Dumbo: Past, Present, Future

This weekend’s cover story in The Times’ real estate section about Dumbo is notable not just because it might be the first article in the past couple of decades about the neighborhood that does not include the name “Walentas,” but also because it spotlights the continued evolution of one of Brooklyn’s most expensive and in-demand areas. Some highlights:

New Development: As has been covered here, there’s a development boomlet in the neighborhood, including Toll Brothers’ build at 205 Water Street; the conversion of 192 Water Street; and the condo at 37 Bridge Street. The newsy bit is that Toll says it expects to get $800 per square foot at its condo when it’s completed.

Dumbo’s Rep: “‘It was cool in the ’80s,’ said Doreen Gallo, the executive director of the Dumbo Neighborhood Alliance, a residents’ group. ‘It was very cool in the ’90s.’ Now, she said, ‘it’s different.’ Many of the artists who lent the neighborhood its character have been forced to move, she said, and historic buildings have been lost. On the other hand, the rezoning, which many preservationists opposed, has delivered residents, businesses and cultural institutions.”

Its Office Scene: Well-covered territory about how businesses like Etsy and Brooklyn Industries have their HQs in the ‘hood; fun you’ve-come-a-long-way-baby quote about how a digital marketing and design agency that launched in the neighborhood in ’99 used to have security guards walk female employees to the subway.

Future Development: There aren’t that many places left to build, but there are lingering questions on whether the two Watchtower-owned parking lots in Dumbo, one the rezoned property at 85 Jay, will ever be developed.
Bringing Up Dumbo [NY Times]

0 Comment

  • Well, the mention Two Trees over and over, which pretty much equals Walentas.

  • it’s breeder central. tribeca 2.0


  • I hate it when people say that a neighborhood was “cool” when it was so dangerous that 99% of people wouldn’t have walked around, even during daylight hours.

    That’s NOT COOL.

  • was dumbo ever really dangerous tho? but you have to admit that rich people really DO ruin neighborhoods.


  • When I worked in the area in 2000, my female coworkers would NEVER have walked into Dumbo at night. I heard stores that just a few years earlier, virtually no one dared walked around there. The York street station, even in 2000 was no party.

  • Rob,

    In this case, rich people CREATED a neighborhood. There was almost no one living down here before until it was developed in the mid 2000’s. They’ve created a wonderful little urban oasis which is thriving. You don’t need to like it, that’s okay. But why would anyone expect you to. You hate everything.

  • i know. that’s what im saying. it’s like rich people who created TriBeCa. they created their own little suburban gated community. they kinda suck, im sorry. and i dont hate everything, but i do hate the types of people who live in dumbo and tribeca. both of those neighborhoods are my fav. types of neighborhoods, but the people suck so bad.


  • “those neighborhoods are my fav. types of neighborhoods, but the people suck so bad.”

    Believe me, I’m sure people are saying the same of you when you walk down 5th Avenue.

  • oooooh burn! at least i add a BIT of diversity to park fucking slope!


  • Whereas Dumbo HAS gotten pretty homogeneous and fairly uninteresting, I remember what it was like in 1991 when my best friend moved into a loft on John St. And lemme say, it was desolate and kinda creepy. You might not have been able to score an organic turnip or a handmade German ultralight stroller anywhere in the nabe, but you couldn’t get a roll of toilet paper either. I once had to ride my bicycle in the sleet up to Brooklyn Heights to accomplish that particular task.
    Anyhow, Brooklyn Bridge Park is pretty nice, although probably more so if you have kids and less so if you loathe and resent them.

  • I’m sorry, but rich people didn’t create Tribeca, Soho or DUMBO, artists and artisans did. After they created these wonderful loft spaces, and neighborhoods that were declared “cool”, the developers came in, recreating the cool for the wealthy who didn’t have to lift a finger, only buy, and buy dearly. Which they did.

    I know artists in all three neighborhoods, plus Williamsburg, who were there in the beginning, and lived and worked in places that were a far cry from the fancy lofts that are there now. None of them are there now. That’s the way it goes, which is sad, but also inevitable, if you can’t afford to buy your space, which of course, most real artists cannot. But hating an entire neighborhood of people only because they are rich is ridiculous, and a waste of time.

  • It wasn’t ‘cool’ in the 80s — it was merely a good photographic backdrop. It was a great drinking spot for local teens as well.

    Now it is just loud, dark, dirty, and overpriced, but it does have a lot of very nice housing.

  • yeah “artists” please… that’s like saying everyone in bushwick right now is an artist. bullshit. it’s just a bunch of rich kids slumming.


  • I continue to be shocked by the popularity of DUMBO; so many of the streets are deafening with bridge noise. You have to maintain an indoor triple-glazed window existence.

    Very surprised that this wasn’t mentioned in the article.

  • DUMBO did not follow the same trajectory as Soho and Tribeca. While artists certainly occupied some its lofts, it is different in that a developer (the Walentas family) recognized its potential early on, bought alot of the property down there, and have been a guiding hand in its evolution since then.

  • DUMBO is where dumb rich people go to get cancer and become hearing impaired.


  • Dumbo was cool…It went down hill when 11217 types moved in (circa ABC Carpet.)Restaurant options mostly stink still.

  • Sorry Montrose – Artists did not create DUMBO – A real estate developer did. Essentially no one lived in Dumbo before the late 90’s. (please dont cite individuals you may know – a few lonely souls does not a neighborhood make)
    There was essentially no stores, no restaurants no nothing. [Except on Old Fulton].

