In Carroll Gardens, Organic Stores Arrive as Stoop Culture Fades

For its latest “Living In” column, the New York Times took a look at what it is like to live in Carroll Gardens, from the neighborhood’s Italian roots to today’s expensive brownstones and condo developments. The number of Italian Americans living there declined from 52 percent in 1980 to 22 percent in 2012, as the median household income rose to $95,600 from $40,663.

And the Sackett Union development has altered the low-rise feel of Court Street, bringing a 32-unit condo building to Court and 11 townhouses to Sackett and Union, said the story. The paper interviewed blogger Katia Kelly of Pardon Me For Asking, who noted the neighborhood rallied around downzoning building heights in 2009 to protect Carroll Gardens’ small-town atmosphere.

How do readers living in the area feel about the neighborhood?

Living in: New Roots in Carroll Gardens [NY Times]
Photo by Joseph A

105 Comment

  • 1980 was 34 YEARS ago! Of course there have been changes (and frankly I’d say given the time frame, its less than expected. ).
    But there hasnt been a real “stoop culture” (i.e. where except for a few old timers people hung out on the stoop) for at least 20 years. (and please dont give me your silly anecdotes – of course some people hung out on the stoop – and they still do).
    As for Sackett Union it is what 5 stories w/ a setback??? Hardly changing anything in terms of height AND the development actually restored a street wall where their previously was none. (hell its been probably a decade before the site was home to anything beyond an empty out of place building or a lot).
    People complain about everything, it is pathetic.

  • The same people who complin about new build(especially over 3 stories) are the one complaining about prices being insane/lack of afforable units in NYC. Cant have it both ways people.

  • While the sackett union building isnt the most pretties building, it doesnt stick out either. it is the year 2014, architecture does change. I still think CG is one of the nicest neighborhoods around, i truly love it.

    personally I am not crazy about the windows they chose for the sackett union buiding, but at least the colors are somewhat in tune with the neighborhood.

    and for todays architecture compared to the other crap that is around this isnt bad.

    I have to say the best new building that i have seen is years goes to 360 Smith

    • I agree about 360 Smit, and ironically it is another building that ‘some say’ “destroyed the neighborhood”.

      People just cant accept that things change. 34 years from now virtually everyone reading this blog will either be dead, elderly or well into middle age……Change is inevitable. I wish the whining wasnt

    • I am happy about the urgent care center that will be in the Sackett Union commercial space and also for Dr. Masi’s new office. We can certainly use both.

  • Isn’t this just another flavor of gentrification? Shouldn’t the 22% of Italian Americans still living there be grateful for their enormous financial windfall?

    That’s usually how these kind of stories are told when it to FG and Bed Stuy…

  • i personally love the “OMG the newcomers don’t say hi to me!! waaaaaah!” complaints.

  • Point being, at least to me, “professional” neighborhoods are pretty boring, sterile places where everyone is gone all day.

  • I think what I thought 25 years ago when I moved here, “Meh. I miss the West Village.” Other than that, it’s fine. Most of the neighbors are great and so are the schools. My college age kid and friends though think the neighborhood gets lamer with every return from college.

  • scariest part of the article – quoting the broker at DE. how he was picked is beyond the beyond -my comment on the article – Carroll Gardens like all neighborhoods goes thru an ebb and flow – do the people before the Italians lament the “loss” of their stamp on the ‘hood? I think not –
    just go with the flow people!

    • There’s an easy fix

      Old timers: DONT SELL YOUR MEH ROWHOUSE FOR 3 MILLION DOLLARS.

      What do you think is going to happen – the financiers are going to roll in and do what you do? HA!

  • There should be a poll: Do you prefer a “ne’er-do-well” hood to a “professional” hood.

  • If you read the article, no one seems to be lamenting anything. They seem to like the neighborhood then and now.

  • La plus ça change. Notably, the big players in the neighborhood haven’t changed in over thirty years. They are the ones who determine land use policy, why Norah Jones gets to install windows on her landmarked house and you don’t, and even who gets elected to some extent.

  • Moved to Carrol Gardens 10 years ago and left last year. Can’t help thinking it got significantly less colorful during that time – more impersonal, more banks, more pharmacies, more chains, more very wealthy people, more crowded, more identikit brunch places fewer interesting people. Beginning to feel just like Manhattan.

