Can a Native Brooklynite Still Be an ‘Invading Hipster’?

01/30/2012 12:02 PM |


While I’m standing outside The Owl’s Head, a new wine bar in Bay Ridge, an inebriated middle-aged man passes me. “I can’t go in there,” he says with a wry smile. “I tried to order a Bud and they threw me out.” He pronounces it “troo.”

He doesn’t lack for alternatives; probable apocrypha has it that the neighborhood’s stretch of Third Avenue holds a Guinness record for bars per square mile, or per capita, or something. But those spots tend toward the sorts of places you’d cruise for chicks with a frat brother or wine and dine the head of the chamber of commerce. There are old, well known, sometimes wonderful places (and their more recent counterparts), but none reflect even a little the new Brooklyn sensibility centralized in the borough’s northern precincts; an iconic lunch counter, Hinsch’s, only recently, under new ownership, began grilling veggie burgers. They’re not places that appeal deliberately to the young, the hip, the creative.

Until, perhaps, now.

“The difference has been our atmosphere,” Owl’s Head co-owner John Avelluto tells me. “Low music, no television, and a cozy space allow for conversation to take place.” But to really understand The Owl’s Head, how it distinguishes itself from its neighbors, you first have to understand Bay Ridge.

Anecdotal evidence, at least, suggests that young Brooklynites are moving farther south. More kids in funny clothes stay on southbound R trains past 59th Street—the border of Sunset Park, the hitherto terminus of hipster expansion. (Not that they’re welcome; hatred of hipsters is strong in southern Brooklyn.) But it’s not just them. It’s also Bay Ridge’s sons and daughters who grew up and stayed in the neighborhood, Millennials now settling into careers and marriages. At a wooden table in The Owl’s Head, lighted by battery-powered tea candle, my girlfriend tells me she also knows of several young couples who have moved to Bay Ridge—creative professionals drawn to affordable rents in a nice community.

Nice, maybe, but boring. There is a movie theater, but little else in the way of culture, little to do besides drink heavily in one of the many bars or walk through the mile and a half of waterfront parkland. A mix of working and upper classes, which gets tonier the closer you get to the shore, Bay Ridge is considered a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community. By day, it’s full of seniors enjoying half-sandwiches and cups of soup; by evening, traces of them hardly remain—those who work or go to school during the day might never even know they’d been there. The nightlife stirs, especially on the weekends, attracting visitors from Staten Island and neighborhoods east in their finest muscle shirts, blasting the finest electronic music from their finest car stereos. These are the remains of the neighborhood’s once dominant Irish and Italians (and Greeks and Russians). But the neighborhood also has a thriving Middle Eastern community, whose cafes dot Fifth Avenue like the bars do Third.


Perhaps tellingly, The Owl’s Head is on a side street, steps from Fifth Avenue, nestled like a gentrifier closer to the dynamic immigrant population. Its attitude is North Brooklyn—for starters, it’s a wine bar. But there’s also its artisanal sensibility, with foods made from locally procured ingredients, like the cheesecake topped with Mast Bros. chocolate. (“It’s just the perfect texture,” I’m told. “And so fresh. It just melts in your mouth.”) Tin ceilings run into exposed brick; old soul and jazz buzzes from an iPod. If you ask for water—or, really, accept their offer for a glass of water—it comes in a mason jar, and mason jars are a classic indicator of hipsterness. (Though Ho’ Brah, the neighborhood’s buzzy new taco joint, serves its beers in mason jars, yet is decidedly not hipster, brah.)

“My regulars include young to mid-career artists, union workers, parents and foodies,” Avelluto tells me. “Our clientele has been incredibly diverse.” He appears suspiciously North Brooklyn: bearded, pairing a suit (no tie) with a knit cap. He has been portrayed in the local press as a member of the vanguard of the hipster invasion of Bay Ridge. But his voice slips into a classic Brooklyn accent every sixth or seventh word. As he wrote in a comment on a local blog, “Born in Gravesend, went to Brooklyn College for both undergrad and grad, both my uncle and father were founders of [a social club] on Court Street (which I am currently a member of), carried the Madonna in procession of the Maria SS Idoloratta, and I’m still considered a ‘hipster invader.'” He has lived in Bay Ridge for a while, he tells me; he went to high school at Xaverian, blocks from the park from which the bar takes its name. (The other owner, Steve Weintraub, is from Baltimore and lives in Bushwick; they’re both artists he’s an art dealer, and Avelluto is an artist and the co-creator of the neighborhood’s Storefront Art Walk.)

Though old Brooklyn, Avelluto runs a wine bar that embodies something that still feels kind of new: not the external invaders imposing their ways of life on humble blue-collar families, but the natives building out from the status quo—locals themselves changing with the times, a new generation of Brooklyn-born young adults who have come to believe they can drink wine and converse without betraying the mores of their friends and families, who can crave something new in addition to that which exists, not in lieu of. Who seek to develop, not to destroy, to create, make additions, and improve upon the cultural landscapes of their pasts. This is Brooklyn’s hipster within.

Still. Back outside The Owl’s Head, a family passes. “Oh, there’s where the wine place is,” a woman says, perhaps having read the article in The Home Reporter. The four admire it through the windows. “It’s cute,” a younger woman agrees. But they don’t go inside. Change, after all, takes time.

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart


88 Comment

  • Recently I was reading two profiles of Williamsburg from early in the year 2000, one in the New York Times and the other in TONY. They referred to “arty East Village-types” and “bohemians” respectively, no use of the h word. Probably the last year that was possible. Now it comes up in reference to Bay Ridge.

  • For all of those “creative professionals drawn to affordable rents in a nice community” – join the Bay Ridge Creative Meetup! We meet every month at The Owls Head. Facebook group page:!/groups/29653618…

  • @yo yo pa – It was used as far back as the mid-1980s. Mind you, there are different pockets of gentrification erupting and developing sometimes incognizant of each other–the group[s] that focused on the Kent Avenue Piece Factories, the Northside and the Grand Street edges of the Southside were emerging [and sometimes emanating] from a conservative, even reactionary community. Those “locals” often confused these particular agents of gentrification as “hippies,” and it was in clarification that these agents of gentrification appropriated “hipster” from brownstone Brooklyn universe without ever acknowledging the theft [psychologically and en masse, it was important for this particular brand of “hipster” to tether themselves to the Lower East Side and East Village and to deny, or threaten their “uniqueness”, earlier and more significant modes of gentrification in brownstone Brooklyn. Literature is an excellent way of distinguishing–the writing, much more commercially successful, emphasized the blackness, often artificially, of the agents of gentrification. The literary output from Williamsburg, more obscure and less accomplished, was inverse: it denied its whiteness.

  • Excuse me, the second sentence was misconstructed. It should read: “Mind you, there are different pockets of gentrification erupting and developing sometimes incognizant of each other–the group[s] that focused on the Kent Avenue Piece Factories, the Northside and the Grand Street edges of the Southside were emerging [and sometimes emanating] from *WITHIN, ‘GEOGRAPHICALLY’ SPEAKING, a conservative, even reactionary community.

  • Excellent article, Henry–by the way.

  • Cheers to John Avelluto and great to see this article here.

    But please, get rid of this hipster within reference and the long-held notion that Bay Ridge is a cultural wasteland.

    In Bay Ridge, “There is a movie theater, but little else in the way of culture, little to do besides drink heavily in one of the many bars or walk through the mile and a half of waterfront parkland.” Shit, let’s get drunk, walk along Shore Road, then throw ourselves off the Bridge! Thank God that several of these “outsider” creative young couples are moving to Bay Ridge.

    What the fuck.

