hair and wigs. Allan asked if we could peek at their apartment, and they agreed. My wife and I fell in love with the place immediately. Allan told us to take a few days to decide. There was very little competition for apartments back in 1990. Most yuppies desired Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, or Park Slope. We waited until the next morning before we replied that we would take it. When we signed the lease the owner’s daughter was present to interpret for her mom as she could not speak English well if at all. She never really learned as mostly Italian was spoken in the neighborhood when she moved there in the 1920s.

    In the late 90s the owners of our brownstone (son and daughter of the woman who owned it for decades) decided to sell, I organized the tenants, and we purchased the building. It took us two years to convert it to condos. We did it to safeguard our homes and to avoid a rent increase that was surely to come with a new owner. Of course, about 6 years later my wife and I had reached our limit for city life and decided to sell. I have no regrets and though I have some fond memories of the neighborhood, I would never move back to NYC even if I was provided with a rent-free apartment. I do miss my urban wonderings though. I loved the industrial and postindustrial waterfront from Greenpoint down the Sunset Park. For what it’s worth, Brooklyn remains my favorite borough. Thanks for writing such an interesting piece about the “Gardens”.

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The ideas expressed here are solely the opinions of the author and are not researched or verified by AGEIST LLC, or anyone associated with AGEIST LLC. This material should not be construed as medical advice or recommendation, it is for informational use only. We encourage all readers to discuss with your qualified practitioners the relevance of the application of any of these ideas to your life. The recommendations contained herein are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. You should always consult your physician or other qualified health provider before starting any new treatment or stopping any treatment that has been prescribed for you by your physician or other qualified health provider. Please call your doctor or 911 immediately if you think you may have a medical or psychiatric emergency.

Sheri Radel Rosenberghttps://unapologeticstyle.substack.com/
Sheri Radel Rosenberg is a Philly-born, Brooklyn-based writer who explores style, beauty, culture, and midlife with wit, warmth, and wisdom. Her story includes successful forays in the worlds of trend forecasting, ad agency photo production, ghostwriting, and strategic messaging development for fashion and beauty brands - all while amassing a slip dress collection that would make any Gen Xer proud. At the dawn of social media, Sheri launched her personal blog–which combines her passion for writing with her style obsession–and she hasn’t looked back. As Style Editor for the AGEIST, she’s inspired by the styles of the 70s and the 90s, along with all the beautiful people she sees daily in NYC.

 

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