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My copycat neighbors - Brooklyn Paper

My copycat neighbors

Maybe we should start calling Fort Greene, Park Greene. Or Fort Slope. Or Port Sleene. The neighborhood long known as the artist’s alternative to Park Slope has, of late, been taking tips from its stodgier, uptown neighbor. From supermarkets to restaurants to procreation, Fort Greene is becoming a copycat neighborhood.

In the past year alone, Fort Greene residents have witnessed Myrtle Avenue, from Flatbush eastward, sprout boutiques and restaurants that could have easily taken root on Fifth Avenue. The march of 12-story buildings along Park Slope’s Fourth Avenue border is being followed by high rises along Myrtle Avenue and Fulton Street. And of course, no discussion of Park Slope and its imitators would be complete without mention of coffeeshops, supermarkets, and babies.

“Certainly when you walk around the neighborhood these days, between the baby strollers the Wall Streeters, the Subarus and the hybrids on the streets, it has a little more of a Park Slope vibe,” said Andrew Simon, a magazine editor who’s lived in the neighborhood since 2003.

He’s not the only one to notice the change. For yuppie’s sake, Union Market is coming to the neighborhood! Marko Lalic, one of the three partners behind the upscale grocery store, told The Brooklyn Paper that a number of his customers had moved from Park Slope to Fort Greene, and had asked him to follow suit.

Two Fort Greeners have even decided to open a food co-op, a la Park Slope Food Co-op, and are fast garnering interest via their blog, www.fortgreenecoop.wordpress.com.

And then there are the coffee shops, which have been sprouting up like so many Arabica plants in the Panama sun. Just a few years back, Tillie’s, on DeKalb and Vanderbilt, was the freelancer’s only reliable spot to grab a cub of joe and free Wi-Fi. Now, much as Slopers can bounce from Naidre’s to the Tea Lounge, Fort Greener’s can coffee-shop-hop from Bittersweet, to Smooch, Urban Spring to Bidonville.

In fact, even Greg Wolf, the owner of Park Slope’s legendary Tea Lounge, has considered opening an outlet in Fort Greene.

“We’ve been asked by a bunch of customers who’ve moved there,” said Wolf. “And we do have plans to expand there.”

Even our parks are taking tips from Park Slope! Now, locals can adopt benches in the park via the Fort Greene Park Conservancy, an idea modeled on the long-time Prospect Park Alliance program.

The result is that Fort Greene has acquired a distinctly less edgy vibe. Stores cater to the arrived, rather than the up-and-coming, the mainstream, rather than the avant-garde.

“When I moved to Fort Greene a decade ago, I was moving here for, frankly, a very distinct black bohemian vibe,” said Myka Carroll del Barrio, whose peregrinations from Washington Park to Washington Avenue to Downing Street in Clinton Hill have followed the gentrification of the neighborhood.

“In the ’90s, Fort Greene was kind of known among a certain community of people as the place Erykah Badu lived,” added del Barrio. “In the past decade, it has definitely become a lot more mainstream.”

But it’s not all doom and gloom for Fort Greene. For one, there are far worse things than looking like Park Slope (it’s not like Fort Greene has begun resembling Albany, or even the Upper East Side, for that matter).

As much as Fort Greene changes, it can only change so much.

“There’s sort of a built in diversity in this area,” said del Barrio. “You have St. Joseph’s University and Pratt, and you have the community that seems pretty sure it’s not going anywhere. … And to this day, I haven’t seen or heard any plans for a Starbucks or Duane Reade.”

Not yet, anyway.

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