Get out your tire irons, we’re going to Brooklyn

Photo credit nytimes.com

My mom had been dragging her feet about coming East for a visit for so long and giving me a series of lame excuses as to why she couldn’t come that I was beginning to think she’d secretly had a sex change and wasn’t ready to let me see her in man drag. None of her reasons seemed legitimate and I was getting very suspicious: I knew it had to be something so weird & crazy that she just didn’t want to say what it was. But I kept on kibbutzing encouraging her to come here to visit Grandma and me anyway because its been 5 years, already.

After a lot of pouting (mine) and outright tantrums (also mine) she finally told me she was worried that she wouldn’t be able to leave her hotel — which only served breakfast–and would have to wait hours to get something to eat until I was able to stop working and escort her to the nearest restaurant. It turned out that she was afraid of the minority peoples of Brooklyn rising up against her and tearing her limb from limb if she stepped foot outside her hotel –or if not of dismemberment by crazed non white mob maybe getting mugged a little bit.

My mother’s ideas about how awful it would be to have to walk around in Brooklyn by herself are possibly similar to my own ideas about how awful it would be to have to fight to the death like *Mad Max vs Master Blaster in the Thunderdome, two men enter, one man leaves!!

My mother was raised in NYC by white, upper middle class people and she knows Manhattan really well but back when she last actually lived here, around 1979, people did not go to Brooklyn unless they needed to dispose of a body. Now that that is what Staten Island is for, I’ve been trying to convince her that 2010 Brooklyn is pretty nice.
I mean, I’m not saying Brooklyn is totally crime-free but it has come a long way from the way it used to be. At least we in Brooklyn don’t murder people and stuff their bodies into cardboard boxes and leave them by the park …or at least not as often as we used to! I’ve always wondered how many poor choices you have to make in life before you end up dead in a cardboard box by the park or if it’s something you can avoid by eating vegetables and exercising enough. But anyway it’s been absolute AGES (October 2008 was 2 whole years ago!) since anybody and especially a little old **white lady from UTAH was murdered and stuffed into a cardboard box!

Actually, if you read anything about Brooklyn these days you’d think that its is full of people who enjoy living in fancy renovated brownstones while working as restauranteurs or architectural designers or making sure their ***outfits,tattoos,fauxhawks,artist/singer/writing slash bartendering careers are way cooler than yours.

When I found out what was really stopping her from wanting to come I told her she was completely wrong!

Here is what she wrote in response [Direct Quote]:

I’m just not used to that neighborhood you live in. I went to graduate school for three years in a high crime lower class black neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. Very scary. There were muggings, apartments cleaned out, rapes in the library. I walked around with a tire iron for protection. I once almost got my purse snatched by a group of young girls. To me from the outside your neighborhood looks similar. Don’t forget you did have that jewelry stolen. I just assumed that it is a high crime neighborhood. You say no. That’s good.

What? Comparing 2010 Fort Greene to Chicago in the 60’s?! You can’t even compare 2005 Fort Greene to 2010 Fort Greene! And the record, I was also robbed during the year I lived on 27th and 7th avenue by a Latino. He was still in my place when I came home, demanded cash while holding me at knife-point and left with my brand new Sony Sportsman instead since I and my roommates had little else of value to steal and I certainly didn’t want to give him my last 20 bucks.
Curiously, I was never robbed during the year I lived on 3rd st between C & D (in the early 90’s this was as bad as living on [enter the name of the worst street you can think of] ) what with all the open heroin use and drug dealing.

I know I don’t live in a rich, white neighborhood (those renovated brownstones are really expensive!) and it has to be somewhat alien somebody like my mother who lives in a 98% white state in a 100% white neighborhood to come here…but I don’t think it’s very intellectually responsible to immediately assume the presence of a lot of black people means you’re going to get mugged!

You’re probably going to get mugged on Adelphi if you are trying to get your dealer on your BlackBerry at 4 in the morning. You’re probably going to get your purse lifted if you leave it in your shopping cart at Target and look the other way for a second because at the Atlantic Mall you really have to be on your toes! Your fancy SUV is probably going to get broken into if you leave it parked overnight on Flushing, esp. any block between Navy and Washington. Patrol cars from the 88th precinct are scarce, you probably won’t see any cops until they are called out. This is not a Crime Free city! So Mom isn’t totally out of her gourd to be apprehensive. Thing is she wouldn’t be doing any of the previously mentioned activities, she’d be staying at the new NuHotel on Smith St as described by the Observer [Direct Quote]:

The 93-room, newly built hotel, owned and operated by Hersha Hospitality and designed by Datumzero Design Office, is located on stylish Smith Street and sits squarely at the intersection of four intriguing Brooklyn neighborhoods: Downtown Brooklyn, home to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Courthouses, and the offices at MetroTech Center; Boerum Hill, where streets are lined with elegant brownstones and French bistros; Cobble Hill, a blend of old-world shops, bakeries and gardens; and Carroll Gardens, an old-fashioned Italian neighborhood with wide streets, chic restaurants and antique shops. Together, these areas possess all the requisites for a unique, insider’s experience.

Basically, that corner of Smith street is quite nice– just like the corner of Fulton and Greene is really nice and Dekalb and Clermont,too. Lots and lots of places about 5 blocks from my house are actually as nice or nicer than any block you have on the Upper West Side– as nice as they are they are far outside my price range. It always makes me laugh how people seem to resent you a little bit for living in a “bad neighborhood” as if you’re doing it to spite them and not because you’re slightly less rich than you’d like to be. In the decades I’ve lived in New York I have never been able to afford to live in a good neighborhood. I’m not complaining about it because I’ve preferred to look on the positive side: living in various poor neighborhoods has allowed me to be able to afford to live in New York while at the same time not having to miss out on the amenities available in nicer neighborhoods that aren’t that far away.

On a serious note:
The most hard hit victim of mugging crime was a Pratt student 2 years ago.
Around the same time there were reports of groups of teenagers surrounding victims and kicking and punching them and grabbing anything they could from them.
My boyfriend and I witnessed an attack like this on one of our neighbors who lives in the same building we do. It was about 5 teenage boys against one man. We ran out of our apartment to help him while calling 911 but his attackers had run off. Again, not a Crime Free city. Where is this Crime Free city? I probably wouldn’t be able to afford to live there even if it existed.

* Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome – Mel Gibson,Tina Turner – George Miller and George Ogilvie (directors) – Warner Bros – 1985
** My mother made the choice to be a white lady from Utah about 30 years ago.
*** The Moderne Hipstur, Piggelswerth-Wagstaff (pub.1924) .