So I recently moved from Brooklyn to Harlem. Harlem is familiar stopping grounds for me given that I went to school in Morningside Heights for 4 years. Having lived here before, I know that I am in for a good time with all of Harlem’s culture, activity and stimulating personality. However, with all of the good that comes with moving to Harlem, there is a lot of bad that goes with leaving Brooklyn.
The grass is always greener on the other side of the….water! For so long, I have thought about moving back to Manhattan, back to the Upper West Side, where I originally planted my roots here in New York City. And while I knew that day was inevitable, I never really thought about how much I would miss Brooklyn.
I only lived there for 3 years, but it is sufficient to say that you can certainly make a home in Brooklyn in just 3 years. That’s what I did. I originally lived in Crown Heights, in a lovely Brownstone, right off Kingston Avenue. The block I lived on was actually lined with trees and there was a park across the street that was full of activity during the summer months. It was in that park that I started a workout regiment and as well as a jogging routine. That’s something that few Manhattanites can even consider. Around the corner from me was a bodega that mine as well have been a supermarket. It pretty much supplied me with everything that 22-year old male just out of college needs: Ramen Noodles, toilet paper, orange juice and potato chips. Of course, I lived with 3 girls for roommates at the time, so there were plenty of other items that I got from there, as well as from the neighborhood grocery store down the block; which of course, was run by people in the neighborhood. Ahhhh, the community experience!
After a year of living across from the park, I ended up getting booted out of the Brownstone—it got sold to some fairly wealthy individuals, whom had no need for 4 college grads throwing wildly entertaining Halloween parties (even though I barley attended the party, it was legendary, I swear!). I moved to a spot down the road and just a few blocks from both Brooklyn Museum and Prospect Park. The street outside of my apartment was often littered with young, black adolescents seemingly wasting their time away on sidewalks, as well as the hipster white folks, who loved the neighborhood so much that they actually staged a patrol to pick up trash off the streets. Needless to say, I loved this place.
I ended up frequenting the park, often for barbeques, runs or just to go out there and relax. The great thing about Prospect Park, and really all of Brooklyn, is that it is such a great break from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. People are not running over each other to get somewhere. There is way less commercialism, with “mom and pop” shops dominating the retail activity; as opposed to the McDonald’s and Duane Reades of the world that dominate the island. You will find far less people dressed up in suits, and many more people walking outside and their skimpies. The sidewalks in Brooklyn aren’t just for walking, but for grilling, children playing and meeting new people. Brooklyn is more or less the more densely populated version of Long Island. It is the suburbs of city life, if there is such a thing.
Of course, many of these same things can be found in Harlem, which does not embody all of the bells and whistles that the rest of Manhattan does. In moving to Harlem, I still find myself just 2 blocks from Morningside Park and only 8 blocks from Central Park. Nevertheless, it doesn’t feel the same. Morningside Park is about as creepy and deserted as parks get in New York City, and you can barley scratch your ass in Central Park with out a permit.
So while Midtown isn’t exactly the spitting image of Harlem, Harlem is still no Brooklyn. I will continue to miss my Caribbean folks on Fulton Street who had the jerk chicken on the grill—on a daily basis—starting at 11am everyday! I’ll have to try to get by without an easy path to the best park in New York, a path (Eastern Parkway) that has been labeled as one of the most beautiful streets in America. I will have to manage the long commute to Brooklyn on First Saturdays, as I certainly will not give up my recent fascination with Brooklyn Museum’s monthly celebration of art and life. And I’ll have to make due with the constant street noise that comes with living in Manhattan, an issue that was rarely an topic of concern on the confined streets of Park Place and Franklin Avenue.
But I’m sure I’ll be back in tune with Harlem before the next First Saturday event. It’s not as if Harlem doesn’t have its own unique culture and way of life. So get ready for the next post entitled “The Return of the Harlem Renaissance,” or “Uzo runs 125th Street,” coming to an email box near you in the not too distant future. But until then, I soak these memories of Brooklyn up, dreaming of the more colorful grass on the other side of water.