Saturday, March 13, 2010


How did "School District" escape our original list of 101 things that close the city? Especially here in Park Slope, and extra especially here in the shadow of PS 321, the segregating effect of school districts is something I can witness each and every time I leave my apartment on Seventh Avenue and Carroll Street. Thanks in part to the stellar reputation on PS 321, it seems sometimes that mine is one of the only non-family households in the neighborhood. That vision of baby stroller armageddon that even tourists can conjure by now is by no means inaccurate, but let's remember why the neighborhood is so full of baby strollers (and, by the way teenagers, which were few and far between in Fort Greene, Williamsburg, and any number of other neighborhoods I have spent time in): yes, Prospect Park is nice to play in, and yes, the retail mix is just right for a young family, but it is the school district that is coveted most. As is to be expected, the money mom and dad save not having to send Ella and Emma to private school is tacked on to the cost of housing. The result? Many people who don't have kids might find that it is not worth their while to live there, when they could live outside of the 321 district where their rent would be cheaper, and where they might find better retail amenities (indeed, if I ever go out in Park Slope, it is almost always on the south side, outside the 321 district, where there are better restaurants and where bars actually exist). The result? A certain kind of segregation that separates family households from non-family households. In this way, PS 321 is what Lior Jacob Strahilevitz calls an "Exclusionary Amenity." Like golf courses, churches, prayer speakers, and Shabbat elevators, PS 321 is an amenity that creates a demand that only certain people are willing to pay for.

No wonder Park Slope sometimes feels so much like the suburbs.

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