The signs of gentrification so glaringly missing from Manhattan Ave are abundant on Franklin. Not only the tell-tale businesses, but the people. Within minutes of stepping onto the sidewalk there, you will be bumped by someone talking on a cell phone. Even though Manhattan Ave is more crowded with pedestrians, people there know how to walk. They move to the right, as New Yorkers have done for generations. I tested this on both streets and I can assure you: On Manhattan they move to the right, on Franklin they don't.
On Manhattan Ave., it's discount stores selling flowery women's house coats called "dusters." On Franklin, it's high-end boutiques. There are no diners here, no Polish markets. There are outdoor cafes packed with wafer-thin women cradling chihuahuas in their laps, bars with clever names, "craft brew" beer stores, and coffee shops filled with bearded men peering at Mac laptops through chalk-white Wayfarer shades.
It is just one block away from Manhattan Ave., and it is a completely different universe with a completely different culture.
Overheard: "Oh my God, try the iced tea. It's blood orange and pear. Amazing. Especially when you've got a huge hangover."
To be honest, part of me wants to enjoy these new and independent businesses. They only span a few blocks, and they're off to the side. As Miss Heather attests, Word is a great little bookshop and Kill Devil Hill is filled with appealing curiosities. I'd like to lose myself in the fantasy of a "perfect mix": a liveable neighborhood filled with menschlich people and a handful of "cool" places to hang out with people who are, admittedly, more like me (in some ways).
But we all know that handful never contains itself. I looked at those "cool" places, and thought: This is The Blob. It grows and grows, and as it grows, it eats everything in sight. There will be no stopping it.
Already, the Horror of Greenpoint has landed. That Carnival cruise ship has docked at the Galapagos and boatloads of hungry monsters are coming ashore.
The luxury condos, lured by the hip cafes and shops, have taken over warehouses and factories. Tearing down buildings, they span whole blocks, sprouting towers at their centers. They muscle their way between smaller, cheaper homes, asserting themselves as "bigger and better!"
This is the second Greenpoint on our tour, and it threatens to destroy the first. But there is also a third Greenpoint, a sinister, dystopian layer surrounding the luxury.
Next stop: Post-Apocalyptic Greenpoint...