Siblings Who Made the All-Williamsburg Brooklyn Map Remember a 'Pre-Hip' Hood

Looking for an airy apartment in South-South-Southwest Williamsburg?
Looking for an airy apartment in South-South-Southwest Williamsburg?
Map by Melvin Espinal and Kimberly Cabrera

The brother-sister duo behind the all-Williamsburg map of Brooklyn making the rounds online know the stories of when the sought-after neighborhood was known as a war zone.

"Our mom tells us stories of when the neighborhood was referred to as 'Vietnam' and even the police would hesitate to go there," says Kimberly Cabrera, 19, who made the satirical map with her brother, Melvin Espinal, 25.

The siblings, "raised in actual, real-deal Williamsburg," say the idea came from Craigslist.

"We were thinking about getting a bike off of Craigslist for Kimberly and noticed that a few posts had their location labeled 'Prime Williamsburg,' " Espinal tells the Voice. "I guess to differentiate them from all of the fake Williamsburgs out there. We've seen addresses in Bushwick labeled as East Williamsburg, Bed-Stuy labeled South Williamsburg.

"Craigslist is full of this nonsense even when you're not looking for an apartment. We blame the real estate industry. Since we're from 'pre-hip' Williamsburg, this a running joke between us."

Brooklyn's not alone when it comes to neighborhood boundaries stretching: Manhattan might be the original home for such things, like the creation of the "East Village" in the early Sixties, as artists moved there from the increasingly expensive Greenwich Village. Real estate agents took notice, and the name started getting used more often. Today, midtown seems to be stretching in all directions. Uptown isn't immune either:

"I would do a map of Manhattan," says Espinal. "Along with midtown, there's confusion about where Inwood is. An apartment on 205th Street is in Washington Heights? Sure. Sure it is." Kimberly adds that Queens might need its own neighborhood map soon: "I heard they've been 'stretching' the size of the desirable neighborhoods too."

While some neighborhood names sprout from nowhere and grow seemingly overnight, others disappear completely. On their map of Brooklyn, that's Brownsville, a community often in the news for the crime there.

"The 'NOPE' area is actually Brownsville," Cabrera says. "It can be a dangerous neighborhood. We've heard lots of scary stories from people who have lived there. A few of our cousins live there now and we joke about how ' 'hood' it is. We labeled it 'NOPE' as a sort of homage to the joke between our cousins."

As for the near-complete gentrification in their native neighborhood, the siblings say they aren't as bothered by it as others are.

"We've lived in Williamsburg for most of our lives, so we've obviously witnessed the change, both good and bad," Melvin Cabrera says. "We aren't bothered by gentrification as much as others are, but we are very aware of the effect it is having."

By the way, here's a hastily made animation that shows the all-Williamsburgs map of Brooklyn over the actual map of Brooklyn:

See also:Meet the Artist Who Created a Map of Brooklyn With Litter Collected From Each BlockThis Map Shows You Where to Find Single People in NYCWhat If New York Had No Rent-Regulated Apartments?

[nlucchesi@villagevoice.com][@nicklucchesi]

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