    Just my personal experience of course.

    • You know I am truly sick of this ‘interesting people’ meme. It is such bullshit based on nothing but a snobbery.

      I have to say that in my personal experience almost everyone is “interesting” in their own way; sure the homeless guy talking to himself walking down the street is more obviously “interesting” (and scary) then a button-up white -shoe lawyer but if you actually spoke to people without the snob attitude, asked a few open ended questions and shut the f^ck up and listened, you’d find that almost everyone has an “interesting” and unique background, experiences and knowledge.

      So in sum, if you are finding people “un-interesting” I think the problem likely lies with you.

      • Seems like a struck a chord there.

        I did day it was “just my personal experience” – (i.e. I don’t believe there is some universal standard of interesting-ness I get to define).

        Personally I find a broad mix of people to be more interesting than a monoculture and I also find people working outside of the corporate world to be more interesting than those who do (sure an MD might like white water rafting or something) and there are fewer of those in Carrol Gardens these days.

        • You struck a cord because what you are saying is just a reverse snobbery and what is more and more being printed in the newspapers, periodicals and blogs as some sort of intelligent analysis of our city/society.

          And BTW – I’d venture to guess that White-Water Rafting is the #1 answer for the Family Feud Question – “Name an up-scale, activity pursued by homogenous looking people who frequent Brunch”

          • Sure, we can call it reverse snobbery if you like. I make no bones about it – it’s my personal preference but it’s one that’s more often than not shared by the people who create many of the ‘interesting’ things in new york vs faceless corporate paper pushers.

          • It would probably be “brunching”

          • Whitewater rafting strikes me as too rough for the brunch crowd.

          • I agree your non-curious, obtuse snobbery is shared by many in this City (mostly affluent people from the same class as those they claim to despise). And of course you (and your ilk) entitled to your opinion. As I am to mine – and that is, that your viewpoint (about “interesting”/authentic people and places ) is about as sophisticated and reasoned as H.S. cliques and most of the people spouting it are simply masking their actual classist/racist upbringing/viewpoints by belittling what are more or less their peers.

          • sure you’re entitled to your pov brklynmind but to equate my pov with some sort of buried racism leads me to think you should stick to the day job and not play amateur therapist.

          • Totally wrong, the correct and only answer to that question would be Yoga. Or possibly jogging.

        • also brklynmind – I never mentioned the word – ‘authentic’.

    • And btw the same MOSTLY applies to the universally applied notion that as neighborhoods gentrify the retail becomes homogeneous and uninteresting. Have you ever been to the poorer, ungentrified neighborhoods in this city? How are they any more ‘diverse’ than the gentrified ones? Having blocks filled with Bodegas, Laundry mats, hair salon/barbers check cashing and Chinese takeout is no more diverse then a bunch of organic groceries, boutiques, upscale restaurants that serve brunch and coffee shops, and it isnt really more interesting except for the fact that you are likely just sightseeing on other peoples relative lack of $ compared to you – which is not interesting, it just gross.

    • “fewer interesting people.”

      How many people have you actually conversed with to find out the % of interesting people?? Ridiculous statement.

  • I’m going to attempt, at my own peril, to reel this discussion back in. For the record, I live in Carroll Gardens and am a lawyer at a large New York law firm. I still cannot, by the way, afford a brownstone in the neighborhood (I own an apartment).

    Regarding the “interesting” thread of this argument, it’s a bit silly. Quite honestly, I work too much to be outwardly interesting. Mostly I am tired and walking too and from the subway. That’s a choice I have made. But, contrary to popular belief, I do have interests and I do find my work interesting (at times). Sure, I may not be as colorful as the local old guys sitting outside the social club (who I always say hello to, by the way).

    Regarding the neighborhood feel, to me a lot of that has to do with the transient nature of a neighborhood. There’s a lot of new people moving in and out of Carroll Gardens and it’s hard to foster a neighborhood feel when you’ve only been in a place for a few years. On the flip side, if you’ve living in a place your entire life you’re (and so has everyone else), you’re going to know a lot more of the neighbors and there’s going to be more interaction on the street.

