A few years back, I spent 6 weeks aimlessly searching for an apartment in NYC. It would be my first NYC apartment. I have seen apartments in every neighborhood… Upper East, Upper West, Financial District, Tribeca, Lower East, East Village and the list goes on. I had a work-issued broker taking me around to look at tall filing cabinets throughout the city to live in. On weekends and some afternoons after work, I would go explore Brooklyn on my own – because there was no way my broker was crossing any river. After a particularly grueling day of seeing shitty Brooklyn apartments in all sorts of neighborhoods, I surfaced at the G-Train stop where Fulton crosses Lafayette. The sun was setting towards the end of Lafayette, right over the street between BAM and the apartment building across the street. From the moment I surfaced on that June day, I could feel an undeniable vibe. I cannot stress this enough – undeniable. The warm setting sun, the faint scent of incense in the air, cars bumping hip-hop and reggae, and an interesting mix of people on their way somewhere. It was the best advertisement for a neighborhood ever. No slick broker or savvy landlord could ever have sold me in the way that I was sold when I just stepped out of that subway stop. I had just arrived in the North Oak Cliff of New York City.
There was this weird feeling of arrival. I had yet to feel truly comfortable in any neighborhood I had visited, but once in Fort Greene, I knew that I had found the place I needed to live. It helped that I had never really heard of it. It had zero expectations. It did not have a ‘type’ like LES or Williamsburg (hipsters), or Park Slope or UWS with strollers and boredom. What I liked about Fort Greene was what anthropologists have acknowledged: There may be no place in the country where people from such diverse backgrounds exist in seemingly such harmony. African-Americans, Caribbean-Americans, Middle Eastern, Jewish, Asian, and certainly a large dose of young couples moving in to raise families – typical gentrification style. That is probably where I come in.
I am blessed in many ways to have found this neighborhood. And certainly very blessed to live in the Fort Greene home of the late jazz great Betty Carter, who would have definitely played a role in the film above. After watching that trailer above, I almost feel like I am not worthy of living here. The trailer only shows a small sliver of the people that either grew up in this tiny neighborhood, or have passed through at some time. I love Chris Rock’s line in the trailer about ‘snobby’ people. The snobby people are still here, but that snobby-ness isn’t really snobby-ness. It actually just legit cool. I cannot stress this enough – legit cool. I can only hope that a tiny shred rubs off on me.