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The move to NJ is upon us, so the hubby and I took this weekend to do a few of our favorite Brooklyn things. Hanging out in Prospect Park is great during the summer (and all year), but we had never gone pedal boating at the Wollman Rink. So, on Sunday we decided to give it a go.

It was pretty hot, but a gorgeous day. We walked all around the park and eventually found our way to Wollman Rink. There was a line for the boats, but we didn’t want to give up right away, we would wait it out. It was $15/hour and a $10 refundable deposit. We were given our life vests and got on line. The guy said it would only be about 15 minutes, but it turned out to be more like an hour. We were getting pretty antsy and so were the bunch of kids waiting. Finally it was our turn and we couldn’t wait to sit down and relax. After about five minutes of pedaling furiously we were sweating and getting pretty worn out. This is harder than it looks! Then we took a look around at our fellow boaters and realized we didn’t have to pedal that hard, just get into a nice even rhythm. Once we figured that out, it was a blast!

I found this article in the latest issue of Time Out New York and thought it was great!! In the dog days of summer, you need to cool off and if you are in the city (and don’t have access to a pool) this is a great way to do it! It’s actually illegal, so if you aren’t feeling like a thug, you can call the FDNY and they’ll hook you up for the day! Here is a portion of the article by Lisa Freedman:

“1. There are two common brands of hydrants throughout the city: Smith and Dresser. Not only are they the easiest to find, they’re the easiest to open. “You can use a regular pipe wrench,”says Jeffrey Ercolino, lieutenant of Engine Company 26. Pick up a pipe wrench at Home Depot (40 W 23rd St between Fifth and Sixth Aves; 212-929-9571, homedepot.com) and look for a hydrant with either brand name stamped on the top.

2. Use the wrench to unscrew one of the two bolts on the side of the hydrant. Some turn clockwise, while others turn counterclockwise, so you may need to try both directions.

3. To release the water, slowly turn the bolt on the top clockwise. “The further you turn the bolt, the harder the water comes out,” Ercolino warns. “The pressure ranges between 40 and 70 pounds per square inch, which is very powerful.”

4. Splash around wildly but keep an ear peeled for police sirens, and be ready to run like hell.

4b. There is also a legal approach: “Go to your local fire department and ask them to install a free spray cap for the day,” explains Seth Andrews, a spokesperson for the FDNY.”

—Lisa Freedman – Time Out New York – Click here for full article.

I can’t take it anymore!!! The construction in Park Slope is really getting out of control. Development for the better and for gentrification is one thing, but there is a very fine line between that and over development. On Carroll Street (my block) between 4th and 5th Avenue, on my half of the block alone (closer to 4th), there are FIVE construction sites. FIVE!! The banging, jack hammering, yelling, pile driving, traffic, double parked cars, etc. starts early and ends late. Sometimes, they even work on Saturdays (yeah!). There is a dust that floats through the air. Sometimes it’s just dust, sometimes it’s little white flakes of something that I’m sure is not good to breathe in.

The north corner of Carroll Street and 4th Avenue boasts a brand new (and extremely ugly) 9 story skinny building. The condos must be super thin and with no windows on one whole side of the building. Why would you intentionally build something filled with railroad apartments? (BTW – totally ruined the view from my roof, blech) “Luxury condos” is what they say about all these new buildings going up. With this real estate market though, I’m not sure who the hell is going to buy these things. Across the street on the south corner of Carroll and 4th is a 12 story building. This lot has been under construction for about a year, maybe a bit longer. Shut down numerous times, they now finally have a steel structure up. It will be a 12 story “luxury condo” building.

Currently, an old parking lot across the street from me and another a few doors down, are both under construction to become…possibly more condos. Uggh. The building next door to me, which went straight through to Garfield, was torn down last year (ruining my backyard in the process and soon after the whole side of the building — pics on Flickr coming soon) and has yet to be anything more than a huge canyon.

The over development on this block (and in Park Slope in general) has gotten out of hand. Soon, the cute buildings that have sat here for over 100 years will be overtaken with ugly hack construction…I mean “luxury condo” buildings. Not to mention, the overpopulation of this already heavily overpopulated neighborhood. Once these buildings are complete, up to 200 or more apartments will be within this half of a block, you do the math. Lots of people. Gone are the days of knowing everyone on your block.

We were getting nervous because we hadn’t heard back from the bank right away. The anxiety was completely warranted. When we finally heard back, we were given a big fat NO. We were shocked. What had happened between this deal and the last? It had only been 2 months and all the financials were the same. The first mortgage had even been for more money. Nothing had changed in the last 2 months, what gives???

Upon further digging, we found out that there was an old credit account showing up on my credit report that was from about 10 years ago and delinquent. What was it? Victoria’s Secret. WTF?!?!? Yes, the expensive panties that I had bought 10 years ago were making it impossible for me to buy a house. Ironically, I had given up shopping at VS years ago, when I realized their product was overpriced and inferior. Yet, here I was drowning in a mistake I had made 10 years prior.

That’s when I decided to fight back. I wrote a long letter to the underwriter that had denied us. I asked if this could be reconsidered. Why were we approved only 2 months earlier with the same credit reports, etc. Wasn’t this “Affordable Mortgage Program” made for people like us? If we weren’t qualified, who was? I made my case and sent the letter off.

Meanwhile, our Brooklyn apartment continued to fall apart. We spent a week with no electricity in 3 rooms because of some wiring malfunction. Strange noises have been heard lately in the walls (I don’t even want to know). The whole building shakes daily due to the 5 construction sites that surround us on our half (yes HALF) of the block. If we didn’t get the mortgage, what were we supposed to do in 2 weeks? We had to be out??? We frantically started to look for rentals in Brooklyn. The only drawback…we would most def have to sign a one year lease and delay our home buying process another whole year.

