Tuesday, August 20, 2013

where I live

I live in a neighborhood in south Brooklyn that few people have ever heard of, even other Brooklynites. I'd like to keep it that way. Too many Brooklyn neighborhoods have of late been colonized by youngish people priced out of Manhattan, and their new neighborhoods have become trendy and expensive (Williamsburg, for instance, and Greenpoint and Bushwick). Ours may not be at risk of falling victim to this trend as we're not very close to Manhattan, but I'm still not going to name it. Suffice is to say that we're somewhat near Sheepshead Bay.

It had been a working-class Italian neighborhood, but most of the Italians are gone. There are still a few Italian grocery stores and restaurants. But for the most part, the neighborhood is mixed working-class. Avenue U is the main drag. On the opposite side of U from where we live, there is a colony of rich Orthodox Syrian Jews, who live in large private homes. So we also have a decent smattering of kosher food stores and other stores that cater to the wealthy (designer clothing, fancy tabletop goods, fine jewelry). It's basically a safe, family-oriented neighborhood.

There are a number of industrial businesses under the elevated subway line (about five blocks from us); the jewelry company where I used to work is one of them. There are quite a few factories and auto repair shops. It's the only stretch of the neighborhood that's less than pleasant. Quite a few Mexicans and South Americans work there, so there are some Mexican businesses near the subway - including a little grocery where I can always get good mangoes and avocados.

The only thing we don't really have is a good supermarket. There's a Met Food about fifteen blocks away, but it's a pretty old market, narrow aisles etc., and I don't trust any of their perishables. But they're not bad for packaged foods. There's an excellent Shop-Rite a few subway stops away - we used to shop there, carry our perishables back on the train, and have the rest delivered. But they won't deliver to our area any more. We used Fresh Direct for a while (shop online and they deliver), but we had problems with spoiled meat a few times (though they always gave a store credit, no questions asked), and the prices aren't that great. So we're back to mixed shopping. Paper goods and cat products at a few cheapie places nearby; chicken and pork and beef from an Italian deli; other groceries, wherever. Produce is a bit of a problem. A wonderful kosher produce store closes during the summer, and is only open on weekdays the rest of the year. There is a really shitty produce market up toward Met Food; every time I go in there, everything looks pretty icky except the bananas. I shop some at the Union Square Greenmarket, near my office, especially this time of year, when there are great tomatoes and stone fruit. I've recently discovered Trader Joe's, also near my office, which has canned tuna at a great price and other useful groceries. It's basically impossible to get a decent loaf of whole-grain bread where I live, so I've been buying unsliced loaves at the Greenmarket, but just discovered whole-grain bread at Trader Joe's for a dollar less. (Counting pennies, as always.)

We have a great mom-and-pop pharmacy near us for prescriptions, and a Rite-Aid for discount-drug-store stuff (cosmetics, shampoo, deodorant). We have a store called Meats Supreme which is good for cold cuts, but we've gotten spoiled meat from them as well. (Got a couple of well-priced and excellent packs of beef and pork from Trader Joe' recently.)

For fish, we're a short bus ride from the second-largest Chinatown in Brooklyn, with many groceries full of gently priced fresh seafood. You can get salmon fillet at $5.99 a pound, which is mostly what I crave. We also sometimes buy white fillets of some sort (sole, flounder, etc) and occasionally shrimp. There is a kosher fish market a few blocks from where we live, but it is quite expensive and of course you can't get things like shrimp.

I don't consider our neighborhood all that great for walking, and we don't have a park of any sort. But we're decently close to Coney Island (a few train stops) and not that far from Prospect Park (two buses).

We've been there about six years and doubt we'll be moving any time soon (although we'd love a bigger apartment). It's still cheap, we have a good landlord, and you need all kind of good credit and hefty income to rent an apartment these days.

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