In her seminal book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs spoke of a phenomenon peculiar to dense urban landscapes: The "eyes upon the street…belonging to those we might call the natural proprietors of the street." She meant the residents of a neighborhood who keep watch over a certain block to make sure everything is copacetic, and while it's unclear whether one Cobble Hill local—Jacob Shwirtz—has ever read Jacobs's work, he has been keeping his eyes peeled on a specific linchpin of his Brooklyn community: The line for the Trader Joe's on Court Street.
Shwirtz, who can see TJs from his apartment, set up a Twitter account to monitor the queue about two weeks ago. "I have a great view of it," he told Time Out, "so I'd always share updates with friends and others when they'd ask. Then it dawned on me that I could be sharing the info more regularly with everyone to try to actually help my neighbors." (Since Shwirtz started his TJ’s alert, others have followed suit.)
46 minutes to open and the line is really good, just to the entrance of former-Barney’s. 🟢 pic.twitter.com/PclNHy5cDX— Trader Joes Line Alert (@TraderJoesLine) April 21, 2020
Even in the best of times, lines form to get into the store on Saturdays and Sundays; now, it goes all the way around the block and back to the front again. Ask if he's determined whether the line is shorter during certain times of day, Swirtz answers, "that's the most frequent question I get, but there's no good answer," adding that, "typically, it's over an hour-long wait to get in at the 9am open. Every now and then there are rare windows of short lines (20-30 people), which could happen on a random afternoon or closer to closing." Otherwise, he says the smallest lines he's seen are during violent rainstorms.
Recently, Shwirtz witnessed TJ workers passing out flowers to shoppers, but mostly, nothing much happens as customers silently suffer in purgatory. Still, does Shwirtz believe that good things come to those who wait? "Well," he says, "I do give points to the people who bring chairs to sit on."