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City Living: DUMBO has spectacular views and sizzling real estate
Two men dominate the story of DUMBO, the Brooklyn neighborhood named after its location -- Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.
The neighborhood was once known as Gairsville, named after Robert Gair, a Scottish immigrant who invented the cardboard box. He gets a chunk of the credit for building up the waterfront here. Factories he built in the late 1800s and early 1900s still exist today.
David Walentas is the modern-day father of DUMBO. As the owner of the development company Two Trees Management, Walentas bought 2 million square feet of the neighborhood’s commercial buildings (many of them Gair’s) from Harry Helmsley starting in 1980 and then converted the raw space into retail, commercial and residential properties. Wise move? Just one apartment in one of Walentas’ buildings is now on the market for $18 million.
In approximately 150 years, what was once the home to some of the largest and most important manufacturing businesses in Brooklyn – such as Brillo soap pads and Grand Union tea packaging – has evolved into a hugely popular place to live and to rent office space.
Due to its sprawling view of lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge, along with its thriving art scene, it is also a must-visit destination for tourists and film crews.
DUMBO is particularly appealing during the summer when Brooklyn Bridge Park hosts so many art and music events; the food trucks and specialty food shops provide perfect picnic fare; the art galleries are open late on Thursday nights, and you can stroll from DUMBO to Brooklyn Heights all along the river’s edge.
The Manhattan Bridge that looms over the area, the industrial architecture that dominates the streetscape, the anchorage and piers at the edge, and the granite Belgian block paving on the streets and the network of left-over train tracks further add to the area’s aesthetic power.
The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission recognized DUMBO’s importance as “one of New York City’s most significant extant industrial waterfront neighborhoods” and in 2007 designated approximately 91 of its buildings as part of a historic district.
Another huge influence in the evolution of DUMBO were the artists who in the 1970s crossed the East River to the then-desolate neighborhood seeking huge and inexpensive (and often illegal) work and living spaces. However, many such artists were since priced out. It is unlikely that a fledgling artist could afford to buy or rent a studio or an apartment here now.
Robert Perris, District Manager of Community Board 2, said that although “some residents are excited about the maturation of DUMBO, others miss its gritty, artsy feel.”
DUMBO is home to many of the city’s start-up tech companies. Etsy, one of the first to make DUMBO its headquarters, is in Gair’s old paper box factory at 55 Washington St. A Made in NY media center opened a few months ago in an 18,000 square foot space at 30 John St. Terrence Le Ray, a broker at Halstead, has lived in DUMBO for 11 years. He considers himself somewhat of a “pioneer”: When he lived in the northern end of Brooklyn Heights he’d come over to DUMBO to eat and to party.
“I loved the cobblestones, the warehouse buildings, the big open spaces,” he said. “It felt like a village then. Now it just feels like a bigger village.”
To say that the real estate market in DUMBO is hot is an understatement -- sizzling is more like it.
Le Ray said that apartments sell for about $1,100 per square foot without a view, another $300 per square foot with a view.
Since there are very few two- and three-bedrooms available, Le Ray said many residents buy the apartments next door and combining the two.
“The views here are the best. You can see the open water, Manhattan, the bridges,” he explained. “You can spend the same thing in Manhattan and just be looking at a brick wall. The most sought after buildings? I’d say they’re 1 Main, 30 Main and 70 Washington [streets].”
reBar closing: The noisy rumble of the trains and traffic on the bridge over DUMBO are nothing compared to the sound of outrage over the abrupt closing of reBar, a restaurant that has been on Jay Street since 2008. The closing has left many regulars bereft and even worse, many soon-to-be-married couples without the deposits they had made to reserve the space for their celebration. Local merchants came up with a list of alternate venues for these couples and some residents have started an campaign on Giveforward.com to raise funds to pay staff their lost wages. The owner, Jason Stevens, has been arraigned for grand larceny in the second degree and tax fraud, allegedly owing the government $1,000,000 in taxes. More »
DUMBO is bordered by the river to the south, York Street to the west, the Bridge Street to the north and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway to the east. More »
Trains: F to York Street; Buses: B25, B67; Ferry: East River Ferry to Wall Street, 34th Street and Williamsburg More »
Cadman Plaza Station, 271 Cadman Plaza East. More »
Brooklyn Heights Branch, 280 Cadman Plaza West. More »
DUMBO is part of the 84th Precinct where the most prevalent crime is grand larceny, or major theft, with 224 cases reported in 2014 through June 1st. More »
85 Adams St. #8C. One-bed, one-bath condo: $849,500; 1 Main St. #9B. Two bedrooms and 3 1/2 baths with panoramic views: $4,250,000. More »
28 Old Fulton St. Three beds, two baths: $7,000/month; 70 Washington St. Two-bed, two-bath condo: $6,400/ month. More »
Once a stable, feather factory and vacuum cleaner warehouse, this spectacular space is reborn as a bar/restaurant/music venue. Fans come for the cocktails, the fresh and unpretentious food and live tunes. (Photo credit: Linda Rosier)
This bakery has what one fan said is “the best baguette outside of Paris and great coffee to go with it.” Their quiches and croissants get consistent raves as well. (Photo credit: Flickr/bionicgrrl)
One local eats here every Monday and Tuesday night because it’s “the best” with great owners who “treat you like family” and serve up a “fabulous roasted bronzini.” (Photo credit: Flickr/Garrett Ziegler)
This designer boutique offers chic clothing for women. (Photo credit: Flickr/dumbonyc)
Find an eclectic mix of old and new furniture and home accessories just right for a DUMBO apartment. The owner said that 95% of their inventory is imported from India -- carved teak doors and painted trunks are particularly popular. (Photo credit: Flickr/dumbonyc)
The world-famous chocolatier’s first New York location offers a summer version of his popular hot chocolate: It’s a Jacques Frost, a bittersweet frozen chocolate shake for $4.50. (Photo credit: Flickr/dumbonyc)
68 Jay St. Bar
Have a drink in a 10-year-old bar in the old Grand Union Tea Company building steps from the York Street subway stop. Also, check out their live music calendar. (Photo credit: Flickr/dumbonyc)
Olympia Wine Bar
This year-old bar hosts a happy hour from 4-7 p.m. with $5 house whites and reds, Stella and Brooklyn Lager for $4. Try a Moscow Mule -- vodka, ginger beer and lime -- for $5. (Photo credit: Flickr/ceonyc)
Galapagos Art Space
This performance space is situated over a reflecting pool. Saturdays belong to the Floating Kabarette. (Photo credit: Flickr/daydreampilot)
Brooklyn Bridge Park
Furman and Old Fulton streets. An amazing space along the waterfront. On summer Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., join the crowd at Pier 5 for lunch at Smorgasburg, a food fest with up to 100 vendors. (Photo credit: Linda Rosier)
This one-time boiler house belonging to the Gair Company is located on the waterfront and commands a spectacular view of the Manhattan Bridge. Now renovated, it serves as a combination exhibit space and artists’ studios. (Photo credit: Linda Rosier)
St. Ann’s Warehouse
DUMBO’s prime cultural anchor, this much-acclaimed space for ground-breaking theater and other events has been up and running since 1980. (Photo credit: Flickr/silkcut)
She fell in love with DUMBO’s industrial feel and sense of big sky. More »