- Marilynn K. Yee c/o The New York Times
To start, I should just say that I don’t live in Williamsburg. I have never lived in Williamsburg. Way back in 2000, I almost rented a two-bedroom apartment on Roebling and N 6th with my husband-at-the-time for $1,200/month, but we thought the second bedroom was kind of small and so instead took another two-bedroom in Clinton Hill for $1,050 a month and that’s all I’m going to tell you about real estate prices and what they were like more than a decade ago because it’s too depressing to dwell on for very long, I mean, my god that apartment on Roebling probably goes for three times that price now. I don’t want to think about it!
And yet despite the fact that I’m not a resident, I’m still inordinately protective of the neighborhood when it gets written about by people who have clearly never spent any significant time there, but still have quite a bit to say about the trends taking place in said neighborhood. And, well, I think we can all pretty much agree that there isn’t that much more to say about Williamsburg, right? At least with regard to trend pieces? Everything that could be said, has been said. Everything that could be written, has been written. Everything that could be gentrified, has been gentrified. Right? Wrong! Apparently, the New York Times is only just discovering now that Williamsburg is not only serviced by the L train, and doesn’t just stop existing east of Bedford Avenue, and that in fact, the neighborhood actually extends south of Grand Street. YOU DON’T SAY! Ugh.
In the Times Styles section today, none other than “hipsturbia” expert Alex Williams examines Brooklyn’s version of the Mason-Dixon line, which is apparently Grand Street, and proclaims that North Williamsburg is now considered “a glitzy playground of glassy condos for banker types, chain stores and hordes of tourists from Berlin; Tokyo; Paramus, N.J.; and, worst of all, Manhattan…the area, especially around the Wythe Hotel, into Brooklyn’s answer to the meatpacking district.” Williams proceeds to extoll the virtues of the “gritty, hyper-authentic ‘South Williamsburg,'” where, he reports, residents feel that the neighborhood “has maintained its bohemian D.I.Y. roots, with its indie boutiques, bearded mixologists, artists’ lofts and working-class families.” Williams goes on, claiming that “status-conscious locals name-drop ‘North’ or ‘South’ as a way of telegraphing their membership in a certain tribe” and that “the new neighborhood monikers can be overheard in conversations” and on and on, trying really hard to make this trend piece happen.
I understand that I should know better than to a) read anything about Brooklyn in the Times Styles section and b) waste energy getting annoyed by it, but it still bothers me that the Times is allowing such bullshit to be published. Has Alex Williams ever even been to Williamsburg? Ugh, I know. Who even cares? Why should it matter? Well, it matters because this arbitrary neighborhood distinction that Williams based a two-page article on is ridiculous because much of Williamsburg (north, south, east…everywhere!) has been subject to massive development since the rezoning of 2005, thus changing huge swaths of the neighborhood and contributing to the skyrocketing rent prices that now abound. Did the development first happen in the northern part of the neighborhood, along the waterfront? Yes, sure. But it’s spread now to all parts of the area and will continue with the redesign of the Domino Sugar Factory, which Williams addresses in the article as some kind of south Williamsburg death knell. But the truth is obvious to anyone who actually knows anything about Brooklyn—all of Williamsburg has changed dramatically in the last 8 years. There have been untold numbers of articles, many books, and even documentaries already made about this. Why is the Times printing disingenuous crap like this? I get that they have some sort of Williamsburg trend piece quota that they need to fulfill every month, but surely there are some real trends to tackle that don’t involve made-up neighborhood divides and Girls references? No? Ok, fine. Then I look forward to next month’s Styles article on the topic of that undiscovered pizza place, Roberta’s. But in the meantime? Just leave Williamsburg alone.
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