Williamsburg Is in Its ‘Manhattanization’ Era, But the Unreliable L Train Could Save It


Today on New Urban Network, Peter Feigenbaum writes of the various stages of the “colonization” of Williamsburg — “just another chapter in the reconfiguration and rebirth of New York since the city’s nadir in the mid-1970s.” For history and urban planning nerds, this is some fascinating stuff. For people who hate Williamsburg or people who love Williamsburg, as well as people who love to hate Williamsburg, it is equally fascinating. Did you know, for instance, that Williamsburg is currently in the era of “Manhattanization,” which started in 2007? This is when pre-recession real estate went nuts, and people who were older and/or richer than the typical prior resident started to build and/or buy those awful block-sized residential buildings on the waterfront.

At that point, other ominous things started to happen. Dives and ethnic groceries were replaced by organic stores and fancy restaurants. In 2010, HSBC, CVS, and Duane Reade came into the neighborhood (despite those actively campaigning against them), as did numerous food trucks on Bedford (fun fact: in the ’90s, Bedford and North 7th was still considered part of Greenpoint). Most disturbingly, perhaps, “on weekends, European tourists began to be noticeable.”

Also, the Edge department complex, that of the horrible commercials with the horrible woman wearing horrible wedge shoes and always tilting horribly, arrived. As did a pier, seating areas, a new river ferry, bike lanes, a renovation of the McCarren Park pool, and the completion of the East River state park. (So, some good, some bad, as most gentrification changes wont to be.) But what’s the next era for Williamsburg? As Feigenbaum puts it,

Differing lifestyles still coexist, even as the eastward and northward migration of artists continues and new luxury residential projects large and small continue to multiply like rabbits. Whether Williamsburg will eventually evolve in another flavorless section of Bloomberg’s Manhattan or will maintain its distinct artsy appeal, even as it continues to develop and mature, remains to be seen. The limited capacity of the L train and the geographic barrier of the East River may keep further escalation somewhat in check.

So, in a nutshell: L train crowding and lack of service may be good for something after all. Like, “Brooklynization.” Wave of the future.

Williamsburg, Brooklyn: from fringe to cutting edge and beyond [New Urban Network]