Twenty-four hours later, the underwriter made a decision. We got it! It was relief after the week from hell and living surrounded by boxes, not knowing where we were going to be in 2 weeks. We would be in our new home in Jersey City. One catch though…I had to pay for those 10-year-old panties.

Recently, the hubby and I have been trying to buy our first home. It was very simple at first; we got pre-approved for a mortgage and off we went in search of a real estate broker. The long and short of it really is…it’s not that simple. It starts that way, but one must prepare themselves for a lot of heartache along the way.

Our first attempt was on a really nice place in Jersey City Heights. The apartment was 1,000 square feet, had exposed brick, brand new kitchen (!!!) — it had a lot of character. The seller was in a hurry, so we rushed through the contract. We had a home inspection and before you knew it attorney review was over and we had a closing date set! Then the property was appraised for $20k less than the agreed upon price we were paying for it. Our bank said flat out, NO WAY. We tried everything. We begged for another appraiser, even one at our cost and that was a no go. Then we turned to the seller and asked if he would come down on the price. He could not do it. Suddenly, the whole deal fell through and we were back to square one.

We set our sights on Downtown Jersey City, specifically the area around Hamilton Park. We loved it there. It reminded us a lot of Brooklyn (some areas that aren’t overly populated yet). Soon enough we found another place. It was smaller, but based on some research, this hood was a better investment for us. In a whirlwind of showings and signings…we were in contract again! That’s when the problems began. The seller was in a rush, so everything had to be done very quickly. That was OK by us because the building we’re currently living in (in Park Slope) is falling apart, literally. This time we were smart and we had the appraisal done first, before we paid for another home inspection. It appraised $18k higher than what we were paying for it! Hurray! That means we have $18k in equity the day we move in. Wow!! We were psyched! We started planning and packing and since we were a shoe in this time (all the financials and information that was being used was the same as last time) we gave notice at our Brooklyn pad. Everything was great, the inspection went fine and we were just waiting to hear back from the bank… TBC

Hot summer days add up to one thing…ice cream! Lately, I’ve been craving the old school ice cream parlor feel. So many of the places around Park Slope try to be fancy and gourmet, all I want is some good old fashioned ice cream with hot fudge and peanut butter sauce.

Uncle Louie G’s has been a Slope favorite since 1998, when they opened their first store on Union Street, right off of 5th Ave. The hubby and I went their to cure an incredible ice cream craving and truth be told, we were disappointed. They have gone downhill. They didn’t have soft ice cream, the toppings were limited, the staff was rude and to top it all off, the ice cream wasn’t that good. Too sugary, like Baskin Robbins. Blech.

Next stop was The Old Brooklyn Parlor [564 Vanderbilt Ave.]. The ice cream was good, but not a lot of flavor choices and not many toppings. Where does one go around here for good old fashioned sundaes?

There is always Tempo Presto, on 5th Ave. between Carroll and Garfield. They serve up homemade gelato and it is pretty good, but not ice cream.

Last night, we happened to stop by Sweet Melissa on Court Street and behold, an old fashioned ice cream parlor, right in the front of her shop! They call it The Cremerie and it was heavenly. There were many intriguing ice cream flavors and oodles of toppings. I even saw big waffle cones! The place was packed. There was a line clear out the door for this creamy goodness. Kudos Melissa, on bringing back the old ice cream parlor, now if you could just bring it to the Park Slope store 🙂

I guess you get to a point with anything — when the love just stops. I have been thinking about it and I think Brooklyn has stopped loving me (for now). That’s not to say that we won’t eventually come back here — because we love Brooklyn, I think it’s just time to leave for a bit. It seems many others are having the same problems as we — hence, the same thoughts.

When you are getting priced out of your own hood (happening a lot lately in my fine borough) it makes it hard to move on with future plans for your life. Yes, it’s convenient to travel to our jobs, but is that enough? It’s finally a time in our lives when we can buy a property and it’s hard to give that up just because the place we live is too overpriced and inflated to buy anything.

Park Slope, Red Hook, Williamsburg, DUMBO and BoCoCa have been referred to as Brooklyn’s “Creative Crescent,” due to a high volume of self-employed creative professionals. Park Slope is in first place with over 3,500 self-employed creative pros reported in 2003. Now, there are many more. Recently, with the strange shift in the NYC real estate market, this group is getting priced out of Brooklyn. Not long ago, many people like these professionals and a large number of artists were priced out of Manhattan. It didn’t take long to price the whole population out of Brooklyn. This crisis is being called the “single largest challenge facing New York’s creative core.”

What would New York be, – hell, what would BROOKLYN be – without this “creative core”? If all of the artists and designers, etc. keep being priced out of this town, where will they go? We are going to Jersey City, but where are all the others going? And what will this borough be in a few more years? Without culture, without art (or maybe just without the artists)… Whatever the case may be, the prospect seems bleak.

And it’s not just the artist community (such a vital part of our culture) it’s also the middle class. What would BrooThe new Park Slope Novo Condo Buildingklyn be without the middle class either? I feel like Brooklyn has always been a low to middle class borough. In recent years, we’ve watched the upper echelon of New York City society come across the river and inflate the prices of our homes and rental spaces. Families making between $80k and $150k a year can’t make it. How is that possible? Where are the people making under that?

I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Wait for the election (could make things worse). Wait for the “bubble to burst” (we’ve waited decades for that). Wait for the market to level out (???). Just wait…