    Also DUMBO was never ‘dangerous’ – spooky, eerie and smelly (a garbage processing plant on John St) yes – but Dangerous no. The area around York Street Subway was dangerous but that is actually Vinegar Hill (and those projects are still no bargain – crime wise)

    And a little known DUMBO fact – they used to be a fairly productive Bondage-Porn Film Studio on Jay Street

  • By tinarina on May 9, 2011 11:03 AM

    “I continue to be shocked by the popularity of DUMBO; so many of the streets are deafening with bridge noise. You have to maintain an indoor triple-glazed window existence.”

    Whenever I’ve been down there for events at Galapagos, this was my exact thought. But based on the prices psf, plenty of people are OK with it.

  • The Gair buildings were working small-factory buildings maybe 15 years ago–I had temp jobs at a couple of printers there.

    And the restaurant now known as Bubby’s had several incarnations even way back then. I remember taking my dad and stepmother to dinner in that location which was a fish restaurant, about 20 years ago.

  • the restaurant now known as Bubby’s had several incarnations even way back then = Parker’s Lighthouse I believe…didnt last
    – then it had a few Walentas subsidized restaurants.

  • Parker’s Lighthouse was there for several years, at least as long as your average Smith St. place.

  • I’ve visited DUMBO over the past 15 years on random weekends during summer/fall to hang out/dates and now I work here. Changes have been incredibly fast in past 5-7 years in my opinion and prices have gone up quite a bit would be understatement. Prices out of ton of people but proximity to NYC especially financial district and city hall is very hard to beat.

    All that said, DUMOB is definitely running out of room for development and I think it’s bit too ‘hip’ and trendy now. In my opinion place is pretty much near full saturation and that means less growth coming for the neighborhood in long run.

    I gotta agree with fsrg that it wasn’t artists that created this neighborhoods, it really was developers (suppliers) and people with money (demand). Artists lived here and other parts before the ‘boom’ because it was cheap and you got a lot of space. Not because they wanted to live in the neighborhood to change it and shape it the way they wanted. Bottom-line is that it was cheap and it is what artists could afford to live in or work in.

  • Whatever else you think of the neighborhood, the name for it is just awful awful awful.

    By the way, I knew a few artists who lived there in the mid to late 1990s. I thought it was kind of cool then.

  • OK fsrg, I guess the “few people I know” don’t count for anything. They, and I, had no idea.(sarcasm)

    And granted, the Walentas’ are responsible for the development of DUMBO, as we know it today, and I tip my hat to their genius and foresight in that area. But they didn’t buy up an empty island. There were people, and businesses there.

    Rob, most real artists are NOT the children of rich people. Yeah, a few are, but most are not. Artistic expression is certainly not limited to the rich, and artists and artisans come from every walk of life imaginable. Your jealousy is showing, yet again.

  • If anyone is blogging about this from the DUMBO General Store then they deserve the final say.

  • MM – the point I a making is that of course the area wasnt totally abandoned like some sort of Chernobyl – some people were living there – but it wasnt a neighborhood AT ALL, it was an under-utilized commercial district until Walentas decided to ‘create’ the neighborhood of DUMBO.

    This evolution is far different from the ‘artists first’ development of SOHO, Tribeca, etc….

  • Ok fsrg, truce!

  • ugh those artists who got their lofts in soho in the 70’s are the worst. i dont think ive ever seen a bunch of people who truly believe their poop dont smell like they do.


  • One night I couldn’t sleep and after surfing the TV channels came upon Woody Allen’s movie “Hannah and Her Sisters”. The movie is insufferable, but it had one good point: some of the shots were taken on location in Soho back in the 70’s, when it was still a scruffy, industrial wasteland that was being occupied by artists because of the cheap rent.

  • the movie was made in 1986

  • Oe;

    Well then I stand corrected. Nevertheless, the Soho shown in that movie is still a scruffy place.

  • I’m constantly amazed how any part of this great city could have been so abandoned as to be only appealing to artists seeking cheap rent and space.

  • i dont think ive ever met a poor artist in nyc.. seriously.
    they all seem a tad on the monied side.


  • artists under 40 in present day NYC=trustfund baby. yes, their are some older artists who make a decent living here but not many at all.

  • > artists under 40 in present day NYC=trustfund baby

    What utter crap. Most of the ones I know HAVE FREAKIN’ JOBS. Often multiple odd jobs so they can make ends meet and work on their art.

  • Sounds like you’ve met maybe three artists in your life. Good job, just keep on perpetuating those mindless stereotypes you’re so good at. Really? Like if you have a trust fund you’re actually going to choose to live in an underserved, dangerous neighborhood? And those vacuous, rich moonfaces, aka as people with jobs who pay the taxes that support the city’s infrastructure, sure, they only move in after artists have made a neighborhood a cool destination and it’s all downhill after that. God knows that those working stiffs bring no charisma or cachet with them, ain’t nothing sexy about working for a living, real people all live in the same apartment for 30 years and complain about their greedy landlord. Why even bother…

  • Ditmas-you’re very right. Trust fund? I’m still looking for it. I must have misplaced it in my huge publicly funded artist loft.

  • And before it was Parker’s Lighthouse it was One Main – that was the name of the restaurant and the addr. It might have had another name between One Main and Parker’s. I went there regularly in the late ’80s early ’90s. Good food, easy parking, nice view, nice atmosphere, good drinks, good service, reasonable price. Grownups only. The neighborhood was deserted.

    There wasn’t much on Old Fulton at the time either. Until you got to the water there was only Ferrybank.

  • By infinitejester on May 9, 2011 3:45 PM
    I’m constantly amazed how any part of this great city could have been so abandoned as to be only appealing to artists seeking cheap rent and space.

    It wasn’t abandoned. There were working factories and then the industry started to disappear. Before a lot of artists had a chance to replace the declining industrial base, Walentas started buying it up. I guess he saw what happened to Soho and he interrupted the process that happened there and went right from nothing to very rich. THis accelerated neighborhood change was also taking place as the Internet brought ways for people to communicate faster.