    You know where I see a lot of that – Brooklyn Heights where I grew up. My parents bought in the early 80s and a lot of their generation still lives there – my mother knows everyone on the street. Maybe Carroll Garden will get back to that place, maybe it won’t.

    Diversity of stores – I am very concerned about this trend in Carroll Gardens – I see it going the way of most of Manhattan or Brooklyn Heights. The natural progression is local/ethnic stores serving the community, followed by a sprinkling of “upscale/hipster” place, followed by all upscale/hipster places, followed by a sprinkling of banks, pharmacies and real estate brokers, followed by all banks, pharmacies and real estate brokers. Personally, I like the mix of the upscale spots and the local places, but CG is tipping to the bank/pharmacy spot and that makes me sad.

    To cap off this story, I’m starting a family now and I need more space and can’t afford the neighborhood. I’m looking to Greenwood Heights, Windsor Terrace or Kensington for my next stop. They’ll gentrify too and this story will be retold there. Maybe my kids’ generation will rebel against their parents and want to move to the ‘burbs and then people will abandon Brooklyn and a new fake “authenticity” will return – who knows…

    • So you are a working man from Brooklyn, who can no longer afford to live in the neighborhood of his youth due to gentrification raising prices and are now forced to work longer hours and move further and further away from your childhood home and family in order to have a family of your own.
      Of course you are aware that wherever you move next you will be viewed as an evil gentrifier (and un-interesting professional suit) who is displacing others (much more interesting and authentic of course) from their neighborhoods.
      Quite a conundrum.

    • Nicely put. Yes it’s a silly argument, but also a totally human one. I too find CG less interesting than even just a few years back, but the key here is that it’s less interesting .. to *me*. Change means things become… well, different! If some (or many. or all) of the things I liked about a place end up changing, there’s a chance the place is no longer interesting to me. At the same time, there’s an equal chance someone who hated the area ten years ago now finds it fascinating and ideal as he walks up and down Court with his newborn infant strapped to his chest. Power to him.

  • well said EJR, working out in areas like flatbush where “gentrification” still hasnt caught on like it has in BH or PS there are still plenty of local spots and well locals, but I dont find those areas anymore or less interesting than the old CG nabe or elsewhere. Its like if you take tour of a museum you have never been to its more interesting the first time than the second time, but once you are around it for a bit its all the same, just more cops in the rougher hoods. The more corporate neighborhoods are quieter during the day since everyone is at work but I guess that makes hard working professionals from all walks of like less interesting than the artist who sits on their ass half the day in the park trying to get inspired.

  • How can you ‘displace’ somebody — when they have already moved and you either rent an empty apt or buy
    a house? Someone chose to leave (or they died possibly).
    Maybe you do need a shitload of money to buy a house in CG or other neighborhoods these days — but most people living in the neighborhood don’t own a house or even a condo. Most people are renters.
    Nostalgia is great but don’t overdo it. I don’t know that CG has changed more than any other neighborhood here or any other city in the nearly 40 years I have been here (couple of blocks north). More chain stores is norm for all of america — we are just slower getting them than most other places.

  • I’m not sure what CG everyone is talking about. In the CG I live in, I feel like the only boring white shoe lawyer and everyone else I know is a novelist, actor, artist, movie producer or some other artsy profession that sounds way better than what I do.

  • Interesting aside (pun intended). One day, while walking up Court Street, I passed a couple colorful older gentlemen of the neighborhood, one of whom pointed to the Sackett-Union and referred to it as the “yuppie prison”.

    Now every time I walk past I can’t help thinking that it does, in fact, look a lot like a prison.

  • EJR summed it up pretty well but the change has not been an event, it’s been an ongoing process. I moved to the neighborhood over 30 years ago – it was where I could afford to buy a brownstone and feel pretty safe coming home late at night. The run-up in prices is not just recently. Between 1980 and 1983, I saw prices increase 50%. I the mid 1980s, several of my neighbors living in houses they owned commented about their children moving to Staten Island because they could not afford the neighborhood any more.

    The turnover is more rapid than ever so you I no longer know most everyone on my block by sight to acknowledge as I am coming and going to work. It has also become more homogenous. Although there are more stores there is less variety. That goes for the people too. There are many more that are self absorbed and rude than years ago, but maybe that’s everywhere.