Open Letter of Love: The Hipster Who Grew Up In Ridgewood

I’ve lived in Ridgewood for nearly 20 years. At the young age of 3, my parents uprooted me from my California life and moved to Seneca Avenue. Later we moved closer to Fresh Pond Road, where I grew up and stayed in the same apartment, well after graduating college. I’m a Ridgewood girl by all means, and also I’m a hipster who grew up in Ridgewood.

I used to go to elementary school in Park Slope, and I was one of two students who lived in Queens. I yearned to live in Brooklyn but instead I had to take the M train home, a train line that no one really knew existed. Whenever I described Knickerbocker Ave to my school friends, they would laugh at me because they thought I made it up. I bet they’re all wining and dining it up in Bushwick now.

I went to Eileen’s Dance School, had to deal with the L shutting down, and have consistently gone to the Feast of Ridgewood every summer. But whilst it sounds like I’m one with my community, I’ve always felt out of place. I’m not the “A typical” Queens girl, who’s fanciest purse is a Michael Kors, and has an accent that heavily relies on pronouncing As. I have a vintage style, which I owe to my older sister’s 1990’s hand-me-downs. I don’t have a 9-to-5 job; I have a love for indie bands, and yes, I like craft beer. Therefore, I’m one of the original hipsters of Ridgewood.

And for some reason, by the way that I wear my clothes around the neighborhood, I can’t help but think, do the native residents know I’m one of them too? I’ve had people ask me when I moved to Ridgewood, because they instantly judged me on my attire and cat eye glasses. Why do I feel the need to explain that I’ve lived in this beautiful neighborhood my entire life, and be judged on my appearance? For some reason I’ve started to feel insecure because of the new hipster wave.

Photo captured by Solange Castellar

I’ve had my fair share of disliking new people moving in, but now, I’m slowly getting over it. I originally wanted to be the only hip person here, and it’s a little weird to see so many young people getting off my train stop. Caskey’s Bar changed to Queens TavernBunker Vietnamese opened up near the Western Beef, and pretty much everything changed in the blink of an eye. I was so angry at all these new things that were emerging, because the quiet neighborhood I was raised in was starting to become popular.

I don’t want to be perceived as the “other,” I want to be known as a “native.” It’s this sort of identity crisis that has happened to people before, and I wonder if I’m the only person in Ridgewood going through this. Some Ridgewooders are very anti-hipster, and I’ve heard a few concerns from the residents about the changes hipsters will bring. Remember when Spike Lee had that rant about gentrification? If you walk around Ridgewood and ask someone about the neighborhood, they’ll probably give you the same one (just talk to my parents). But I don’t want to be a part of the hate, and I’m starting to embrace the community changing. And I think the die hard Ridgewood Stans need to start moving past it too.

Every community changes, either for better or worse. In this case for Ridgewood, I think its for the better. So what if we have bike lanes, a few new bars, and awesome coffee shops? It’s hella cool that we have an incredibly inexpensive thrift shop right on Myrtle Ave. And while the rent is starting to be too damn high, welcoming new people and businesses in are is going to break down the homeliness that is Ridgewood.

I know in my heart that Ridgewood will not go through a massive gentrification. The New York Times wrote an article about us, but guess what, they wrote one about Sunnyside too. We’ll still have the original businesses that made up this rad locale. We’ll just have more people to share and love them with!

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