The New York Times has pronounced my neighborhood cool: Sisters in Idiosyncrasy - New York Times.
Much the way Hollywood people have shuttled between Los Angeles and Manhattan for decades, or academics commute on the Acela between Morningside Heights and Cambridge, Mass., there is a young, earnest population that is beating a path between artsy, gentrifying neighborhoods in Brooklyn and their counterparts in the Bay Area, especially East Oakland and the area south of Market Street in San Francisco, or SoMa.
Richard Florida, the author of “The Rise of the Creative Class,” which argues that urban renewal is sparked by high concentrations of high-tech workers, artists, gay men and lesbians, ranked San Francisco No. 1 on his “creativity index” and New York City No. 9. Although Mr. Florida did not break out data for Brooklyn, “anecdotally it has a large concentration of creative people who have moved from Manhattan and elsewhere,” he wrote in an e-mail message. “I am confident if such data existed, Brooklyn would do very well.”
When I moved from Brooklyn to Oakland in 1993, I discovered the cities have much in common: cheaper, funkier, more working-class sister cities to the glamorous newsmaking metropoli across the water.
I've owned a house in East Oakland for nine years. At first I was dismayed to be so far from the hip neighborhoods of Berkeley and North Oakland where I'd lived in the 90s, but now I'm bemused to find out how hip my own area has become. The first hint was when all my young MFA colleagues expressed envy that we owned a house here - the way I envied my older artist friends who owned lofts and buildings on the Lower East Side and in Brooklyn when I was young. Then I noticed that my young, hip, bestselling author teacher lived in a Fruitvale loft not far from the taquerias, Spanish library and train station we frequent. This guy could afford to live anywhere but he chooses the funky neighborhood two miles due west of mine.
My neighborhood doesn't feel all that hip, but it's a good place for writers, artists, musicians and others to nest. We can afford to own property and still live near coffee houses, organic produce, and independent bookstores. And yes, as the NY Times points out, we are close to San Francisco and Silicon Valley, where we can earn enough $$ to afford to live here. Express buses to SF stop four blocks from my house, and by car in light traffic it's 17 minutes to downtown. Mountain View and San Jose are farther but people do commute.
To prove to you how cool my neighborhood choices have been since my teens, here's the list:
Lower East Side (East 3d & Ave. A) 1981-1984
Brooklyn 1984-1988 and 1989-1993
Astoria Queens, 1988-89
Rockridge, Oakland, 1993-1996
Gourmet Ghetto, Berkeley 1996-1999
East Oakland (The Laurel District) 1999-present.
So if I decide to move somewhere else, I'll let you know, because clearly anybody with spare cash ought to buy there early.