Thursday, September 25, 2008
DUMBO, Brooklyn will always hold a dear place in my heart, but I'm torn between loving it's history and hating it's present. This neighborhood and I grew up together, changed together, and really, now resembles nothing of the DUMBO I once new (besides that the art has still managed to hang around, though not entirely in the same way). When I was 15 years old, my father moved his Stained Glass Conservation Studio down to DUMBO and joined the army of Artisans who were making the community diverse, artistic, kooky and passionate. This was the time of DUMBO when a young, white female such as myself could not walk around alone for fear of being mugged, when the York St. stop was virtually deserved (and you most certainly didn't venture down to that forlorn end of the platform where the garbage and rats roamed), and Superfine was still a little kitchen in the back of a bar called Between the Bridges (which used to reside where the new, cookie-cutter building @ 63 York St. sits). Despite the grunge and the mess and the chaos of a neighborhood still under no control or rules, it was wonderful because within all of that, there were genuine people, who could hold a great conversation and care about what you thought, and really cool bars/restaurants that no one knew about yet that one could call their own.
Fast forward 7 years, and here we are, where DUMBO has turned into a stroller/hipster haven, with prices soaring, local artisans virtually gone, and huge festivals during the weekend, where the streets become so jam packed, I wonder how anyone can breath. It's not BAD, purse; I still hang out down there with my father (who's studio still exists in 'new and improved' 55 Washington St.) and there are still a couple of people we recognize in the bars, or at the pool tables...on the streets. It's just a completely different vibe now. It's HIP, and that explains it all. A neighborhood where once no one but the roughest, gruffest men would enter (and perhaps their daughters who could be shielded under their wings), now houses families with babies, hipsters with cash, and the artists who are wealthy from their fame in Chelsea. It's a renovation of DUMBO, not a revolution like some have suggested.
Should it change? Well, it can't. That's the thing, isn't it? These neighborhoods in NYC and Brooklyn, that were once unique and specific, artistic...genuine, turn into upper class playgrounds, where the rich can feel bohemian. Gentrification hit DUMBO like a tsunami; and the receding wave left many confused, shaken and really lost. Those that survived and stayed behind (like my father) feel more and more out of place each day, and are simply waiting out their leases before they can leave. It's sad, though we make the best of it and still hang at the bars, play on the pool tables and take in the beautiful skyline view. We remind ourselves that somewhere out there is another DUMBO just waiting for us to discover, and make our own all over again.
ANYWAYS. Again, despite all of this, I would be amiss to not mention the arts festival DUMBO is holding this weekend, Arts Under the Bridge Festival. This festival has been around for almost as long as I have (in DUMBO), so I still hold respect for it (and occasionally, I'll find I have a college friend trying to make his/her way in the world hold a show during this time whom I wish to support). It looks like it will be a good one, as there are so many political ideas floating around everyone's minds. Who knows what might come out of this...?
Interested in Old-School DUMBO? Please go to my website at www.elizabethfraserphoto.com, go under projects and then to Artisans in DUMBO. This is circa 2003 DUMBO, freshman year photography.
ps- the image of Tom Bogaert's installation during the 2007 Arts Under the Bridge Festival, titled Piso Majado Por Dumbo.