This is a subscriber-exclusive edition of Brooklyn, Everywhere, a newsletter where I ponder the many meanings of gentrification, and what we lose in our relentless pursuit of “the American dream.”
Editor’s Note: This story is part of a collection of work by Xochitl Gonzalez that was the finalist for the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary.
The moment that I admitted defeat in the battle over the gentrification of my old neighborhood of Fort Greene, I was in a cramped aisle at the corner store. I had been out of town for a couple of weeks and, upon my return, went in to restock three of my household staples: Bustelo coffee, Bounty paper towels, and Clorox all-purpose cleaner with bleach. I was mystified when they told me that they had stopped stocking Bustelo (in favor of a humanely farmed, organic brand), that the only kind of paper towels they had were some sort of grayish-looking recycled brand, and most horrifically, that all of the “real” cleaning products had been replaced by lines of “all-natural” sprays, washes, and soaps. All these cleaning products came in cute packaging with trendy fonts, and scents with names from the fruit-and-vegetable aisle—lemon, orange, sage. I walked out that night empty-handed and brokenhearted.
Over time, outside the home, I’ve made an uneasy peace with a lot of the conceits of New Brooklyn. I drink coffee-shop coffee with oat milk way more frequently than my old light-and-sweet bodega java. I enjoy the great bars and restaurants. I have embraced No. 6 clogs and statement reading glasses and own an almost absurd number of Rachel Comey dresses. But I draw the line at my cleaning products.