If you are young, creative, and sure of yourself where else in the world would you squat but New York City? Full of raw energy and unbridled hubris, New York is the center of the universe for–you name it–music, art, fashion, theater, literature.
Only trouble is–every other brash young creative type has the same idea. The result? Too many starving artists. Too few cheap rents.
The solution? Turn the uninhabitable upper floors of manufacturing buildings into cheap “lofts” for artists “certified” by the city. When the price of real estate rises, and the naive, young artists have made their spaces minimally habitable, the landlord discovers that, Gasp!, he has rented his loft to an uncertified fake, and he can kick the poser out. (Renting again at a higher rate.)
After observing this phenomenon repeat itself in Manhattan neighborhoods over the years, the young and restless living across the river in the shadow of the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges knew their days were numbered. In their words:
“As the inevitability of development became apparent, the community decided that, if we were to die, at least we should be buried under a name of our choosing. After much sitting around and drinking beer, to a point where none of us could remember who had suggested what, we came up with two alternatives:
- DUMBO: Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass
- DANYA: District Around the Navy Yard Annex
The choice was presented to the community at a huge loft party and the results weren’t even close. It was DUMBO by a landslide. Everyone agreed that it had just the right kind of Dadaist anti-marketing positioning to protect our turf from developers: who, after all, would spend a million dollars for a loft in a place called DUMBO?”*
And the rest is history.
Development happened. Rents rose. The riffraff and uncertified moved on.
The DUMBO neighborhood was a manufacturing powerhouse in the early 1900s, and those roots are still evident in the hulking brick buildings tucked under and around the bridges on the waterfront. DUMBO is described as “not quite Brooklyn brownstone and not quite Manhattan glass condo. With its exposed Belgian block streets anchored by massive bridge structures, Dumbo has a unique character all its own.”*
The day I wandered aimlessly through DUMBO, I saw
- lots of people (tourists?) also wandering and taking pictures just like me.
- some nice-looking restaurants and a French bakery with more panache than pastries.
- massive bridge structures that did create a unique character.
DUMBO is an interesting little neighborhood that might have been more colorful (or maybe just more affordable) a few years ago before the gentrifiers moved in, but the handsome old building and streets woven through bridge pillars creates a tapestry of times gone by that luxury condos can’t touch.
*Quotes lifted from the DUMBONYC website: http://dumbonyc.com/