    Why not follow up with an article about other business that fit your hipster demographic because they are there, they are homegrown, and have been there for a while. They are everything you describe in terms of the “native” aesthetic. There are galleries, bookstores, cafes–they do not have to be labeled hipster, they are just cool people from Bay Ridge. Just dig a bit deeper.

    By the way, I’ve seen and drank with many types over the years on 3rd ave, including college students, but I wouldn’t say frat boys would be the prevelant group of people hopping around. As a matter of fact, I think it is the frat boys who go through a hipster metamorphasis in college and become the Williamsburg people, yea?

  • “Nice, maybe, but boring. There is a movie theater, but little else in the way of culture, little to do besides drink heavily in one of the many bars or walk through the mile and a half of waterfront parkland.” Clearly the perspective of an “outsider” and hipster than thou with an outsider’s view of Bay Ridge….

    There’s TONS of culture here for those of us who are not only current residents but lifelong residents who yes, do resent the inference of our lack of education and culture simply by virtue of the zip code we grew up in. The subtext of Bay Ridge residents not being cool enough for those who live on the L line and grew up in cornfields and suburbia while we took the R train into Manhattan to hit up ABC No Rio when you were probably learning penmanship is ironic at best and myopic at its core.

    Sound bitter, yeah, I am. I’m sick of young, “hip” transplants who write articles like this with NO CLUE as to what the culture of our neighborhood is beyond the mythology of a bar for every resident along Third Avenue.

    I could go on to list our art galleries, the Storefront’s art, writing and crafting classes, CSA, Food Co-Op, Jazz Nights at Cafe at Sam’s, Movie Nights at HoM, BRUCA’s pottery classes, our myriad book clubs, etc. Our restaurant scene features some of the finest cuisine in the borough and beyond (hello, have you been to Tanoreen?!? Petit Oven? Polonica?)

    What does Williamsburg have that Bay Ridge doesn’t? Inflated rents in a neighborhood that looks like a jumble of new architechture and aluminum siding dumps? Overpriced restaurants filled with hipper than thou attitudes from hostesses making $9.75 an hour? Oh, please. This piece is so insulting on so many levels. The Owl’s Head is a wonderful addition to an already thriving, culturally exciting and NICE neighborhood to live in with engaged, young and educated families who don’t feel the need to spend exorbitant amounts of rent in dilapidated apartments to prove our status as New Yorkers. WE ARE NEW YORK at its most authentic and culturally genuine apex and we’re continuing to thrive.

  • I’m curious how much time this author spent in Bay Ridge to have us all figured out so well.

  • The author IS from Bay Ridge, which is what makes this article so poignant. . . why the sellout, Henry? Show some neighborhood pride, man! If you like Bay Ridge enough to keep on living there, and to also make your living writing about Brooklyn (Magazine), why bite the hand that feeds you. Your snarky comments about your own neighborhood are uncool. And I don’t mean as in “hipster” uncool.

    Bay Ridge has its own unique culture. But don’t mistake it for no culture. Everyone I know who grew up there treasures it. No matter where they live. If you happen not to, fine. If you do, it just doesn’t come through in this article.

  • full disclosure: I have spent my whole life in Bay Ridge. My grandmother attended Bay Ridge High School, now Telecommunications; my other grandmother went to Fort Hamilton High School the year it opened. My aunts and uncles on both sides went there too, as did my parents, as did I. My parents took their wedding photos in Owl’s Head Park, and had their reception at the Danish Athletic Club. I still have my McKinley gym shirt. I bought CDs at Record Factory, rented tapes at Video Den, saw movies at the Fortway. I remember Soup as Art and the New York Coffee Exchange, the now painted-over murals on Food City and Lowens Pharmacy. As a little kid, I used to walk into Once Upon a Sundae and order “the usual” because I went there so often. I used to write letters to Christopher Mega, who’d write me back. If I walk into a community board meeting, I shake the hands of people I’ve known for more than 20 years. Everyday I wave hello to neighbors I’ve been seeing for longer. MY GRANDFATHER HELPED BUILD THE VERRAZANO BRIDGE MY FATHER HELPED REBUILD THE CONEY ISLAND BOARDWALK HAVE I PASSED YOUR AUTHENTICITY TEST?

  • @katepr I don’t know anyone who loves Bay Ridge unconditionally. I love its beautiful blocks, certain restaurants and bars, its parks, its waterfront. I love its history, and my own history with it. I love many of its people; most of my friends live in Bay Ridge. I sing its praises often to skeptical strangers. Still, it’s not perfect. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love it. It’s like family. And if we can’t gently tease family…

  • I miss Record Factory. That was hipster before Owl’s Head.

  • Not a test, I knew you were authentic, that’s why I wondered where’s the respect! Perfect, no way, especially as my house was next to the Belt Parkway. You can treasure it and have a love-hate relationship with it, but love conquers all, I guess.

    I just so dislike that word hipster. I went to a college that would now be considered hipster I guess and if someone said that around me I would smack the shit out of them. So, using your journalistic influence, maybe you can try to phase that word out of Brooklyn.

    Loved Record Factory, I remember Frankie. ? Spent alot of money there.

  • Nooooooooo!!! Keep this hipster sh*t out of south Brooklyn.

  • I for one welcome this addition to the neighborhood. It’s not going to be a pretentious hipster joint in Bay Ridge. It’s going to be a nice wine bar that we native New Yorkers can take our friends, significant others and family members to. Look, places like this are far better than the dozens of crappy Chinese restaurants that have opened up on 86ST in Bensonhurst. I’ll take a nice wine bar over a crappy, rodent infested cafe where I can’t even get a menu in English any day.

    Let’s face it, southern Brooklyn needs places like this. It needs a revival. Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst and Bath Beach will NEVER become Williamsburg and Greenpoint.

  • I think those of us “annoyed” by this article have no issue with the wonderful addition of the Owl’s Head, whatsoever. I personally welcome it and cannot wait to visit for this week’s Mom’s Night Out. The issue is with the author’s assertion out of the gate that there is no “culture” here beyond the Alpine (which is a bizarre statement in itself) is what causes me so much consternation as native and current resident with generations of roots here, where my great-grandparents emigrated from Scotland in the 1950s.

    Henry, as a lifelong Bay Ridge resident, it makes your POV even more challenging to ken that as someone who has such deep roots why you express so little knowledge of the MANY cultural institutions and opportunities here. If you feel that way, as a writer, I also would encourage you to effect change rather than write an article about “gentrification” in our little corner pocket of Brooklyn. As a fellow writer, I would also suggest you do some more research on your topics, regardless of your predisposed perception of your knowledge of a topic by virtue of your personal opinions.

    Bay Ridge cannot be gentrified by virtue of the fact that it has never been a socioeconomically undesirable neighborhood unlike others (INCLUDING Park Slope) that have experienced gentrification over the last 20 years. When I was a teenager going to Williamsburg was dangerous and barren and truly the bastion of artists, miscreants and weirdos wild enough to brave the cavernous, industrialized streets.

    Bay Ridge, has and probably will, continue to be solidly middle-class and upper middle class community. We are wonderfully diverse in our community, we are growing organically into a place where families and residents are finding alternatives to the status quo by being proactive and active in our community and we are seeing an influx of exciting new businesses that I pray succeed in struggling and uncertain economy.

    This article COULD have been a great piece on the positive changes in Bay Ridge that exemplify and defy the predisposed notions about our community. Rather, one of our own, has simply perpetuated the mythology and heralded the hipster contingent as a sign of progress for our neighborhood which is a sad and uninformed perspective.

  • @Heather Mele
    You should write that article and send us a link.

