If you are out and about in New York City and want to get some of the most spectacular views of the Brooklyn Bridge and lower Manhattan, you should venture into DUMBO. No, I’m not talking about an animated elephant who can fly with his big ears, I’m talking about a Brooklyn neighborhood that is filled with hipsters with raybans, babies and gaybies, and where the cost of renting an apartment has skyrocketed over the past decade or so [of course that could describe many neighborhoods in many cities these days].
Dumbo is an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. The neighborhood encompasses two sections: one located between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, which connect Brooklyn to Manhattan across the East River, and another that continues east from the Manhattan Bridge to the Vinegar Hill area of Brooklyn. Until the end of the nineteenth century, the western portion of what is not called DUMBO was known as Fulton Landing, after the ferry stop that connected it to Manhattan before the Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883. At the time it was primarily a manufacturing district, housing warehouses and factories that made machinery, paper boxes and Brillo soap pads.
With deindustrialization the neighborhood began becoming primarily residential, when artists and other young homesteaders seeking relatively large and inexpensive loft apartment spaces for studios and homes began moving there in the late 1970s. So the story goes, the acronym Dumbo was first used in 1978, when new residents coined it in the belief such an unattractive name would help deter developers.
One nice offering in the neighborhood is an event called “Smorgasburg,” a “flea food market” that occurs every Sunday in the summer at the DUMBO waterfront in the historic Tobacco Warehouse in Brooklyn Bridge Park. And when I say in the warehouse, the warehouse looks like a bombed out or abandoned factory with walls but no roof or windows. The culinary choices are many, and there is something for everyone [although I never did find a proper espresso there]. My favorite name of a vendor was “Bonchovie,” a fantastic Brooklyn seafood company that sells “Jersey-style” anchovies. I didn’t know anchovies could have big hair or were able to sing “Livin on a Prayer.” Silly me!
Despite the hairy anchovies and hipsters, DUMBO is a nice slice of the New York experience, and if you visit you will probably agree with Timothy Q. Mouse’s sentiment from the 1941 animated film about an elephant with the same name when he said “Dumbo the Gr-eat!”