Boasting beautiful tree-lined streets, brownstones and a range of activities for all age groups, Park Slope is consistently ranked as one of New York’s most desirable neighborhoods. Filled with lush parks and greenery, the neighborhood is also known for its rare combination of excellent public schools, award-winning restaurants, nightlife, small independently owned businesses and community gardens.
Situated at the western slope of Prospect Park, the neighborhood is divided into different sections: North Slope, Center Slope and South Slope. Depending on who you ask, of course, the definitions of where these borders end and begin may vary (is the divide between North and Center deemed Union Street, Garfield Place, 1st Street or 3rd Street? The one between Center and South 6th Street, 9th Street, 11th Street or 15th Street?).
Regardless of what part of the Slope you find yourself on, there’s no shortage of architectural beauty. From row houses to brownstones to mansions, the idyllic setting of the neighborhood is further enhanced by its Romanesque and Renaissance Revival styles. Case in point of this is also two of the area’s most well-known churches, Park Slope United Methodist Church and Saint Augustine Roman Catholic Church.
Revered for its family-friendly appeal, Park Slope is often regarded as one of the best places to raise a family in New York City. That said, it doesn’t mean that parents don’t know how to have a good time... a slew of bars constantly opening in the neighborhood ranging from the high-end cocktail saloon to the dive (well, by Park Slope standards, anyway).
5th Avenue. As the heart and soul of the neighborhood, this avenue offers an instant dose of what it means to live in Park Slope, from the boutique shopping (e.g. LuLu’s Cuts & Toys and Diana Kane) to the varied food options (like homemade gelato from L’Albero dei Gelati or the twenty-four hour Fifth Avenue Diner).
Brooklyn Museum. Known for its avant-garde exhibits and famed permanent display of Judy Chicago’s “The Dinner Party,” Brooklyn Museum is constantly offering a new and exciting roster of programming geared toward both the local community and garnering international appeal.
Prospect Park Zoo. Once you’ve made it to the Central Park of Brooklyn a.k.a. the charming Prospect Park, checking out the Prospect Park Zoo, located right inside, is definitely worth it. Filled with a variety of animals ranging from miniature horses to red pandas, it offers one of the most exotic experiences you can find in the city.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden. And, speaking of exotic, don’t leave without checking out nearby Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Spanning a staggering fifty-two acres, the stunning property features multiple plant pavilions, an art gallery, an aquatic plant house and a bonsai museum. The garden is also perhaps most famed of all for its annual month-long Hanami festival, celebrating the blooming of the cherry blossoms in the spring.
Puppetworks. Speaking to the family-friendly nature of P. Slope, Puppetworks is a longtime staple of the nabe, founded in 1980. The nonprofit theater, established by revered puppeteer Nicolas Coppola, is known for putting on puppet shows to classic tales like Cinderella.
Central Library. With its ornately decorated art deco exterior, Central Library (the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library), which opened to the public in 1941, attracts over a million visitors every year. To boot, the landmarked building houses roughly one million books and magazines in its robust catalogue--as well as media items like movies.
Grand Army Plaza. Demarcated by the Soldiers' and Sailors' Arch at the south, Grand Army Plaza was once an important battleground during the Battle of Long Island. Post-American Revolution, the Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux-designed plaza was intended as a gradual diffuser from the calm and quiet of Prospect Park into the chaos of the bustling city environment. Initially called the Prospect Park Plaza, it was renamed to Grand Army in 1926. In its modern day incarnation, the plaza isn’t just home to gorgeous fountains and memorial statues, but has also become somewhat illustrious for being the most active traffic circle in the borough, with the major arteries of Vanderbilt Avenue, Prospect Park West, Eastern Parkway and Flatbush Avenue all colliding at this point. Should you happen to be near Grand Army Plaza on a Saturday, check out the Grand Army Farmers’ Market, which takes place from eight in the morning to four in the afternoon.
The Old Stone House. A re-creation of the Vechte-Cortelyou House that was torn down in 1897, The Old Stone House, built in 1930, is a historic structure that speaks to Brooklyn’s roots in the American Revolution. Situated in Washington Park (not to be confused with Washington Square Park), the site is devoted to continuing to impart the history of the original Dutch farmstead’s cultural significance to the U.S.’ formation at the local and national level.
