We moved from the East Village to Brooklyn in 1977, just after I finished 4 years of school there. Moved out 20 years later. I still work there.
We moved to Brooklyn after getting a late night phone call that a great apartment was about to be rented, and we should hustle if we wanted it. It was a super, and affordable, apartment in a hi-rise on Plaza Street East, just on the edge of Park Slope. A few young people lived there, but mostly old-timers who had lived in other nabes that had crumbled around them (mostly Jewish seniors who'd lived further east on Eastern Parkway, or Irish-Americans who'd lived in brownstones on nearby blocks that had yet to gentrify).
Over the years we experienced just about everything that anyone could in an "emerging" neighborhood--lack of services, noise, drug dealing corner stores, bad shopping, crime and random violence, and a demoralizing sense of the future, followed by a real estate boomlet in the '80s where apartment buildings like ours converted from rental to co-op. With some doubts, we bought and became investors in our own space, and after a few years of paper wealth, watched the market collapse in the 90's, and stay in the dumpster for what seemed like an eternity. After a few years, crack was taking over, it was getting really depressing, everyone wanted out, but couldn't sell. When we moved, things were just beginning to get better, and you could sense it. Now, it's hot.
I never experienced the Brooklyn of old that now seems to be fueling the nostalgia industy, although traces of it still existed: Gage and Tollner, the politicians whose names were familiar to everyone, the various clubs and organizations that catered to a different generation that had different social outlets, and an auction house (Columbia Galleries), located on a seedy block off Fulton Street, that disposed of estates of Brooklynites who lived their entire lives in the brownstones, rambling single family Victorians, and large apartment buildings and whose deaths, one by one, diminished the unique character of their neighorhoods. Nor will I ever experience the "new" Brooklyn that was gestating as I left--and although I love where I live now, I left with tears in my eyes, since I realized that after all that time, I had gone beyond just owning an apartment, and was giving up my identity as a Brooklynite.
Charlie (now back to being a Jersey boy)