Why Williamsburg?

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Why Williamsburg?

By Todd Stone

A little while ago, I set out to see how young people across the country perceive Williamsburg, Brooklyn – by looking at blogs and comments on social networking sites.  My search terms were words that have become closely associated with Williamsburg in recent years: “hipster,” “artsy,” “gentrification,” “condos.”  But much online research yielded little more than gossip and broad generalizations, so I decided to visit the heart of “gentrifying” Williamsburg to get a better idea of the essence of this place today.  I asked locals why they came to Williamsburg (unless they were born there) and how they have seen the neighborhood change.  Below are interviews with six random Williamsburg residents, all conducted on a recent Saturday afternoon within a 5-block radius of the Bedford Avenue L subway stop.

picnik_the Daltos

Donna Dalto, (with husband), middle-aged


Born in Williamsburg

How has the neighborhood changed?

Back then [15+ years ago], you probably wouldn’t have seen a car on our block.  Back then, the neighborhood was quiet.  We had the whole block to ourselves.  Everyone would sit out on the doorsteps, with the dogs and the kids playing.  You never had to worry about a car going by.  But [the change] is for the best.

How so?

It’s just nice to come out and see a lot of people, walking, of all ages and cultures.  It’s just much nicer.

Michael Pintar, 24

Occupation: Videographer for Manhattan production company

In Williamsburg since: 2009

Why did you move here?

It ended up being a little bit random… but I heard from people that it was a hip, beautiful place to live, so I ended up finding a loft that was affordable.  The attraction is that there’s a name and a feeling to Williamsburg that’s well known.  I came from Los Angeles and I’d read about Williamsburg in the newspapers – most recently, there was the story about the bike lanes, and the repainting – so it was present in my consciousness.  It was one of [my] first choices.

What did you find?

It’s a bizarre place.  It’s almost like going back to college in some ways because there are so many young people here.  Even walking down Bedford, the main drag here, I was just hanging out with a girl and she and her friends call it “the runway” because it’s this amazing amount of people all dressed very fashionably.   And it’s all very similar fashion.  There’s a lot of black, tight pants and scarves.  I don’t know exactly how to describe it, but aesthetically it’s a beautiful place with the mix of the older cultures that have still stayed throughout  the gentrification and then the warehouses – these nice old buildings – and these really hip restaurants.

It’s the sort of mix that I don’t think you can necessarily find anywhere else.  It shouldn’t exist maybe.  It’s like a weird Disney Land.  It seems like somebody came here and created this.  It’s bizarre that it exists, but I think it’s beautiful.

picnik_Patrick Kennedy

Patrick Kennedy, 29

Occupation: Writer; also works for local bars

In Williamsburg since: 2003

Why did you move to Williamsburg?

I first moved to Williamsburg because my brother lived here and I moved in with him after college.  I liked the community and what was going on, and it was cheaper and more exciting than Manhattan.

What do you like about Williamsburg?

The thing that I like and hate the most about it is that it kind of has this “Island of Misfit Children” vibe to it.  You know, where nobody really has to grow up. And it’s constantly refreshing itself… When I first moved here, it was a lot more exciting.  Now, I actually, I work here in Williamsburg, I’m always in Williamsburg, but I live in Greenpoint.  Just because, you know, [as I get older] I wanted something quieter.  I wanted something a little less in the heart of the intensity of Williamsburg.

picnik_Angel_embed size

Angel Morales, 49

Occupation: Musician and photographer

Born in Williamsburg

How has the neighborhood changed?

It’s changed tremendously – the kind of people, the quality of the people.  It’s gentrified enormously.   If you see the condos – I could never have foreseen this.  I recall playing baseball in McCarren Park and swimming in that pool, which has been closed since the 70s.  But I remember wanting to live in this part of the neighborhood since then. I grew up in East Williamsburg, which is about a mile or so away from here.

But yeah, the caliber of the people has changed…More of a middle class enclave of people moving into these condos, which forces people [out] like myself  and the rest that have grown up here – we’re sort of pushed out.  We can’t afford to move into these condos, of course.

It’s almost like in a way they’re taking over.  So a lot of us are sort of offended by it, but it’s like, hey, you got to get used to it and deal with it.  The condos are everywhere you know.  I’d like to say it’s a little bit offensive.  It’s like if you bend over, there’s a hole there.  They’re going to put a condo up you’re ass.  So, just don’t bend over and you’ll be fine.

picnik cupcake girl

Chrissy Barnes, 27

Occupation: Baker

In Williamsburg since: 2006

Why did you move to Williamsburg?

I moved to Williamsburg because I work here and I play here and because all of my friends live here.  There’s no other place to go.

What do you like about the neighborhood?

I moved from a small town about ten years ago, and Williamsburg, to me, has that market, family, village feel.

Have you noticed any changes?

Lots of babies in strollers, which I like.  I welcome that.  And it’s a little less seedy.

Monica Jonas, 39

Occupation: Works for media company in Manhattan; mother of two

In Williamsburg since: 2001

Why did you come to come to Williamsburg?

I had the opportunity to move here because I knew the sponsor of a building.

What changes have you noticed?

There are good changes and bad changes.  It’s become a great destination for food and for people that are interested in grass-fed food.  The bad part is that there’s a lot of development going on here and the community can’t support the development.  We have one train station that’s packed.  You’ve got to wait for three trains before you can get on.   And if you’ve ever been to McCarren Park on the weekends, it can’t sustain the growth of the neighborhood.

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