  • Heather,

    I appreciate and very much enjoy your fantastic and well-told perspective. However, I object to your “otherization” of Williamsburg on the same grounds you’re objecting to for your community. Take it from someone born and raised in the Southside–the perception of Williamsburg as “dangerous and barren and truly the bastion of artists, miscreants and weirdos wild enough to brave the cavernous, industrialized streets” is narrow and too often misleading. Firstly, the area that comprises the “cavernous, industrialized streets” of Williamsburg, presumably her “industrial zones” comprise a geographic fraction of Williamsburg whole [Southside/Northside, “Third Ward”]. Outside of those industrial zones, there existed and continues to exist thousands of households, the majority of Williamsburg in fact, that are law-abiding and even conservative in nature. Even the Hispanic quarters that are traditionally Democrat tend to be so along the issue of race–in almost every other social manner they are conservative. The former abundance of churches of multiple denominations along Union Avenue, Grand Street, Berry and, yes, Bedford Avenue attest to this. The characterization is even narrow from within the demographic of “artists” as a whole–the “artists” who gravitated to the industrial quarters in the 1980s and early 1990s [mostly in the “Kent Avenue Piece Factories”, which are now Northside Piers, the Edge and East River State Park] were only a fraction of persons who identified as “artists” in Williamsburg as a whole, and let me tell you from someone who has lived in the community nearly all his life and also knew many of those artists “personally”–then and now [in their descendants, “the hipsters”] much of their activity happened right under the noses and often with the willing consent of the 94th Precinct, so much of that “miscreant” was staged and vicarious [much of their being “miscreant” was in doing what you just did with your characterization of Williamsburg–characterize it as a ‘safari’ and themselves as Tarzans among the apes]. And, as for the industrial zone–“barren” is colonial through and through. Whereas there were intermittent spaces that went without tenants every now and then as the market pronounced, the area as a whole, then and now, has been largely inhabited by manufacturers that are only recently displaced [not, as some have characterized it, as “being in decline and thus forfeiting spaces to ‘artists'”]. And outside of that sliver of industrial space, the only abandoned spaces in Williamsburg were those that were struck by “landlord lightning.” Otherwise, Williamsburg has been, unbroken, a vibrant multicultural community since World War II.

  • One thing that Williamsburg has never struck me as is. . .scary.

  • Dennis, I appreciate your POV as a lifelong Williamsburg resident; I am sure that you, more than anyone, must be conflicted about the changes to your neighborhood.

    In my personal experience from my time spent in Williamsburg (with miscreants, freaks and rebels) in the late 80s and early 90s I will fully admit I was TERRIFIED every second I spent walking the streets there as a native Bay Ridge-ite who frequented the LES (also pre-gentrification) and other “undesirable” neighborhoods. My memories of Williamsburg at that time does not include the cafes, modern furniture emporiums, yoga studios and children’s play spaces that litter Bedford, Berry, Wythe and other main streets. There was little in the way of procuring more than a bag of Pork Rinds and a Malta at midnight if you were feeling peckish. As I braved the darkened streets of the South Side, yes I passed more than a few abandoned buildings, crack houses, burned out shells of buildings, etc. I am not overstating the fact that in the late 80s Williamsburg was not exactly ready for Architectural Digest.

    As a resident, I defer to your memories and respect your opinions on your neighborhood however strongly I feel it represents so much of what Brooklyn IS NOT about and what it has devolved into because of the perils of gentrification. I fully admit, the ugly chic aesthetic of most young residents appall my sensibilities, the side-eye I get from kids from Kansas who are annoyed by my stroller and very presence as an, ugh, MOM makes me stabby and the general attitude by most of the residents towards who they perceive to be “outsiders” borders on offensive.

    All that being said, I thank you for your perspective and wonder how you feel about the gentrification of your neighborhood as one of the probable very few lifelong residents who can still afford to live there.

  • Well, Kate, my question to you then would be how long have you lived here? If you weren’t scared of Williamsburg in the late 80s then I am assuming:
    a) you were not born yet
    b) you were a resident
    c) you are just a lot cooler and tougher than me, props.

  • Heather,

    Thank you. I wonder if L Magazine staff are right now screaming “NO!” at your question posed as the end of your response. I have previously answered questions similar to yours–do you mind if I instead provide you with some links and possibly copy-paste previous answers without assumptions? But before I do that, can I also add that the most overlooked and possibly most important crime prevention in Southside Williamsburg [where most of Williamsburg’s demonology is cast] did not come externally, such as from City Hall policy, the NYPD [90th and 94th pcts respectively] or the agents of gentrification–its most significant prevention and reduction was organic, from the community itself.

    As to your snapshot impression of Williamsburg–in this I feel you may be unfair. Let me tell you a personal story to illustrate: once I walked down Ingraham St. with a former acquaintance. We walked in the middle of the street because traffic was slight and the sky was clear–as we did, we rehashed earlier arguments about “vacancy” and the “perception of vacancy” in colonial attitudes that were resurfacing in the Williamsburg narrative now that Facebook had presented the proto-hipsters with an opportunity to reunite. As we did so, my acquaintance accused me of all sorts of things, largely that I was crazy and absurd, and that anyone with eyes could see that the building immediately to the left of us was indeed vacant. I responded, “Do you not see the open door, with people poring out and in? Do you not see the adjacent parking lot, filled with automobiles?” But he was so adamant at being right, period, and being right about what Williamsburg was really like “before,” [because, this gentrification of williamsburg is not based on a projection of the future but a dread of the past], that he continued to deny the occupancy and assert the vacancy of the building–almost petulant, like a child, coming close to holding his hands over his ears as I refuted his observations to him with observation. He ran to the wall of the building [!] and tried to climb up an industrial fan’s vent as the fan was operating, and jumped up to peek inside, only to find an envelope company that was so busy envelopes often floated about, with so many workers that it has a day and an evening shift. When there could be no denial that the building was in fact not vacant he sulked off, quite angry, and never brought up “vacant” and “Williamsburg” again–this time, he switched to the next level, “junkies and hookers,” with only mild success.

    I’m simply pointing out that your experience in Williamsburg, as you likely know, does not constitute a representative sample of the area, but your impression is indeed your own and I won’t dispute that it is in fact yours. I just dispute its accuracy.

  • This Gothamist article includes comments where I clarify what I think is meant by “gentrification.” This isn’t to suggest that you don’t know what “gentrification” means, but only to repeat what I know [as per your appreciated query]:…
    I’ll quote in brief the most salient portions:
    “Gentrification is preeminently displacement–“gentrification” is NOT what it is most popularly coupled with, “development.” “Development” is an entirely discrete other phenomenon, both historically and theoretically. Genuine development can transpire without displacement–opposing gentrification does not mean opposing new people in their neighborhood, or a new building, or a new business, but all these things can be, as they are in Williamsburg, incidental to gentrification so it is impossible to discuss gentrification without first discussing the current state of development in places we know to be “gentrifying.”
    “When we say “displacement” in Williamsburg we mean specifically the Puerto Rican and Hispanic community of Williamsburg but we don’t mean it generally. Generally speaking, gentrification displaces the poor with the middle class. But the specific circumstances of the gentrification of Williamsburg center around the unique history of her Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. This doesn’t mean that the Poles in Greenpoint haven’t also experienced displacement, but it is the Puerto Rican and Hispanic groups who are consistently, implicitly and explicitly referred to when the neighborhood’s past is dredged up to justify the gentrification, i.e. “Williamsburg demonology.” This is how we know the gentrification of Williamsburg is not about “development” because it makes no reference to any “achievement” or “action” or “cause” or “philosophy” or “school” or “thinking” or “mode” or “artwork”–more than anything Williamsburg is held up as an “improvement on the before.”