Community Bookstore. Whether you’re a casual reader or an ardent lover of literature, Community Bookstore has a book for every walk of life. And, as the name suggests, it is heavily community-oriented. Established in 1971, it is a place where residents of the neighborhood can enjoy the backyard, take in a reading or simply give a pet to one of the cats that has long been a signature of the store.
Park Slope Food Co-op. Again putting the emphasis on community, Park Slope Food Co-op is a prime example of residents (as well as many outer-neighborhood volunteers) getting involved at the local level. With approximately 20,000 members, membership stipulates that each volunteer works two hours and forty-five minutes every week in order to shop there.
Union Hall. Though the five thousand square foot bar and event space briefly shuttered after a fire broke out in 2017, Union Hall bounced back quickly to reopen and continues to service the area with its rare amenities (fireplace and bocce ball court), as well as its live music and comedy shows (which take place in the basement).
Nitehawk Cinema. Recently expanded from its Williamsburg location, Nitehawk Cinema replaced the former Pavilion Theater at the end of 2018. The refurbished structure has two stories and follows the Nitehawk formula of serving themed food and drinks while watching a movie.
What You Might See
Kids galore. It wouldn’t be called one of the best neighborhoods to raise a family without the sight of children of all ages careening down the streets on foot, bike, scooter or any other manner of wheels.
As Paul Auster would call them, “Beautiful Perfect Mothers,” or “BPMs.”
Doulas. Also known as birth coaches with no formal medical training.
Nature. Part of what differentiates Park Slope from so many other parts of New York is its easy accessibility to the natural beauty found in Prospect Park.
Plenty of boutiques and independently owned businesses. While the area is always attracting new residents, it preserves its “small town” feel, and a sense of community that makes people feel connected.
What’s In The Future
A combination of preservation and development. Newer high-rise buildings on Fourth Avenue could signal a changing future shape for the pastoral quality (at least as much of a pastoral quality as you can get in NYC) of Park Slope. At the same time, the commitment of the residents to maintaining the quirks of the neighborhood will likely allow it to persevere in some semblance of its present iteration.
What You Might Not Know
Park Slope’s name--which originated in the 1890s--is a shortened version of Prospect Park slope.
The Park Slope Historic District--a sprawling twenty-four blocks that run against the length of Prospect Park West--is one of the biggest landmarked neighborhoods in New York City. Populated with Victorian mansions, the area became referred to as the Gold Coast when the first buildings were erected in the 1880s.
The neighborhood was once home to the Brooklyn Atlantics (one day to become the Brooklyn Dodgers before tragically moving to L.A. in one of the biggest upsets to New York sports history). The team would play and practice at Washington Park before eventually being moved to Ebbets Field.
Before it was dubbed the “canyon of mediocrity” for its treeless roads and constant construction, the six-mile stretch of Fourth Avenue that runs from Barclays to Bay Ridge was called the Park Avenue of Brooklyn. This was circa 1896 to 1900. Once the subway lines were built, the entire landscape of this short-lived “Park Avenue” changed.
Paul Auster, a Park Slope enthusiast, set his 2005 novel, Brooklyn Follies, in the neighborhood. A central character in and of itself of the book, the cover features the corner of Seventh Avenue and Second Street.
HBO’s 2009-2011 series, Bored to Death, starring Jason Schwartzman and Zach Galifianakis was largely filmed in Park Slope, specifically Seventh Avenue near Garfield and First Streets.
The current “mom uniform” of Park Slope, as declared by The New York Times, is a pair of No. 6 clogs and a Salt strap (detachable purse straps that can be mixed and matched with various designer handbags).
What We Love
In addition to the bohemian chic sensibility (this is where you’ll find that aforementioned “mom uniform,” after all), the easy accessibility of Park Slope is part of what makes it so desirable. With the D/N/R/W at the south side, the F/G in the center and the 2/3/4 to the north, transportation options are bountiful. And, of course, there’s nothing better than getting the best of city life paired with the close proximity of Prospect Park, providing a peaceful and natural ambience.