DUMBO, which is an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, used to be a lively industrial and manufacturing zone, full of large factories and warehouses. These buildings have now been converted into expansive lofts, theaters, galleries, and office spaces for start-up companies. These larger residential spaces are attractive to families and creative artists and writers who need space to dream and create.
DUMBO was named in 1978 as a sort of reverse marketing ploy to try to keep people from swarming into the area, attracted by the quaint tree-lined streets, elegant historic brownstones, large lofts, and views of Lower Manhattan. It was felt that this influx of people would change the nature of the neighborhood. It was hoped that by giving the area a ridiculous name, nobody would want to live there.
Many of the neighborhood’s bars, hotels, and restaurants capitalize on the stunning waterfront views and the Manhattan skyline in the background. Interesting and fun cultural events are held under and around the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges that connect DUMBO to Manhattan. One of these is the annual Oktoberfest.
With beautiful vignettes of the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges being framed around every corner, DUMBO provides residents and tourists with charming, and often surprising, views. Because the neighborhood is eminently walkable and filled with unique shops, it feels like a small town on the edge of a major urban waterfront. Once people move to DUMBO, they tend to stay and become involved in the community.
Grimaldi’s Pizza. If you are craving a genuine, classic NYC Pizza, head to Grimaldi’s and get a pie cooked in a coal oven, with a unique thin, crispy crust. But you’ll need to bring a few buddies with you, because Grimaldi’s only serves whole pies, not slices. Located at 1 Front Street.
St. Ann’s Warehouse. Tred of off-the-beaten-track to St. Ann’s Warehouse, where you can experience their eclectic offerings by national and international performance companies. The venue is an old 1870s tobacco warehouse where tobacco was inspected prior to processing. Located at 45 Water Street.
Live at the Archway. Cutting edge musical performances by international stars are presented weekly in a free concert series that will have you up and dancing. Shows are on Thursdays at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. There’s even a beer garden so you can stay hydrated and get a bite to eat. Performances happen, rain or shine. Located under the Manhattan Bridge on Water Street.
Brooklyn Flea. You never know what you will find at the Brooklyn Flea, but with 60 to 70 vendors sharing their wares, you can browse vintage items, art, books, jewelry, and food/drink. Located at 80 Pearl Street, Sundays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Brooklyn Bridge Park. This beautiful 85-acre waterfront park offers recreational opportunities for children and adults alike. In addition to playgrounds and sports courts, the park houses Jane’s Carousel, a restored merry-go-round that started its life in Ohio in 1922. After it was moved to its current location, it took two decades of painstaking restoration to bring the 48 wooden horses back to their former glory. The carousel is encased in glass to protect it from the elements on the waterfront. Movie screenings are held on the Harbor View Lawn in the summer. Located at 334 Furman Street, on the East River between Adams Street and Atlantic Avenue.
What You Might See
If the weather is clear, and you are standing on Washington Street, looking northward at the imposing south tower of the Manhattan Bridge, you can see the Empire State Building off in the distance, perfectly centered in between the legs of the tower.
What’s In The Future
In an exciting development, work has been underway to remove lead-contaminated soil from a three-acre site that will be the future home of the large residential and multi-use complex known as “85 Jay.” Potentially, it could increase DUMBO’s overall population by 25%, while adding retail and street life interest to this neighborhood. Two corners will be 21-story towers that will connect to lower segments. There will be 874,000 square feet of floor space, with a projected 737 rental apartments and condos, together with substantial commercial space. Completion is slated for the summer of 2021.
What You Might Not Know
You may notice that DUMBO is criss-crossed by what appear to be unused trolley tracks. But trolleys have never been a part of the DUMBO transportation network. The tracks are remnants of the Jay Street Connecting Railroad (JSCR), which is no longer in use. During DUMBO’s heyday as an industrial and manufacturing center, the JSCR tracks were used to transport railcars full of goods and materials between the factory buildings.
What We Love
DUMBO is becoming known as one of the premiere Brooklyn neighborhoods, due to its historic architecture, its close proximity to Manhattan making for a quick and easy commute, its absolutely stunning waterfront and views of the Manhattan skyline, all while maintaining the feel of a small town. With the availability of buildable land being restricted by the waterfront and the Navy Yard, development is slow and property values hold steady or regularly appreciate. If you like classic brownstone architecture and older-style lofts, situated on Belgian block streets, where the Brooklyn Bridge Park serves as a communal front lawn, providing a place where you can relax with friends or play with your kids, then DUMBO may be a great neighborhood for you. The streets are generally quiet, with very little through traffic disturbing the peace.