Confessions of a Neighborhood Blogger

Dumbo's got history and cool lofts, but don't expect deals, says

By Julie Inzanti  | April 18, 2013 - 10:24AM
DumboNYC is a hyper-local neighborhood blog founded in 2006 by Hide, a resident of Dumbo Brooklyn, for people to find information about Dumbo...he blogs about everything from the history of the artsy neighborhood to news and updates about entrepreneurs and businesses in the area.
To support the local businesses and residents of Dumbo, Hide reinvests all ad revenue back into the community.
DumboNYC is a labor of love for Hide. While he maintains a full-time job elsewhere, he tries to keep the community regularly informed. He says the site currently receives 50,000+ unique visitors per month.
1. What would you tell someone moving in?
Like most NYC neighborhoods, the constant is change in Dumbo. Industrialist Robert Gair settled in the area in the 1880s to build up an empire of factories, warehouses, and dock storehouses.
The area was essential to Brooklyn’s rise as a major American industrial center and was the home of some of the most important industrial firms in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century America. The buildings reflect the diversity of Brooklyn’s industrial development.
That diversity is still alive in the people of Dumbo. There are office workers, tourists, and residents in Dumbo. Approximately 8,000-10,000 people come into Dumbo's office buildings daily to work at technology startups, architecture firms, law offices, art galleries, media companies, and non-profit organizations.
Tourists in Dumbo come for the views of Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge Park. And 2,000-3,000 residents live in the Dumbo and neighboring Vinegar Hill neighborhoods.
2. Where are the best deals in the neighborhood in terms of real estate?
I'm sorry to say that there are no deals in the neighborhood. However, if you consider $3,000 a deal for a one-bedroom, you can get it, and $5,000 and up for a two-bedroom.
People don't come to Dumbo for deals because there generally aren't any-either in real estate or restaurants and nightlife. That said, some of  my favorite nightlife spots include: 68 Jay Street Bar, reBar, AlMar, Superfine, Gran Electrica, Galapagos Art Space. Favorite restaurants include Wild Rise Pizza, AlMar, Juliana's Pizza, Gran Electrica.
3. What's the most coveted location within the neighborhood to live?
The most coveted location in Dumbo is the one you can afford.
4. Do you have a dream building in the neighborhood?
For someone who wants the best view from Dumbo in a historic loft building, there's the $18 million triplex penthouse on the top of the Clocktower building at 1 Main Street.
I personally like 185 Plymouth Street or 192 Water Street by Alloy. Alloy, the real estate development company based in Dumbo, understands an existing building's strengths and creates quality lofts.
5. Any buildings that feel out of place with the feel of the neighborhood?
The top addition to 53 Bridge Street is out of place with the building and the neighborhood. The development has exchanged ownership and construction has been on pause since 2005. Five stories were initially added to the top of 53 Bridge before the Department of Buildings ordered them taken down due to non-compliance for zoning. The modern glass/tile addition contrasts the original red brick structure. Because the building has not been worked on for five years, it would be fair to judge the context of the addition once/if it is completed.
6. Any real estate-related controversy brewing or currently happening in the neighborhood?
Between 2007 and 2011, planning and rezoning for a project known as Dock Street Dumbo was controversial when opponents argued that the 17-story building design was not contexual to its surroundings and will overshadow the Brooklyn Bridge.
While preservationists still stand by the argument that the proposed 17-story building is too tall for the location, the project is underway and is scheduled to be completed in 2014.
7. How has the neighborhood changed in the past five years? Any projections on how it will change in the next five?
I am often asked this question by real estate professionals and potential residents who are looking for the "next big thing" in real estate. The rezoning of buildings passed in July 2009 allow buildings to be built up to 12 stories tall along Jay Street.  
There seem to be more businesses interested in Jay Street and some vacant buildings will soon be filled with street level retail. Recently St. Ann's Warehouse moved to a location on Jay Street and Olympia Wine Bar opened in February 2013.
The neighborhood feels different because the views of Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge Park, the former manufacturing buildings, and the people who live and work in the community.  
People either love it or hate it, but I appreciate the (fading) signs of this historical former shipping and manufacturing area.  It's interesting to see how the new local entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profits are following the hustle of the importers and shipping companies from the late 1800s.
8. What do you think your "sister" neighborhood might be?
They're more like older brothers, but the stoic and historic neighborhoods Vinegar Hill to the West of Dumbo and Fulton Ferry Landing to the East watch over Dumbo's changing streets and transient population.
9. Which neighborhood feels like the opposite of your neighborhood?
I don't know, maybe Red Hook for its townhomes and the lack of loft buildings. I love Red Hook, too!
10. Would you stay in this neighborhood forever if you could?
Yes. I love walking around Dumbo and Vinegar Hill just after sunrise--the lighting, the solitude in a city of 10 million. People, especially photographers, talk about Dumbo having a magical light during sunrise and sunset.  The light seems to bounce off the former manufacturing buildings through a filter haze. 
11. If not, where would you want to go?
I can't imagine any other place I'd rather be, but if I had to move, I'd stay in Brooklyn and move to Red Hook, Greenpoint, or Brooklyn Heights.
12. What is one of the biggest misconceptions about the neighborhood?
One of the biggest misconceptions about Dumbo is the name. Many believe that the name Dumbo (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) was created by real estate people. 
In 1978, Dumbo was named by residents and artist loft tenants who decided that, if artists were to be forced out of their work lofts, at least they should be buried under a name of their choosing.
So they agreed that the name Dumbo had just the right kind of anti-marketing positioning to protect their turf from developers. Today, it is of course one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Brooklyn, despite its name.
13. How did Dumbo fare during Sandy, being so close to the river?
Dumbo's waterfront buildings and retail shops were affected by Sandy. The neighborhood received a huge outpouring of support for cleanup and rebuilding.
In some cases, a few businesses have closed indefinitely, notably Governor Restaurant . See before and after photos: DUMBONYC.

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