This could either be a major walk down Nostalgia Lane for me as I grew up in Park Slope, Brooklyn or just a reminder of how old I am getting and how long ago I lived there. unfortunately, I fear the latter is more likely.
John, what part of Park Slope do you live in? I grew up on 9th St between 8th Ave. and the Park. BTW, Prospect park is all that. It is a beautiful park, that is probably in better shape today than when I lived there. I still remember having my bicycle stolen from me in the park when I was 14 years old. Now the area is restaurantville. Back in my day, we could get a decent slice of pizza or a good meatball hero and not much more.
I didn't realize you grew up in Park Slope! I don't think things changed much since you were a kid, what was that, 10 years ago?
I currently live on 16th Street between 5th and 6th avenues. Some people say it is borderline Park Slope and probably is Windsor Terrace/Prospect Heights. If you ask a realtor, they think 75% of Brooklyn qualifies as Park Slope.
Prospect Park has really become even more amazing in the past few years. They finished the Audubon center and 2 years ago reopened the "forest" which was closed to allow nature to regrow itself in a protected fashion.
This coming Saturday I am going to take a bikeride down to the Grand Army Plaza greenmarket and take lots of photos along the way.
In terms of changes to the neighborhood it is pretty extreme. 7th Avenue was the area to first change as it had the most foot traffic. Now almost every store is either an organic market, restaurant or clothing store with a few Starbucks and Barnes and Noble scattered in.
5th avenue is still somewhat Bohemian, it is a mix of hole in the wall restaurants, cool local bars to have a beer and listen to the jukebox, or discount 99 cent stores.
Seventh and Fifth Aves. were the big commercial streets when I was growing up, but they were different. Seventh Ave. was undergoing gentrification in the early 70's, especially from 7th St. down to about Flatbush Ave. If there was a fancy restaurant or store in the area it would be found there. 5th Ave was much more ethnic with the ethnicity depending upon what stretch one was traveling. In those days it was either mostly Italian or Puerto Rican.
I remember accompanying my father to the Italian fish store on 5th Ave. to get live crabs so my mother could make crab sauce for pasta. There may still be fish stores down there, but they are no longer Italian. Even in Carroll Gardens/Red Hook the traditional Italian stores are dwindling. I don't care who runs a store, so long as the product is good. It seems that most fish shops in Brooklyn today are run by Asian fishmongers, who seem to be doing a very good job so far as I can tell given the few times in recent memory that I have shopped for seafood in Brooklyn. It will be harder to replace the old time Italian salumerias once the original producers are gone, because they are much more dependent on specific consumer preferences. As the old-time Italians leave or die out so too will their recipes and preferences for particular items.
Change is constant. In some ways it has been good. In other ways not. It is still very much a question of individual perspective.
I very much enjoyed growing up in Brooklyn. There are some things I don't miss and many others I do. My parents remain in Brooklyn in Greenwood. It gives me reason to visit periodically.