    These articles also includes salient comments by me about the relationship between “art” and “real estate”:………

    Henry Stewart also penned the following articles that are germane and likewise have salient responses by readers:……

  • And the last thing I wish to mention before you respond [if you wish to] is that I am not alone as a life-long resident of Williamsburg. One of the mistakes and mischaracterizations made about Williamsburg, most likely due to the prominence of coverage on hipster transience in the area, is that it is entirely transplanted. This is almost as bad as “the bad before” that dominates Williamsburg’s narrative on gentrification–I can personally name dozens of households that are lifelong in Williamsburg. I’m certain that many hundreds, if not thousands more, can also declare themselves “lifelong” if mass media as well as transient perspectives gave them a chance.

  • The “culture” Henry refers to is most likely new and refreshing, mostly “younger” mediums to express ourselves. There is a deep rooted disdain for people who are different in Bay Ridge. Growing up wearing different clothing, listening to different music, the majority of locals didn’t understand or were afraid of me and different styles.

    If you look at where 14 – 20 year olds are spending their time, it’s at the movie theater or in the streets, and 21 – 30 year olds, it’s in the sports bars.

    The bars and clubs play the music from 10 – 30 years ago, and I would bet most of the bars’ clientele are over 35.

    I am not saying this isn’t culture, but I am saying it’s lacking some options. There are no spots where a band playing “new” music (I am not talking about a Nikelback coverband) Any sort of band experimenting with new sound or influences has no chance of garnishing any sort of crowd in bay ridge unless you already have 100 friends who might come out to the Monk. The establishments want popular music from the 90s, or influenced by it.

    This is why I moved out of Bay Ridge, and visit my friends when i can. Bay ridge is going to knock Williamsburg forever, but there is a reason why people who have settled in williamsburg never heard of bay ridge. But if you say “that place where saturday night fever was filmed.” the response will surely be “oooh yeaah that place!!”

  • Oi, Jay, I thought things were cooler for your generation growing up–you’re describing MY childhood! And I’m the generation before you. Some things seem a lot trendier there the last ten years. . .I think the disdain was genuinely (slowly) fading. I know exactly what you are talking about, though.

    It has always been a great place for live music but NEVER been a good scene for current live music. . .unless it’s in your own house.

    Heather, I was alive at that time, I lived on 6th St in NYC, btwn B and C. I had friends moving to Williamsburg at that time and, to me, it didn’t have the same druggy scary feel, it had an old world feel. It felt safe there. Not because I was cool. But tough, fuck yea! That’s from growing up in Bay Ridge!

  • Henry, I received a link to your article via my 25 YO daughter and i’d like to add to your firestorm of comments (all 26 of them) & controversy. It’s not so much the ‘hipster’ that people in the neighborhood disdain, it is, if I may paraphrase, the “cooler-than-thou” aloofness these hipster doofusses think they have. It’s as if they swallowed the red pill and we, the one’s resistant to change, the blue one only to find out that both pills were nothing more than Gummy Bear vitamins. They’re probably at the Owl’s Head now, exclaiming how their palate can tell the difference between a Bordeaux and Merleaux (you seem to be a sharp writer, so I’m sure your get the joke). Yeah, maybe there isn’t as much assumed culture as Park Slope but it’s there for the asking (how many ‘slopers’ know the full story of why the corner lot on 7th avenue & Sterling Pl. was a vacant lot for over 40+ years) . Neighborhoods and people change & adapt all the time. I think your reference to the 4 women who didn’t go in was at best smuggly self-serving to try to prove your point – maybe they just came from lunch or dinner at Skinflints and just heard about the new place (like me from this article). The new Billyburg was an outgrowth of those wanna-bes who couldn’t afford Alphabet city in NYC in the 90’s because they tried & got in on the ‘scene’ too late….much like the ‘slopers’ and Lower Manhattan. And now the wanna-bes who couldn’t afford Park Slope have found Bay Ridge. You want a cultural wasteland then just cross the GGP, I mean the VNB, and you’ll find it in Staten Island. Nell Flaherty’s of the 80’s eventually became the Salty Dog of today. I lamented the loss of a bit of Irish charm for a 95+ flatscreen, sports ’25/7′ TV viewing bar with marginal food (at best) but I moved on. Next time, try getting more opinions on these trends…..then maybe you’ll be able to write like Tom Wolfe and not just look like him. There are enough dilettantes in the world already. For a born and bred Brooklyn boy, shame on you.

  • @Mully

    (a) How often do you actually have to deal with people who think they’re cooler than you?
    (b) “I think your reference to the 4 women who didn’t go in was at best smuggly self-serving to try to prove your point” ok
    (c) “The new Billyburg was an outgrowth of those wanna-bes who couldn’t afford Alphabet city in NYC in the 90’s because they tried & got in on the ‘scene’ too late….much like the ‘slopers’ and Lower Manhattan. And now the wanna-bes who couldn’t afford Park Slope have found Bay Ridge.” this is not a true history of NYC
    (d) “I lamented the loss of a bit of Irish charm for a 95+ flatscreen, sports ’25/7′ TV viewing bar with marginal food (at best) but I moved on.” I’m not sure what we’re arguing about anymore? And I have no idea why I should be ashamed. Something about a bow tie??

  • Henry,

    the shame on you referred to what I described as ‘self-serving’…. I digressed! However, I worked in every part of Brooklyn over the last 23 years, dealt with a lot of different people, know a number of realtors in our beloved BR and beyond as well as couples whose children attend a local preschool I am indirectly connected with. Many have said and/or implied what we all unfortunately come face to face with i.e. settling for the next best thing. Maybe not what you would describe as ‘true’ but a fair yet realistic observation.

  • The only way a Native Brooklynite can be an invading Hipster is if they bring a Hipstertude home with them. (I may be looking at you, Henry Stewart) I have witnessed this, first hand…until I took out the buzzer, shaved off their beards (chicks too), ripped off their flannel and found a circa 1996 Asian Tribal Art Tat on their arm that really means “Free Soda with Every Delivery”. As well as a TKA tape and a 7/8 Club Membership Card from OLA in their skinny jeans

    You know the reason we aren’t like the rest of the City is because it is still a City Worker’s Neighborhood. The people that clean your streets, put out your fires, protect your stuff actually live here and in the surrounding neighborhoods. Their wives and husbands work in the Restaurants and Bars. They send their kids to the area schools and they work hard to keep their community safe and off the map. Sure 3rd Ave has a Jersey Shore-ish nightlife that attracts those that enjoy the Electronic music and want to dance forever. *Fist Bump* So what? There is more to Bay Ridge than just Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, muscle shirts and the Alpine and you know that. Stop fronting and have a nice glass of Vino at Bliss Park or is it Owl’s Head? You can keep telling people we are boring (which we totally are not) and don’t like outsiders (how very Children of the Corn!) This way we can continue to keep our little multi-cultural neighborhood a secret. Hopefully that will keep our rents down and we won’t have to worry that we aren’t artistic enough, creative enough or young enough. (So cruel, Henry. Words hurt!)
    BTW…is this in Meat Villages’ Butcher Area?

  • C’mon, the point of this piece is that you have two extremes in Brooklyn, embodied by north and south, but that both have their virtues, and that there are people/businesses like Owl’s Head that can conceivably bridge the gap between the two. It’s not like I look down on city workers. My father works for the city…

  • “The bars and clubs play the music from 10 – 30 years ago, and I would bet most of the bars’ clientele are over 35.

