Best of the WBO...
2005 – In the summer of 1998, when we published our first issue, Brooklyn,
New York City, and the world were very different places. More peaceful, to be sure. Less in thrall to the aggressions of
money and power. Willliamsburg, although the neighborhood had recently been
“discovered,” still seemed adrift in some alternative postindustrial
universe, an autonomous zone happily uncoupled from Manhattan’s treadmills.
There was a freedom in the air that had much to do with low rents and the
larger economy’s apparent lack of interest in us. I think of the spontaneous voodoo artwork at the old
Amtrak yards along the waterfront at North 7th. The intoxicating vapors wafting from
that spice warehouse on Berry Street. Sunbathing and picnicking on the piers which were
quickly collapsing into the East River.
Swimming in the river at night, with Manhattan’s lights spread out
before us like strange constellations.
Time seemed to flow a little more slowly here, the sky was broader,
and the breeze often smelled of the sea...
back through the W.B.O.’s past
issues and choosing what to include on this site, I was suddenly struck by
how drastically things have changed.
The first years of the 21st century have been ominous, to
say the least, and it is difficult to ignore the signs that we are on the
brink of even larger catastrophes.
Much of the work collected here bears eloquent witness to this
urgency, at the same time speaking from a faith that another, more sane world
is possible. To have offered
this forum to our contributors has been deeply gratifying.
1998, of course, the great engines of real estate development and
gentrification had already begun to grind here. Williamsburg had become home to a “new Bohemia,” as New
York Magazine said on its cover,
and with an endorsement like this it was only a matter of time—as one
commentator put it, “Artists are like pilot-fish—then come the sharks.” Today, on North 8th
Street, the ironwork for a tower of sixteen-stories rises on block where the
highest building is four. On
Kent Avenue in the Southside, Schaefer Landing’s 135 condo units are mostly
sold, with one-bedrooms starting at $650,000. The Domino Sugar property will almost certainly become
high-rise condos, and a wall of 40-story residential towers is rumored to be
on the drawing board for the remainder of the Northside’s undeveloped
waterfront. And throughout the
neighborhood nearly every block has a smaller project underway. Opulence, luxury—one sees these words posted everywhere,
originally attracted many new residents here, aside from lower rents, was a
neighborhood which had preserved a certain human scale—a scale where people
do not feel dwarfed and inconsequential, where an ecology of human
interaction can flourish in a give-and-take among equals. The redevelopment
of Williamsburg was necessary, and no doubt, inevitable. Will it be possible to keep
development from going to far?
Does New York—or the world—really need more opulence, more luxury?
Arike / email@example.com
copyright ©Williamsburg Observer Publishing 2005 Human Rights Reserved
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