A Little R & R in DUMBO Revitalized, Renamed and Reinvented

The area of Brooklyn known as DUMBO, short for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, has been named renamed and named again throughout its history. As early as 1642 as the Dutch settlers moved into Long Island and began establishing farms it was known as "no mans land." As these same settlers began to run ferries between Manhattan and the Brooklyn waterfront, entrepreneur Robert Fulton came along with the steamboat service and made it an eight-minute commute from pier to pier. Ferry soon became the most popular means of commuting, and the steamboats began to bring people, food, mail and even wagons to the island. This popularity turned the area from "no-man's land" into "Fulton Landing" and soon thereafter into a miniature commercial port for Brooklyn.

But the boats didn't just schlep fish and people; they opened the door to full-on development. Literally paving the way, DUMBO was one the first neighborhoods in the city to make use of formal surveying and mapping for roads, as well as the addition of sidewalks. With these roads open, massive warehouses and factories were constructed in the late 1700's, some of which - like the Sweeney Metal Works - still stand today, albeit serving the community in vastly different capacities. Fulton Landing enjoyed very prosperous times throughout the 18th and 19th centuries; it boasted numerous markets, stables, inns and shops, not to mention the industrial heavy hitters of the time: in addition to Sweeney, companies Tubal Cain Iron Works, Yuban Coffee and Spices, and the Robert Gair Bottle Cap and Cardboard Box Manufacturing company also called the area home.

The late 19th century brought the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, and with it the decay of Fulton Landing's prosperity. In 1909, the Manhattan Bridge opened, effectively bypassing the neighborhood altogether. This was the final straw for the area as a shipping and manufacturing center, and it looked as if things could get no worse - that is, until the 1950s, when parts of the neighborhood were razed for the construction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the area became a true no-man's land once again.

Send in the Artists

In the 1970s and "˜80s, artists looking for affordable dwellings and spacious studios began to bring the district slowly back to life. Realizing the neighborhood's potential, from its accessibility to Manhattan to its large and affordable spaces, word spread quickly. The area's gritty industrial buildings and warehouses offered unforeseen amenities in vast amounts of natural light and breathtaking views of the city that were perks most landlords and management companies had not even begun to think of at the time. This is also the time when Fulton's Landing was re-christened "DUMBO" because of its proximity to the bridge. The culturally rich and visually creative modern pioneers are the ones who turned the district now known as DUMBO into what it is today.

Entering Round Two

In 1998, DUMBO was rezoned by the city and in part of the neighborhood was made legal for housing. Suddenly, the area took off as a residential community, much as it had done before, so long ago. With a new influx of people, the careworn old story of gentrification and displacement of long-time residents began again. Given all DUMBO has to offer - great restaurants like Pedro's Spanish American Restaurant, Grimaldi's, and River Cafe, beautiful green spaces like Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park, galleries (The Gair Buildings Complex alone houses 5+5 Gallery, Metaphor Contemporary Art, and M3 Projects) and more shops than one can imagine - it is no surprise that the neighborhood has become so popular in recent years. Given these factors, it also no surprise that living in this now-booming, 24-hour community will cost you.


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