I’m standing on 15th Street and 7th Avenue in Brooklyn, New York in what is supposed to be the South Slope region. Or, maybe it’s not. I ask a cashier in a Vietnamese sandwich shop on the corner of this intersection which neighborhood we are in.
“That’s a good question” says Daisy Yang. “I’ve been here a few years already and I don’t know.” Daisy has lived in the Sunset Park area of Brooklyn for three years now while working here.
When I ask her colleague, Wei Li, if he can pinpoint the demarcations of South Slope, a laconic “No” is all I receive.
A mix of ethnic restaurants, grocery stores and other neighborhood staples such as hardware shops line the streets. The road is a hodgepodge of older shops next to trendy juice spots and, similarly, polished brownstones next to run-down buildings. The area seems as mixed as the answers I get regarding its exact location and identity.
A skateboarder in the area asserts that she “Doesn’t even know what South Slope means” though she has lived on 15th Street and 5th Avenue since 2010. She says that the area has gone through a renaissance recently as 5th Avenue has been built up. “People say it used to be crap,” she says. But now, if she was 25, she wouldn’t be able to afford this area, she says. Meanwhile, her fellow skateboarder, MJ, assertively states that South Slope begins at 16th Street. MJ did not want her full name to be used.
A 1981 New York Times article by Gail Collins deems the boundary between South Slope and the rest of Park Slope to be 3rd Street. South Slope was rezoned by the New York City Department of Planning in 2005 to have 15th Street be its northern-most border. Wikipedia uses 9th street as the South Slope’s southern border and popular search engines such as Yelp acknowledge 10th Street and 5th Avenue to still be considered South Slope.
According to the New York City Department of Planning, the newly zoned South Slope is bounded by 15th street on the north, 4th Avenue on the west, Prospect Park West on the east, and 24th Street and Green-Wood Cemetery on the south. Community Board 7 voted on August 24, 2005 to recommend approval of the proposal and it was approved around two months later by the City Planning Commission.
The rezoning protects the “predominantly low-rise character of the neighborhood.” The rezoning would also serve to “provide opportunities for apartment house construction with incentives for affordable housing on 4th Avenue within the rezoning area.”
“Park Slope is where the money is at” says MJ.
Perhaps that is why the owner of Napoleon Pizza on the bustling Fifth Avenue states “It’s all Park Slope,” dismissing the notion that South Slope even exists, let alone that he has potentially set up shop there.
A few blocks from this pizzeria, Nilda Serrano, a self-proclaimed resident of South Slope, lives. She has resided in what she calls South Slope for 48 years. However, she concedes that the area has changed over time and Hispanics such as herself have slowly been pushed out of the area.
Yvonne White has lived on the corner of 15th Street and 4th Avenue in what she claims is South Slope as well. She has been there for thirty years now and says that “Fifth Avenue is different. It’s not as upscale.” According to her, “below Fifth is South Slope.”
The question of where the boundaries of South Slope lie becomes increasingly muddled.