    I am not saying this isn’t culture, but I am saying it’s lacking some options. There are no spots where a band playing “new” music (I am not talking about a Nikelback coverband) Any sort of band experimenting with new sound or influences has no chance of garnishing any sort of crowd in bay ridge unless you already have 100 friends who might come out to the Monk. The establishments want popular music from the 90s, or influenced by it.”

    Music after the Beatles? Are you sure it exists? LOL I’ve been saying this for years. Bay Ridge live music scene is for cassette players only.

  • North and South? What is this a mini series? Do you think that we can meet on the hill in Sunset and trade something for peace? I’ll bring a Roast Beef w/Gravy from John’s Deli (on Stillwell) and you can bring something “local” and super awesome from the North. I’ll even throw in a Manhattan Special.
    We need a Flannel Spring! Save us from our boring selves!

    Henry, I know you don’t look down on City Workers, just the area they live in and where you come from. Bay Ridge is crying in it’s beer over this, right now. Even though it’s not even noon. It’s nice that your article has brought attention to the Wine Bar on 74th Street. Now us upper crusty drunkards will no longer have to hide at home or be forced to drink only crappy Merlot when we booze it up. We can stubble from Owl’s Head with class and maybe some olive pits in our pockets. An absolute sign of culcha. I have my scarf and hat ready! I just took out my cardigan and I think I am up to date with music. It’s the Avett Brothers, right? They are still cool to talk about, yes?
    We still love you Henry. We still think you’re the cat’s meow. We’ll be on our super best behavior when your Northern Brooklyn Friends come here.
    I hope they play Kenny G at Owls Head. I just love his music.

  • Fact: Manhattan Special is bottled in North Brooklyn.

  • Fact: Flannel Shirts and Beards are for Lumberjacks.

  • Not really…

    …and you can stop pretending to be the voice of South Brooklyn now.

  • @E Evers
    Yes, and dungarees are for cowboys. And bomber jackets are for pilots.

  • MC’s are for motorcycle gangs.

  • I think there’s only one way we can solve this: we need to buy and reopen L’Amour’s.

  • yes! “L’Amour, the Rock Capital of the Brooklyn!”

  • haha i started writing “of the world” and changed it to Brooklyn, but, same thing! Someone should make a movie

  • Lamours’ was a dump, run by the mob or mob wannabes that didn’t give a shit about the art scene.. im glad it’s gone. FUCK that place.

    I think the people who have a problem with other people’s “smug” attitudes really have a problem themselves. Smugness is just another sort of confidence. It take a lot of confidence to move to the big city from Kansas and open up a Salon, a Gallery or a nice Restaurant etc.

    These people are reinventing the next Brooklyn, and Bay Ridge is being left behind. It’s fear embodied in “GET TE FUCK OUTA’HEAR FUGHETABOUT IT” attitude and it’s appalling.

    I can’t wait to visit this wine place.

    Jay – life long Bay Ridge resident, played with LA Guns at Lamours’, almost got beat up by Pete Steele, Currently resides in Windsor Terrace.

  • And I am not saying Bay Ridge sucks, as i read my comment it may seem like that, but I am however tired of the attitude that makes it hard for people that are doing something different to succeed.

  • Jay, your comments read EXACTLY as they are: those of someone who moved from Bay Ridge to Windsor Terrace. Windsor Terrace may be per capita, the most boring place in all of Brooklyn. Your assertion that we should be so grateful to Midwesterners who move here and teach the Brooklyn bred troglodytes about hair, art and food (in your order of importance) is so misguided in your attempt to overcome your lame 6th grade class photo whe you are rockin’ Z. Cavariccis (sic? I wasn’t a guidette, sorry).

    Lastly, your comments about L’Amour (which had no s in its name FYI, figured you’d know since you rocked it so hard) are those of someone who is not of the age that was, in fact, it’s heyday and pretty fucking awesome. I saw Slayer, Mot

  • You know, this is all very silly.

    As an under 30-something that’s lived in Bay Ridge for a very long time, I’m not exactly clamoring for a wine bar or anything that purports to be “cultured” according to someone else’s standards. Why is wine chosen as the pinnacle of alcoholic superiority when beer gardens are popping up all over Manhattan and Northern Brooklyn? It seems to me that this wine bar is just another gimmick, as is this entire article. Nothing more than a ploy to get people’s attention over something that might not even survive, given the economy. But, I’ll play along a little.

    You deride the neighborhood, despite claiming to be from around here. If it’s so dull and lifeless, feel free to see yourself out. That isn’t meant to be construed as a threat/directive/argument/whatever else you might want to twist it into for the purposes of this amusing little diversion. But if Bay Ridge isn’t “exciting”, “culturally satisfying” or any other complaint you might have…feel free to move somewhere that meshes with your sensibilities. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you or anyone else wanting to move on to different pastures. However you should recognize that this article and line of thinking just smacks of derision, and most likely won’t be well received. Just because YOU or any of the other self appointed members of the upper social echelon don’t see the culture we supposedly thirst for, doesn’t mean it’s non-existent.

    This is a simple neighborhood. It’s fairly quiet, family based and what most would describe as “blue collar”. The resentment tends to come from people who’ve spent their lives working as hard as they could for whatever they have seeing trust fund kids with huge beards and vintage clothes moving in and bringing little else to the neighborhood aside from a smug sense of self satisfaction. I personally would prefer it if the hipsters stayed North, because my rent is high enough as it is. I also like the mix of people here. There’s little to no pretension and no reason for it.

    So much is made of “culture”. But who determines what is and isn’t culturally relevant? In this case, it’s the people who live in Bay Ridge. Maybe the wine joint will take off, maybe it won’t. But it’d be really nice if you and your haughty friends would refrain from calling people in the neighborhood dullards from underneath your jaunty pork pie hats in articles full of thinly veiled scorn.


  • Wait a second, I forgot that we still have Capri. Check one in the Bay Ridge column!

    Jay- if I buy L’Amour and rename it “The Smash Club”, is that cool?

  • Le sigh

    Defensive people are defensive.

    I currently just moved to Windsor Terrace from Bushwick, Fort Greene before that, Battery Park before that and before that I was on Senator street and 3rd.

    Write me off, it’s easier that way.

  • Allison, the only way a new progressive club would succeed in bay ridge is if YOU owned it and sold cupcakes out of it 😉

    Call it FishingChili lol

  • I’m friends with you both. You’re both a little right, and you’re both a little wrong. You both living in places where you’re happy. But Jay gets Terrace Bagels, which I really hate him for right now.

    The beauty of NYC is that every neighborhood DOESN’T have to have everything. If I wanted chain stores, I’d move to Hylan Blvd. If I wanted to be surrounded by art galleries and clubs, I’d move to Williamsburg or the LES. If I wanted a gigantic park, I’d move to Windsor Terrace. I travel to all those places, and I come back to Bay Ridge for what it is – the place that’s closest to my family, the place that reminds me of where I came from, the place away from my job. Will I stay here forever? Probably not. But there’s worse things than living here.

    Brooklyn by definition is not supposed to be homogeneous. It would be incredibly fucking boring if it was. I’d hate for Williamburg to be more like Bay Ridge or vice versa. But Williamsburg has the Turkey’s Nest, and we have a wine bar. I’m happy that I live in a place with both neighborhoods rather than being stuck in the middle of Kansas.

    I think there’s a universal truth about being from anywhere: you know it better than anyone else, and you can talk for ages about how much it sucks. But God forbid an outsider says shit about it, you will fight til your face turns blue for that place. Except for Kansas because I’m pretty sure that still sucks.

  • FishingChilli! BRILLIANT! Now to take over Top of the Crescent and make my nightclub kingpin dreams come true!

