Bargains in Brooklyn – June 2000

In Brooklyn, the people live in row houses. Most houses follow the same pattern: four stories in brownstone or brick, with the second floor (first floor to the rest of the world) being the parlor. Originally the ground floor was reserved for kitchens and maids’ quarters, so the parlor floor became the entrance to the home.

To enter the house on the second floor required a flight of steps leading up to the front door, known as the stoop. Because this is the predominant architectural style in Brooklyn, there are a lot of stoops.

Recent residents of Brownstone Brooklyn have put the stoops to good use. They’re a gathering place, where people congregate on warm days – drinking coffee and reading the morning papers or enjoying an after-work beer with the neighbors.

But the most practical use of the stoop is as a money-making venture. Welcome to the land of stoop sales!

In other regions they’re known as yard sales, garage sales or tag sales. In Brooklyn we call them stoop sales for obvious reasons – few Brooklyn residents have yards or garages. Every sunny Saturday from April to November you’ll find the stoops of Brooklyn covered in stuff, and the owners of it willing to bargain. Just walk the streets of Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens or Park Slope to find scores of sales.

The great thing about stoop sales is that they take place in a concentrated area. You don’t need a car; in fact, with all the one-way streets, a car would impede your progress. Walking or biking are the preferred modes of transport for serious stoop salers.

What will you find there?
Of course there are books (which are also abundant in the garbage, as a Manhattan guide pointed out) of all types: classics, pulp (even classic pulp), travel guides, cookbooks, ethnic, women’s & gay interest – essentially it’s like the best New York bookstore, but outdoors. Books generally go for a quarter to a dollar.

There are CDs. The average price this year is down to two bucks. And it’s not just old Vanilla Ice records. A large number of music business insiders live in brownstone Brooklyn, as do many writers, and they periodically clear out those promos to make room for furniture.

Clothing is another great deal. I never shop at the Gap, but I’ve acquired a lot of their clothes at a dollar a pop. My limit for a piece of clothing is five bucks, but if you’re willing to spend 10, you could stock your closet with designer duds.

Tchotchkes (Brooklynese for knickknacks) are big, as are dishes and housewares and furniture (I’ve seen beautiful antiques priced at $100). There are bicycles, tents, backpacks, hiking boots. I got a Kryptonite bike lock for $15, and paid $2 for a pair of padded Bellweather shorts.

You’ll find computers, printers and software; guitars, amps and effects pedals (my husband scored big from the scorned ex-girlfriend of a bass player). And greeting cards, toys for adults and for kids – LOTS of kid stuff in Park Slope, the stroller set’s ‘hood of choice. Anything you need, and an awful lot you don’t, but you’ll buy anyway because the price is right.

The Brooklyn neighborhoods are a pleasure to stroll through, with tree-lined streets of 19th century brownstones. The borough less rushed, more relaxed than Manhattan (and in summer, a couple of degrees cooler). In Park Slope you can end your day with a visit to Prospect Park (created by the designers of Central Park). In Brooklyn Heights, relax on the Promenade and enjoy fabulous views of Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge. If you find yourself near Smith Street in Carroll Gardens, check out the new boutiques and great restaurants, or grab a canolli at one of the many Italian pastry shops.

There’s plenty for everyone to see and do in Brooklyn, but it’s a paradise for serious bargain hunters and flea market addicts. Look for signs on the light poles along Montague Street in the Heights, Seventh Avenue in the Slope, or Court Street in Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens. Happy hunting!

Brooklyn Links

  • Pictures of the Brooklyn Bridge
  • Brooklyn Museum of Art
  • Prospect Park
  • A virtual tour of the Gowanus Canal
  • Atlantic Avenue tunnel
  • Brooklyn Information and Culture

    Brooklyn Primer

    The Town of Brooklyn (Breuckelen) was chartered by the Dutch West India Company
    in 1646. The British occupied Brooklyn between 1776-1883.

    Brooklyn became the third largest city in America in 1860 with a population of 279,122.

    Prospect Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, opened in 1867.

    Work began on the Brooklyn Bridge in 1870; the bridge opened in 1883.

    The City of Brooklyn was consolidated into Greater New York City in 1898. Brooklyn
    Heights was designated as New York’s first historic district in 1966.

    Brooklyn is New York city’s most populous borough.

    “Brownstone Brooklyn” is the term for the landmarked neighborhoods just a few stops from Manhattan. Originally developed for the merchant class in the mid- to late 1800s.

    Brooklyn Bridge
    The bridge spans 1,595.5 feet. Walk across it on the wooden pedestrian
    & bike path, suspended above the traffic (just stay out of the bike lane!).

    Prospect Park

    The 526-acre park is a New York city scenic landmark. Brooklynites enjoy the fields, woods, lakes and trails for strolling, biking, sports, picnicking and dog-play.

    Brooklyn Museum of Art
    Despite (or because of) our illustrious mayor’s major dis, the museum is enjoyed by more visitors than ever. Holds renowned collections of Egyptian and African art.

    Getting there by subway

  • Brooklyn Heights: 2,3 to Clark Street; A,C, F to Jay Street/Borough Hall; 4,5 to
    Borough Hall; M,N.R to Court Street.

  • Cobble Hill/Boerum Hill: F,G to Bergen Street.
  • Carroll Gardens: F,G to Carroll Street.
  • Park Slope & Prospect Park: F to 7th Avenue; 2,3 to Grand Army Plaza.
  • Brooklyn Museum of Art: 2,3 to Eastern Parkway.

    The Author
    Lives in Brooklyn by choice, not by birth. Still hasn’t learned to say
    “toidy-toid street.”