One might think that a newspaper called the New York Times, which employs contributors from around the world, in war zones and dictatorships, would be less in awe of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a small patch of concrete just across the East River from its headquarters. And yet this week, the latest Brooklyn joke wasn't so much a joke as it was a 2,000-word New York Times essay about Williamsburg. Get it? Hipsters!
Titled "How I Became a Hipster," the piece follows humorist Henry Alford, a self-professed uninitiated square, as he descends into the aloof coolness that is the few blocks surrounding the Bedford L stop. Alford offers fixed-gear bicycle jokes, beard jokes, flannel jokes—nothing one can't find in the now decade-old Hipster Handbook, or the three-year-old massively popular tumblr, Look at this Fucking Hipster—and yet, like a vintage sport coat hanging at Beacon's Closet, perhaps someone will find them chic and fresh.
Despite his antiquated teasing, Alford ends up deciding at the end of his piece that hipster Brooklyn is alright by him. Special as he may think his assessment is, it's merely the latest in a long line of New York Times dispatches from the dark realm that is Williamsburg, which have become something of a Times hobby in recent years. In 1981 there were just 71 mentions of "Williamsburg" in the New York Times, according to an analysis from the website BKLYNR. Last year, that number jumped to 538.
In the interest of understanding New York and the New York Times' relationship with Williamsburg, and for posterity, here are 35 answers from the Paper of Record to the question, "How is Williamsburg?" Read them all and you can essentially watch the rise and fall of a locus of cool. If only we'd had this in time for Alford before he dared venture out onto Bedford Avenue; maybe he could have saved himself the trouble of having to ride a fixie around those rough and tumble Brooklyn streets.
Perched on an armchair, dressed in black, Marco Ursino, a filmmaker, drew on a cigarette. ''Manhattan is saturated,'' he said. ' 'Williamsburg is the next big thing.''
Now, a year after the partners bought it, 1 Knickerbocker is worth closer to $500,000, said Fred Rufrano, a broker with Kalmon-Dolgin Affiliates, a real estate firm.
''People are buying and selling, flipping buildings,'' he added. ''East Williamsburg is like Williamsburg five years ago.''
''If I want to go out and meet a 24-year-old girl, I can't imagine meeting one in Manhattan,'' said Andrew Bradfield, 35, a real estate developer who lives in TriBeCa. ''They want Mr. Big. They like bankers. They want to be taken shopping at Barneys. But Williamsburg is packed with 21- to 24-year-olds having a great time with no pretense.''
''Williamsburg is a test case of what can happen,'' he said. ''It didn't have row upon row of housing projects, so there was nothing to stop it from spreading. Here people have found little nooks and crannies.''
Williamsburg is hardly over.
"Williamsburg is definitely no longer underground," said Larry Tee, who started the Berliniamsburg club in Williamsburg, which is credited with popularizing Electroclash...
...Williamsburg is well into the final phase, one in which deep-pocketed developers start pouring money into undeveloped property as if they were spaces on a Monopoly board.
''Williamsburg is having an identity crisis,'' Mr. Lanham said. ''It's kind of absurd that these kids who went to fancy schools are dressing like they're construction workers. The struggling artist is a myth. Williamsburg is a pseudo bohemia.''
''Before anybody understood that Williamsburg is the promised land, we knew it,'' said Rabbi David Niederman, the president of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg. ''We have stayed here and held onto it.''
...SoHo is over, the meatpacking district is overdone and Williamsburg is, well, in Brooklyn.
[R]esidents of the 11211 ZIP code, like the woman who entered Bedford station last week wearing a ''Stop Gentrification'' T-shirt and a Native American headdress, know that Williamsburg is being redefined.
...Williamsburg is having its avant-garde moment, showing off edgy work and barely advertising it, confident that the in-the-know 20- and 30-somethings will still show up.
Clearly, hip Williamsburg is spreading.
“I just think Long Island City is a great investment for someone who has some time to wait. Long Island City needs another eight years, I’d say. Williamsburg is there.”
Famed for its concentration of heavily subsidized 20-something residents—also nicknamed trust-funders or trustafarians—Williamsburg is showing signs of trouble. Parents whose money helped fuel one of the city’s most radical gentrifications in recent years have stopped buying their children new luxury condos...
Despite its veneer of affordability, Williamsburg is not a neighborhood in which the Frugal Traveler often hangs out.
Williamsburg [Brooklyn] Is the New Williamsburg [Virginia]
The plan had called for a children’s playroom and 60 private roof cabanas. “But there was no interest at all in a playroom because the family market in Williamsburg is still developing,” Mr. Maundrell said. No one was buying cabanas, either.
Families are discovering that Williamsburg is much more than a playground for the postcollege, skinny-jeans set.
"Like, Williamsburg is fun, but Clinton Hill’s got soul, and I like the mixture of people here."
...Williamsburg is becoming "East Village East"...
[Y]oung people from places other than New York ... have poured into the Lower East Side and the South Bronx, Bushwick and Astoria, but Williamsburg is the de facto capital of the infusion.
“Williamsburg is nuts,” he said. “Red Hook is quiet and peaceful.”
Williamsburg is teeming with babies.
Williamsburg is already recognized as a center of artisanal pickle, jam and cheese production.
"Williamsburg is no longer under the complete control of the Zaloynim," Rabbi Moishe Indig, a leader of the Aroynem, said in a statement issued after the primary by the public relations firm George Arzt Communications. "The Aroynem have just as much power and influence."
"...Williamsburg is a blueprint for what will continue to happen in Greenpoint."
Finding a cool bar scene in cities you are unfamiliar with is especially hard, since information can quickly become outdated. (Tourist in New York: “I heard Williamsburg is really up-and-coming!”)
"Yeah, like Lower East Side has moved to Brooklyn—Bed-Stuy! That’s why you gotta go to Bed-Stuy. Williamsburg is like, too…"
"Williamsburg is a specific slice of Brooklyn and caters to a specific kind of Brooklynite," said Mr. Demby. "There’s just a different character of visitor that goes to Dumbo..."
Mathieu Palombino, the owner of Motorino, told The Local, "Williamsburg is to Brooklyn what the East Village is to Manhattan. What works there will work here."
Williamsburg is pretty much finished as [an art] hunting ground...
"Williamsburg is very hip now, but when I grew up there, I used to hang out in front of a mozzarella store."
...Williamsburg is on its way to college-town mall-store ubiquity.
It has been nearly eight years since nearly 200 blocks in northern Brooklyn were rezoned to make way for residential development, and dozens of new buildings have sprouted up there since. So the deed is done: Williamsburg is transformed.
[Image by Jim Cooke.]