If you've read a couple of my previous blog posts, you know that I've been thinking about all of the changes happening around New York City. Part of that change manifests in the renaming and re-bordering of neighborhoods. My own home sits on a street that is a kind of "no man's land" between South Slope and Gowanus, its designation changing depending on who you speak with and their own time in the City.
"Gowanus" as a neighborhood is a fairly new label. Large chunks of it was previously considered South Slope, Park Slope, or Carroll Gardens. A quick Google search for "Brooklyn Neighborhood Maps" combined with a Craigslist search for rentals in Brooklyn reveal how many different opinions there are about where and what each area is called. Although it may seem trivial what you call a neighborhood, it can make a huge difference in terms of the rent you pay and the cost of nearby amenities. Remember Elaine's delivery dilemma in that classic episode of "Seinfeld"? The struggle is real. Are you in the up-and-coming new area with massive growth potential? Are you in a solidly family-oriented and quiet neighborhood with the best public schools and hospitals? Will you be surrounded by artists and students or lawyers and techies? Your neighborhood's name can instantly reveal (or at least, give you a decent educated guess) the answers to those questions.
I walked down 9th St. and a little bit of 10th St. below 3rd Ave because it cuts through some of the disputed border areas. It has a very strange mix of old industrial, residential, and new business up and down the street. And of course, you also get to cross the 9th St. Bridge that allows boats and other water vessels to pass through the Gowanus Canal (it puts the "fun" in Superfund!). I actually ended up arriving at the bridge just as a boat was coming through, a barge of trash attached to it. The smell was...intoxicating, in the most ironic and pun-filled way possible.
The subway station at Smith-9th St. has been undergoing construction and upgrades, and the modern architecture and shiny materials provide a striking contrast to the old luncheonette and deli below it. Across the street from the station sits a car wash/U-Haul parking lot that somehow seems perpetually dusty and never quite legitimate.
This mish-mash of industrial, commercial, and residential has made me wonder which will eventually win out. HAHA, just kidding, it's gonna be residential whether it's through legal means or not. Just like in Chelsea and the Lower East Side and Red Hook and Williamsburg--where abandoned factories became trendy lofts and condos--these strange brick buildings will probably transition into palatial multi-million dollar dwellings within my lifetime. I'm holding out hope that this portion of 9th St. between Smith and 2nd Ave. remains primarily industrial and commercial, with many of the spaces being rented out to musicians and artists that need studios for their work. The "next-big-thing" could be inside that brick building on 9th St. just before the bridge, recording their master track. I can only hope they live long enough to enjoy their success, as the toxic fumes wafting from the Gowanus during the summer months are difficult to avoid.
You also can't help but notice the elevated train tracks, slicing through 9th St. before running parallel to 10th St. Sometimes it's funny for me to see these shining metal trains reflecting the sun's rays when just a few decades ago, Bruce Davidson captured the gritty, graffiti covered trains and their riders in his iconic series of photos about the New York City subway system. As much as we bitch and complain about the fare hikes, the occasional foul smelling train car, the delays, the inconvenient construction and repairs on lines (I like to mock the L Train riders as much as the next person, but I feel pretty terrible for them right now)--it's still amazing how efficiently it does run on the whole, especially since it's a 24 hour service (I'm glaring at you, BART, and your hilariously inadequate hours of operation).
And finally...here's a photo of a pizza place. Because I'm pretty sure I'm morally obligated as a New York resident to post one. Also, their to-go slices are delicious.