  • I grew up in park slope in the 80’s, went to bishop ford high school, and just recently moved to bay ridge last year. I love it here. People are friendly and real and there is nice diversity. The other day I went to star bucks with my husband and there were no seats left. A man sitting down at a table made room for us to come sit with him and then we all started talking. (He said we looked like deer in headlights when we couldn’t find a seat) I think it’s rare to find this type of kindness in gentrified brooklyn. Big up Bay Ridge.

  • That’s the thing! I never said I wanted to change Bay Ridge. If I ever wanted to open a Bar i knew it would have to be a certain way in South Brooklyn, and those choices are limited based on the demograph. The crowds who respond positively to variety tend to not frequent Bay Ridge for this very reason. Everyone gets their way! I still love the neighborhood, it’s home (away from home :-).

    Allison, let’s take over top of the crescent, make it something like Les Halle’s meets Spuytin Duyvil, but with a separate room for games like skeeball, pool, ping pong and arcade. Parents take their kids there and get rid of them after a while they are eating, after 10p it’s 21 and over and has a BarcadeGutter/Fat Cat feel

  • To respond to Katie, I really hate the word hipster too. It’s flung around as an insult to people who are different, where different clothes, and who are not from around here.

    Originally, and correct me if I am wrong, it derived from hippie, but a fake hippie. See, Hippies didn’t have bank accounts, but maybe they had kids and did well for their families and build a fund for their kids to come back to the city which is integral to cultural enrichment.

    So now we have these different youngsters with bank accounts, many of them without and living in shoeboxes with 8 other people at the McKibbin Loft. They are classified as hipsters because they don’t wear Yankee hats, aren’t bankers, construction workers, firefighters, cops, city workers. They are written off until they do something worth while, then all the naysayers like them. It human to classify people. It makes it easier when dealing in a million people around us, it’s just not cool to do it negatively. we also don’t have to be supportive of change, or diversity, but like Allison said, it’s what makes NYC what it is.

    It’s going to chew people up and spit them out back to Iowa, some will make it and that’s what makes this place so awesome.

  • @Jay
    Thanks for the thoughtful way in which you’ve navigated the nativist minefield (perpetually loaded with defensive scorn as it is). It was actually nice to see a conversation like this, among native Brooklynites, without the wall-to-wall “go back to Ohio” catcalling, which is just sort of embarrassing. Though I guess we’ve had some “go back to Williamsburg” grumbling, which is also kind of sad.

    Incidentally, “hipster” is generally thought to have come before hippie (the latter grew from the former), and described a kind of proto-beatnik 1950s counterculture type (and, more specifically/tellingly, often described white youth who appropriated black, jazz-inflected signifiers)…

    As for the way “hipster” is used to deride people, here’s a longer piece that you might like (though watch out for the comment section):…

  • @ KBTA
    “But who determines what is and isn’t culturally relevant?”

  • This article is offensive. Bay Ridge is an amazing community with an umteen amount to offer for any age. Much of what “new Brooklyn” wants to be IS already here in BR. Whoever wrote this article is pretentious!

  • Jay, I’m with you, but I will just go ahead and just say it: Bay Ridge is a dump and the only reason people live there is because they can’t afford places like Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Heights or Williamsburg.

  • It’s Cosmoos now. Don’t let the “moos” trick you into envisioning dancing cows.

  • @Allison (2/2 10:04pm), yes, you’re right. Every neighborhood in Brooklyn has different things to offer: I see plays in DUMBO, eat Ethiopian food in Fort Greene, go to readings in Crown Heights. And I’m glad they have distinct identities and of course wouldn’t want them all to be the same. But still, I don’t think it would hurt Bay Ridge to have more of the kinds of amenities these places and have, as it wouldn’t hurt some other neighborhood to have more friendly people who share their table at a full-up Starbucks.

    @KBTA your “love it or leave it” philosophy just drives good people away. As for your disdain of spoiled trust-fund kids, that’s not an accurate description of the kinds of people who live in Brooklyn now. It’s just a stereotype.

  • Henry, we have local theater, an art gallery, regular art exhibitions, crafters markets that are actually full of very talented people (many retired artists or people from the fashion industry), small botanical garden. Problem is? Hardly anyone ever shows up. Bay Ridge bemoans it’s lack of nice things, but the majority of residents to not support them.

  • This is true, Gallery 364 is great and Georgine Benvenuto is amazing and what she has done for the community is outstanding.

    Perhaps one day South Brooklyn will be a destination for art not only by the long time residents but commuters, but probably only if they feel they are welcome. I think we have to wait a long time for this.

  • Everyone, I absolutely despise, loathe, am repulsed by the gentrification of North Brooklyn. I feel equally about the legions of journalists, photographers, bloggers et al who cover it, with the worst perpetrators being those pretending to be sensitive to multiple perspectives on gentrification. And yet, it must be said that the many of you are being incredibly unfair to Stewart–this article is one of the very few BALANCED pieces on what is obviously part of the overarching “gentrification narrative.” Indeed, that narrative is showing signs of sobriety and finally covering the perspective of the “gentrified”–likely because of the seething furies of public comment threads that have accompanied former coverage wholly intoxicated and compromised by its own participation in gentrification. In this piece, Stewart displays multiple perspectives within his own self, and he clearly is sympathetic, if not outright LOVES, his own community. It doesn’t speak well to that community that so many neighbors are ready to cast one of their own out into the trash bin, and unwittingly help the cause of gentrification they despise and see looming.

    Stewart was one of the very first journalists, before the NY Times [which is only now, after experiencing the fury of reader responses like this one, but unlike this article, for specifically “pro-gentrification” coverage], to offer a nuanced and balanced perspective on the gentrification of North Brooklyn [“Williamsburg’s Last Domino: A Gentrification Time Bomb?” August 18, 2010; “Times Portrays Williamsburg in 2002 As Crime-Ridden Ghetto” June 14, 2011]. Stewart and I, as he can probably tell you, still disagree on coverage of North Brooklyn here on L Magazine. Nevertheless, I am personally grateful to him for being courageous enough to be willing to expand the narrative while being aware of possible personal backlash [such as against those who have labored for years to try to bring the perspective of the gentrified into the “gentrification narrative”]. There are many many many young journalists out there covering Brooklyn Whole who are incredibly ignorant and arrogant but most of all fearful, personally and professionally, to include critical perspectives on gentrification. Stewart is not one of them, and as gentrification indeed looms over Southern Brooklyn, my sincere wish is that there arise young journalists in North Brooklyn with as much courage. Shame on you all for not celebrating one of your own.

  • i have friends from staten island’s north shore. There is an amazing cultural diversity there but they feel the same way about outsiders.

    They don’t generally welcome the gentrification of manhattanites, or even brooklyn people coming to their galleries/shows. It’s been such a tight society of artists for so many years they don’t want it muddied up with transplants.

    I can understand this to an extent, but I don’t understand why someone would live in the past and fight for something to stay the same. You can only do what you do best, because you cant fight the changing city.

  • Mr.Liquori–I do NOT live in the past. Opposing gentrification does not mean perpetuating and recapitulating the past. In fact, the agents of gentrification are the persons stuck in the past–frozen in the mid-1990s and repeatedly expanding that myth [consider, for example, that North Brooklyn remains expanding a “tavern economy” and nothing else of significance, no durable cultural institutions, nothing but hypertrophy of luxury condominium development and bars, bars, bars]. Indeed, I proposed and helped to raise consciousness to build a University of Civic Engineering in my neighborhood BEFORE Bloomberg got it in his head to compel Stanford to build on Roosevelt Island.

