Starbucks, 9th Street & 7th Avenue SW, Park Slope
Every Starbucks is haunted. The moans of the wronged souls echo through each location, whispering accusations of wrongs done and lives cut short. Leave, they tell you. Go back, they groan. This place belongs to us. But the ghosts aren’t the dead. They’re the living, breathing residents of the neighborhood, decrying another lot lost to the Great Expansion that followed the Big Corporate Bang.
This place was carved out of the still-warm ribcage of a burger joint that was aptly named Brooklyn Flipsters, if by “apt” you mean “befitting an artisanal burger restaurant’s intramural softball team.” Flipsters itself was the turn-key appropriation of the Brooklyn Burger Bar, which was known for having trouble reconciling the fact that you didn’t want any goddamn onions on your burger and for having a cute bartender named, you think, Kate or Katie, who disappeared long before the Burger Bar ever did. Neither was of much consequence to a neighborhood where every single restaurant serves burgers, and can now be found, in its redressed Starbucks glory, being flipped off on Instagram.
There are so many reasons to hate this Starbucks, you’re not sure why anyone would go to the tried and truly tired gentrification gambit. This is, after all, not Park Slope’s first Starbucks: it’s the neighborhood’s third, and, by all means, its least intrusive. Between Starbucks the Second and Starbucks the Third, Whole Foods landed its mothership on the Gowanus, Chipotle invaded 7th Avenue and the bowels of the neighborhood, CitiBike stations winked into existence throughout the neighborhood, a Greek restaurant turned into a bank, a hookah bar opened up, and a comedy bar is threatening to grab the mic. That’s the short list. There’s already a CVS, two Rite-Aids, a Duane Reade, Staples, and two Dunkin Donuts. Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Target are long walks or short bus rides away.
And where was the neighborhood when Five Guys arrived with their burgers and fries, ready to put the Burger Bar or Flipsters out of business? Who is protecting the Dram Shop from the nearby McDonald’s? Is a Checkers okay on 3rd Avenue, because we haven’t co-opted that part of the neighborhood yet, because too few corporate outposts exist to seed the area with foot traffic? There are four subway lines that run through Park Slope, and there are just as many Subway restaurants. There’s a 7-11, but the two 5th Avenue Markets seem to be going strock. There used to be two Gamestops, and now there’s one Gamestop and an indie game store across the street. There’s Dominoes and Papa John’s, but somehow Smiling Pizza still manages to exist with its greasy red slices of cardboard. Joe’s Of The Village’s two locations don’t look like their foundations are crumbling.
A man walks by. “Oh, there’s a Starbucks here now,” he says, passing. “Great.“
Who sang the neighborhood eclectic when Whole Foods moved in on the Park Slope Food Co-op’s turf? That exclusive little enclave of in-fighting food fascists? No one: either you were for Whole Foods or you liked trekking over to Trader Joe’s on Court. Or both. No one was diving to protect Union Market from the Bullet Bill sized shot fired on 3rd and 3rd. Why should they? Union Market has a location in the East Village, after all.
Inevitably, it’s people from other neighborhoods that wail the loudest, that jangle their ghostly chains with the most manic force: the Gowanuses, the Carroll Guardians, the Windsor Terrorists, people with Prospect Heightened Senses Of Ownership over a city that doesn’t even belong to the landowners.
For its cat piss smell and unreliable service, Babbo’s wasn’t a half-bad bookstore, but now it’s been bought by the 7th Avenue Community Bookstore, while the Carroll Gardens spot of the same name, a living pile of unsorted books that made you understand by the Library of Alexandria might have been burned to the ground, finally closed its doors. There are two Dizzy’s now, when you’re still waiting on an order of chicken fingers you ordered from there in 2009.
The point is, Park Slope was long ago diagnosed with Stage 5 gentrification. It’s terminal. It’s what drew a lot of people to the neighborhood in the first place. Wanting to freeze things where they were when you got here is selfish, you remind yourself. Ten years ago, it was a lot different than fifteen years ago. For such a liberal part of an already hyper-liberal borough, it’s amazingly conservative thinking, in the old sense of the word. Corporations want real estate here because people here work for corporations, because stores here have become chains, because we cannot have our neighborhood and eat it too.
There is nothing to fear in this Starbucks: it’s designed like the commissary on a spaceship run by intergalactic Nordic ski instructors, with half of the footprint storage and preparation area. Five seats line one single wall like a dentist’s waiting room. Three measly chair and table sets sit in the fenced-off area at the corner of a busy, honking intersection. Even if you sit looking away from the streets, you can see the Brooklyn Industries behind you reflected in the window. There are no outlets, and there is no outlet. We are ghosts making ghosts, complaining that the cemetery’s gotten little too nice. We are buried with our own shovels.
1 star, 0 outlets. 444 9th Street, Brooklyn. Bathroom code: THERE’S NO BATHROOM.