This past weekend I was in Brooklyn…I have a love/hate relationship with the borough. Growing up in the 80’s/90’s Brooklyn was the spot that was off limits because of the crime. Yet Brooklyn housed several family member so whenever I got a chance to cross the river I was nervous with excitement. I remember the borough looking at lot like The Bronx (where I was born), but looked nothing like Manhattan (where I grow up and spent my childhood).
Manhattan seemed bright and airy, even with all the tall buildings, and hundreds of people.
Brooklyn was blah but had culture and art. There weren’t many tall buildings, but there were lots of people. People with individuality.
Don’t ask me what areas I was in. I was a kid and I don’t remember. I remember venturing there for the family trips and then quickly forgetting about the place…even well into my teens and as a young adult I didn’t go into Brooklyn unless I HAD to.
Then I moved to Brooklyn, Crown Heights…oh boy I really began to hate Brooklyn then. The part I was in was still blah and full of people. I got out as fast as I could.
This was tail end of 2008 when I moved out of Crown Heights. Talk had already been spreading that Brooklyn was undergoing a gentrification. Yeah there were a few white people in an otherwise Black or Latino neighborhoods. Shops owners finding the rents appealing made a new nest.
Williamsburg was one of the first neighborhoods to get gentrified. What used to be high crime is now highly sort after prime real estate. Literally one train stop away from Manhattan there was no doubt that Williamsburg was going to become a hip spot once Manhattan became a) too expensive b) too crowded…said no one till it started happening.
And it did…Hipsters moved in and made it their home.
Walk around that area now and there are a lot of people strolling along very narrow sidewalks. Kinda like Stepford Wives because they all look alike.
There are lots of cafes, an organic market or two…and lots, lots, lots of Bodega Restaurants.
A Bodega Restaurant is a a quaint, hipsteresque eatery that fits maybe six or seven tables for parties of 2 or 4 (6 if ya squeeze) housed in what I know was a corner bodega when Brooklyn was the murder capital of NYC.
I say this because as my friend and I walked around, looking for an unpretentious place to eat (very hard to find in Williamsburg-shocker) we saw a restaurant on every corner.
Each bodega restaurant I saw looked similar. Low/dim/are the lights even on lighting, refurbish furniture from the renovation happening down the block . A little garden seating off to the side with card tables almost on top of one another…If I had seen two old men playing Dominoes I would have felt better.
Instead each block had me thinking “Where Brooklyn at?! Where Brooklyn at?!”
Just because I didn’t love Brooklyn before gentrification doesn’t mean I am happy to see what has happened to the place now. If you can’t tell I have disdain.
The culture and art that made Brooklyn a wonderment wrapped in fear is completely gone.
There are parts of Williamsburg that haven’t gone through gentrification…oddly there are right next door to a building that has. I wish I had taken pictures. Emptiness is the vibe I got walking around. The streets felt barren till I saw a cafe or restaurant.
Other than cafes and restaurants I saw tenement buildings, with graffiti – leftover from the 80’s, mixed in with shinny sleek new ones.
Williamsburg is trying to too hard to be a Portland version of Manhattan (no offense to anyone from Portland)
The neighborhood reminds me of a ugly deep gash that is partial covered up with a cute cartoon band-aid.
Intentions great…but you aren’t cutting it.
What is the function of gentrification if all it brings is the thought that this is the place to be?
Granted my friend and I weren’t interested in walking the length of Williamsburg. I’m hoping for those that spend a small fortune to live there get more than just cafes and bodega restaurants…I would hope they have a sense of community.
As shitty as Brooklyn was back in the day there was always a sense of community when you walked the streets.
Until next time,