    To be clear, let me copy-paste what I have explained in an above comment RIGHT HERE ON THIS THREAD is a genuine opposition to gentrification, which should clear up the notion that someone opposed to gentrification is somehow “living in the past”:

    “Gentrification is preeminently displacement–“gentrification” is NOT what it is most popularly coupled with, “development.” “Development” is an entirely discrete other phenomenon, both historically and theoretically. Genuine development can transpire without displacement–opposing gentrification does not mean opposing new people in their neighborhood, or a new building, or a new business, but all these things can be, as they are in Williamsburg, incidental to gentrification so it is impossible to discuss gentrification without first discussing the current state of development in places we know to be “gentrifying.”

    When we say “displacement” in Williamsburg we mean specifically the Puerto Rican and Hispanic community of Williamsburg but we don’t mean it generally. Generally speaking, gentrification displaces the poor with the middle class. But the specific circumstances of the gentrification of Williamsburg center around the unique history of her Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. This doesn’t mean that the Poles in Greenpoint haven’t also experienced displacement, but it is the Puerto Rican and Hispanic groups who are consistently, implicitly and explicitly referred to when the neighborhood’s past is dredged up to justify the gentrification, i.e. “Williamsburg demonology.” This is how we know the gentrification of Williamsburg is not about “development” because it makes no reference to any “achievement” or “action” or “cause” or “philosophy” or “school” or “thinking” or “mode” or “artwork”–more than anything Williamsburg is held up as an “improvement on the before.”

  • To be clear, the overriding raison d’

  • don’t blame poor artists transplants looking for a cheap place to live, for displacing poorer communities. blame the real estate brokers, and real estate laws and regulations.

    The reason why I left Bushwick was for the inflated rent prices… it’s ridiculous, 4 out of towners paying 3 times what the family next door is paying for the same space.

  • Mr.Liquori, I don’t think you’re actually reading my comments. You seem to be responding to a stored cache of bromides in your head about all the stereotypes had in the gentrification narrative. First it was “change happens”–which is presently the most common knee-jerk reaction to anti-gentrification perspectives. “Change” is axiomatic–it is omnipresent and eternal and thus has zero value to our dialogue. In fact, it is quite insulting: it is meant to cast the impression, as you are doing, that persons opposed to gentrification either are opposed to “change” or don’t know it even happens. Of course we know “change happens”! It’s the type of change that is important, not “change” itself! And we oppose the type of change that dredges up, in racial invective, the past to justify displacement. Second, I wonder where in my comments you get the impression i am attacking “artists”–it sounds to me that you’re knee-jerking from personal guilt about what is meant by “gentrification” and not from dispassionate and contemplative observation. This isn’t to say I have a thing or two to say about so-called “artists” in North Brooklyn, but let me copy-paste comments I made in response to the NY Times article, “Gauging Artists’ Contribution to Property Values” [July 7, 2010]:

    “If we are really talking about

  • Let me hone in on the definition, since much of that quote has to do with the false application of “secular aesthetes” to the culture of the agents of gentrification and may seem confusing to someone who was not participating in the debate on that particular article, that way we can accurately identify the agents of gentrification, with caps for my emphasis [since threads like these don’t allow italicization]:

    “You see, if how we understand

  • @dennissinned

    Sure, I agree there are probably 90% of the “agents” you say aren’t producing anything, but they are the consumers of it, the tastemakers or the scenesters. And as a city we need this re-evaluation of art, and we need a place for us to play.

    They are the people that make our television shows, pay our musicians, work on the websites we frequent and generally add to the american economy a diversity of our media and entertainment.

    If after white-flight, their kids/grandkids come back, where should they have gone? Do you have a better plan for the shit load of kids graduating college in manhattan / brooklyn / etc.? Would it be better for them to go back home? Or to Bay Ridge where it’s a 2 hour commute home after 2 am for more rent? Jersey?

    And further, as a native I still sort of despise Williamsburg but appreciate it because it gives me what I need as a consumer of art, and an artist myself. I also really hate when someone who has only lived here for 5 years says they are “from brooklyn”

    I could say the countless venues for play and entertainment are the lasting effect on Williamsburg. But i can’t stand those high-rise modern condos.

    Excuse me if I didn’t understand something you wrote, I am trying my best 🙂

  • Dennis, as ever, you bring an enormous amount of intelligence and thoughtfulness to these threads.

    You always lose me, though, when you take on art and music criticism to further your already substantial arguments: to somehow quantify the “value” of art and music in North Brooklyn in the last 20 years seems absurd (particularly in comment threads about gentrification).

  • Mr. Liquori–I appreciate your continued responses, and your growing thoughtfulness. Let me identify myself: I am a writer and an artist, even though decades ago I published an infamous periodical with some juvenilia purporting hostility to “artists.” I was born and raised in a community of artists: the very first Arts Council in Williamsburg was founded not by “transplants,” but by “locals,” Frances Lucerna’s WACCY [Williamsburg Arts and Culture Council for Youth in 1980]. The oldest, longest running and most successful institution of art in Williamsburg is also a “local” creation, El Puente School for Peace and Justice [on South 4th]. El Puente and similar community organizations in the Southside are likely and ironically the trigger for gentrification since they were the first and remain the greatest employer of transplanted “artists” in Williamsburg–not, as many have claimed, due to exorbitant rent in the Lower East Side [this myth denies the influence of the gentrification of brownstone Brooklyn, which preceded Williamsburg by at least 3 decades] or due to false social darwinist and Ayn Randian pomposities by beneficiaries of government and private aid who fancy themselves members of an outlandish Galt’s Gulch of Williamsburg history. The vast majority of participants in the gentrification of Williamsburg were dilettantes fiercely protected by vocal antagonists in the community seeking to gratify their own egos while pretending to be “artists.” When I attack these ‘consumers’ as you describe them, I always place “artists” in quotes in relation to them because I do not believe them to be artists. Neither do I believe artists support or further gentrification–indeed, anyone who supports gentrification is a modern day segregationist, not an artist. It has been such that I have had to battle advocates/principals/agents of gentrification who disguise themselves as “artists” that I have often appeared to be “anti-art” or “anti-artist.” Not true–I am opposed to “gentrification.” However, the appearance of anti-gentrification sentiments are in desiderata as a form, trope or motif in the overall production of art in Williamsburg, and that is depressing. Nevertheless, I prognosticate that gentrification will soon reach “theme” in the art world, and it will be more knowledgeable and sympathetic and less selfish than anything that has yet come out of Williamsburg [except for my own writings]. Let me quote from another comment I made in response to the NY Times’ “Gauging Artists’ Contribution to Property Values”:

    “On Kent Avenue, the struggling condominium towers have rented space to a large Duane Reade. Right across the street from them, a larger CW Pharmacy is soon to open. Exactly parallel, east a few blocks down, on Bedford Avenue, another large Duane Reade is slated to open. The appeal of some of the restaurants on Bedford Avenue conceals the fact that many are small but growing franchises

  • Mr. Diamond,

    I accidentally posted the comment I just made to “Bushwick Confronts Itself in Panel”. Before I respond to you, can you please delete that comment there–I do not want to instigate or further a needless argument.

    Thank you.

  • Mr. Diamond,

    Can you please specify where in my art and music criticism you feel my position is “absurd” [I’m not sure how helpful it is to a discussion on art or gentrification that I am labeled as such, but I will refrain from responding to that so we can proceed]? I can’t respond or clarify if I don’t know where I am being absurd.

  • Also, I wish to point out that the intersection between “art” and “gentrification” was not raised by me to further my arguments on gentrification. They were in fact raised by Mr. Liquori [if you read carefully enough]–so my criticisms were not convenient extensions, but responses to someone else’s extensions on gentrification.

