Friday, March 18, 2016
When my husband and I first bought our home, we felt proud to become part of a well- established, mostly Italian neighborhood, where everyone seemed to know each other and where elderly residents sat on their stoops and helped keep a vigilant eye on your home, your kids and your car.
Though some certainly called us "yuppies" under their breath back in the 1980s, the people on our block certainly warmed up to us after we took the time to introduce ourselves. They seemed amused by seeing us every week-end, in dirty clothes, working either on our house or in the garden.
The birth of our children, however, was what made us bona fide members, in their eyes, of the Carroll Gardens community. Our kids were immediately adopted by these wonderful neighbors. Sadly, many have long passed, but they have not been forgotten. There were Grace, Antoinette and Laura, the three sisters, who always had kind words for me when I was an exhausted new mother. There was Lou, their brother, who always bought fun gadgets at auctions and sometimes gifted something to the children on the block. And who could ever forget Florence, who handed out Stella d'Oro Swiss Fudge cookies to all the little ones as they toddled or bicycled by her front yard.
Even today, the Italian neighbors who are still living here take a keen interest in our now-adult kids. Pete, who is in his 90s now, still keeps M& M in his pocket, so that he can dole them out to all the children on the block. And though our own kids are now adults, he never fails to inquire about their lives and professional endeavors.
My dear friends and neighbors Tony and Dolores across the street have, over the years, watched over my children like grandparents. Dolores' common sense child -rearing advice to me was always welcomed and kept me sane especially when the kids were teens. Most importantly, the kids felt loved and protected by all these wonderful, caring adults.
When I think back, I remember a time where people connected more and where newcomers tried to integrate into an existing neighborhood, rather than trying to buy into the next new 'hot' real estate market.
Carroll Gardens has dramatically over the past ten years. Sadly, these days, I hear from many old-time Carroll Gardeners that they feel unwelcome in the neighborhood where they have spent most, if not all of their lives.
"Do you know what they call us?" many long time residents have asked me over the past few years. "They call us 'leftovers'"
The 'they', I am told, are many of the newcomers and especially real estate agents who can't wait to make a commission when a brownstone that has been held by one family for a long time finally comes on the market.
Though I have never personally heard the term 'leftover' used by the newer residents of Carroll Gardens, I must admit that the many glossy postcards and brochures from area real estate agents I find in my mailbox every week make me feel like a 'leftover' myself. The mailings will invariably feature a home on the block with the word "Sold!" printed in bold lettering and the offer to sell my house for the same exorbitant dollar amount.
Of course, the mailers can just be recycled without another thought. However, the telephone calls from brokers are more difficult to ignore.
" Are you the owner of Number ___, ________ Street in Carroll Gardens?" an over-eager agent will ask? "Have you ever thought of selling your property? You know, the market in this neighborhood is really strong right now."
What I hear them say is "Are you still here? How come you haven't cashed in yet so that I can make lots of money on the transaction myself."
My answer is always: "How dare you? If I wanted to sell, I would contact you. Stop calling and stop harassing me in my own home."
Sure it is nice to know that the real estate market in Carroll Gardens is 'robust', but for all of us who have made this neighborhood our home, have raised our families here and want to grow old in our brownstones and in our community, the mailings and phone calls are unwelcome.
What are your thoughts on this? Are you a longtime neighborhood resident who sometimes feels like a 'leftover'?
Perhaps you moved here more recently and were unaware of how your Carroll-Gardens born neighbors may feel about the pressure to sell?