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Get to know Park Slope

Long before Brooklyn’s current moment of cool, with people from around the world seeking out the nightlife of Williamsburg, Bushwick, and other neighborhoods, Park Slope was one of the borough’s most desirable areas. Just as Central Park was the catalyst for a Manhattan building boom, Prospect Park, which opened in 1867, had a similar effect; it just took a while longer to get going. When it came to its second act, however, Park Slope was ahead of its time. Victorian mansions that had been divided into apartments were being restored to single-family homes as early as the 1960s. What made Park Slope appealing then continues to draw residents, namely the grand 19th-century houses and proximity to the park. In addition, its main commercial strips, Fifth and Seventh avenues, have retained a lively mix of businesses with both established favorites and intriguing new additions.
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History & Culture

The source of Park Slope’s name, Prospect Park, opened in 1867, designed by the same team behind Manhattan’s Central Park: Frederick Law Olmsted and partner Calvert Vaux. Though the park would generate interest in the area, it would take some time before development took off in earnest. The opening of the Brooklyn Bridge, in 1883, accelerated the pace. The grandest homes were built along Prospect Park West and facing, or at least close to, Grand Army Plaza. Over time, Park Slope transitioned from an address for the elite to a largely working-class area, but in the 1960s, urban pioneers began to recognize the underappreciated gems. Here, for the price of a studio in Manhattan one could buy an entire house, albeit a house in need of repairs. Those bargains no longer exist, but the neighborhood continues to be a favorite of families and others who appreciate its architecture and welcoming character.

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Dine & Shop

For most of Park Slope’s history, Seventh Avenue was the sole commercial strip. While you’ll find some expensive restaurants and boutiques, its character generally fits that of the neighborhood as a whole. It’s decidedly not pretentious; fixtures like Community Bookstore and 7th Avenue Donuts have been open since the 1970s. Back then, Fifth Avenue, near the bottom of the Slope, was viewed as borderline dangerous. Over the decades, however, it has evolved into the younger — and arguably more fun — upstart sister. With cheaper rents (for now) compared to Seventh, vintage stores and new restaurants and bars have tended to choose Fifth over Seventh. Fifth Avenue has a decidedly Brooklyn vibe, with local artisans and designers represented and a dining scene that is as diverse as the borough itself. Though technically not in Park Slope, the Barclays Center and Atlantic Terminal mall are just north of Fifth.