  • Dennis, (and please, you can call me Jonny). It’s less any specific positions you take on art and music in North Brooklyn, and more the idea that a useful discussion can happen in a comment thread about the value of such broad and diffuse disciplines in such a vast and vague place.

    You may well be right, but for me, what comes across as summary dismissal of the work of thousands (much of which I actually value) interferes with your other arguments (many of which I also value).

    I’d happily read a longer, deeper critique/dismissal of art/music in North Brooklyn. Who knows, maybe I’d even pay you for it.

  • Let me quote my position and then clarify it: “If we are really talking about

  • To emphasize, a thousand thousand art-works do not make a “trend”, “school of thought” or a “taxonomy” but gentrification is about casting the illusion that “trend,” “school of thought” or “taxonomy” of “art” has been laid over a geography. That is false, not just historically, but intellectually.

  • Jonny,
    But if you’re willing to pay me for a critique, i’m pretty down with that, too. Or, why don’t you guys just publish my fiction? Is it really that bad?

  • Ok, I can see that your beef is mainly with the idea that the galleries in the Chelsea, Bushwick, or Williamsburg isn’t real art, because it wasn’t born and bred from people who have lived in the neighborhood their entire lives, and seems to leave those people out by having a sense of self importance over it’s locals?

  • I think an excellent reference is Schorske’s Fin-de-Siecle Vienna–the similarities between fin-de-siecle Vienna and fin-de-siecle Williamsburg are startling, but only in terms of Real Estate. However, in terms of major trends and individual artifacts, the differences between what constituted art in Vienna and “art” in Williamsburg couldn’t be greater.

  • Ok, at least i figured out you are arguing your opinion of the importance and definition of art, and not if people are allowed to move where they aren’t welcome.

  • Mr. Liquori, well, I don’t know if I want to respond to that because that will make me look most radical. I don’t believe in “galleries” whatsoever. The spatial and abstract dimensions of “art galleries” as you know them are a historical creature of religion–specifically rooted in the Byzantine iconoclasm of the 8th and 9th centuries [useful wiki:…], even with all the antinomy that many artists I know feel about “religion.”

    Take Duchamp and his infamous toilet exhibition: the antics appear unique and unprecedented in history because the art-world is given to secular divestitures of religion and its influence on art. But Duchamp was not doing something original. In fact, he was doing something thousands of years old and well-established in religion: repositioning seemingly mundane, even offensive objects [in the book of Joshua these would be the “devoted things”] and, in repositioning them, sacralizing them. A hypothetical modern generalization and simplification would be to take litter on the sidewalk into a gallery which thereby transforms that litter into “art.”

    Mircea Eliade has a foundational study into this in his “Sacred and Profane.” Levi-Strauss and JZ Smith are well known academics who make similar considerations, but if you want to really get to the specifics of “modern art” and “repositioning,” please consider Hans Belting’s Likeness and Presence, A History of the Image Before the Era of Art. Here, Belting describes what the early churches would do that resounds in Duchamp and Dadaism [and, to an even greater extent, “Situationism,” another form divested of its explicit religious nomenclature]. in short, because the early emphasis of Christianity was to proselytize a bibliocentric form to largely illiterate masses, it often encountered responses in “images” because “images” have always been the medium of “illiterate” masses against “literate hierarchies.” Whenever those images or forms threatened orthodoxy the churches PHYSICALLY seized those images and forms and PHYSICALLY “brought them inside” where those images were repositioned on walls, floors, and altar by which to integrate those images and forms into orthodox narrative. As such, the subversive power of those images were co-opted and blunted.

    My attitude about galleries is that they do the same in this modern day [Baudrillard has some interesting comments about this in his Simulations & Simulacra].

  • Dennis, I particularly like these two fragments from your comments and, to the extent possible, agree with them:

    1. “Move to Williamsburg, where young, upper middle class white people are fucking.”

    2. “A thousand thousand art-works do not make a “trend”, “school of thought” or a “taxonomy” but gentrification is about casting the illusion that “trend,” “school of thought” or “taxonomy” of “art” has been laid over a geography. That is false, not just historically, but intellectually.”

  • And Mr. Liquori, and to some extend also Jonny–I don’t want anyone to leave or be barred from Williamsburg who want to live here. Not Puerto Ricans, not Poles, not Italians, not Satmar, and definitely not artists. It’s one of the cruelest ironies of this gentrification that in opposing gentrification one is cast as xenophobic: it is gentrification that kicks people out of and bars them from neighborhoods and I, just one, want it to stop. It’s another cruel irony that this gentrification has depended on the Puerto Ricans, because for all the narrative about how bad we have been, the overwhelmingly ignored truth in all this is that Williamsburg could not have reached the stage it is in today if not for the hospitality of the Puerto Ricans.

  • Oh, here’s a little bit of capitalist trivia that involves the art-world and mass production: the very first item mass-produced for “leisure” than “utility” [as Thorstein Veblen would define it in his Theory of the Leisure Class] was an object of art, the so-called “Veronica’s Veil.” It is based on the Gospel passage involving the woman holding a cloth to the Christ carrying His Cross to Cavalry. The wiki on it is not as useful because it attempts to locate the etymology of “Veronica” in the Evangel [there is no mention of the woman’s name] and thus misses the mark: “Veronica” is not meant to identify the woman because it is a play on “vera icon” [“true image”]. Veronica’s Veil was mass-produced because it was thought that with each reproduction of the image its holiness increased–which is an interesting take on the religious roots of “profit motive.”

  • It’s interesting- I haven’t studied any of this or anything- but as a native new yorker I’m gonna weigh in too. Even though Park Slope was always considered the “yuppie” neighborhood, you guys know that back in the day there was the pocket of yuppies in the north slope and then a much more diverse neighborhood in terms of race and class in other areas. There were artists and hippies too. Little by little it turned into what it is now, a pretty much all out hipster yuppie mecca. I don’t know where a lot of the kids I grew up with and their families are now. Even though it’s weird to walk around there because it’s nothing like it was; I do appreciate the music, art, and other stuff happening there. But I am nostalgic for how it was growing up. I appreciate the conversation happening here because it shows how deeply we all value being new yorkers and being from our respective neighborhoods. I think change is good too as long as it allows a place for everyone, which sadly has not happened in many places in New York. There is an old friend of my family who grew up in Harlem, then spent many years on the Lower East Side, then moved back to Harlem. He is a true New Yorker- he takes advantage of all the free theatre and music and invites all his friends to come. When he was a kid Billie Holiday was his neighbor (he said she was mean). He had to leave his building in Harlem several years ago because they sold to a developer. I don’t know who lives on that street now, but I’m sad that my friend is not there anymore. It doesn’t seem right.

  • L’AMOUR was a hard rock/heavy metal club – why would they “give a shit about the “art” scene”? Only hipsterdouches talk like that. Run by the mob? You watch too many fn movies, dipwad. L’AMOUR is more famous than the hoity-toity, high-falutin’ Manhattan darling-of-the-NYC-press punk joint CBGB is in the Metal sector of the universe. The space is WORLD famous. Moreover, it’s a Brooklyn icon. I won’t waste space here with a roll-call of all of the mega bands that played there when they were nobody. But I can tell you this: There are no more spaces like that in Brooklyn. It’s all either boring cookie-cutter guido meat market dance wasterlands, sports bar/beer and shot joints smaller than a closet, or hipster-dung pseudo-highbrow “wine bars”, phony rock clubs, and pointless hookah spaces. Quasi-culture at best. Now go fuck yourselves.

  • you have tasty tears, Brooklyn Street Corner